Chinatown photo exhibition near temple looks like a memorial site, some say

The portraits at Chinatown’s Kreta Ayer Square. Photos: Singapore International Photography Festival
The portraits at Chinatown’s Kreta Ayer Square. Photos: Singapore International Photography Festival

A photo exhibition that was meant to put the spotlight on Singapore’s diverse community is being ridiculed by some for looking like a memorial site. 

A collage of black and white mugshots against polka dot backgrounds have been on public display in recent weeks as part of the Inside Out Project by the Singapore International Photography Festival that began late last year. It has popped up on the walls of landmarks such as the Tekka Centre in Little India, The Substation in central Singapore, and at 37 Emerald Hill along Orchard Road. 

In Chinatown, the installation perched on wooden scaffoldings at the Kreta Ayer Square open space right next to the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple, looking rather grim against the place of worship and the surrounding Chinese New Year decorations. 

“Seriously, it looks like memorial photos,” Anne Lim commented Monday.

“Change it to something colorful! This colour in a pandemic is depressing,” Lynn Tan wrote.

A French photographer and artist known only as JR was the mastermind behind the project. He has brought his Inside Out work to more than 120 other places including Mexico and Nepal. Known for his monochrome street art, JR calls Inside Out the “people’s art project” on his website.  

“Inspired by the large-format collages that JR makes in the street, Inside Out gives everyone the opportunity to share their portrait and pass on the message that is close to their hearts,” his website said. “It is a global platform that allows everyone to share their story and transform a personal message into a public work of art.”

Organizers of the Singapore edition of the project said they had wanted to pay homage to the country’s diverse community. A photo booth was set up at the DECK art gallery in October for people to come and have their photos taken for the project. 

“This project aims to unveil 1,000 portraitures and stories of people in Singapore, encapsulating the essence of the nation’s unique collective identity,” it had said in its press release. 

Organizers did not respond to requests for comment on the online mockery since yesterday. 

“This is not artistic or innovative, it’s going against the intended outcome,” Dennis Kong wrote.

“It looks really weird and creepy. If this can be considered creative, then anything else can,” a Charlie Chua said.

“I don’t care what it looks like, but I’m definitely sure I won’t let my photos be put up there. Knock on wood!” Jennifer Teo wrote.

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CITY: SINGAPORECATEGORY: LIFESTYLESUB-CATEGORIES: ARTS

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