With her scientific-sounding nom de plume, Singapore Psychogeographical Society, local artist Debbie Ding was never especially concerned by being credited as the creator of her works, particularly as it involves mapping out the world by collecting various items she comes across, learns Gwen Pew.
12 Sep 2013:
Psychogeography, as defined by French theorist Guy Debord, is ‘the study of precise laws and specific effects of the geographical environment on the emotions and behaviours of individuals,’ Ding explains.
Ding established – and started working under the pseudonym – Singapore Psychogeographical Society in 2010 to encourage locals to ‘construct or reconstruct their own narratives around various physical traces and histories’.
She still uses her real name sometimes, particularly when the works are not visual art: ‘I’m always making stuff all the time, like making and archiving sounds or creating internet radio shows.’
Ding is both an artist and a scientist – her first degree was in English Literature, but she worked as a designer and developer before teaching programming at university: ‘I don’t think that being inclined towards working in the arts means not being equally interested in “technical skills” like programming or electronics; its all part of having a curiosity in the world around you.’
She gets the urge ‘to understand everything that I come into contact with on a daily basis,’ from phone app codes to plumbing.
Her upcoming show is ‘the first time I’ll be showing the works together in the same place, so it will be an assemblage of various alternative archives of fragments, survey traces and maps that I’ve worked on for the last few years.’
It will also be the last show Ding will do in Singapore before she goes off to pursue a two-year Masters in Design Interactions at the Royal College of Art in London.
One of her favourite new works is ‘Dream Syntax’, which represents 100 dreams she’s had in the past six years: ‘Dreams are pretty visual so I thought it would be more interesting to document them as visual maps.’
Another piece, ‘Ethnographic Fragments From Central SG’, shows 27 rocks fragments Ding collected from areas around Marina Bay and Sungei Road – the former is still being developed while the latter ‘has existed since the Japanese Occupation and looks set to be demolished in the near future’.
‘I chose Sungei Road because of the Thieves Market, [where] we can learn many things about Singaporeans as we look through vast piles of second hand objects.’