Missing home at Aloft at Hermes
In a dim room in the middle of Orchard, a soundtrack transferred me back to my hometown. Two scenarios flashes at the back of my closed lids. One is waking up to kids in the neighborhood singing and kindly rousing people to wake up and have sahoor, their sound getting closer and farther as they went to turn to another street. Another place and time I was taken back to was my elementary school. The chair and table were wooden and I was wearing green and yellow skirt. There were handwritten lyrics and numbers of a Javanese song, and my voice was too shy to make the dip and rise of the original wave of notes.
I came out of the Fidelity room exhibition with such a longing for home,
It was a shame that after that point, my thoughts raced back to my own past instead of staying in the present and trying to absorb what the Aloft @ Hermes staff was trying to say. I had to do another research from the web to piece together the information I had listened to and the ones I skip when my mind was somewhere else.
Fidelity is a sound-only exhibition by a Singaporean artist, Jeremy Sharma. It is held at Aloft at Hermes on the third floor of Hermes’ flagship store at Orchard.
Jeremy used human voice as a tool to intimately introduce little-known cultures in South East Asia to his exhibition goers. The cultures he showcased through music are Orang Seletar, the Rohingnya, Javanese and Kristang (Malacca’s Portuguese Eurasians). From the four cultures, he came up with four songs that seems to overlap as it neared the transition from one to another.
It was my first sound-only exhibition. I went with my whole class, and we were sitting in a circle bench in a dark room, with audio speakers surrounding us, and we did not know exactly what we were in for. However, immediately, when the song by Rohingya boys and their Ustaz “Zatil Tarana” filled the room, I could ignore everything completely, in fact, I was transported somewhere else, in my own memory. The voices of the boys and the tone of the song was familiar to me. Even when it moved to songs that had no association with my own culture or past, I could still feel the longing of hearing people sing together, of a song they know so well and are unique to their own people. The whole exhibition was 10 minutes, but I was still thinking about how the songs made me feel after.
We were briefed by the staff outside of the exhibition about how the exhibition came to be, and there were some research materials free to be browsed. I saw a book full of Javanese songs and it just occurred to me that I had just listened to a Javanese song in the middle of Orchard in Singapore. How, as a part of an exhibition, they treat the song so.. highly? yet so foreign to most people I came with. It was weird and it actually made me proud that there is someone who is highlighting this part of a culture I associated with when I was growing up, and I wonder how can I do the same.
Made possible by The Fondation d’entreprise Hermès, Aloft at Hermes is an exhibition space for contemporary artists. This year their theme was materiality.
If you want to know more in details about Jeremy Sharma’s work:
This is the exhibition booklet
In the reference are some articles that helped me write this (and I recommend reading them as well)
Aloft at Hermès: Artist Jeremy Sharma combines sound and culture. (2018, May 22). Retrieved from https://thehoneycombers.com/singapore/aloft-hermes-singapore-fidelity-art-exhibition-jeremy-sharma/
"fidelity" by Jeremy Sharma in Aloft at Hermès | The Artling. (2018, June 15). Retrieved from https://theartling.com/en/artzine/2018/06/15/fidelity-by-jeremy-sharma-in-aloft-at-herm%C3%A8s/
'fidelity?: Singaporean artist Jeremy Sharma and Southeast Asia's endangered communities at Aloft by Hermès. (2018, August 13). Retrieved from https://tatinis.com/web/news/fidelity-singaporean-artist-jeremy-sharma-and-southeast-asias-endangered-communities-at-aloft-by-hermes/