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Chaos to Order #2: A Dialogue with Jimmy and Shiyun on Kiap Kiap Revolution

Updated: 5 days ago

Edited by Lin Shiyun

Introduction and Copyediting by Amanda Yeo

Interview supported by Lim Ci Xuan

Kiap Kiap Revolution: Re-Imagine, Re-Order, Re-Connect is a participatory art exhibition presenting a world of wacky mutant dolls that were manually reconstructed from bags and bags of claw machine stuffed toys donated to Tak Takut Kids Club (TTKC). These mutant dolls first appeared from a co-creation process in which artist Jimmy Ong prompted the children of TTKC to deconstruct all donated toys into loose parts, conjoin different parts and scrap material with safety pins, then finally guided each child to hand-sew their own composite “creature” or improvise upon other ones. Over the course of two years, almost every child in TTKC has picked up a threaded needle in the process of exercising their agency to imagine and create, while some also engaged in dialogue about normalcy and oddity. A troupe of mutant dolls that embodies individual creativity within a culture of imaginative play thus takes centrestage in Kiap Kiap Revolution.

The exhibition is set up as a carnival in an olden style of local pasar malam that occupied footpaths and void decks of neighbourhoods—it invites children and adults alike into the space to play together. Visitors can also find themselves a quiet spot in the ‘Studio’ area to experience the unique process of making their own mutant doll, or to simply spend time interacting with the creations on display.

In this dialogue, Jimmy and Lin Shiyun, 3Pumpkins-TTKC Founder & Executive Director, reflect on the entire co-creation journey that preceded the exhibition and what it entails to present the spirit of TTKC in a public setting.

'Kiap Kiap Revolution' is presented in the format of an interactive carnival.

'March On', Esplanade, 2023.

Photos by 3Pumpkins.

Shiyun: Let’s begin this conversation with the project title Kiap Kiap Revolution. We have gone through quite a bit of brainstorming for this, from the initial ‘Mutant Dolls’ to ‘Tak Takut Kiap Club’ and many more.

Jimmy: Ya, the title is beginning to come together. I’m seeing it as less about my work with the children, less about the output of mutant dolls and more about TTKC and how we can bring the intangible part of TTKC to share with the public.

Shiyun: What is this intangible part of TTKC?

Jimmy: Basically it’s about play and joy. I’m thinking the best thing we can share, especially during and post-Covid, is to export our joy, laughter and fun.

Shiyun: To me, TTKC is about holding a non-judgemental space and having close-knitted relationships. A kid can lie down and sleep in TTKC, because we recognise that as their current state of being and we first try to understand what contributes to it. Our relationships strengthen from this long process. But I think when it becomes a showing to the public, that’s when some things just can’t be transported over.

Jimmy: We need to be comfortable in our own skin and feel at home in a public venue. Based on my experience of our last March On exhibition, it was when L repeated his wet market-style jingle and the kids worked together at the merchandise table that their unique community identity became more evident in that public space.

Shiyun: The community identity was very strong.

Jimmy: Yes! And the kampong spirit was there, no need to explain too much.

Shiyun: I see the value of taking the kids out of their home ground to a public space to present a work that they’ve done in their own community. It really builds their community identity. This is something that cannot be achieved in Boon Lay because they see themselves in a familiar setting there everyday—

Jimmy: —they need to put themselves out there. Like how the Chingay Parade used to be when it was done in the heartland neighbourhoods. You know which temple and cultural groups are coming, and the joy was walking from this landmark to another landmark in the neighbourhood.

Shiyun: From our last March On exhibition, I was trying to understand what public presentation does for the children. How did they behave differently? Did any part of themselves change or not change? I learnt that after they had been put in the role of a docent to introduce visitors to TTKC and their own artwork, that experience became a core memory for them later on. They recall that people want to know about them, hear from them, and are interested in their stories.

3Pumpkins’ presentation of ‘This is What We Eat at Home’, a photography exhibition featuring stories of TTKC children and youth.

'March On', Esplanade, 2022.

Photos by Marc Nair and 3Pumpkins.

Shiyun: Speaking of stories, let’s talk about how this project began in TTKC for you and the kids.

Jimmy: The project started with prototypes of mutant dolls. One day, there were many toys lying around, specifically a set of teddy bears which the kids were using for pillow fights. That moment I stopped them by saying “Let’s cut them all up”, so they cut the teddy bears up. There is something about the boys’ urge to destroy which was wonderful, and they were given permission to do so. After that, I pushed H to assemble all the cut-up parts back together as a new toy. What I intended to make was the character of Ravana who is multi-headed for the story of Ramayana. And that