Philipp Aldrup, photographer and Tan Qiuyi, Journalist, MediaCorp
09 May 2012
Possibility Room (5th Floor), National Library Building
62 years ago on the 9th of May, Robert Schuman, the then-French Foreign Minister, presented a vision for a “united Europe” coordinated by a common high authority. Known as the “Schuman Declaration”, it was authored with Jean Monnet and the so-called ‘conspirators’ circle’. It led to the creation of the European Coal and Steel Community, which has since evolved to become the European Union (EU).
Commemorating Europe Day, EU Ambassador Marc Ungeheuer spoke about the continued and future importance of the EU in its region and globally, despite its current economic woes, and highlighted its importance as a peace project. He noted that the Union’s social dimension has been instrumental in raising living and welfare standards in its member states. Despite what one reads in the local press about the death of its welfare model and its identity crisis, he is still optimistic about the future of the EU, given its adaptability and dynamism, and cited the Euro as ‘a great achievement’ and an example of EU economic cooperation.
Ambassador Ungeheuer also argued that there is no contradiction between highly competitive economies and a comprehensive welfare model and the provision of social rights, citing the examples of Germany and Scandinavian countries. He did concede that the EU is going through some transition, having enjoyed a period of success, during which it might have expanded too quickly, and hence the institutions need to be reformed and policies recalibrated to work better.
The topic of change and development continued during the dialogue that followed. Ms Tan Qiuyi, a journalist at MediaCorp, spoke to Philipp Aldrup, on the topics of photography, memory and cultural diversity, and chatted with him about his photographic work, which reflected his personal and cultural observations and fascinations. Drawn to the architecture and spaces of the overlooked, rather than the icons, Philipp explained that he began taking pictures of Singapore as an attempt to connect with his environment, and does not approach photography with sadness, despite the bleak nature of his work, or the subjects he chooses. Instead, his interest lies in documenting and archiving the urban landscape.
During their conversation, Philipp showed images from three bodies of work. The first, hisLeaving Ubin series, also his oldest work, explored the tension between nature and development. The next, A National Disgrace – The Golden Mile, took a different approach to a building that Singaporeans often associate with sleaze and chaos. He referred to the complex that was completed in 1973 as a “true Singapore icon”, leading to a conversation about state and profit-driven development which has dominated this country in recent years, though he reminded the audience that this is ‘not only a Singapore topic’. The last body of work shown, Lost in Translation, focused on sites in transition and out-of-the-way places that are the by-products of development and which revealed the often unseen effects of progress and modernisation. In a positive assessment, one member of the audience likened them to the other-worldly scenes in the film Stalker by the director Andrej Tarkovsky (1979).
The topics raised during both the dialogue and the informal question and answer session, on spatial imagination and contemporary transformations reminded the audience that a success story is not enough to make home a home, and of the necessity of acknowledging the multiplicity of identities and narratives in nation-building. This provided a fitting way to introduce the EU Centre’s photography competition Imagining the Future: Europe and Southeast Asia, that will accept entries till 9 August 2012, on how individuals in Southeast Asia, particularly the youth, are envisioning their future which is being shaped by different sets of circumstances than the previous generations, and their perspectives on the future of the Europe-Southeast Asia relationship.