The Substation Archive - Working Notes

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Newspaper Clippings - Articles ABOUT Substation

Hannah Pandian - "Will the show go on?" Straits Times Friday 14 September 1990

  • "Just two days before The Substation official opens on Sunday, Singapore's first centre of the arts lies wrapped in a silent cocoon of sawdust and brown paper. The cloying scent of varnish clings to the polished wooden banisters as the building waits in the wings. In a few days the cafeteria will flow with coffee and conversation. The 170 seat theatre, The Open Space will resound with the Necessary stages production Those who Can't, Teach and The half-finished mural on the wall of the Kopi Garden will be complete. The Substation will have become what artistic director and Cultural Medallion winner Kuo Pao Kun dreamt it would be - "a permanent place to do arts, see arts, talk arts, and live the arts". Or will it?
  • "In 1987, when the government approved the $1.07 million restoration project of the old power substation in Armenian Street, it was only the beginning of a long struggle for money"
  • Substation denied Institution of Public Character (Singapore Dance Theatre, Singapore Symphonic Orchestra) - need to pay taxes, donations not tax exempt at the time of opening. Taxation unit's asst director Miss Yena Lim says they are cautious about handing out IPC status even if the company satisfies the criteria as the government loses a large amount of money by way of taxation. (Side note: The Substation was granted IPC/Charity Registration on 05/12/1995 according to )
  • "In Mr Kuo's eyes, the Substation deserves corporate support because it offers that rare chance of a community arts project. He wants the companies to invest in the future, to groom young people for the arts in Singapore.
  • Ms Tan Beng Luan: "Any corporation that supports us will have to see themselves as pioneers. There is no point in looking at the returns in material terms; investment in art is long-term, not immediate."
  • "So, The Substation's future looks uncertain indeed and it will be a big loss if it does not take off."
  • "Given its strategic location in Armenian Street, within walking distance of the Drama Centre, the National Library and the National Museum, it has the potential to be a meeting place for the arts"
  • Mr Steven Howard, direct marketing director for Citibank, which has declined to be a sponsor said: "it would be a dark cloud to Singapore's really struggling performing arts if this thing were not to come to fruition"

"$3m budget to refurbish old buildings for the arts" Straits Times Monday Sept 17 1990

  • Old and vacant govt buildings to be refurbished and rented to arts groups at nominal rates
  • "The conversion of the former run-down PUB Substation into a multi-disclipinary arts centre is the first project under the revised scheme. This conversion also offers an opportunity to preserve a historical building. Mr Wong Kan Seng, Minister for Community development and foreign affairs, said "The PUB Substation is of the 'blood and bandage' style of which the Central Fire Station is the only other building." The fire station is built of red bricks and white cement. Built in 1928, the substation was left unused in the 1970s.

Kuo Pao Kun Quits as The Substation's artistic director (ST, 2 June 1995)

  • quitting to spend more time writing and directing plays
  • On his greatest contribution to he Substation: "That's a difficult question. Probably it is in getting people in the Substaiton and outside the Substaiton to agree that in art, a worthy failure is often more improtant than a mediocre success. You don't just go for the success but you are more concerned with what you are doing and that what you do is beyond what you have done before. Exploring new grounds is absolutely necessary."

crucible or stewpot, (ST, hannah pandian sep 13 1991, life cover story)

  • KPK: "everyone has art in them. in the way they dress, the way they beautify their homes. why should art be kept for an elite minority?"
  • "The first year of Substation activites look, in retrospect, like a jamboree. once, on the same day, an american theatre professor was giving workshops in the studio, to be used by cantonese diva ng kwan lai immediately. an english-educated group streamed out of the studio and ran smack into a bunch of chinese men and women, waiting for Ng, "straight from chinatown", as kuo puts it. That split second of surprise, curiosity and disorientation between the groups is the sort of confrontation that the substation wants to explore. this often buildings bridges between different racial groups. Nuradee, two malay brothers who sing and cut albums, met some xinyao (chinese singaporean ballad) artistes at the substation. the chinese artistes invited nuradee to perform on their tour of junior colleges in Singapore.

Making room for young artists to grow to maturity (st april 4 1996)

  • Sasitharan announced as new artistic director, retaining and developing new criteria (gathering of visual artists), Dance Space (dance platform since the cancellation of the singapore dance festival in 1991), Raw Theatre (theatre as process and not a product). Sasi approached playwright William Teo to be company-in-residency over nine months to devise a new play (Asia In Theatre Research Centre), Young artists Zai Kuning and Ang Gey Pin in artist-in-residence programme.
  • KPK: given the many conservative layers of the many layers of the substation's environment, i would not expect sasi to deliver many outright winners in t terms of full houses and commercial successes. rather i would keep my usual measurement for such pioneering works: in art, a worthy failure is always preferable to a mediocre success. and look forward to a stream of intellectual and artist challenges to 'subvert' our mololithic mindset.


Substation - Inspiration & Aspiration, Arts Alive (Source?) / LMH - featureworthy article (check NLB?)

  • "Where do you go for live concert performances, an exhibition, a hunt for some quaint looking artifacts? Followed by perhaps, a satisfying meal of tasty local minced beef noodles. All within a single visit? Where do budding artists go when all they ahve are their raw talents, unquenchable desire to share with the world what they have but no experience nor money to put up that first public show? (...) Where do artists by any definition go if they want to give of themselves to the Arts? The Substation - A Home for the Arts."
  • "The outcome - heartwarming performances including 'Nuradee's" an unknown duo whose offering is an eclectic music style; mixing indian, malay and chinese influences. This free spiritedness also saw many party goers refusing to leave one christmas party not too long ago. They persisted to the point of promising the organising committee that they would clear the venue the next morning. Certainly showing wrong the people who say 'free' spirits are irresponsible!
  • not everyone gets breaks here. behind every success story is many other not-so-successful stories. besides being supportive, it believes in letting its charges grow and experience life. as KPK said: "Worthy failure more valuable than a mediocre success."
  • "In poverty I strive, in wealth I give", this inscription is displayed in the administration office of the substation. This same inscription was requested to be inscribed onto the piano which a mystery donor gave to the Substation."
  • what distinguishes substation from other venues is the diversity, its 'Singaporeness', and adamance in maintaining this unique feature. Falsehood is evidently missing. And one cannot help recall the parallel between the early years of our young country struggling to carve a niche for itself in the 60's, to what the substation is presently undergoing. There is nothing false in it. perhaps it has to do with its struggle and its daring to be different.
  • Even the name 'substation' is apt. a substation is where electricity is passed on from a generating station into the general ystem. in this, lies the dynamics of the venue. what can give life to a place, but the activities and people within.
  • there was a time when entrepreneurship was encouraged. today, artistic creativity is sanctioned. do we dare envision the success of the arts scene in Singapore. can it take on the path of success as has our economy. necessity being the mother of invention, are we therefore at the doorstep of the station that will keep the arts alive? - LMH -

The Substation - A Home for the Arts / Generating power into the local arts scene (Executive lifestyle, unknown year)

  • "Speculation as to how long The Substation would last is nevertheless not absent among the public.

Singapore's Home for the Arts (attribution unknown, page 35)

  • begins with "last new year's eve, a boisterous group of Singaporeans ushered in 1991 in a different way - at a lively 24 hour rock concert that may not have exactly raised the dead, but certainly raised a lot of spirits...."
  • "For the first time in Singapore, all types of arts can roost under one permanent roof. It is hoped that from this creative interaction, something strong and viable will emerge - a form of art that is distinctively Singaporean, a united artistic form of expression as identifiable with Singapore as kabuki is to japan or the hula to hawaii. perhaps from this, a homegrown talent will emerge and place Singapore on the world artistic map.
  • "said mr kuo: 'i want the substation to be a place where young people are given a high profile, and also where new art forms which are experimental in nature can be shown."
  • "when you first attempt something original, unusually you are not welcomed because you are strange and unusual. very often you disturb people. but i believe diversity should be nurtured.

Newspaper Clippings - Articles ABOUT Events

Issues on heritage spark lively discussion at forum. Phan ming yen. ST sept 19 1994 monday. pg 5 Life

  • "our place in time"
  • Devan, Janadas. 1999. "My Country and My People: Forgetting to Remember." - based partly on an analysis of lee tzu pheng's poem of the same name. he argued that 'forgetting the past is a condition which some accept freely to be singaporean but at the same time, it is also a condition which 'just happens'. said mr devan: 'certainly much of what we have forgotten, should indeed be forgotten. for you cannot say 'my country singapore, my people singaporeans, without forgtting not only malayan nationalism but also something far more difficulty to forget, cultural nationalisms. the other forgetting is what history of singapore enforces. our history forgets. this second forgetting makes possible the first forgetting of course, but it is also without agency. it just happened.
  • session on saturday had opened with mr kwa chong guan, head of department of strategic sudies at the safti military instuitite who argued for a study of singapore's past dating back to the malay world of 16th century, an economic region that encompassed the johor river, the riau islands and lingga.

your old things are wanted. life at large. st. 23 june 1994. thursday

  • the substation invites participants in special hunt to bring items brimming with memories and carrying special meanings.
  • ms tan beng luan volunteer: "we want to gather things dear to ap erson, and which remind him of moments in life."
  • mr daniel wong, a programme coordinator at substaion is quick to add that preference will be given to objects that reflect the socio-economic conditions of the bygone era. example given: "luminous coloured shirt that belongs to a former centrepoint kid rather than another person's first storybook. - centrepoint kids used to be a social phenomena here a few years ago, latchkey children teenagers spending long hours at the shopping centre. Chu Chu Yuan, development executive, adds that the ideal item is one that triggers off other people's memories.
  • contributors wil lbe their own 'curators' and will write captions for their items.


  • Jog for Arts
  • Tree Celebration Poster
  • Hardcore Forum - typewritten note
  • 1990 - Stella Koh's play - Promo material - fake 1934 chinese newspaper
  • theme song - ken low and edison lauw - "the dream has just begun" at the round the clock 1991 concert. 电力站之歌
  • "lessees" - LESSEES GALLERY / LESSEES THEATRE files. could it be an outdated term for rental hires - that simply went out of favour over time? everyone's response: "was ever there someone called Lessee at the Substation?"

Call it "Raw Space"

Site specific works


Dennis Tan - Between the spaces

Music space / space - Sound artist Dennis Tan will present Between the Spaces, his first solo show in Singapore. Traversing the gaps between image and sound, Dennis will exhibit a series of kinetic sculptures in The Substation Gallery that aim to challenge conventional notions of perception.

During the exhibition, Dennis will also be conducting the Openlab Sessions. Conceived with the aim of generating free and open discussions about sound, music and improvisation, the Openlab Sessions will see him collaborate with four artists from different disciplines, for whom sound and music are important influences. The sessions will see Tan and his collaborators share, dissect, and experiment with different approaches creating music. Visitors to the gallery are welcome to participate by sharing their views, asking questions about the process, or just observing.

The schedule for the Openlab Sessions is as follows:

Riduan Mohamad – Monday 28 April 1pm Wu Jun Han – Tuesday 29 April 1pm Delphine Mei – Wednesday 30 April 1pm Ian Woo – Friday 2 May 1pm

Music Space 2011 Hommage à Kuo Pao Kun

Music Space 2011 Hommage à Kuo Pao Kun (1939-2002) Curated by Jun Zubillaga-Pow

On 13 March 1991, The Substation initiated a platform for experimental sonic arts. Music Space, an auricular experience pioneered by the first artistic director of The Substation, Kuo Pao Kun, was premised on the ideals of a borderless world among classical, popular and avant-garde disciplines.

Twenty years later, Music Space will pay homage to Cultural Medallion recipient, Kuo Pao Kun. Witness history in the making as this series converges multiple musical genres and revives the multicultural coherence of the Singaporean music scene of the 1990s. Music Space runs from May to October 2011.

See also

  • Nellie Seng (played piano at age 10 on the donated piano at Music Space I - now nafa pianist - ask donna ong) - mentioned in may 1991 open soace
  • (interiorities)(peripheries: 1 Dec 2013 – Feb 2014
    • Chua Chin Chin
    • Bryan Angelo Lim and May Lim (Qu’est-ce Que c’est Design) flyer designs which do not stack up - Flyer distribution: a common practice for which organisations and individuals transmit information. But upon scrutiny, the textual content and design elements of these flyers placed amidst the display racks of The Substation do not add up. Fact mixes with fiction, and illustrative graphics are rendered as visual misdirections; this mass media medium ends up messing up both the message and the reader.
  • Art-2 still exists - but changed in focus! Art-2 is also a founder member of the Art Galleries Association (Singapore). The director, Vera Ong, has had extensive experience in various aspects of art business and consultancy over the past twenty-two years.
    • 15 Sept 2000 - Instructions. Michael Cu Fua Manila born artist familiar signs used in most satirical form. how signs/symbols we see read and confirm coerce us to conformity as we observe them with mandatory reverence.
  • what hapened to jerome ming the photographer? - from, 1 Dec 2004 [cached] - Jerome Ming graduated with a Bachelor's degree in Fine Arts from Trent Polytechnic, Nottingham, UK, and later attended The London Institute, completing his post-graduate studies in photojournalism in 1992. From 1993 to 2001, he lived in Singapore, teaching photography at Temasek Polytechnic and then joining The Straits Times as a staff photographer (1996-2000).Jerome has undertaken photographic assignments for various international magazines including TIME, Newsweek, Businessweek and Smithsonian.In 1989, he received the Prix FRAC (Lyon, France), and in 2001 he received the Singapore Nikon Media photographer of the year award.Jerome is currently based in Bangkok and is a regular contributor to Redux Pictures, New York.
  • Rajaknath from Ankara
  • Brian Seward - Brian has been working in Singapore since 1995 teaching Drama, writing and directing plays, and occasionally acting
  • Prof C.J. Wee Wan-ling Professor Division of English School of Humanities and Social Sciences College of Humanities, Arts, & Social Sciences - who wrote on theatre
  • expanded field / unified field - tara
  • Sanjot Kaur Sekhon deals with the slippage between cultures that results from one's repeated migration from one country to another. Through the use of furniture and personal artefacts found in the home, Sekhon's work is about coming to terms with the shifting of one's identity. Sekhon continues to work in Singapore as a practising artist, and has shown in Singapore, Germany, Thailand, and Australia. She is a recent graduate of the Master of Fine Art (by coursework) - Painting programme at LASALLE-SIA, and is currently a Lecturer at LASALLE-SIA's School of Fine Art, Department of Graduate Studies.

Tell me more about

  • Or ten tik cafe - who ran it? what was it like? was there as a signboard? what food was there? why no one mentioned before? was it just very small?
  • Fat frog cafe - who ran it?
  • Substation song by ken low in 1992
  • Who managed "The Expanded Field"? (or who started it?
  • audrey, did you get letters in return to your call about letters discourse culture?
  • list of international partnerships between substation and other places
  • list of artist in residence / company in residence
  • list of associate artists
  • list of homage / looking back events (eg: 10 years of sub)
  • list of staff
  • "Open Ends" - 2001 - what happened to the materials? did the project go further?

Lim Tzay Chuen's space alteration #7 in 2001

1993 - trees 1994 - memories

  • art vs art - conflict and convergence

useful reads


  • The Piano with inscription - sold off
  • The Bronze Harp - placed inside the substation garden - taken back by Guinness at the end of sponsorship period


  • La Petite Touche, Nicky and the snowman, christmas event organised by substation: piano concert, music cartoon, music and performing art workshop for children / at open space dec 21 1990


  • Dance Forum - dance forum is professional modern dance company from taiwan. performances by 5 choerographers - sunny pang, norman fung, lo man fei, grace hsiao, jim may
  • Walk A Jog- Jog for Arts Power - substation's first anniversary - jog for arts! hand coloured poster - meet, mingle, and exchange ideas. map on the back of route! FEATURE ITEM!!!
  • The Tree Celebration- A multi-disciplinary thematic activity - Various Artists (eg. Tang Da Wu, T Sasitharan, Kuo Pao Kun, Koh Nguang How etc) at the Substation - the silly little girl and funny old tree. the tree. the giving tree. the man who planted trees. "For 10 days from june 21 to 30 1991, a group of artists will cross barriers to join the celebration of the tree in its many manifestations." funny marker drawing on the back of poster.

Interview with Sasitharan

What was the earliest memory you had about the Substation?

  • mid 80s
  • rawness/unfinished quality to it
  • substation as a generator of power - opening up new ground, reusing its space

Things of note

  • Theatre ox - dance studio, once a week, open rehearsals/open studio
  • william teo, world in theatre, in the garden
  • elizabeth teo
  • tang mung kit - annex roomn next door to zai kuning
  • kumari - first installation made, for new criteria
  • septfest conference, programming, each time there was a theme
  • moving images set up by audrey 96 0r 97
  • rock concerts in the garden, i used to sit through them
  • crowd control, with a barrier, the whole music community would come out
  • fleamarket '96
  • most important was residencies - theatre etc
  • balancing interesting events for public and critical works

places around that were memorable

  • the lunchtime classical which sasi attended even before joining substation
  • cofeeshop
  • s11
  • busstop (library)
  • hawker centre near MICA in early to late 2000

Random notes

  • Artistic Director from April 1996 to August 2000
  • Actor in the island, sizewe banzi is dead
  • mother looking for her cat
  • art critic
  • philosophy
  • met pao kun in 1980

  • "Rocking into 1992,
  • it is party time at the substation. Sharon lim previews the festivities that will usher in the first dawn of 1992
  • Flashback: an estimated 10000 people had thronged the open-air kopi garden on the last night of 1990 to welcome in the new year. but while the party spirit was willing, the flesh was definitely weak. by the first noon of 1991, less than 50 stragglers were left hanging on, and the end, 10.30pm was a distant possibility. (1991: Round the clock marathon)