- In exploring the preoccupations of the contemporary landscape in Singapore, there appears to be an existential struggle, a tug-of-war even, between the natural world and the manufactured one.I observe an inevitable encroachment of development onto the natural land. We can no longer distinguish what is an authentic product of Nature or Man in Singapore’s contemporary landscape. Coming to terms with what I gather, I believe this leaves a bad taste in my placement in this country- of how it shapes my societal condition, ideals and aspirations.
It jeopardizes our identity, leaving us in a state of disorientation, a state of confusion. Landscape paces way too fast for us citizens to grapple onto, especially us youths. I was on the subway in Beijing conversing with my Spanish friend when I told him, at the very moment I have an offer to live elsewhere, I would (in a heartbeat). He was quite surprised, claiming Singapore as an amazing city he would consider living in. Maybe, that’s the problem. It has been too nurtured it now appears as a global, transition city. It evolves, peels off its skin at such a frightening rate. Like how the train huffs along the track as my eyes try to fixate on the neon-lit adverts on the walls of the tunnel, that’s the caustic vision I have of my Singapore. There’s nothing to go back to, just fragmented memories lurking astray within the city.
One of the deep-rooted crises would be the impermanence of Cultural Landscapes. A cultural landscape, an online reference cited “indicates a significant event, activity, or person and can vary in size or type. It is important to our nation's heritage.” Our value towards conserving these landscapes is paltry. Take Geylang Serai for instance, one of the oldest Malay Settlements in Singapore, that has undergone numerous facelifts. My grandmother, who spent a substantial part of her life residing in Kampong Enhku Aman and Wak Tanjong, can no longer identify the drastic reinventions towards the whole landscape. First, with the tearing down of the iconic Geylang Market and then in 2008, having Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA), announced plans to demolish the Malay Village after its lease ends in 2011 in order to build a suburban commercial hub. Geylang Serai suffers a huge blow in its clutches onto history. The idiosyncrasy that the government has in its frenzy to modernize, gentrifies and reinvent, I’m afraid will alter and defect the entrenched nostalgia of its people.
In examining this predicament, we have to look into the reasons as to what led us to this state today. Perhaps, we don’t have much to begin with? Foremostly, with the whole episodes of colonization and independence, perhaps, we didn’t get much time to stagger an identity. Following that, I strongly believe that the scarcity of land impose such a major hindrance in having landscapes that last (long enough to create a significant cultural importance).We are not blessed with bounteous deserts like the Sahara or Yosemite-like national parks, heck, not even Mount-Kinabalu-esque landforms like our neighbouring country. Hence, there seems to be this thirst to compete by creation. It does not surprise me a great deal when we have the Singapore Flyer as tallest Ferris wheel in the world and tallest man-made waterfall in an aviary over at Jurong Birdpark. Perhaps, like a payback of sorts, to what we are not granted with in nature and now making the best out of nature, even if it means foregoing it for progression.
Or perhaps our land is being capitalized moreso, for the influx of tourists and potential citizens. A landscape crafted alongside neglect and abandonment. A landscape so mechanical and urbanized, it nullified our expectations and thrill. A terrifying number of people overlook the splendour of wildlife in Chek Jawa for the magnificent man-made super trees at Gardens by the Bay. (that single place I feel is able to give us a massive critique in the essence of Singapore’s landscape). I still cannot get pass how the racial segmentations get manufactured even in this ‘garden’ with its heritage gardens, but I digress. It is a heartbreaking circumstance when artificial nature trumps authentic nature in the name of capitalistic gains. How the landscape caters not for its people but for the gaze of the outsiders. How the landscape exhilarates our sights but shuns our hearts…
- Maybe, that’s the unique façade of Singapore’s landscape. Maybe, it’s not so much a struggle after all, but a creative energy and symbiosis, a dance that forms a splatter of dynamic society in transition. Perhaps, this unfamiliarity and disillusionment creates an abstract sort of landscape, held together by a fabric of imperfect dreams and visions. Maybe that’s what it all mean by introspecting a contemporary landscape. A landscape fuelled with such a nested ambiguity and complexity that the human livings within this web makes up that new-age landscape. Maybe, that’s what it is. Maybe, I’m wrong.Nothing is certain in this landscape of Great Perhaps. I apologize if the crux of this introspection seems so incoherent and discordant but, you can’t blame me when nothing seems concrete in this concrete jungle, aye? Just landscapes relevant enough for people to commit suicide at.