Swamp stuff

Some random stuff

Toa Payoh means big swamp, and similarly, paya lebar (paya for swamp).

Map dated 1906 has a large swamp to the northeastern area of Toa Payoh (now Braddell), which encroaches near Shuang Lin monastery (which still stands today)

Grave hill is near where pioneer Seah Eu Chin was buried.

1842 map shows some plantation area (where swamp is cleared), and a larger Toa Payoh area, which stretches from bishan to novena from north to south.

Four 300 metre hills were levelled in 1963 and had their material shifted to fill in the kallang basin. Toa Payoh could formerly be a possible watershed area?

Jurong was a swampland before JTC came in, and Kallang used to have swamps near the mouth of the kallang river along the kallang basin (kolam ayer, near current geylang and kallang bahru)

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.

Week 2 Art and Ecology

5 days 5 walks

I began my series of walks related to the elements given, and walked to/from a different location each day from my house.


Day 1:


Time: 6pm 24th Aug

Location: Sand deposits (maybe for landfill), Bedok Reservoir area

Non-human life forms: Quite a lot of millipedes. One rhino beetle.

Primarily decomposers? I don’t see much else.

Walk duration: 1hr 15 mins. Distance: 5.9km

Day 2:


Time: 10pm 25th Aug

Location: Neighbourhood parks, Chai Chee area.

Non-human life forms:

Plants: Cannonball, durian, rambutan, mango, frangipani, rain tree, coconut palm.

Animals: Centipede, snail, unknown beetle, fruit bat, stray cats, squirrel, rats

Large amount of primary and secondary consumers, some scavengers and decomposers.

Duration: 45 mins. Approx 1-2km in distance.

Rough map of the area near my place, and the two parks mentioned above.

There used to be a pack of civet cats that nested at my neighbour’s rooftop and along some pipes, but they haven’t been sighted in a month or so. There’s also a white cockatoo (probably escaped) that roosts nearby. Fruit bats are aplenty, and when lucky, one can hear hoots from owls at the factory area. The owl(s) do not appear often; the last time i have seen one personally was almost 1 year ago.

Day 3:


Time: 7am 26th Aug

Location: East Coast park

Non-human life forms: Sea apple, coconut palm, mudskipper, unknown fish, stray cats, ants, earthworm, crab, sandflies, crows, heron(?)

Spotted a heron in a nearby storm drain leading to the sea.

Quite an amount of decomposers, probably due to the waves at the shore bringing in lots of dead stuff.

Duration: 3 hours. Approx 12-15km.

Day 4:


Time: 2pm 27th Aug

Location: Bedok Industrial park

Non-human life forms: random plants, rain tree, single mango tree, crows, mynahs, blue-ish kingfisher, green parrot, noisy yellow bird

Lots of flying creatures and lack of other animals, probably due to the heavily built up area. Really dusty as well. No idea why the kingfisher was there as there were no ready source of fish in the area.

Duration: 1hr 10mins. Approx 3-4km.

Day 5:


Time: 3pm 28th Aug

Location: Disused area, probably left over when the original building was razed. Near Eunos.

Non-human life forms: various type of grasses. eagle(?) flying overhead. some lizards, random insects.

Not surprised to see an assortment of life forms in this area. Though it is particularly dry. No birds in the area apart from the eagle.

Duration: 45 mins. Approx 2km.

My chosen element is fire, mainly because of how it can create life and destroy life. Some plants require heat or fire to spread their seeds, or resist fire. Specifically the Cistus species, which can tolerate hardy conditions and heat. In a paper written by James Olsen in the 1960s, it is stated that the plants could have emitted chemicals or oils that could cause it to self immolate in the proper circumstance.

Fire, in another sense also represents the sun, which is necessary to create and support life via photosynthesis subsequent consumption and transfer of energy of the producers to the primary consumers, and so forth.