Cultural researcher and educator Wong Chee Ming on Saturday (6 Mar) lamented the closure of The Substation, saying that “the value of the place was way beyond dollars and cents as a sum of all its events and subtenancies”.

Wong, better known as Z’ming Cik online, spoke of feeling “heartbroken” about “what we have lost” when looking at pictures of the arts venue, taken by photographer Koh Nguang How in the 1990s.

For those who may be unaware, The Substation — Singapore’s first independent arts centre — will be vacating its iconic premises on Armenian Street in July.

The Substation has been at its current premises since 1985 and after more than 30 years, the National Arts Council (NAC) will be taking back the space for renovation works.

The NAC justified its decision on the basis that The Substation was becoming increasingly “financially unsustainable.”

Many in the arts community have lamented its upcoming loss, questioning if the arts should be quantified and judged solely on costs.

Just recently, Lianhe Zaobao executive sub-editor, Choo Lip Sin shared his views following reports on the upgrading of The Substation’s premises at 45 Armenian Street.

Choo also shared some of the sentiments expressed by Fendi, the ex-artistic director of The Substation.

Fendi said that “many in the arts community still have reservations or difficulty with navigating or comprehending the what and how of being inclusive and being diverse”.

”And no one wants to remain poor,” Fendi added.

Losing The Substation as an independent and ungentrified art space, said Choo, is akin to facing the consequences of bulldozing Kampong Lorong Buangkok to build a new ‘Sengkang (a-la-Tampines) Hub’ towards Singapore’s urban and social landscape.

”We give up a part of our collective souls in that process,” Choo stressed.

Wong similarly said, “What will be missed is not just how the whole place from the gallery and theatre, studios and the garden in the heyday felt like an organic whole.”

“It was the sense of humanistic spirit where it did not even matter if your artwork or event was something to be monetised,” he added.

Wong also questioned why the NAC had considered The Substation “financially unsustainable” when it “is hardly a patch on the Esplanade in terms of annual expenditure”.

Singapore seems “to have completely lost the plot” in the way its cultural industry is being run, he opined.

Wong said that The Substation should be “part of Singapore’s collective memory”, and reminded Singaporeans to preserve, share and reflect on its memories.

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