Discipline the City



Chasing Inuka: Rambling around Singapore through Tan Pin Pin’s Films

The discerning citizen is sensitive to the minutiae of daily life.

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In one of Singapore filmmaker Tan Pin Pin’s more recent documentaries Snow City(2011), the camera patiently follows the first polar bear born in the tropics—Inuka—as he swims languorously in his icy tank. The scene, which cuts to an unrelated cityscape, seems arbitrary or flippant at first, especially for Tan, who is regarded as a serious documentarian. Yet, there is purpose to this perceived frivolity. Chasing Inuka similarly traipses through Singapore, using Tan’s postmodern and posthuman spatial perspectives, as its guide. Moving through six films, the discussion makes an argument for the significance of Tan’s accentuated montage process in highlighting the latent network of spaces across the city. It considers the affective and “out-of-field” character of these spaces, which appear peripheral yet strategically augment her documentary subjects, and ultimately, undermine generalisations about Singapore’s spaces.


Lilian Chee
Lilian Chee is Assistant Professor at the Department of Architecture, National University of Singapore. Her work is situated at the intersections of architectural representation, gender and affect in a contemporary interdisciplinary context. She conceptualized, researched and collaborated on the award-winning architectural essay film 03-FLATS (2014). Her publications include the forthcoming monograph Affect and Architectural Discourse in Singapore: Intimate Encounters (Routledge, 2018) and a co-edited volume Asian Cinema and The Use of Space (Routledge, 2015). She is on the editorial boards of the Journal of Architecture and Architectural Theory Review.