Discipline the City

Permanent artworks


A Brief History of the Trap Door

by Debbie Ding


For thousands of years, secret trapdoors have been built into important man-made structures where security and secrecy is an issue. The trapdoor is also a staple architectural element in performance venues and theatres, where in theatrical drama, film, and literature, the trapdoor operates as a strange spatial device through which unexpected resolutions fall in or out of the narrative world like magic. What is this strange dematerialising door that fleetingly forms a vignette framing the corners of the moving image?

What narratives are being escaped from when cinematic illusion is designed to trigger the startle reflex?

Warning: Not suitable for those who may be claustrophobic, afraid of the dark, or of a nervous disposition. Contains no strobe lights or sudden loud sounds. Access to the basement and secret passageway may not be suitable for pregnant women, the elderly, very young children, or mobility impaired.


Debbie Ding is a visual artist and technologist working between Singapore and London. She received an MA in Design Interactions from Royal College of Art in 2015. Other ongoing exhibitions of her work include "Shelter" (2016), a live-sized model of a HDB Household Shelter (commissioned for the Singapore Biennale 2016), and "The Library of Pulau Saigon" (2015), a computer-aided exploration of archaeological ambiguities at the site of a former island in the Singapore River (at NUS Museum's exhibition "Radio Malaya").



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