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Arts In The Neighbourhood

Updated: Mar 21, 2023

By Lin Shiyun, Producer

In late 2019, I invited Isabelle Desjeux to work with the children community in Lengkok Bahru, a neighbourhood which I had been running community engagements. The project was called ‘Seeing the Obvious’, a place-making project that we will usually conduct after spending a year observing the neighbourhood. Children has always been the core community that 3Pumpkins engages with. Our primary intention is to increase the visibility of children as natural social connectors. While the presence of children always come with noise and mischief, their innocence and free-spiritedness never fail to bring joy and new perspective. This belief in children connects Isabelle and myself, as with all the collaborators in 3Pumpkins.

Isabelle and Shiyun in Lengkok Bahru for community event ‘I Wish U Enough’ initiated by South Central Community Family Service Centre.

Prior to Lengkok Bahru, Isabelle has conducted countless experimentations and iterations of camera obscura and pinhole photography in her own studio, apartments, night festival, museums. I wanted to see how this magic can be brought into the neighbourhood so that the community can see their world from a different perspective. Often, the families whom we work with can be engulfed in stressful life handling complicated personal problems and children are unable to travel out of their neighbourhood due to lack of finance and supervision. We can do more to make our work accessible to our communities.

Isabelle started work by taking her own pictures in Lengkok Bahru with a bright pink overall, attracting curious eyes. A few children started to look forward to seeing her every day to experiment with pinhole photography, and we were very fortunate to have the support of King of Fruits to provide a shop space for us to conduct our activities. Isabelle and the children were able to produce a series of visually-catching works which we put up in the neighbourhood.

Pinhole in the Neighbourhood: Isabelle and children in Lengkok Bahru as co-creators of photography art works.

With the experience and confidence gained from Lengkok Bahru, we are bringing Kotak Foto: Pinhole in the Neighbourhood to more communities through Arts in Your Neighbourhood (AIYN) in Pasir Ris this time round.

When designing the work, we were clear that the objective of this work is for a wide outreach instead of deep engagement. Pushing the boundaries of arts accessibility is a challenge that 3Pumpkins always take up with the artist for this festival, given the ample resources from the council. In AIYN 2019, theatre director Danny Yeo and I designed a light travelling format for giant puppet performance The Rubbish Prince which involved the community in the making of and execution of the show. The work has travelled to 12 locations in the heart of the neighbourhoods, more if Covid had not happened.

For our work this year, the same thoughts have been put in to bring the arts to the heartlands. Our community engagement had Isabelle co-creating the art work with participants, and music composer Phang Kok Jun will be weaving the voice narratives of Pasir Ris residents into a moving music piece. If we had it our way, we would convert the back of the truck into a pinhole camera box and the audience would sit inside ‘Kotak Foto’ (Photo Box) to enjoy a ride to beautiful, slightly remote places in their neighbourhood. However, due to strict regulations that only workers are allowed on the back of a moving truck and concerns about modified vehicles especially after the Tanjong Pagar car crash, the idea could be not executed this time round.

Covid has closed many possibilities for us to travel out, and many of us have been forced to travel in and rediscover Singapore. If you would like to join us on this magical journey to look and listen to our living spaces, check out the timings and locations of our touring tour, or simply drop by Pasir Ris beach in the morning to visit our on-site installation. Register now!

Follow this page as our team continues to document our processes in bringing you Kotak Foto: Pinhole in the Neighbourhood!

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