The last 5 months went by so quickly as I was preparing for my 20-year retrospective exhibition “Proportion & Emotion: 20 Years in Design with Kelley Cheng” at the National Design Centre. And after one month of run in December, tonight (6 Jan 2020) finally the show closes. To condense my works of 20 years within a few months was an emotional roller-coaster ride for me, the toughest part was opening up the archives for curating. Works are tied to people, places and time. And looking through 20 years of work brought back memories of staff who have worked with me and who have left, staff who have helped me and staff who have broke my heart; clients I have fought or became friends with; collaborators whom i have shared tough moments and beer with, places that the projects have taken me to – so much memories came flooding through my mind as I opened up drawers and harddisks of past works.
It was as if I Marie-Kondo-ed my memories in curating for the exhibition. Clearly the projects with bad memories and bad people were exorcised. This show marks both the end of an era for me and a new beginning. It was an exercise of cleansing the past and planning the future.
In the one-month run, the emotional ride continued as some acquaintances and friends that I have lost touch, and people whom I did not expect turned up at the show, and new connections were made. These are truly moving moments for me as I thought that I have been forgotten. Some of the surprising visits that moved me was when William Lim, argubly the most prominent post-modern architects in Singapore, turned up at my opening despite being wheelchair-bound, just to show his support for me as a client and a patron; Ong Keng Sen, whom I interned with as a university student, taking pictures for Theatreworks, paid a surprise visit one night to show his support; and also I was touched when Chan Soo Khian, the first architect I have interviewed for the now-defunct architecture and interior magazine ID when I was a young journalist (and somehow our story made it to the cover) came by with his son; and I was also moved when one afternoon I saw the wife of the late photographer Jeremy San – someone I have worked with since ish days — coming to the show with his son; and what made my day was when a few of my old RGS secondary school friends whom I have lost touch with turning up at my guided tour. It is often in these little moments of love and support that makes a tough journey worthwhile, and an affirmation that you must be doing something right to have such friends.
Hence, my biggest reward of doing this retrospective was really the love that I have gotten from all the friends, clients and acquaintances who reminded me that there is more to life than just work, and the most valuable thing that I have earned in the 20 years are all these friendships and relationships that made my journey so meaningful, and on the other hand, this is also a point where I am reminded to eliminate the people who have made my life painful or hurtful, and to treasure the ones — old and new — who have shown me the right proportion of emotion.