Ong Keng Sen on The O.P.E.N. 2016: Club Malam Special!!!

Ng Yi-Sheng

July 7, 2016

Club Malam starts tonight at the old Kallang Airport!

Ong Keng Sen talked a bit about how special the site is when we did our interview on 14 June about The O.P.E.N. For reasons of thematic focus, I decided to hold on to this bit of the interview transcript until the eve of the show:

NYS: One last question: any comments on the new space we’re using this year, the old Kallang Airport?

OKS: I just came from Kallang today, and I’m happy to have gone there again. The potential of the site is now very clear. It’s lovely. 
Many people forget that during the race riots in the ‘60s, a lot of the Malays went there to shelter themselves from the mania of attacks that were going in both directions. So the Malays camped out in the grass fields, and because it was enclosed with a gate, so it could limit the people coming in. So that was where they felt safe. 

Kallang Airport, c. 1949

It’s without prejudice that I can say that’s one of the reasons we chose Kallang Airport for Club Malam. This was a safe haven for the Malays, and Club Malam is looking at how from the roots of something kind of ethnic and from a very specific community of Malays who went to neighbourhood clubs, who were really drinking beer—because in those early years, there are a beer ads for Malays. 

And from the roots of an ethnic club we have kind of projected it into the future. So you return to new times. You return to the future idea. You do a return to the future with something like an ethnically rooted club, but at the same time you come into new spaces for enchantment, new spaces for new tribes, and no longer just Malay tribes.

The Tribe, by Speak Cryptic

So I think Speak Cryptic’s work is very important for this idea, where his 2D graffiti comes to life to form these new tribes. And these tribes of people are usually, you can say they’re from the strawberry generation, and do you call them Gen Y… 

[A brief discussion ensues on the definitions of Gen X, Y and Z. I inform him that despite our 17-year age difference, we are both technically members of Generation X.]

So we’re in Gen Y, and you can see the images of his Gen Y generation who are so different form the Malay nightclubs of the past. And yet we are in the space of imagination we are joining these two, in terms of potentialities of forgotten sites. 



When I went there today, I was very happy: this is a fabulous space. I wish we could air-condition it  and make it into a real arts centre. At the moment you go into the space you go into the control tower, there is kind of a wraparound balcony with rooms around it, and you look down into the centre at the ground floor, almost like it’s a dance hall, and it’s a fabulous concentrated space. It would be a fantastic nightclub or an arts centre. 

And what’s amazing is it’s a gated community, and you have open grass fields inside. And it’s kind of a forgotten monument. So we’re making it a nightclub, but at the same time it’s expanded into a more open space. It’s not just closed by ethnicity, not just closed by its time, but open to anyone who wants to join the Tribe.


And I think the musicians will all be great: NADA and Senyawa will be wonderful. And there will be three great Berlin artists who are lending us their installations. There’s this Marc Brandenberg who’s using human bodies as a gallery—all these temporary tattoos tattooed onto a model—not a real model but someone who’s loaned their body to be his gallery—and there’s seven of them, and these seven people will have loaned their bodies. He has to apply them for seven hours.

Club Malam begins at 6:30pm at Old Kallang Airport. Register and get directions here. I hear there'll be an after-party!

  • 2016