Bringing Singapore literature to the heartlands
The Arts House’s annual literary festival Textures will be mobile this year, as it takes the form of a roving installation and reading room. (Photo: Claudio Chock)

Bringing Singapore literature to the heartlands

If you spot an orange truck in your neighbourhood, be sure to check it out. It might be The Bottled City, a travelling, art-inspired pop-up where literature meets art and design.

The back of the truck houses a library of some 70 books, ranging from children’s stories to graphic novels, which visitors can read on-site. Also packed into the truck are small paper-cut sculptures, terrariums and mini dioramas, which depict scenes and landscapes inspired by Singapore literature (SingLit). Terrariums by artist Jimmy Tan, who goes by the moniker Mossaïque, and mini collectibles designed by artists such as Kin’s Miniature will also be on display.

Organised by The Arts House, the annual literary festival Textures takes the form of a roving installation this year. The truck has travelled to Jurong, Yishun and Toa Payoh, and it will stay on the road until 25 Apr. Those who are unable to visit the installation in person can do so online via a 360-degree virtual tour.

Artist-poet Jason Wee, the festival artistic director, came up with the idea for a travelling library-cum-art installation because he thought it would be “a good chance for The Arts House to go out and find new audience.” The Arts House, which usually holds programmes for the literary festival at its venue in the Civic District, is under renovation this year.

The project also draws inspiration from how some people are feeling confined and “bottled up” because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Wee, 42, says: “I thought, why don’t we begin with that as an occasion for curiosity, for exploration? Since we are looking at the smallness of our world, let’s really go small and find things that will literally fit into a bottle.”

Through the miniature dioramas, terrariums and small paper sculptures, he hopes visitors will recognise how “maybe our worlds are a little smaller now that we can’t travel, but there is still room for curiosity, and there is still a lot here that deserves to be looked at and talked about.”

More than that, however, he hopes that visitors will fall in love with SingLit through the novel experience. He says: “How can we really love ourselves if we are not reading about ourselves? I’m hoping that folks of all ages will come and see a part of themselves reflected in these books and also see a little bit of Singapore in them.”

Find out where you can catch The Bottled City.

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