Talk | Pulau Saigon: Artefact to Art

Date: Monday, 14 March, 2016
Time: 6.00pm 
Venue: NUS Museum

SPEAKERS include
Debbie Ding. Artist. The Library of Pulau Saigon.
Koh Lian What. Author. “Artefacts from Pulau Saigon”.

Lim Jiayi. Year 2, History major, NUS University Scholars Programme.

Pulau Saigon is invisible on Singapore’s maps today, but the objects recovered from archaeological digs place it firmly within the geography of historical Singapore. Pulau Saigon was a small island in the middle of the Singapore River. It served myriad purposes from housing a train station and kampong to serving as a docking point for trade boats, before it was filled in and fully assimilated into the mainland around 1989.

This panel discussion will trace the rediscovery and excavation of Pulau Saigon, and the re-interpretation of Pulau Saigon’s historical artefacts into artefacts of an artistic kind. It seeks to question the retroactive importance we attach to particular artefacts over others, and to explore the discovered and created histories present in archaeology and art alike. The session is moderated by Lim Jia Yi, a former intern at the NUS Museum who has done research on both the official and anecdotal histories surounding Pulau Saigon.


Artist Debbie Ding‘s The Library of Pulau Saigon (NUS Museum, 2015) features a series of 3D-printed objects which serve as a blank canvas reflecting the incomplete histories surrounding the site of Pulau Saigon. Yet, at the same time, the objects’ detachment from their original contexts and appearance also allows for the projection of different stories to emerge.

Author Koh Lian What was involved in the archaeological excavation of Pulau Saigon, together with Prof. John N. Miksic in 1984. He is the author and co-author of several publications including the article “Artefacts from Pulau Saigon” published in Heritage, 1989.

This event is jointly presented by NUS Museum and The University Scholars Programme. Light refreshments will be served at the beginning of the talk.

Image taken from 1966 street directory. Source: One Historical Map, Singapore Land Authority.


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