Rachel Cheong And Sheryll Goh Of Awkward Party Are All About Getting Uncomfortable

As part of the fifth installation of our Art & Design issue, Keng Yang Shuen speaks to the new generation of art world players who don't fall into the industry's traditional roles. Meet Rachel Cheong and Sheryll Goh, the duo behind the experiential installation parodying Asian family gatherings.

Going by how crafting experiences is all the rage now, organising a party has indeed become an art. This duo comprising the Netherlands-trained fashion designer Cheong and artist Goh, who’s also a creative producer at the independent arts organisation OH! Open House, however have taken the expression literally for their first namesake project.

Held last month at Emporium of the Modern Man, the multi-label boutique that transforms once a year into pop-up art gallery Jalan Besar Salon, the one-night-only affair was open to just 30 people. While camaraderie and good vibes are usually the goal of a good night out, theirs however was designed to remind guests of the discomfort that can creep in at banal get-togethers (hello, Chinese New Year), or for – in their own words – the “socially anxious”.

Awkward Party the event, you see, wasn’t exactly a party. Instead, it was an experiential installation that parodied Asian family gatherings, complete with semi-real or fictitious characters. The only element it had in common with exclusive soirees was that one had to RSVP for access via the duo’s website. (“We the ‘party people’ present AWKWARD PARTY, an absurd escape room built upon warped nostalgia and speculative fiction,” reads the homepage.)

“We think that Singapore is a comfortable place to live in, but it really gets too comfortable,” said Goh in an interview held two months before the big night. “It’s time to shake things up. The idea is to come alone and allow yourself to be vulnerable for an hour and a half. If you walk away with a newfound self consciousness and one new friend, we’ve succeeded.”

Both kept mum on details at press time (still weeks before the “party”), but the props they brought to our shoot offered an intriguing glimpse into their “soiree”: old Chinese New Year decorations; plastic fruit; a silicone mask to name a few. Come showtime, guests could also expect an “eccentric installation” by the botanical design studio Humid House; a home cooking-inspired bespoke menu by the Japanese-style patisserie Kki Sweets; and “a close attention to textiles” (Cheong and Goh have interned for Marine Serre and Molly Goddard respectively).

“Just like in fashion, it’s about creating a whole new atmosphere that keeps the viewer captivated,” said Cheong. Sounds like they’ve got the art of hosting down pat.

This article first appeared in the January 2020 print issue of FEMALE. 

Like this? Check out the abstract artist whose art is inspired by the likes of Hermes and Balenciaga and take an exclusive peek into the psyche of art curator Anmari Van Nieuwenhove.

This article is originally published on Female Singapore.

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