Compared to retail landmarks like The Capitol and Funan in the Civic District vicinity, Peninsula Shopping Centre appears to be frozen in time. Since its opening in 1974, the mall – located at the corner of Coleman Street and North Bridge Road – has largely retained its modernist look, making it one of the country’s last architectural vestiges of the ’70s.
Beyond the steel and concrete facade, the building is home to an eclectic mix of tenants – a hallmark of strata-titled malls – which include shops selling bootleg band tees, vinyl record shops, camera stores, watch dealers and classic tailor businesses.
Strata-titled malls such as Peninsula Shopping Centre, are some of the earliest modern shopping centres in Singapore, where shops are carved into smaller units and sold individually to different owners.
One mall occupant that has seen plenty of art types and practitioners walking through its doors is the incubator Dblspce, which has built a reputation for its residency programmes. Situated on the second floor of the sleepy mall, it was started by arts educators and creative practitioners Sabrina Koh and Kimberly Shen a little under two years ago. It’s USP: offering mentorship and a residency programme to budding artists.
Last Oct, the space unveiled the fruition of its latest residency that was co-shared among three young artists – Kar-men Cheng, Phoo Myet Che and Syahrul Anuar. The trio spent close to a month prior to their invite tenants, passersby, and friends to pose in a green screen photo studio – with their fantasy worlds beamed in the backdrop of the final images.
In Oct 2022, Dblspce played host to an exhibition by its three residents Kar-men Cheng, Phoo Myet Che and Syahrul Anuar, who explored the notion of fantasy through digital photos.
“As we are trying to archive what is possibly the intangible, the tenants become a focal point towards re-framing and re-configuring what an archive truly means in the context of any attempts to archive lived experiences and subliminal vibes,“ says Syahrul, an artist and cultural activist whose works primarily revolve around his interest in migration in the Nusantara.
This month, the trio explored their exploration of fantasies further by focusing on six of Peninsula Shopping Centre’s residents (scroll below to see them), all of whom they have befriended through the residency. Using machine learning and artificial intelligence diffusion model Stable Diffusion, the tenants’ fantasies were developed through Phoo’s and Cheng’s interactions with them, while Syahrul worked on the backend parameters of the program. The final portraits were unveiled on the last day of the Singapore Art Week on Jan 15.
‘Fantasy makers’ and visual artists (from left) Phoo Myet Che, Syahrul Anuar and Kar-men Cheng.
Through their project with the six tenants, the artists hoped visitors felt “a little bit closer towards understanding what Peninsula means in a landscape that is at a rapid scale of re-development”. Says Cheng: “I was interested in diving into a creative and social experience which allowed me to get to know the community here.”
“Many of these people have been here for more than 40 years; what’s their story? what do they want to share? Fantasy is often a discursive and relational thing,” she adds.