Oh! Open House 2012 – Occupy Tiong Bahru
The Oh! Open House at Tiong Bahru was an interesting enough tour – some participants in my group were more interested in the flats per se than the art work in them, remarking that the plain historicity of the spaces was more authentic than the installations imposed on them.
The occupation of Tiong Bahru is a reference to its gentrification, as the details of the homeowners attested. In contrast, the original residents stared at us behind their curtains as we trooped by, with one, who had the unfortunate opportunity to witness 16 of us emerging from her stairwell, shouting in Cantonese (until wheeled away),”What are they doing here?! What are they doing here?!”
Yes, there was much trudging up narrow staircases and taking off of shoes – so comfortable clothes and slip-on footwear you didn’t mind people stepping on were useful.
The first house was Liz’s. Liz works as a publisher and had interesting lights (not part of exhibition):
Second was Justin’s place. Justin works as a banker:
Third up, Jason’s place. Jason (a banker whose secret ambition was to be the president of the Ryan Gosling fan club) was on hand to welcome us with a big bowl of candies:
Rebelling against the Speak Mandarin campaign
The hunger to be residents of the art deco / Bauhaus neighbourhood led to earnest discussions about how one could score a flat in Tiong Bahru. This made me think about the passage from Mark 10 we did that morning. A contrast was made between Jesus’ disciples (Mark 10:35-45) and the blind beggar (Mark 10:46-52).
“Teacher”, said James and John, the disciples of Jesus,”we want you to do for us anything we ask.”
“What do you want me to do for you?” he asked.
They replied,”Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.” (Mark 10:35-37)
James and John rightly recognised Jesus as someone powerful and authoritative and headed for much better things, so they astutely followed him to attain what was important to them. Jesus was, for them, merely a means to an end.
What a contrast this is to the blind beggar who was told by the crowds to shut up and not harrass Jesus:
As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (which means “son of Timaeus”), was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”
Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”
Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.”
So they called to the blind man, “Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.” Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus.
“What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him.
The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.”
“Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road. (Mark 10:46-52)
The only item of value Bartimaeus had was likely to be his cloak, yet he threw this aside (rendering it up for grabs by anyone) for an opportunity to go to Jesus. In any other case, this would have been quite a gamble – the possibility of freezing to death at night for some vague hope. But Bartimaeus knew that even though he had nothing to offer, Jesus was able and willing to have mercy on him and Jesus commends the beggar’s faith. Thus healed, a whole world of possibilities would have now been open to Bart. But Barty demonstrates that Jesus was his ultimate treasure by choosing to follow Jesus along the road.
This isn’t a fanatical extremist view; it is a mere demonstration of not just obedience to the first commandment but also of common sense: he is the LORD our God, who made the universe and demonstrated his character in history by bringing the Israelites out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. There should be no other gods before the LORD because he alone is God.
Thinking that the good things that God has made like wealth, success, family, lovers, friends, rather than God himself, will satisfy or fulfil us or give us stability is tragically silly. Idolatry is precisely this turning of something God has created into a substitute for God. And using Jesus as a means to obtaining our idols (believe in him and you will be wealthy, healthy) would be just unconscionable!