The Substation Archive Exhibition
MAKING SPACE was an exhibition in 2015 about The Substation, its archives, and its role in contemporary art in Singapore.
Since The Substation opened its doors on 16 September 1990, it has prided itself as a space for diversity, inclusiveness and experimentation. Many artists and people from all walks of life have used The Substation as a space for developing or presenting works in the visual arts, theatre, dance, music, and film - and as an active space for discussions, meetings, process, research, and experimentation. As a prominent institution of Singapore's contemporary art scene, it has seen a broad circulation of people and ideas from within its small space. The Substation possesses a modest archive of its years at Armenian Street, which was transferred to the National Library Board in 2015, where its archive can be properly preserved, and the public can have easy access to the material within NLB’s Reference section. As an artist who has worked closely with The Substation in the last few years, I was given the challenge of curating an exhibition of these materials at the NLB. Within the spaces of The Substation, from its basement to its top floor office storeroom, The Substation has amassed material almost as if by random collection: booklets, flyers, guestbooks, unlabelled cassettes, VHS tapes, precious newspaper clippings, clocks and practical furniture from the homes of its staff, photo albums, film negatives, tapes of speeches and storytelling sessions...
As we sift through its archives, we find hints of the ephemeral sights, sounds, and experiences that cannot be found within The Substation's physical archive. Looking back on 25 years of its history, we begin to wonder - what has The Substation seen? What has The Substation experienced? What was The Substation trying to do in the past, and what does it want to become in the future? When we talk about The Substation and its past, present and future, there seems to be a tendency to try to anthropomorphise the space - as if a space could have desires, or have a will of its own, just as we all do as individuals. But it is not the projected desires of an imaginary construct or space that we need to consider here. It is instead our own desires that we must examine: what do we want to make of this space?