Wires, light bulbs, switches with double-sided mirrors and photography light projections
“Power to the People” is a site-specific work that pays tribute to a power station’s hardware and software – its utilitarian principles and generations of workers. Built in the 1950s and 60s, the two former power station buildings, along with the surrounding disused industrial structures form the core of the Pasir Panjang Power District. The power station is credited as one of the nation’s first engines of power before it was decommissioned in the 1980s.
I collaborated with sound artist Li-Chuan Chong and spoken word poet Deborah Emmanuel on this site-specific artwork at the Pasir Panjang Power Station, largely inaccessible to the public since its decommissioning in 1987. Interviews with the former workers and their family members were interwoven into the live performance, where Deborah’s text reflected upon systems of power and the future of work.
The installation features a network of interconnected electrical wires, light bulbs with double-sided mirrors, with light switches that invite the audience to interact with the performance.
Central to the installation is a double-sided mirror projection of portraits of former power station workers and their families. These workers were recruited from India and Malaya, and needed accommodation. Their living quarters were one of the area’s prominent landmarks that housed generations of families whose lives and cultural practices were deeply interconnected. The former worker's quarters were vacated at the end of the 1980s when many were encouraged to apply for public housing (HDB flats).
The performance occurred after the demolition of the workers quarters, which was timely because soon after the Singapore government announced the impending development plans for the Greater Southern Waterfront.
[The Goethe-Institut Singapore first presented this site-specific artwork to commemorate the centenary of the Bauhaus; curated by Yeow Kai Chai, the event featured two performance sessions at the Pasir Panjang Power Station. The work was restaged at the same site in 2020 for Singlit Station.]