What Is Home, Truly?
Female Singapore|August 2020
What Is Home, Truly?
Three Singapore female artists show us their interpretation.
Keng Yang Shuen

ILA is a visual and performance artist whose intimate works incorporate objects, moving images and live performance to generate discussion about gender, history and identity, and shed light on communities on the social periphery.

The work: “This piece was the central component for the work that I did for Pneuma: Of Spirituality In Contemporary Age, a group show at the Stamford Arts Centre for Singapore Art Week earlier this year. The work, Bersama Tadah Air, Bersama Makan Tanah, is about notions of kinship within the context of tanah air, a Malay phrase used to refer to the homeland. The piece juxtaposes childhood photographs of my family and me at the beach against that of reclaimed beaches in Singapore. During the creation process, I was thinking a lot about how and what my body remembers and forgets, and how that indirectly shapes not only my identity, but also what I feel strongly for.”

How it represents the idea of home: “I was 3 1/2 years old in this photograph that was taken by my father from whom I’ve been estranged since my early 20s. Standing next to me in the picture is my only sister (near left) who’s five years older than I am. What I left out in this photo series is a snapshot of me being given a ball of dough to play with that same morning – I subsequently brought it to the beach only to have it washed away by the waves, which explains why I look visibly upset in this photo... It was the first time that I had distinctly felt a sense of loss and that experience captures what home is to me: something that you do not want to lose – or that you lose and find again elsewhere.”

On what makes a home: “I was moving and staying with friends and other family members a lot between the ages of 16 and 20 so my personal belongings and things that I grew up with were scattered across different places and gradually disappeared. Because of this, I no longer have strong connections to objects. I truly believe that it is comfort and warmth that make a home. Now that I have my own house, I invite friends and family over for home-cooked meals and we spend hours talking and lazing around. I always keep my fridge well stocked because food helps to make a home. When I travel for work, I gravitate towards the same kind of comforts and kinship with strangers or friends.”

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August 2020