In 1819, when Stamford Raffles decided to turn the small fishing island at the Malacca strait into a trading port of British East India company, the future of Singapore was sealed. Highly influenced by then the admirable Adam Smith and David Ricardo’s idea of free trade, Raffles transformed the island off the tip of the Malayan Peninsula as a port that charged nothing for import, export, and any use of the harbor for any other duties or trade. The invisible hand of free market took control and the rest is history. Despite its position as one of the world’s financial center with its forest of skyscrapers and because of its unique history (botanical garden was one of the first things that Raffles built). Nature (albeit man controlled nature) has been an important part of Singapore national identity. Their obsession with nature reached another level when they moved from ‘garden city’ to ‘city in the garden,’ and reclaim its status as a modern tropical paradise. Singaporean photographers in this project reflects the way nature evolves in 200 years of uninterrupted implementation of capitalist system in their city nation, where the liberal economic policy is a given reality and alternatives are almost non-existence. Robert Zhao’s Camping and Tramping in Malaya questions the idea of natural wilderness using historical and archival resources. Marvin Tang’s Stateland reveals the disorder hidden in Singaporean forest. Woong Soak Teng’s Ways to tie tree describes the nation’s obsession in controlling the nature. Ang Song Nian’s Hanging heavy on my eyes investigates of the Singapore air pollution using the indexical quality of photography in the most literal sense.
Supartono, A. (2018). From Singapore with Nature