OH! Open House (OH!) returns in 2019 with a new art experience called Passport.

This years format moves away from the OH! art tours that have been so successful in recent years and is now geared towards pop up art experiences in six secret locations around the island.

OH! is an independent arts organisation, that has been telling alternative stories of history and heritage in Singapore’s neighbourhoods and public spaces, through the medium of art since 2009.  

This year, hosts and artists have been matched together under the umbrella theme of Passport, which encompasses pertinent topics like identity, belonging, love, home, citizenship and privilege to create 45 minute encounters in which both artist and host are central to the art experience and share stories, thoughts and reflections with the audience.   We caught up with one of this years hosts, Chew Pei Ying who described the process as, ‘collaborative’ and commented that ‘although it has been a long one, it is not one I would trade.’

Host Chew Pei Ying (second from left), along with artist Nature Shankar and co hosts Ganesh, Ryan and Lisa

The idea behind Passport is to make the art experiences both more personal in interpretation to art host and artist. The format also necessitates both of them being present, in often unexpected forms, as part of the experience, making this both inclusive and participatory for the audience too.  Each topic should resonate with local and expatriate audiences alike on Singapore’s bicentenary of Sir Stamford Raffles and acknowledges issues we all face in today’s globalised climate around immigration, citizenship and belonging.

Catching up with OH! Passport curators Kirti Bhaskar Upadhyaya and Johann Yamin

We caught up with two of this year’s three curators, Johann Yamin an artist and first time curator for OH! and Kirti Bhaskar Upadhyaya who is an assistant curator for them.  

Kirti, who curated two of the experiences, Ezzam x Hernie and André and Mike HJ Chang x Chloe and Liming explained that this year’s programme, ‘encourages storytelling. Not all of them are extremely personal and some of the experiences consider broader topics that matter to both the artist and hosts. In one case, the artist and hosts reflect on nationhood and borders, and how our experiences of the world are defined by them.’’

She went on to explain, ‘we wanted the artist and host(s) to work together and create site-specific experiences. We loved that connection and wanted to explore it further in this programme. Both artists and hosts are also involved in presenting these experiences to the audiences, allowing them to gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of the art work.’

Johann, who curated the experiences of artist Jimmy Ong and Han Chung and ila x Xiou Ann’s , added, ‘we encouraged artists and hosts to go with their instincts, allowing them to bring their own personal narratives into the creation of these works.’ He continued, ‘all of the hosts were previously OH! volunteers, so they came into these collaborations with their own expertise, knowing what elements audiences had enjoyed.’

Artist Jimmy Ong and host Khaw Han Chung

I was also invited to attend one for the first experiences opening which was by Jimmy Ong and Han Chung.  I wanted to experience this one because the themes explored are closely related to our arts engagement work around identity and citizenship.  This pair have found themselves in a unique position; one is considering becoming a permanent resident in Singapore, while the other is contemplating renouncing his citizenship so they decided to work together and figure their decisions out through the piece they have created together.  Jimmy is an artist, who presented two artworks during OH! Emerald Hill last year which explored the legacy of Sir Stamford Raffles.  Based in the US for many years, he now spends his time between Singapore and Yogakarta.  Han Chung is a Malaysian arts manager and self confessed foodie who has lived in Singapore for the last four years.  While I won’t spoil the experience for those who haven’t been yet, it was in two parts and examines placelessness and citizenship.

Artist Jimmy Ong and host Khaw Han Chung

OH! art tours have always been very well organised and enjoyable, but previously, on an arts engagement level, they have not really given their audiences enough time and space (in each location) to reflect and understand the themes presented. 

Considering that, I really enjoyed this year’s departure from the OH! art tours.  I truly think that Passport feels more current to the ripening Singaporean arts climate than a lot of the arts fairs, festivals and exhibitions happening at the moment that are still struggling to make their art offerings challenging and inclusive enough for their audiences. Passport provides a much more enriching and engaging experience for everyone involved.  Certainly in Jimmy Ong and Han Chung’s experience, the audience had the opportunity to participate in the experience and share their thoughts and feelings about the stories shared which lead to a much better understanding of what they were trying to achieve on a personal level. I think OH! has raised the arts engagement bar in Singapore with Passport so well done to the 2019 team!

Passport is running from 16th to 31st March at various timings.  You can look at the full programme here, If you would like to book tickets then you can get them here.  

If you’d like to read our artist interviews, look here and more of our blogposts here.

Creative Arts Social is a not for profit organization. We believe that art is for everyone. We all have the creative potential to understand, connect with and benefit from the arts. For more information about the work we do here.  

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