“I’ve always been very interested in this idea of hospitality. To what extent, can acts of hospitality such as sharing space, nourishment, knowledge and even pain, connect and build trust between people? How do people become at home? Can acts of hospitality generate new experiences for both guests and hosts? How does a community connect with or organise its boundaries with others?” – asks Singapore-based photographer Alecia Noe.
She explored these issues in her simple yet wonderful series called “Home Visits” back in 2009-2010, when she was just beginning her practice. For this project, she captured the people in the neighbourhood where she grew up, Queenstown. Complete strangers appear in the intimate surroundings of their living rooms, kitchens and bedrooms, looking reflective, tried, helpless, strong, sometimes just nonchalant.
“Queenstown is one of Singapore’s oldest housing estates developed by the government’s public housing authority, and has a reputation as the first satellite town in Singapore,” writes Alecia. “It has one of the highest proportions of the elderly, aged 65 and above. Many of the residents live in small two-room and three-room flats, like the ones you see in the images. Some have lived in this area all their lives, building a tight-knit social group within the estate, while others are foreigners in the country, such as domestic helpers and students renting rooms in the area, making this place home temporarily. Presently, eight years down the road, the area is undergoing massive redevelopment.”
For “Home Visits”, Alecia often walked up to unfamiliar individuals of the neighbourhood to ask if she could visit their homes and photograph them in it. Rejections were not unusual, but many were curious and accepted her invitation.
“The images were born out of my interactions with each person in their homes,” she continues. “Occasionally, I also featured pairs if their relationship was particularly close or dependent. I was interested in the relationships each person forms with their spaces and possessions, which they chose to reveal or conceal in my presence. During the process, inevitably we would share conversations about our lives, desires, stories about objects in their homes and how we’ve come to be. Entering each person’s home and having a camera set up between us created a different way of relating to and allowing each other to be seen.”
Alecia primarily works with photography and video, and conducts participatory workshops. She has a special interest in overlooked communities and their spaces. Her debut site-specific project, “Villa Alicia” (2011) investigated the fragility of memory, through the transformation of the 4000 sq ft private home of the late Singaporean feminist Dr. Nalla Tan, into a public gallery, which was demolished shortly after the six-day exhibition. She has developed projects in Malaysia, Taiwan and Singapore on communities living with blindness since 2012, exploring how meaning and narratives are translated in the absence of sight. She is also an Artist Lead with Brack, a trans-border arts platform for socially-engaged artists.
She has been commissioned by the Singapore Art Museum, Singapore International Foundation, the National Library Board (Singapore) and the National Arts Council (Singapore) and the National Museum of Singapore for art projects. Her art works have been exhibited in various international festivals and galleries such as Singapore Art Museum (Singapore), Valentine Willie Fine Art (Singapore), Singapore International Photography Festival, the International Orange Festival (China), University of Bangkok (Thailand), Cittadellarte (Italy) and Noordelicht International Photo Festival (Netherlands). In 2012, she spent four months in an artist residency with Cittadelarte-Fondazione Pistoletto’s UNIDEE programme (Biella, Italy). She is currently working on a project with caregivers who provide for loved ones with mental illness.
Images used with permission.