Arts & Culture

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

Is this where all the cool kids hang out?

Words by
b-side staff

Community centres are often seen as places where the older generation attend belly dancing classes or do community work. It is rare to see youths and young adults at such locations, but perhaps the Telok Ayer Arts Club will be an outlier. Modelled after community centres, this new multi-concept venue at 2 McCallum Street by The Supermarket Company is now open.

Helmed by a team of creatives — curators Anmari Van Nieuwenhove and Kamiliah Bahdar, music director Hasnor Sidik and The Supermarket Company founder Sue-Shan Quek — there will be a series of events and creative residencies by multidisciplinary artists to make you want to return to the Arts Club for more. The team also hope that they can help to shape the way Singaporeans approach the arts.

in-inhabitations, a seven-week site-specific commentary by Goh Abigail, is ongoing at Telok Ayer Arts Club. Do take a look at her works on the walls and an installation right at the window. It will run until 23 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 9 October.

A marriage between food, drink, art and music has never sounded so sweet. Kamiliah shares with us more insights on the founding of the 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. They offer a space for everyone to gather for a multitude of reasons, be it to dine, 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 came about.

Art, music, food and drink play a big role in our lives. In a way, they collectively dictate the rhythm in how we live, work and 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 — but we 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 Telok Ayer Arts Club is that there are always conversations going on. Right now, Goh Abigail is inhabiting our space. She is 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 to create a special Telok Ayer Arts Club menu for her, which moving forward, we will do for each artist that we host. The two creations that were inspired by Abigail are: Frozen Lime Dome, a deconstructed dessert of lemon and coconut crumble, and Sweet Melody, a refreshing gin-based concoction with South East 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 bean curds, umami shiitake 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, 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 are really in our infancy, so I honestly cannot 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 are just stepping in for a meal or drink, you might not understand the different pillars of the space and how it comes together.

However, having been a curator and  involved in the arts for so long, we are 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 do not immediately notice it. Having been a curator and 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 is 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, and just a little closer to the arts.

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