This blog post is part of the Random Sampling Singapore project. The Project aims to sample 100 places on the island of Singapore over a one year period in order to gain an unbiased and holistic view of the city state.
“It must be him!” I thought by myself when the car passed by a tall guy with silver hair. He was walking happily on the road shoulder in this nowhere’s land. I was waiting next to a sign for “Mixed Rice” at a closed restaurant when he answered to my arm waving to greet him.
A week earlier I got an email from a German conservator colleague. He and his wife moved recently to Singapore and he wanted to ask me about my journey as a freelance conservator here on this island.
I assumed that he would be the curious type – so I invited him to investigate a coordinate with me. And I was right, Albrecht Gumlich, a well known object conservator was immediately fond of the project. I asked him about a number to choose and he shared with me that the night before he was dreaming of the number 31! “How interesting!” – I thought and was looking forward meeting him!
Coordinate 31 is located in the west near Peng Siang River, not far from coordinate #23_wallace_line, which I was doing with Christoph a couple of months ago. The area is mostly farmland with fences along the road. The road to the exact location was locked with heavy chain locks so we searched for a way to approach the coordinate a bit closer. We walked a trail along a canal, leading us under a tree with fire-red large blossoms. It was a “flame of the forest” or “fire 🔥 tree” (spathodea campanulata) in full bloom. In Singapore everyone who was standing once on one of the parks observation towers and could oversee the jungle with some of this blooming trees are know why this tree earned that name. The red flowers are so bright and the shapes of the leaves are lambert tongues of flame.
We stood a while under the tree and talked about the life and the world. From time to time a red blossom was raining down on us like a devine gift. Some of the flowers from the ground were the first samples we took.
We had a sparkling conversation and after a while we moved on along the trail. A little further we were really close to the coordinate. We decided to sample this area. The ground was full of pebbles, shells and coral fragments. That was exceptional so far from the coast. Our special attention got some cylindrical ceramic pieces with holes. “Everything you can thread and hold between two fingers is a bead!” I was once reading in a book for ethnographical use of materials in art. We sampled the beads together with bamboo fragments of a cage or a trap, a marble, a tile and some corroded iron objects.
A bit of an internet research later showed us that the strange beads have been filter material for aquariums. That was explaining the shell and coral fragments side on side. In this area there are some aquatic fish farms, our samples most likely originate from that background. At the lab we looked at the samples closely and investigated the materials one by one.
We had lots of awesome ideas about how we use the objects. At bouncing those ideas grow a wonderful friendship. This summer Albrecht is traveling the world and I hope when he is back we can take up where we left and put the beads in place! Happy traveling Albrecht!
From my side I was happy and grateful to meet such a like-minded soul. I wanted to express this in a picture. I imagine Albrecht and me in one of these aquariums – meeting us for the first time. The same of a kind are coming together and destiny is weaving its cylindrical beads into a universal network.