Your touch turns to gold
A site-specific work that reacts to the colonial history of Emerald Hill, Singapore. Prior to it being a prime residential estate, Emerald Hill was a large area of nutmeg plantation cultivated by the British. The British Empire needed to break Dutch dominance over the valuable spice trade in this region and gain access to nutmegs, which was worth its weight in gold.
Part of the nutmegs grown at Emerald Hill was showcased in The Great Exhibition in 1851 at Hyde Park, London – organised by the consort of Queen Victoria, Prince Albert. Imperial raw material, including nutmeg, was the crown jewel of the exhibition and was housed under the India pavillion.
In memory of the success of the exhibition, the Price Albert Memorial was erected by Queen Victoria at the exhibition’s venue. This golden, sitted Albert statue holds the Great Exhibition catalogue in his hand. Drawn to these imposing monuments where one of the feet is always forward, an enlarged unweighted forward foot of Prince Albert is replicated and covered in black.
As the title of the work implies, touching the foot changes its colour to gold - the colour of wealth and prosperity. As the ‘foot’ is pre-coated with nutmeg essence, touching the foot also transfers some nutmeg onto one’s hand/s. Above and beyond the colonial masters, the nutmeg trade also had many locals knowingly or unknowingly and willingly or unwillingly involved. Hence, the intent is to let visitors 'labour' for their share of gold and nutmeg.
In Asian context, the act of touching someone’s foot is a showing of submission and respect, as one would need to bow very low.
Curator: Alan Oei; Kirti Bhaskar Upadhyaya
Material: Wood structure; Polyfoam; epoxy coating; gold emulsion paint; gold paint flakes; clear lacquer; black thermal powder; nutmeg essence
Dimension: 6 x 6 x 5M (Living room); 4 x 1.5 x 4.9M (sculpture - foot)
Exhibited: OH! Emerald Hill, 94 Emerald Hill Road (Singapore)
Processes, design, details