Before taking a short break, The RAT managed to catch a second NUS Arts Fest show—and it wasn’t even at NUS!
The last time I was at Baba House at Neil Road, I was offered a shot of whisky in the name of art. In contrast, #157 offered an mp3 player.
Done in collaboration with NUS students, the audio tour is spell #7′s first one that’s made for an interior space (their Biennale piece inside the Flyer doesn’t count). Each session lets you take two of the nine 25-minute tours written by the students and dramatised/narrated by various actors, all of which are pseudo-fictional takes on the artefacts and objects, as well as the ancestral house itself.
You can’t really get to choose what tours to take as lots are drawn instead. My friend had one revolving around an 84-year-old tour guide named Richard who forgets he’s giving a tour, while I got one that was framed as an interview (Ack! As if I don’t do interviews on a regular basis!) with a certain Madam Teo. My friend and I incidentally also got the same second story, about a 14-year-old spunky nyonya with a very vivid imagination (I’ll not spoil it for you).
I was initially a bit disappointed getting a tour that played out like the usual Little Nyonya/Emily of Emerald Hill tale. (Personally, I was hoping to get one told from a dude’s perspective as I’ve always been intrigued about their place in the Peranakan world’s matriarchal setup and since men always seem to be portrayed as the bad guys.)
But it does have its moments—there were slight hints of the supernatural, and you do get some nice anecdotes about certain objects in the house. The civet cat on the second floor becomes the subject of an eerie backstory, you leaf through some old books, take a whiff from a perfume bottle, discover a peephole (I’ve always wondered where they were).
#157 does make it feel like you’re entering a lived space—standing in the kitchen as the sounds of cooking envelop you, one is immersed in the experience that is a bit more special than the usual museum audio tour.
Especially since you’re aware that the rest of your fellow visitors are having their own respective “versions” of Baba House. It just makes the whole thing more intimate and personal—the house is sharing its secret to you and you alone.
(The #157 tours continue from March 23 to 25. Details here).