Death By A Thousand Cuts

Vertical Submarine’s sliced-up kitchen.
Vertical Submarine’s sliced-up kitchen. ST PHOTO: LIM SIN THAI

The red-light district of Geylang with its eclectic mix of shophouses, eateries and brothels is the perfect setting for imagining the end of an affair, or the beginning of one.

A site-specific installation in a shophouse by the art collective Vertical Submarine draws from a random image the artists once saw: A man arrives home one day and finds his wife in the kitchen with his best friend. The scene the collective have painstakingly created lets the viewer imagine the craziness that would have followed.

In Lorong 24A, an equally neat shophouse door leads the unsuspecting viewer into a work where there are thousands of cuts. Knives are dangerously stuck in one wooden chair. The kitchen is sliced into many parts. The work is aptly titled Death By A Thousand Cuts.

Presented by Chan Hampe Galleries, this is another edgy installation by the collective, made up of artists Fiona Koh, 32, Joshua Yang, 41, and Justin Loke, 35.

Loke tells The Straits Times this piece works best in what he calls gallerist Benjamin Hampe's "space for riskier ventures" - its Geylang space as opposed to the main gallery in Raffles Hotel Arcade.


  • WHERE: Shophouse 5, Lorong 24A Geylang

    WHEN: Till Feb 14, 11am to7pm (Tuesday to Sunday). Closed on Monday and public holiday


    INFO: Only five persons are allowed in at a time. Expect to queue if there is a crowd. Go to


    WHAT: The collective will bein conversation with artist Michael Lee

    WHERE: Shophouse 5, Lorong 24A Geylang

    WHEN: Tomorrow, 2 to 3.30pm


    INFO: Maximum capacity is 30. To register, e-mail

Only five visitors are allowed into the shophouse to view the work at a time.

As the site for a vision of unsettled domesticity, the shophouse lends the piece an immediacy that might be lacking in a gallery space.

The collective, who received The President's Young Talents Award in 2009 and have exhibited their art in Hong Kong, Seoul and Mexico City, have often presented their work in unusual settings.

Last year, Golden Mile Tower was the setting for their installation John Martin, The Butcher And The Surgeon. It was inspired by the real-life story of John Martin Scripps, the first Westerner to be hanged for murder here in 1996.

Even finding one's way to the work was a bit of a challenge - due to the deliberate lack of signage - and it added to the mystery of the piece. But that is the point of such spaces, says Loke.

"You can show different kinds of things. You are even allowed to stretch the entry point of an artwork. As artists, it allows us to explore more," he says.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 15, 2016, with the headline 'Death By A Thousand Cuts'. Print Edition | Subscribe