The Cook, The Substation, Singapore, 2018, 2010
Life in Singapore is tough for a good majority migrant Tamil workers who are often forced to work six to seven day a week in 30º plus heat sun in risky and sometimes life threatening situations. Some workers are not able to settle their loans during their two-year contract and return to India in debt to their agent. Due to intense work, pressure, loan repayment a number of migrant workers have resorted to alcoholism, prostitution, and gambling. Some migrant workers live 20 to a 2-3 bedroom flat, but a majority are poorly housed in small shacks or even shipping containers. Indeed, the tenuous predicament of Indian migrant workers produces as paranoid Indian labour force that see themselves as expendable.
A performance in the form of cooking for Tamil people living in Singapore within the gallery space. I wanted set up a simple kitchen (in an older style with simple seating for perhaps 10 people) where I would cook some food for everyone or anyone that wants to eat it at different times during the show. My idea was to subtly subvert the class issue so strong in Singapore by me being the servant perhaps even cooking for some Malay and Tamil workers if we can get that to happen. This would I feel not upset anyone because I would not be in any way 'commenting on' or making accusations at the government. I would simply state it would be an act of giving that is performative and that food is a great way for people to come together.
I would of course come over 2-3 weeks earlier and hopefully rent a room that I could learn cooking - this would give me the opportunity to spend some time before the show getting some local people involved. I could ask their families to come and eat with me as a way to rehearse.
I intend to document the cooking - hopefully by allowing a Tamil person to operate the video camera. This would make it hopefully non threatening.
Of course these are my intentions but the actual events may or may not happen as I intend. I will need to be adaptive and open to suggestions as part of the process
2. In conjunction with the cooking I had intended to develop a basic installation that directly paid homage to an experimental art space that the famous artist Roberto Chabet began in Manila in the 1970s. (Shop 6) This image below is a photo Chabet took of his installation.
He collected refuse from the streets and in a sense introduced the idea of (DADA) readymades – (pots and pans, a broken bed and the like). This was installed in a small shop within a shopping mall in Manila.
This installation is thus intended as a recognition of his contribution to art in that time.... and to art in the region.
I want to acknowledge the work of Rirkrit Tiravanija, particularly Untitled 2003 (Cooking Corner), 2003, Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Extra-Statecraft and e-flux article