Memories and Lost Spaces

30 12 2013

A small crowd was present on Saturday, to witness the return of a ghost that has haunted us in Singapore for close to a quarter of a century. The ghost is of a much loved icon, the National Theatre, which having been completed in 1963, would have celebrated its 50th birthday this year.

The ghost of the National Theatre - National Theatre@50 an installation for the Singapore Biennale by Lai Chee Kien.

The ghost of the National Theatre – National Theatre@50 an installation for the Singapore Biennale by Lai Chee Kien.

Designed by pioneering architect Alfred Wong, the theatre was built with funds partly contributed by members of the public. What became for a while a symbol of Singapore’s statehood, the much photographed and very distinctive building, had stood for some 2 decades before it was closed, as we were told, due to structural defects in its cantilevered roof (it turned out that it was to be demolished to allow the construction of two tunnels for the CTE and for the MRT (to connect Chinatown with Dhoby Ghaut).

National Theatre located at the foot of Fort Canning Hill at the corner of Clemenceau Avenue and River Valley Road. The theatre was demolished in 1986 after it was found to be structurally unsound.

The National Theatre  which was demolished in 1986 would have celebrated its 50th birthday this year.

To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the National Theatre, a scaled replica of its very recognisable façade, was put up at Tank Road, across from its original site, by architect Lai Chee Kien, for the Singapore Biennale (entitled National Theatre@50). And it was at the installation on Saturday that perhaps some of our ghosts, not only of the National Theatre, did return in a collective lament for lost spaces and a lost past, in a poetry sharing session.

The National Theatre@50, with the audience gathering in front of the "stage".

The National Theatre@50, with the audience gathering in front of the “stage”.

The enjoyable session involved with many of the who’s who in the local arts and literary scene and included a selection of works (some impromptu and some sung) that revolved around the theme of Memories and Lost Spaces. The session was jointly organised by Chee Kien and poet Alvin Pang and also featured Isa Kamari, Simon Tay, Kim Cheng Boey, Pooja Nansi, Christine Chia, Verena Tay, Jollin Tan, Cyril Wong, Felix Cheong, Hao Guang, Joshua Ip, Leonard Ng, Zai Ruda Kuning, Thirunalan Sasitharan, Vikas Bhatt Kailankaje, Emelda Jumari, Annaliza Bakri and Goh Beng Choo.

Another view of the installation and Saturday's audience.

Another view of the installation and Saturday’s audience.

More photographs from Memories and Lost Spaces

Lai Chee Kien opens the session.

Lai Chee Kien opens the session.

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Pooja Nansi.

Pooja Nansi.

Christine Chia.

Christine Chia.

Varena Tay.

Varena Tay.

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Jollin Tan.

Jollin Tan.

Cyril Wong.

Cyril Wong.

Hao Guang.

Hao Guang.

Ng Yi-Sheng.

Ng Yi-Sheng.

Simon Tay.

Simon Tay.

An animated Joshua Ip.

An animated Joshua Ip.

Thirunalan Sasitharan, who mentioned sitting on the shoulders of his father by the road on the side of the former theatre as a child to watch the Silver Chariot make its way to the Chettairs Temple on Tank Road on the eve of Thaipusam.

Thirunalan Sasitharan, who mentioned sitting on the shoulders of his father by the road on the side of the former theatre as a child to watch the Silver Chariot make its way to the Chettairs Temple on Tank Road on the eve of Thaipusam.

Isa Kamari, who sang.

Isa Kamari, who sang.

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JeromeLim iPhone Pano Memories and Lost Places 28 Dec 2013

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Colours of Bangkok

18 11 2010

As with many other living parts of Asia, there is much to catch the eye wandering around the streets of Asia’s City of Angels, Bangkok. There certainly is a lot more to the city than the abundance of well photographed sights and scenes that the city provides, which often jump out at you without having to strain the eye. Bangkok is a city where there is in fact no shortage of wonderful colours and textures that not just add to the colour of the city, but also brings the city to life …

Local oranges ready for juicing.

Sweetcorn on the steamer.

Groundnuts on the steamer.

Grapes for sale.

Eggs being transported.

Chocolate coated bananas.

Bottled drinks on sale.

In the basket of a food vendor.

Tuk-tuks ...

Graffiti at a construction site.

Books at a second hand book shop.

Overhead telephone lines against a background of ventilation louvres.

Reflection off a puddle of water.

Parasols of street vendors along Sukhumvit Road.

Display of a street footwear vendor.

Shoes on sale at Chatuchak market.

Charcoal stoves on display.

Roofs of stalls at Chatuchak market as seen from the Skytrain.

Three perspectives of a house through ventilation openings at Makkasan Station.

Roofs of houses.

Lines of the Skytrain.


Cans of milk at a tea vendor at Chatuchak.





A quiet moment

25 07 2010

I often take the time to take a quiet moment away from life’s day-to-day routine. And being away on this trip to Hong Kong helps me to do just that and reflect on the paths I have taken in life, and in doing so, I am reminded of Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken”, a reflection that can only be a reflection, arriving at where we are only as a consequence of the roads we have taken. While we may as in the words of the poet, “tell with a sigh” of the road not taken, it is a road one which we can’t go back on. And certainly, in taking the road we have taken, whether less travelled or or not, makes the difference in our lives.

A quite moment to reflect.

The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood ...

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that, the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
two roads diverged in a wood, and I —
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

– Robert Frost, 1916

A quite moment to contemplate perhaps on the road not taken ...





My heart leaps up when I behold a rainbow in the sky

5 06 2010

There are these simple things that can delight a person in the way it did when one was a child. It is these things in which we need not look further than how a child sees it in the way that Wordsworth embodies in his 1802 poem I well well acquainted with as a child, one which brings up one of these simple things, a rainbow. The rainbows that I have seen in the last few days brought me back to that poem and what is embodied in the poem – the simplicity of childhood and how a “Child is the father of the Man”. My heart does leap up when I behold that rainbow in the sky.

My Heart Leaps Up When I Behold ...

My heart leaps up when I behold
A rainbow in the sky:
So was it when my life began;
So is it now I am a man;
So be it when I shall grow old,
Or let me die!
The Child is father of the Man;
And I could wish my days to be
Bound each to each by natural piety.

– William Wordsworth, 1802.





Nothing Gold can stay … Patrick Swayze (1952 to 2009)

15 09 2009

RIP Patrick Swayze (1952 to 2009)

Nothing Gold can stay

Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

– Robert Frost

I first watched Patrick Swayze in the 1983 movie The Outsiders. Swayze played Darrel, a father figure to his brothers and a group of boys who grew up on the outside of society. The movie featured this poem by Robert Frost.

The Outsiders featured Patrick Swayze as Darrel, a father figure to a group of boys who grew up on the outside of society.

The Outsiders featured Patrick Swayze as Darrel, a father figure to a group of boys who grew up on the outside of society.





Nothing Gold Can Stay

6 06 2009

Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

– Robert Frost

I watched the movie “The Outsiders” in my teens. It was a favourite of my sister, partly because of the cast of  Teenage heartthrobs, and also because it featured this beautiful poem by the American poet, Robert Frost. To me, the poem described the freshness and hope that is born out of the golden hues of dawn, be it the dawn of a new day, or be it the begining of all things new, and how this descends to tiredness as the day passes, as things become less fresh … life passes us by in a very similar way.





Como Tu

31 05 2009

Yo, como tú,
amo el amor, la vida, el dulce encanto
de las cosas, el paisaje
celeste de los dias de enero.

También mi sangre bulle
y río por los ojos
que han conocido el brote de las lágrimas.

Creo que el mundo es bello
que la poesía es como el pan, de todos.

Y que mis venas no terminan en mi
sino en la sangre unánime
de los que luchan por la vida,
el amor,
las cosas,
el paisaje y el pan,
la poesía de todos.

– Roque Dalton

Written by Roque Dalton a revolutionary poet from El Salvador, “Como Tu’ was printed on a New Year’s greeting card that I received in Nicaragua. I felt then that it captured the mood perfectly of the “days of January” in San Juan del Sur. A rough translation of the poem …

I, like you,
love Love, Life, the sweet enchantment
of things, the celestial (sky blue) landscape of the days of January.

Also my blood boils up,
laughing through my eyes
which have known the budding of tears.

I believe the world is beautiful,
that poetry is, like bread, for everyone.

And that my veins don’t end in me
but in the unanimous blood
of those who struggle for life,
love,
things,
landscape and bread,
the poetry of everyone.