Black and White Photographic Triptych

Timeless Chairs


Aaron Teo, 4D: 0011, 2011. Archival injet print on superior glossy photo.

Aaron Teo, 4D: 0011, 2011. Archival injet print on superior glossy photo.

Moving on to Arron Teo’s black and white photographic triptych, I was quite taken by the position of sofas at various unconventional locations at a Housing Development Board (HDB) estate. They are placed randomly in the middle of the void deck, in front of the letter boxes and in front of a ‘Danger, Keep Out’ sign. Taken in the dead of the night around Serangoon North, they are beautiful to look at despite their forlornness, their ebony blacks contrasting softly with the white faint glow of the florescence lights.

The theme of loneliness is rehashed many times aplenty in art and in movies. However, there is something different about the compositions of these images.

Teo’s strangely titled sci-fi-ish ‘4D: 0011’ shows a black Osim-like massage chair placed in the middle of an empty HDB void deck, devoid of all people. It is hauntingly beautiful yet does not give an appearance of staged. It seems as if it had the right of belonging on that cemented floor, surrounded by the architecture of repetitious, rectangular pillars.

The chair since bygone times has been a symbol of power and authority. Be it the Queen’s throne, the seat of power in parliament, or the matriarch’s/patriarch’s seat at the head of the dining table. The chair is also the place where storytelling takes place. Picture a grandfather sitting on his favourite armchair with a book and a child on his lap.

Teo hence speaks of the irony where man’s stories are told from the chair’s sitters but never stories about the chairs themselves.

4D: 0011 thus creates the possibilities of narratives from the Chair’s perspective; of its history of owners who rely on her for a foot massage or a rest after a long day’s work. Standing alone on this vast expanse of the void deck, she has a commanding presence despite her expired status.

Arron Teo, 4D:0018, 2011. Archival inkjet print on superior glossy paper.

Arron Teo, 4D:0018, 2011. Archival inkjet print on superior glossy paper.

Furthering on the theme of abandoned objects, 4D:0018 is an example of a single-sitter sofa being chugged unceremoniously in front of rows of old-fashioned metal letter boxes.

4D:0018’s bulky, comfortable seat was so adored by its owner that it was sat upon so frequently. There is a tear right in the middle of its seat. After months of pondering and delay, whether to get a new sofa, it was finally thrown away and repositioned in front of the letter boxes by the photographer.

Letter boxes- temporary holdings and placements of ‘gifts’, useless advertisements and the odd one or two letters from loved ones. To have the sofa placed right in front of this temporary storage is a strange yet fitting relationship. Both are old. Both are temporal and heading to an unknown destination. Both belong and blend forgettably into this old, mature HDB estate.

Strangely, the photograph’s plexiglass mounting also reflects Yang’s and Seah’s wooden bed in the background. Both beds seem to dreadfully echo their pitiful status of ‘abandoned objects’ and raise the question of whether these objects are still ‘objects of rest’.

Arron Teo, 4D:2358, 2013. Archival inkjet on superior glossy paper.

Arron Teo, 4D:2358, 2013. Archival inkjet on superior glossy paper.

The next work, ‘4D:2358’, is the most thought-provoking and compelling in this series. A dynastic Chinese antique ‘sofa’ is placed in front of a ‘DANGER-KEEP OUT’ sign with darkened HDB windows in the backdrop.


The uncomfortable juxtaposition between a sofa and a dangerous construction site is jarring. It bespeaks of a surreal and unfathomable danger associated with the sofa, and the possible dangers lurking around a home. The home and sofa are hence no longer viewed positively. The Chinese antique bench hence provocatively becomes not an invitation to sit but a repulsion of rest.

Disclaimer: All views on the site are solely of the author’s and in no way are a representation of any individuals or organizations.

Copyright © 2013 Liau Shu Juan.

2 Responses to “Black and White Photographic Triptych”
  1. Arron Teo says:

    Thank you so much Ms Liau. I’m very delighted to see that you have analyzed and written about my 4D series so well. I have passed your mondaymuseum link to the curator too, she has mentioned that you writes very well.

    Please keep in contact and have a beautiful week ahead.

    Arron Teo

  2. Hi Ms Liau, I am Ling Nah, the curator of 床事—A Thing or Two about the Bed. Thanks for writing a review of the exhibition, in particular Arron’s work. You have some interesting perspective, and write well. Can u email your mailing address? I would like to send you our exhibition catalogue. Perhaps, I could offer you a different view of the exhibition.
    Singapore Biennale is opening, enjoy!

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