Kamiliah Bahdar: Everything We Do is Driven by a Creative Energy

Is this where all the cool kids hang out at?
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Community centres have been branded as a place where the older generation hang out for belly dancing classes or community work. It is a rare sight to see youths and young adults within the vicinity, but perhaps the Telok Ayer Arts Club will be the outlier in this equation. Modelled after our community centres, this new multi-concept venue by The Supermarket Company is now open at 2 McCallum Street.

Helmed by a team of creatives - curators Anmari Van Nieuwenhove, Kamiliah Bahdar, music director Hasnor Sidik and The Supermarket Company founder Sue-Shan Quek - there will be a series of events as well as creative residencies by multidisciplinary artists to make you come back for more. They also hope that this will help shape the way Singaporeans approach the arts.

in-inhabitations is on-going now at Telok Ayer Arts Club and is a seven week site-specific commentary by Goh Abigail. Do take a look at her works upon the walls and an installation right at the window. It will be running until 23rd October and you may witness Abigail as she plays Artist-in-Habitué at the Arts Club every Tuesday from 2.30pm to 4.30pm until 9th October.

A marriage between food, drink, art and music has never sounded so sweet. Kamiliah shares with us more insights on the founding of this Arts Club, and what the space actually serves.


Why model it after a community centre type of setting?

Community centres have always been the beating heart of Singapore’s heartlands. It is a space for everyone to come together for a multitude of reasons, be it to dine together, partake in cultural activities, or simply engage with the community. In the same vein, we see Telok Ayer Arts Club as a new type of community centre where Singaporeans of all stripes are welcome to grab a bite or drink, hang loose and soak up the art and music programming. Especially in the fast-paced Central Business District with busy white-collar workers, we envision a safe space, almost like a respite, where everyone can come together and harness the creative energy of the space to do something collaborative and keep the conversation flowing.

Share with us how such a marriage of food, drink, art and music come about.

Art, music, food and drink play a big role in our lives. In a way, they collectively dictate a rhythm in how we live, how we work and how we play, and it seems almost natural that they come together in one singular space. The team at Telok Ayer Arts Club all come from different backgrounds—be it in the art, music or hospitality space—but I think we really bring our own expertise to the table and gel really well together.

There seems to be a relationship between the art being showcased and the food being served. Tell us a bit about that.

Just as how we ask artists to create works in response to the Arts Club, our food and beverage team are equally inspired by the artists and their work, and respond accordingly in the way they know best. Something I really love here at the Arts Club is that there is always conversation happening. Right now we have an artist who’s inhabiting our space, Goh Abigail—a young up- and-coming artist whose art is inspired by the sounds she observed from within our space. Her drawings are very abstract and consists of a lot of strokes and colours. She also makes ‘performing objects’, which are essentially 3D works made from light industrial materials that shed their function and made to perform sounds.

Our food and beverage team sat down with Abigail and were inspired by her work to create a special Arts Club menu for her, which moving forward, we will implement for each artist that we host. The two creations inspired by Abigail on the Arts Club Special menu are: Frozen Lime Dome, a deconstructed dessert of lemon and coconut crumble, and Sweet Melody, a refreshing gin-based concoction with Southeast Asian elements, and an artistic twist.

Name us some dishes we may look forward to at Telok Ayer Arts Club.

Tomatoes & Tofu, which is an Asian twist on the traditional Tomatoes and Basil Pesto with Mozzarella Cheese. It is a sweet and savoury starter of diced tomatoes tossed in red wine vinegar, miso-marinated beancurds, umami shitake pesto and generous sprinklings of parmesan cheese. I would stuff my face in it! Another favourite is the Smashed Ratte Potatoes, which is actually on the All Day Snacks menu. The thin, crispy layer of skin and starchy texture, coupled with a delicious sriracha aioli - it really puts other fries to shame.

What is one difficulty of running an arts-loving space such as this, especially in light of the closure of Artistry? Then what makes this all worthwhile?

We’re really in our infant stages, so I honestly couldn’t really say. But in my opinion, one difficulty might be trying to translate to the public what we do here at Telok Ayer Arts Club. If you’re just stepping in for a meal or drink, you might not understand the different pillars of the space and how it comes together.

However, being a curator and being involved in the arts for so long, we’re trying to do things differently by breaking out of the typical ‘white cube gallery’ mould and really imbue the arts and music programming into the overall guest experience— even if you don’t immediately notice it. Having been a curator and being involved in the arts for so long, and now being able to bring the arts closer to a whole new audience... I guess that makes it all worthwhile.

We need more multi-use arts spaces in Singapore because...

It’s so important! Whether you notice it or not, everything we do is driven by a creative energy that is constantly being harnessed from the world around us. We need more spaces like this that can bring like-minded people from different walks of life closer together, and just a little closer to the arts.

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