New home for photography centre Objectifs

The green and yellow 8,000 sq ft building in Middle Road will be the new home for photography and film centre Objectifs. -- PHOTO: OBJECTIFS
The green and yellow 8,000 sq ft building in Middle Road will be the new home for photography and film centre Objectifs. -- PHOTO: OBJECTIFS

With more space, the photography and film centre hopes for more collaborations

The slope-roofed, canary-yellow chapel building at the junction of Middle Road and Waterloo Street has been standing empty since August last year.

But come June 11, it will be abuzz. That is when it will become the new home of Objectifs, a centre for photography and film.

The opening exhibition will be Breakfast At 8, Jungle At 9 by the centre's long-time collaborator Ernest Goh. The photography and installation showcase will use repeated motifs from nature, such as insects, birds and flowers, arranged in orderly patterns in a nod to scientific photography and the detailed study of specimens. The show will run till July 19.

The building, managed by the National Arts Council, used to be occupied by Sculpture Square, a centre dedicated to sculpture and three-dimensional arts. Sculpture Square was housed there for 15 years until last year's move, which was prompted by a desire to be more flexible in bringing artists and their works to audiences. Sculpture Square no longer has a physical location and now focuses on curating and commissioning.

Objectifs co-founder and centre director Emmeline Yong says: "We've always been inspired by that space and the lease of our current site is up in July, so the timing was aligned. That kind of space is also very hard to come by, so we're very excited."

Its current home, which it moved into in 2009, is a 3,600 sq ft shophouse in Arab Street. The new premises will have about 8,000 sq ft of floor space spread over two buildings - the former chapel and an office and administration building next door.

To prepare for the move, the Objectifs team has been renovating and painting the buildings and installing new lights in the chapel.

While the exterior of the building was orange when it was occupied by Sculpture Square, it has been restored to its original green and yellow, according to the Urban Redevelopment Authority's conservation guidelines.

The National Arts Council paid for the exterior paint job. The rest of the renovation cost, which is still being quantified as works are ongoing, is being borne by Objectifs.

Ms Yong says the centre's move to Middle Road will be a return to familiar ground. It first home from 2003 to 2009 was in nearby Liang Seah Street.

"The new location is closer to other arts organisations and arts educational institutes such as the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts and Lasalle. We really feel that connectedness to the broader arts community," she says, adding that the centre is excited to explore collaborations with its new neighbours.

The layout of the new space, with a large central exhibition area and a separate building with smaller rooms next door, also dovetails with its plans.

"With the layout of the space, we are looking at bigger shows to showcase and also the opportunity for more meaningful collaborations."

The rooms in the office building will be used to host artists on residency programmes.

Objectif's new home will not just be a place for formal programmes. But Ms Yong hopes it will also provide an environment for artists to hang out and chit-chat. She recalls that the area behind The Substation, which is now Timbre, used to be a garden where such pow-wows took place.

"There will be a lot of open spaces, in the courtyard and little rooms, for artists to come together even when they're not formally working with us on a show.

"Quite often, the best ideas and collaborations come from artists, programmers and supporters of the arts coming together."

lting@sph.com.sg