Singapore: Ethos Books, 2015
The mausoleum of a Muslim saint stands next to an elevated coastal expressway. The Latin-inscribed tombstones of Christian missionaries lay half-buried and forgotten between bungalows and a childcare center. A quarantine station and detention facility is turned into a series of dormitories for tourists. And then there is the improbable shrine to a German girl turned goddess of luck.
Remains is an unorthodox travelogue, a journey through graveyards, stations, and assorted remnants of Singapore's past. It is also an effort to document locations and preserve stories in an island-city that shape-shifted from colonial backwater to glistening business hub at breakneck speed.
The book attempts a look at another Singapore, which is almost a neglected twin to the one everyone knows. It reconstructs a cultural past which is falling victim to a unique, if unavoidable, vanishing act; a past barely preserved in the form of faded gravestones, crumbling aluminum watchtowers, repainted barracks, barricaded hospitals, neglected theme parks and dismantled rail tracks.
At the same time, Remains is a meditation on the policies of development and heritage preservation and a deeply personal account of the history and the aesthetic appeal of the decayed, the forsaken and the bizarre in Singapore.