As quietly as rhythms go
1 in stock
27 x 23cm, 70 pages
Published by Math Paper Press
the life lines of a tree
handled hurriedly with
the brush of cultures
Shifting soils, unseen operators and big mechanical eyes roving in the night… Further prompted by a red moon rising over the horizon, I embarked on a brief but intense encounter with Sungei Serangoon. I first noticed the hypnotic draw of the excavators’ movements while jogging by the canal; part of the forest had just been cleared and it dawned on me that I was bearing witness to the nascent stages of a land rehabilitation project that was making room for yet another (speculated) plot of industrial blocks.
To my surprise, a couple of uncles living nearby expressed to me relief that the bogged forest was being removed. It appeared no one was maintaining it and the wetlands proved a spawning haven for mosquitoes. Another young chap felt a slight pity that the closest thing to natural verdure in the vicinity was being taken away, but didn’t want to linger on something he felt helpless about. As my initial sentimentality watered down, I recognized the same resignation within me as I pointed my lens again and again towards these men and machines. I found it ironic too that I was searching for beauty in something I supposedly detest.
The trust is, I had not known the forest intimately, and probably would never have ventured any serious attempt to worm through the thick growth. I’ve felt strongly, however, about the visual importance of naturally occurring vegetation. Aside from freeing up spectacularly cluttered urbanscapes, they symbolize uninterrupted life and raw principles, and function as psychic spaces to enter mentally, if not physically, for respite and otherwise. They are also reminders of alternate states of being, capital, material and human possibilities (some of which should remain so).
Photographing “Rehabilitation and earthworks at landfill site off Tampines Road” (as it is officially titled) has compelled me to articulate how ambivalence is. Romantic and wistful notions are immediately punctured by pragmatic realities—the shortage of land, the understated migrant lives, the progress and profits needed to survive… While figuring out the way forward it seems like the most appropriate thing to do for now is to observe—silently, keenly, the passings of a perennial local trauma.