Home Invasion

Published on 2 March 2015

Art happens. But not necessarily in museums, as championed by OH! Open House, Singapore’s first art walkabout.


While strolling around your neighbourhood, have you ever stopped in front of an antiquated building and wondered who the occupants are and what their lives are like? Satisfy the kaypoh in you with the ingenious OH! Open House, Singapore’s first art walkabout. Volunteer guides will take you to unexpected venues, like heartland neighbourhoods and private residences, to view and experience works of art, eschewing traditional galleries and museums for a more homely setting.

Founded in 2009, early editions of this non-profit interactive art tour invited participants to shophouses along Niven Road, HDB blocks in Marine Parade and homes in Tiong Bahru — yes, residents actually host artists and their works in their homes! In 2013, OH! Open House even ventured to the slick boardrooms of the Marina Bay district. Back after a two-year absence, this year’s edition invites participants to the hip enclave of Joo Chiat, where local artists commandeer private spaces within Singapore’s first Heritage Town to explore what Joo Chiat represents to different people.

UNUSUAL SITE OH! Marine Parade featured ‘Only Apparently Real III’, a topsy-turvy work of art by Jes Brinch. 

“Before the event, we go around Joo Chiat knocking on doors — essentially cold-knocking — to ask residents for their permission to use their homes as an art space,” explains Lim Su Pei, OH! Open House’s Partnership & Communications Manager.  “The artists will then have about one week to transform the space based on their interpretation of a given theme.”

So why Joo Chiat? “People might think Joo Chiat is about food, or shophouses, or Peranakan culture,” explains OH! Open House’s co-founder and Artistic Director Alan Oei. “But there’s a lot more going on, look at the back alleys and small streets, look at it at night and during the day. Joo Chiat is diverse, complicated and chaotic.”

Centred on the theme ‘No Man’s Land’, this year’s series of see-it-or-miss-it pop-up exhibitions will allow participants to experience art in a whole new way and encourage discourse on issues like who should have final say on how the neighbourhood develops.

“Joo Chiat has a lot of stories to tell,” says Lim. “For instance, there was an open field that the government wanted to turn into a parking lot. But residents spoke up and the plan was eventually aborted.”

So, quite apart from entering a stranger’s home to view different types of art forms, participants to OH! Joo Chiat can also experience how community, heritage and culture are all part of the artists’ creative arsenal. And judging by enthusiastic turnouts at past OH! Open House installments, that’s something worth signing up for.

Walk This Way

To be held over three weekends, OH! Joo Chiat is an upsized Open House edition that comprises two components: the ticketed one-and-a-half-hour guided art tour (a group of 20 leaves every 15 minutes), and Hello! Joo Chiat, which encompasses fringe activities conducted by local residents.


In previous exhibitions, artists have created upside-down rooms and made furniture out of sticky tape. This year, OH! Open House has up to 12 Singaporean artists (see below) going into different venues like Sandalwood Condominium at Tembeling Road, a modernised conservation development; an old Peranakan shophouse on Koon Seng Road; Fragrance Hotel; as well as back alleys in and around Joo Chiat.

WHEN 14, 15, 21, 22, 28, 29 March 2015, 4pm – 10pm (last tour leaves 7.45pm).
PRICE $20 (till 8 March), $25, excludes booking fee.

Alecia Neo She enjoys wandering through places and talking to strangers. A special area of interest: the different faiths and religions that shape the culture of Joo Chiat.

Hafiz Osman This painter, sculptor and installation artist is intrigued by how Joo Chiat extends all the way to Geylang Serai, one of the hotspots for the 1964 racial riots.

Mike Chang & Mark Thia Reinventing the language of how we use and experience the things around us, they “make the everyday weirder”.

Guo Yixiu The award-winning artist has a love-hate relationship with kitschy, shiny, plasticky objects, which wind their way into her art.

Randy Chan The young architect cares about how art and architecture shape our urbanity. We create our environment, but how does that environment shape us in return?

Tan Kheng Hua The thespian and OH! Open House board member will be directing a performance piece featuring her family.


A slight departure from previous OH! incarnations, this new element in the line-up lets members of the public experience Joo Chiat as part of the everyday. The programme rallies the Joo Chiat community by getting residents who are craftsmen and experts in their field — a Peranakan author, a leather maker, a baker, a bespoke hat-maker and a florist — to conduct activities and pop-up exhibitions in provision shops, eateries and other communal spaces in Joo Chiat.

WHEN 1 – 31 March

Tickets to OH! Joo Chiat are available at www.peatix.com. For more information, visit www.ohopenhouse.org.

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