teow yue han

Geofences, part of larger body of work Performing the Smart Nation, is an exploration of decommissioned bikes in Singapore which co-opts data by locating its entanglements with narrative, emotion, and alternative maps. In doing so, it engages with (im)mobility, labour, logistics. It asks: what happens when a system of shared resources fail? How can technological systems be repurposed to revive a social commons and collective body? What are the alternative paths through the system that hijack policed spaces and private ownership for the possibility of movement?

In Geofences, these questions are considered as a communal response that spans four works: Ofoes; Pirate(d) Fleet; a compressed Obike scrap metal cube; and a workshop to collectively gather and recompose found bikes within the Supernormal space. Through these comical, playful, stark, and laborious gestures, the life-world of the decommissioned bikes is revealed as a series of disposals, reclamations, as well as material and narrative interventions. Alternative ways of being are thus presented: material and speculative, playful and solemn, liberated and constrained, idealistic and practical.

And it is, as Yue Han describes, a map. By plotting these nodes along a shared plane, a sprawling diagram that charts space, action, emotion forms, one which reconfigures what data can be and how data can make us feel, make us come together. This map doesn’t tell us where to go so much as chart what exists in the crevices created by failure (which is why so many adjectives apply ⁠— this work is undeniably plural).

When systems fail, then, we answer not by creating, but by collecting, repurposing, bringing together existing lines of movement to meet in a common space, locating and establishing node through which new signs can manifest and new signals can be sent.

GeoFences, Teow Yuehan

The journey to Tuas takes about an hour and a half. I’m meeting Yue Han there to find a scrapyard where many decommissioned bikes were previously taken to. I begin the trip begrudgingly, lacking sleep, everything too bright in the train. Geofences  is an exercise in mobility, in mobilizing, and I suppose I have been mobilized. I am charting a way out toward Yue Han’s location, to his point in his journey, which is further afield. I’ll have to play catch up.

I trail behind Yue Han and he trails behind his GPS (or is it just him trying, since I’m following blind, a shadow?) as we try to locate this scrapyard amongst the industrial buildings. I ask myself: what does it mean to follow a trail (of bikes, of systems, of another person) in a country where movement is increasingly relegated to PMDs and cars? What to make of travelling on foot, of looking for anything amongst people who order from food delivery apps at least once a month?

But I suppose that’s a bad question⁠—one which in its tone prescribes a shadow of an answer, erects a cynical binary. And Geofences is not without optimism. Not without a propensity for dreaming. Not without anticipation for a liberated and liberating future.

I am most excited, amongst its many moving parts, for the workshop. In my head: a sweaty band of participants ride a lorry of bikes now reunited with colleagues, companions, co-conspirators. It’s dreary from the heat, but the rushing air cools bodies, the sense of rebellion lends a thrill. In a country that fears failure most, it must make us laugh to realize how the failure of a system leaves so many nodes open for hijack, for play, for remapping into a new social structure of movement.