Featuring works by Atelier HOKO
As part of Site Unseen

Objectifs Store
10 Feb to 30 Jul 2023
Free admission 

rub rub
to encounter
textures and the noise
of space
the tree
of air
bugs revealed
insects passing
rubbing quietly
to encounter invisible textures under
through hands

rub rub is Atelier HOKO’s response to the site of 155 Middle Road. The work comprises a series of charcoal rubbings made on and around Objectifs, created over several months. Much like the process of image-making, the technique of rubbing, or frottage, can create visual, indexical impressions. However in rub rub, frottage reveals new ways of looking at ordinary materials, textures and objects, while concealing their original form through abstraction. By introducing these rubbings into the Objectifs store, Atelier HOKO invites viewers to speculate on the origin of these impressions, and by extension, encourage a greater curiosity in the everyday. Read on for a short interview with Atelier HOKO.

  1. What is the inspiration behind rub rub?

What is that feeling when you walk into the compound of Objectifs?

For us, we can feel the “noise” in the air; maybe its the large, unending tree (we have never actually looked up to see where it tops off), maybe its the uneven floor, the low buildings and the lack of a proper boundary between public and private spaces….regardless, there is something within the compound of Objectifs that differentiates it from the surrounding and it can only be felt by being physically there. Once our feet step onto the grey cobblestones, the body becomes another way of being….this does not happen every time we enter Objectifs of course, but more often than we care to realise.

2. Why did you choose to use frottage to create your works?

In our poor knowledge of proper terms, we would like to think that it is the spatial “textures” that has produced in our body these sensations that defines our experience of Objectifs as a site. In textures, we may quite conveniently attribute the encounters in the sense of sight and it may be so, yet not entirely. Are there sensations of textures that do not find their way into our field of vision? In this respect, we may find a way to interpret the “unseen” qualities of textures in the supposedly visual technique of “frottage”.

3. What struck you as being especially intriguing or notable about the environment around Objectifs when you were making the works?

There can be maybe 2 ways in which a frottage is initiated:

We come across a nice texture / raised pattern or imagery that we thought will surface and become “visualised” through the frottage.

We randomly make frottage by intuiting the potential beneath, the results can either surprise or disappoint.

Our first few rubbings were mostly from the former, we saw a nice texture or pattern, and we want to “capture” it. Its not so different from photography but its also not very interesting because such rubbings do not offer us another way of seeing what we already can see quite well with our naked eyes. What we realise is required, both for the outcome and more importantly, the process of rubbing, is that we have to setup a situation whereby we must not already know what is to appear on the paper, at least, not totally….we must encounter the invisible textures underneath at the same time we are rubbing. In this way, the making of the work is also the way we encounter the materiality around the site. The texture becomes tactile on our hands and through the rest of the body, the outcome is a texture captured on paper, for the pleasure of sight.

Being surprised by the rubbing (which itself is a very simple and non-specialised action that we all can do), encountering textures and forms through our hands, eyes and ears, and capturing these qualities on paper are all precious experiences.

4. What are your 5 picks from the store, and why did you choose them?

a) Science of the Secondary series  

This is an ongoing book series that is produced by Atelier HOKO and the next subject will actually be on T-shirts coming out mid 2023. We generally choose subjects that are relatable to most people and study how people behave and experience them. Some of the findings inside the publication make us think and question but mostly, we are laughing at ourselves.


It started when we were invited to develop and design some form of a cat house for community cats in Singapore. We were hesitant because we were familiar with some cats around our neighbourhood and at no point did we get the sense that they require some human-made house for them. So we decided to follow the cats for 7 days and 7 nights observing how they live and the findings are inside this book.

c) Street Report series 

We started this series with a few friends who share the same interest of wandering the streets and observing the strange and the unexplained. So far, we made a book about how vendors from the now defunct Sungei Road Thieves Market utilised holes on the road and suitable hooks to erect their shelters. The other book is about Singapore’s public bins, and the often abusive and exploitative behaviours around them.

d) Rules for photographing a scoliotic patient

This is by Woong Soak Teng whom we have never met but have encountered her works quite many times for the past years. It is a beautiful book, with a meaningful subject that not many dare to approach especially not with the kind of sensibility that Woong has shown. We also saw the accompanying exhibition, which also gave the whole experience of the book another layer, and vice versa.

e) Still Life-Mirrors and Windows 

This is by Mario Santanilla. There is something about the content that we are attracted by but maybe its better that you go to the shop at Objectifs to take time and read it. We don’t want to misrepresent it.

About the artists

Atelier HOKO (2002) is an independent research lab that focuses on the study of the growing disengagement between people, things and space. The atelier hopes to cultivate in people, an open-ness and ability to un-know, bringing about a heightened curiosity towards all phenomena by taking a fresh look at reality. Founded by Alvin Ho and Clara Koh.

About Site Unseen
Site Unseen is a programme by Objectifs that invites artists and image makers to create site-specific image-based works for spaces outside of a conventional gallery. Through this, it proposes new ways of encountering everyday spaces that have been overlooked.