Only Words Remain

Curated by Hong Huazheng

The ALcove, Singapore Management University |Oct 26 – Dec 26, 2018

From the Curator’s Notes:

In his current project, Zhaowei chronicled the relocation of the residents at Dakota Crescent. This series of photographs stirs emotions and poses questions on an anthropological level.

The Dakota Crescent estate was built in 1958 by the Singapore Improvement Trust, the predecessor to the Housing Board. Some 400 households were relocated by the end of 2016 for redevelopment. Today, the blocks have been shuttered and boarded up, and the iconic dove-shaped playground is overgrown, with only the occasional visitors. Many memories of the estate are now preserved in verbal accounts by residents between 2014 and 2017.

In this series, Zhaowei conflates his photographs of people—residents, their friends and relatives, curious visitors—he captured in July 2016, with quotes from evicted residents to create ambitious forms and a sense of displacement. The text were written with the Stabilo 808 pens commonly used in The Straits Times newsroom, where Zhaowei used to work as a journalist.

Zhaowei's foray into image experimentation came from the idea that one can no longer see these people in Dakota, but the verbal accounts from former residents elicit a poetry of fragmented memories. He also responds to the architectural space of The ALcove by disrupting the floor and pillar, as he invites the audience to examine his work in close quarters, as a nod to the close-knitted community in Dakota.

Artist Talk (Oct 26, 2018)

Time Lapse of Artist Talk event

Personal thoughts

More than 60 people—my friends and family, fellow Singapore Management University alumni, current SMU students, and members of public—attended my Artist Talk on Oct 26, which was also the official opening of the two-month long exhibition. It was a great privilege sharing my first installation work with an audience, and it’s gratifying to hear that many people identified with the themes I tried to explore in this work.

I would like to give special thanks to the following:

  • SMU Office of Alumni Relations for providing the venue for this work

  • Curator Hong Huazheng for his guidance and support

  • The SMU Alumni Collective (for Artists & Designers) for their support and ideas, especially to Hendry Poh and Harold Koh for helping with the installation

I plan to continue tracking developments at Dakota Crescent and document how the place changes from here on. A lot more can be done in terms of documenting places in Singapore and I hope my work further contributes to this.