When Artists Caravan first conceptualised Genetic Landscape(GL) for our new project, I did a jumble or a set of pieces of words as possibilities for the way in which GL could be imagined as. The concept of the term was first inspired from a site which was going through two difference phrases of reconstructions. The first phrase was the elimination of blocks of buildings that are not suited for conservation status, and the second phrase was the readaptation and reused for a few other blocks within the same area which were seemed suitable for conservation.
One of them was a space which was previously a provision shop. However the provision shop had since closed down and a cafe took over it but left remnants of previous occupancy. I imagined the movements of the previous owners whom had walked inside the shop for those long years they had been around, in that small enclosed space with their goods, shelves, the structure of the space, the windows, the doors etc.
A few of our project mates happened to have working experiences in family businesses, including myself. I tend to think of a space, where lines are drawn with movements through generations in that same space. Words spoken, rhythms of sounds of labour, the passing of time, foot steps, the possible faces that can be remembered, negotiations, exchanges of goods and services, etc and labor of generations of workers.
If we think further, we link it to migration across the sea and land. the changes of the landscape, the traces of the foot work, the hand work, the toil with the soil, the advancement of technology in infrastructures. Women builders, migrant workers and how the cities changes with time.
We can still traced the foot steps or paths once walked by others before us. Its like going on a historical in situ site tour or a pilgrim trip where we trace the foot steps of others before us. It doesn’t necessary have to be related by blood. It can be related to us by memories and by inspirations.
There is a space in the mind that conjures up fleeting images of past and present which are subjective in experiences. These translates or becomes the medium in which we try to make sense of our own histories in places and people.
As written earlier, the ‘words’ or ‘texts’ served to propel and interweave themselves into other forms possible in creative art making for the GL project. They are written on used cardboards which are scraps in Singapore landscape, a meagre possibility source of income, but it is an important ecosystem in the recycling efforts.
German writer Walter Benjamin has always been a source of inspiration for me in my art making and writing. He was obsessed with indexes, archiving, note taking and was very detailed in his organisation of thoughts and ideas. He is poetic in his observation of society and can make incredible beautiful connections of words with structures and materials.
In Walter Benjamin’s archive, Erdmut Wizisla preface explained that ‘an economy of scraps just like in my family’ which was a distant relation in Benjamin’s condensed notes. Benjamin wrote constantly and when an idea occured to him, he did not delay its writing down by seeking out the right paper, but rather seek the nearest suitable thing at hand. In this way key thought are fixed in passing, ‘scrawled down’ often on the margins of other works or directly interleaved in them. (WBA, p. 31)
The GL project first conceived through mental images, imaginations and words are more than a mind map of selected words or expansion of words. Our projects mates also participated in the addition of their selection of thoughts and ideas in art forms to build up on the zine.
We adopted Kandinsky quote, “every work of art is a child of its time.’ as the thread that signify the ‘potential space’ for the art works that is created by the artists and creativity that can be created by the artists and anyone. To see scraps and realised its usefulness in art making, is also one of the core founding principles of AC which encourages the use of found objects. Walter Benjamin in adapting scraps as the potential materials and scraps as the metaphor of collecting, in the archiving of his intellectual endeavours has encouraged us to relook the materials we could use for creativity and organising information such as our ideas, thoughts and no doubt he had actually been in a state of deprivation from the luxury of papers due to the lack of sustainable income.
Can our landscape be build on a just and equal opportunities for all? Can we revolutionised the thinking process with the past traditions and present situations in the midst of covid, trajectories of histories, science, technology, climate change and the everyday life? How do we engaged in a living environment that can be in sync harmoniously with our nature and the society?
Our zine, Genetic Landscape can be purchased at the following link:
Walter Benjamin’s Archive: Images, Texts, Signs
- Edited by Ursula Marx, Gudrun Schwarz, Michael Schwarz and Erdmut Wizisla; translated by Esther Leslie