Once Upon Singapore: The Exhibition

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A charming and ambitious exhibition, “Once Upon Singapore,” opened on Friday, April 5. Designer and curator Yun Xin Seah attempts to tell the “nation’s history” through an extensive display of personal objects. Each of the artifacts holds “fond memories for the friends, school mates, and contributors [to] this exhibition,” she says. The show features childhood objects from a number of Singapore’s most creative minds, including bookseller and publisher Kenny Lek and designer Yah-Leng Yu.

FYI, “Once Upon Singapore” closes on Sunday, April 7.

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Butbutbut, what’s up with all these nostalgia-tinged exhibitions here in Singapore? Nostalgia refers back to an earlier period in an individual’s life and draws on biased or selective recall of past experiences. The tendency of individuals to feel nostalgic emotions has not gone unrecognized by marketers and politicians. And nostalgia, as art, can be predictable, safe, and regressive.

Friends tell me that this longing for Singapore’s “good all days”—which they admit is an utterly mythical construct—stems from the pace at which this island nation has developed. But I find that explanation to be much too simplistic. What are your theories?

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