"As part of the local #BuySingLit movement, OH! is celebrating stories from the longstanding Bras Basah Complex. This initiative seeks to tell the stories of homegrown book publishers and retailers in embracing all aspects of Singapore’s literary scene."
3 artists were paired up with a bookseller housed in the iconic Bras Basah Complex. I was assigned to collaborate with Maha Yuyi, a bookstore specialising in children's Chinese books. They also produce the iconic red and green tearaway calendars that were once an essential part of every Singaporean household.
Intending to mimic the forts we all tried to build as children, Fort of Leaves was made with yarn, hand-spun with a spindle out of the leaves of the familiar calendars, which were left to be discarded when unsold once the new year began. The act of tearing the calendar as each day passes is symbolic of time passing, and using this representation of ‘time’ to create the fort in brittle paper yarn makes one feel its fragility, like a passing moment in time.
Like actual leaves, that are sometimes green, sometimes red, the loose leaves of the calendar line the path leading from the bookstore to the main fort, quivering in mid-air as if frozen in time. This creates a ‘passage of time’ inspired by the long journeys Old Mr. Sung used to make to and from China, bringing new goods to Maha Yuyi.
Using a hand spindle that is commonly used to spin wool into yarn, the calendar paper was stripped, and then spun. To join the strips, they are simply overlaid and spun over, held together by the tension of the spin. No adhesive is used, thus creating a truly recyclable yarn that gives the artwork an ethereal quality as you know it is not one that would last 'forever'. Making the yarn alone took about 170 hours in total, and 6 booklets of calendars in A3 size.
Accessible to people from all walks of life, no matter what age, the fort brings a visual interest to the otherwise empty space, and allows the store owner to interact with the interested passers-by who would then learn about the story of the bookstore, and possibly walk away with one of these (now) rare calendars that serves up a good pang of nostalgia.