Space Oddities: New show at Substation looks at e-scooters and public spaces

Artist Zhiyi Cao's 2272 Open Report is part of The Substation's Space Oddities show.
Artist Zhiyi Cao's 2272 Open Report is part of The Substation's Space Oddities show.ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

SINGAPORE - Many Singaporeans see an e-scooter and associate it with a menace. Artist Zhiyi Cao, however, is intrigued by how this disruptive new form of transport has helped create a whole new culture.

And she has turned her interest into a new installation, titled 2272 Open Report, which is part of The Substation's Space Oddities show.

Her installation comprises wooden planks, marked with e-scooter skid marks that form infinity signs, set in front of a screen playing an e-scooter ad and scored with electronic dance music. The music references the way e-scooter riders blast their music.

Cao, 24, a graduate of the Ruskin School of Fine Art, University of Oxford, says: "The idea of a public space can be defined by sound. You don't own that space, but you occupy it. It's like a private party for the e-scooter rider, they own that space for those few seconds."

While Cao's work investigates how public spaces has been invaded by this new technology, artist Divaagar's Singapore Is For Lovers seeks to mediate the comfort of public spaces. He turns a cubicle in the male toilet into a pink, shag carpeted mini-haven, adds burgundy upholstery and a pink curtain to a nook and creates a conversational nook in another room with plant dividers.

The 27-year-old says his work engages with the history of the Substation space. The toilet installation references the place's history as a cruising spot for gay men. His installations explore the intersections of public spaces with private behaviours: "These spaces also act as public closets to mask these behaviours."

The luxe touch of carpeting and pink light seeks to give the utilitarian space "some comfort", he says.

Space Oddities is part of The Substation's season, A Public Square, which will explore the arts venue's relationship to the new garden that has sprouted in front of it on Armenian Street.

There will be other events, including a mischievious contest, Parky McParkface Naming Competition, to rename the garden, as well as a mentorship programme, Concerned Citizens Programme, led by visual artist Cheong Kah Kit.

The season marks artistic director Alan Oei's final slate of programme for the venue before he leaves at the end of the year.