ultima thule: here be dragons
       
     
 Dovecote with 30 murmuring speakers embedded in inner walls. Voices speak of homing pigeons, topophilia, nomadism, Ultima Thule (regions that lies beyond the borders of the known world), and our attraction to such places. 
       
     
 A visitor tells me - via tin-can telephone - the journeys of her ancestors, why they made those journeys, and how that led to her being where she is geographically today.
       
     
 Transcribing the tales told.
       
     
 "My ancestors are Scottish. My father’s family travelled throughout Europe for trade. My parents met in Prague, then moved to Aden where I grew up. I wanted to ride camels so lived in Dubai for a while, then finally moved to Singapore for love."
       
     
 Visitors looking through a lens embedded in wall.
       
     
 Seen through the lens: Ants swarming and making visible the words ’Ultima Thule’, written in syrup.
       
     
ultima thule: here be dragons
       
     
ultima thule: here be dragons

installation and performance
"A Crossroads"; Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA); Singapore. 2011


The title of the exhibition "A Crossroads" made me think of Singapore as a literal geographical crossroads, which brought to mind its idealogical opposite: Ultima Thule (regions that lie beyond the borders of the known world), and our attraction to such places.

I was reminded of Singaporean wanderlust characteristic of citizens of small countries, of the global phenomenon of "neo-nomadism", and of Singapore being such a hub of this. At the same time, I came across a comment by Prime Minister Goh on the need for Singaporeans to nurture a "homing instinct", that will help us stay connected to home. An 1886 article on pigeons revealed that they return home not merely because they have the biological apparatus to do so, but most importantly because they are driven by "the love of home".

This led me to topophilia (the emotional connections between physical environments and humans), which led to nomadism and the way nomads relate to their changing environments: Deleuze and Guattari theorize that nomads perceive and move around the world in a manner opposite to sedentary cultures, which is all about parceling out the earth to individuals, and which is all about borders and seeing the world from a single fixed perspective. Nomads on the other hand, see the world from multiple points of view, and also tend to see others (beyond their own kind) as "like themselves", similarly vulnerable to the elements. Kirsten Hastrup reports that eskimo nomads habitually leave surplus game under piles of stones for others who may pass by and be in need of food. Nomads also welcome and care for travelers with an openness not found in sedentary cultures.

A dovecote is lined with small speakers. Individual voices speak of homing pigeons, topophilia, nomadism, Ultima Thule, and our attraction to such places. Sitting inside the dovecote, visitors tell me - via tin-can telephone - the journeys of their ancestors, why they made those journeys, and how that led to them being where they are geographically today. I transcribe what I hear, and pin each tale to the wall. A lens is embedded in this wall. Looking through it, you see swarming ants making visible the words ’Ultima Thule’ written in syrup.

photos by: Geraldine Chan

*Special thanks to Sean Tong, Tilman Mueller-Stöfen, Julian Mayer, and Annie Heringer (The Pigeon Game).

 

 Dovecote with 30 murmuring speakers embedded in inner walls. Voices speak of homing pigeons, topophilia, nomadism, Ultima Thule (regions that lies beyond the borders of the known world), and our attraction to such places. 
       
     

Dovecote with 30 murmuring speakers embedded in inner walls. Voices speak of homing pigeons, topophilia, nomadism, Ultima Thule (regions that lies beyond the borders of the known world), and our attraction to such places. 

 A visitor tells me - via tin-can telephone - the journeys of her ancestors, why they made those journeys, and how that led to her being where she is geographically today.
       
     

A visitor tells me - via tin-can telephone - the journeys of her ancestors, why they made those journeys, and how that led to her being where she is geographically today.

 Transcribing the tales told.
       
     

Transcribing the tales told.

 "My ancestors are Scottish. My father’s family travelled throughout Europe for trade. My parents met in Prague, then moved to Aden where I grew up. I wanted to ride camels so lived in Dubai for a while, then finally moved to Singapore for love."
       
     

"My ancestors are Scottish. My father’s family travelled throughout Europe for trade. My parents met in Prague, then moved to Aden where I grew up. I wanted to ride camels so lived in Dubai for a while, then finally moved to Singapore for love."

 Visitors looking through a lens embedded in wall.
       
     

Visitors looking through a lens embedded in wall.

 Seen through the lens: Ants swarming and making visible the words ’Ultima Thule’, written in syrup.
       
     

Seen through the lens: Ants swarming and making visible the words ’Ultima Thule’, written in syrup.