It is never easy to say goodbye and even harder to bid farewell to a house full of memories which you have grew up in for the last 40 years. Villa Alicia is an exhibition by visual artist Alecia Neo and sound artist Clarence Chung, paying tribute to Dr Nalla Tan’s memories of her life, her family and friends in her home in Binjai Park.
In Villa Alicia, Neo restaged old photographs from the Tan’s family photo album. A child’s 1st birthday.
A wedding. A wake. About forgotten memories and the act of remembering, Villa Alicia looks into how memories
and histories are shaped by time, mind and disease. Is it the people around us, who help us remember? Is it the place where we are? Or is it the possessions we surrounded ourselves with?
A prominent physician and feminist in her 80s, no one can tell that Dr Nalla Tan is currently suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease. A disease that robs one of their memories but preserving their appearance as per normal. I can understand how Dr Nalla Tan’s family are going through, especially her son, Mr Tan Ying Hsien, a winebar owner in his late 40s as I too have an aunt who is suffering from this disease.
Villa Alicia was conceptualised by Alicia Neo after she got to know the family on a project for Ying Hsien. After hearing stories of how this old house in Binjai Park has housed many memories for Dr Nalla Tan and her family since the 1970s, Alecia decide to preserve their memories in this installation exhibition. It took Alecia almost 1 year to prepare for this exhibition. Together with sound artist Clarence Chung, they create a multi-sensory installation exhibition, displaying Alecia’s photographs restaging Dr Nalla Tan’s treasured photos and sounds of their daily lives around the home.
As I walked from one wing to another, I felt myself traveling back in time, as if watching Dr Nalla Tan’s memories unfold with my every step, except it was playing backwards. The exhibition starts from the new wing of the home which Ying Hsien build not long ago. In it, it showcased his many treasured medals and collection of his wine bottles together with Alecia’s photographs.
Dr Nalla Tan’s life quickly unfolds when I step into the main living area of the house. The living and dining rooms are filled with mementos, old photographs and furniture as old as their memories, juxtaposing against Alecia’s photographs. And among the chattering from the crowd on the opening night, I could hear little tinkling of rain water, sound recreated by Clarence to bring back the memories of a lazy rainy afternoon spent in this lovely home.
As I explore deeper, I soon realise that I was standing in the oldest part of the house. It was the master bedroom of Dr Nalla Tan. I felt a sense of nostalgia coming over me as the musty smell from the old furniture in it’s dimly lit room which illuminates Alecia’s works reminds me of my childhood spent in my two grandmothers homes. And along the way, I found scribbles on the walls which apparently were written by Dr Nalla Tan, they are reminders of what those spots meant to her while her minds are still vivid with memories.
Neo, 25, says: “I see the value in capturing the fragility of memories, people and spaces, through a rare opportunity in having access to the home of a prominent person; the contrast of generations, the new and the old, and the loss faced as memory fails you.”
This exhibition is very unique and different. Cleverly curated and created by Alecia, it exude heart and soul of the home which gave the family so much memories that are difficult to forget. For Ying Hsien, the decision to sell and move out of the house was a heart-rending one. “I’ve lived there for the better part of a lifetime and most of my memories are inextricably tied to the house. Whilst I carry away these memories, their physical link will be severed when the house disappears.”
The house is slated to be demolished a few days after the exhibition closes. Come by, visit and help bid a fond farewell to the old home.
The exhibition runs from 6 to 11 August, from 9 am to 9 pm at 43 Binjai Park, Singapore. Admission is free.
Artist Tours: 7th, 9th & 11th August only
11.00am – 1.00pm, 3.00pm – 5.00pm
Email to book: [email protected]