Thoughts on Vestiges by Zen Teh

I had the amazing opportunity to visit Zen’s exhibition at the Alliance Francaise a week ago, and was given the chance to observe her work up close.

As I am not too familiar with one set of her works, The Imperative Landscape, I will focus most of my thoughts on the Garden State Palimpsest instead. I am impressed with the effort Zen her collaborators took to interview the locals and reconstruct images from those memories, and the time required to dig through Singaporean policies, which is to be honest, quite a mess.

Just a small issue with the sculpture work itself. I understand that the materials chosen may be for the carvings and images to stand out, but it may have more impact should it be from the location itself. Having experience in the Tanjong Katong area archaeological dig, I would say that materials locally available such as clay, granite, gabbro and sandstone would have a much larger impact since Zen has mentioned that it was to integrate the memories with the future. Sandstone and clay are easily carved or etched, while granite could be used as a frame or for sculptural purposes. As I recall, the glass that was used (correct me if I’m wrong), is not natively found in Singapore as we do not have a volcanic landscape nor were we hit by meteorites from space. Fulgurite from lightning strikes on beaches are rare.

Another thought is that would this theme of nostalgia be cliched? As we can observe from recent events such as the closure of the Sungei Road market, the theme of nostalgia has been overused to the point that it is stagnant. Though, I have to applaud the effort of the artist who does not use it as the main crux of her work, but rather, includes it in a larger scale.

Sonic Sea

Artist Response:



Umi no oto

(The sound of the ocean)


Heiwa to aoi ya

(Peaceful and blue)



(Cannot bear/last)

Scientist response:

This film barely scratches the surface of the impact of sound on ocean life. There are many points mentioned, but not followed up on, such as how sonar will affect the fishing industry. The visualisation of the sound effects and sonar is a plus, but it feels haphazard, and reeks of being a film with too little budget to get proper expertise on the subject.

There is significant thought on mitigation factors, such as clean energy/ships, or that larger ships can reduce significant amount of noise, and how oil mapping is one of the major causes of this noise. Though sadly, too much information has been simplified for the general viewer.