this post on abandoned america reminded me of the growell pop-up, which had come to the end of its run at the end of april. i loved that place, the cosy workshops and talks, the intimate film screenings, the one-off menus that invited chefs in sympathy with its ideals create for themed events: i am sorry it is no more. yet i also love this temporary inhabiting of unused space by social enterprises and independent arts groups, this scurrying motion in the city today, these new hermit crabs of the city.

the story of early independent arts groups and social movements is one of displacement and resettlement. struggling to find permanent homes, they inevitably vacate when the lease gets too expensive, the building is coming down, the landlords have different views. but the new social enterprises have moved completely away from this: with the internet one needs no physical office, impermanence is the very point, constant movement the appeal. the more outlandish the borrowed space the more they revel in adaptation and creativity: novelty is part of it; but also public interest in our forgotten places. so many: in february an old rice mill at jalan kilang scheduled for demolition was opened to artists during its final two months: site-specific art works were installed; performance artists came in, musicians turned up to sing. on weekends the grounds bustled with craft and farmers' markets; regular salons for poetry readings and story slams moved their sessions there for the duration. in march a closed-down railway station was reopen for a weekend, an artists collective went in and set up an art carnival. in april i was at a pop-up gallery which had clearly been someone's vacated tiong bahru walk-up, each exhibition gallery a former bedroom devoid of furniture except for the occasional built-in wardrobe, wonderfully incongruous. two months later, the group were hosting exhibitions at a kandahar street shophouse. the sixth floor of people's park complex had been an open-air carpark and became home first to an urban farming collective and now to lepark, which runs a quirky bar in an old greenhouse and hosts open-air film screenings (in july a singaporean wahoo had her first documentary film premiere there.) another time it as two gorgeous, refurbished petain road peranakan shophouses, when the landlord was in between tenants and had lent it for a weekend exhibition for local artists....

our landuse policy and system of short land tenure means that at any one time there are properties sitting vacant with mere months to run on the lease and no sale value and little rental opportunities. ideal for small start ups trying out new concepts for a short but sustained period at low or no rent and without large upfront capital investment in permanent fittings, the projects coming to an end with the natural life cycle of the property. this allocative common sense pleases me. it isn't merely about waste. i like that it gives dignity to the spaces -- some of them quite lovely spaces once upon a time -- before they pass into demolition and oblivion; and i like that these spaces -- often in culturally and historically colourful areas -- remain inhabited to the end instead of standing vacant and derelict.

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