Two Sighs For Democracy

“Leaving is not something that any of us talk about lightly. It feels like desertion and betrayal. But I suspect that many, like me, are starting to have that conversation – not because they do not love Hong Kong, but because they can’t bear to see the home they love slip away.”-Joyce Man


Audience in The Substation, meeting to announce final decision of Bukit Brown

Audience in The Substation, meeting to announce final decision of Bukit Brown

Have you ever wondered like I do how Singaporeans seemingly empathize completely with Hong Kong’s current state of affairs? Are we not like siblings or two lost twin cities, of the old empire and imperial giants such as the United Kingdom of the once Great Britain. Or descendants of a motherland who saw herself as the “Middle Kingdom”, (中国) and the designated ruler being one decreed to rule all under Heaven. Or are we the proclaimed brave new world getting ready to break free? As if we are still under bondage of a historical past that was not totally under our own jurisdiction. Alas! As with most post-colonial states and countries our birth and creation depended on the mercy and prudence of our former rulers who conveniently gave us our independence usually at the expediency of saving themselves as their own resources dwindled in decline as the empire created and enjoyed grew too large for their ability to rule efficiently.

It is ironic that today both Hong Kong and Singapore are supposedly having the most directly democratic systems in their history and yet are seemingly facing the same spoils of a citizenry who tends to look at elsewhere for a better life whereas it is two of the most favorite cities for investing in new businesses and new entrepreneur ventures.

Maybe it depends on how do we define what the people really want and ASK for it instead of harping on failures in historical past. Instead of rallies for remembering the past there should be more platforms to allow the enthusiasm to  stand and fight be more pro-actively articulated before the typically silent apathy of majority (the so called dubiously ambiguously identified man-in-the street) mentality coupled with the fatalistic resignation to run away from it all as the best solution to their unhappy state of affairs. Instead of the tendency to pack up and go, we should inculcate a pick up the responsibility to stay and stake the right to help steer our God forsaken society to get back n track to civil rights and democratic justice.

That is to sit down and be rooted to our home country city-state. And be proud and dignified not to always kowtow to big brother be it the Peoples republic or the United states of “carry a big stick” of America, it is time, we small mega-cities of a globalised world in a global village, to stake a claim to the United Nations for a seat of sovereignty and stop that fearing old mother land so called big brother to stop that attitude and give us our deserved respect we being a small but well deserved respect for our own right to decide our independent destiny. Otherwise this sorry state of affairs where we are so easily tempted to pack up and go elsewhere may be a recurring solution for those finding our dreams being broken by the heavy handed rule of authoritarian tyrants who forget they should be ruling by law as civil servants and not high and mighty thrones of past empires.


Two sighs do not make a try. But I will say to ask for what we want and change step by step choosing our steps one at a time is crucial to evolving into that land of freedom and democracy we dream of but yet to fulfill. The way to go is not to remain silent but to speak and speak again when we can and however is possible. Even we get censored or blacked out by chance and a million times more it shall be real if we wish it to be. Running away is should be the last resort not first.

Longing for the Mountain retreat (with room service)

thought that things are getting better
how wrong
when the battle heats up to boil like broth
for dead chickens and screaming monkeys
the call to arms rang all day
in every ding dang dong dung
noisy purposelee wanto dig streets of singapure
buzy bobbee bochap for poetry only hot ok on moneeey
tell you no talking about demokrazee wait kena pantak kaya guyu then you jaga
go and art conference DaWu good ah know who is papa mama go back kampong
forget the long long mountain lah
how correct?

Just before heading for Hong Kong Art Basel I received the good news from Performance Studies International that I had been chosen to receive this year’s PSi Artist/Scholar/Activist Award 2014 to be presented in the next gathering of international performance studies afficionandos in Shanghai come July 4 to 8/2014 at the Shanghai Theatre Academy.
Unfortunately my tour de force with the good support of *Helina Chan, gallerist of vision and dare, and her wonderful staff of iPreciation Gallery, having presented one of the most favoured booths in this year’s busy and bustling Art Basel in Hong Kong, was scarred by a bizarre incident of being knocked out cold for a good 30 minutes during a quick leap to take a leak in the men’s room at the City University of Hong Kong after the end of forum on the theme of Art and Value, a subject that is of utmost import in my view that I had often wanted to address myself and had even proposed to speak at Art Basel Hong Kong concerning this subject matter. Well after all the big hoo haah i for want for peace of mind took a trip out to Belfast although my true destination should have been Cyprus instead.
However to cut a long story short I was not going to explain all and everything here but just to let me say one time that state of things todate, in short and quick sharp fashion.
1) I didn’t really know what was the cause of my blackout and I did not say for sure there was assault, although I did suspected it due to the many bumps on my head. Recently I asked some doctors while consulting them for other reasons. They all said it could have been or probably was due to my own low blood pressure that caused it. They all advised that men with low blood pressure have tendency to have the blood pressure lowering even further when they piss standing up. But what about the bumps in a row? It could be I was trying to get up and falling again and again.
2) I only said various things about the arrest of my friend in the song that I posted on the morning before i left my hotel room. But almost all the newspapers and news reported wrongly that I made the statements casting doubts on the legality of his arrest and suspect on the justice system of China at the forum itself. Whereas the only statements I said at the forum were made in general terms, just to ask if not acknowledge the fact that artists may sometimes make works more in tune with a change in our judgement of social values whereas outdated legal systems or laws of the past may till today be upheld in societies unwilling to update them in parallel with changes in our time and current human consciousness.
3) I did not bring my guitar to play at the art fair but was going to play in the evening at a friend’s pub. I made some indications of being stopped by my gallerist only in mischief as I thought she had been a little too concerned as if I was really going to play there when she saw me with instrument. (Sigh…I was just tired with others suspicions that are showing a mistrust in my ability to judge what is correct action)
4)The fact that I had no memory of anyone touching me or even assaulting me hence I should not even suspect it was a violent assault by any one at all, and now I accept the explanation from the doctors I spoke with.That it was a case of blacking out due to my low blood pressure and to be more careful and try to pee while sitting and try to avoid the standing urinals when traveling alone.
5) So I owe it to Cyprus that I tried too late to get a flight there and could only make it to Belfast which was not going to happen without the invitation to Cyprus. But well it was a rain check I had to cash since long time ago and it was goo surprise to even touch base with good old Andre Stitt unexpectedly he was at dinner the first evening I arrived. And to get to know Shiro’s mother was a bonus.

6) It meant I would not be able to go to Shanghai that I had wanted to but was fatigued to do so. Ray Langenbach made a speech in my place at the conference showing some video on my 24 hours buried to my waist in my back garden when I was living with my buddies in Seletar Army Camp on No.8 Oxford Street.

Nychthemer 2 Performance 24 hours X 2 duration November 8-9-1997 8 Oxford Street, Singapore

Nychthemer 2
Performance 24 hours X 2 duration
November 8-9-1997
8 Oxford Street, Singapore

Anyway I must say the twist of fate helped gave me much time and food for thought and reflection concerning my role as an artist in the somewhat orderly yet messy state of affairs in a rigid social engineered systematic development driven so called success story of dear dear Singapore.

For one thing the friends I come to value all showered their care for me not only by words but showed up in person with concern by dropping by to have eye to eye meetings and a good meal together that did fulfill a certainty of changing my attitude for neglecting the priority in food and sleep in my daily undertakings. At the same time I slowed down to the point of failure of what I promised and found that it would not kill me as much as my own physical need for food and rest would. But I begged to be given a chance to fulfill my promises with longer time frames and god alone knows a bigger budget would surely help.

Yes. But that I will describe in the next blog as i am need of a lay down at least some hours…

Shiro and his mother.

Shiro and his mother.

Catching Up Losing Faith

HUNG <hokkien

subtle enforce 强行>
hun han hang hung
That’s how they do o the threatening poses…
And whom do we blame?
Not me certainly
it is always the other’s fault
It is always the other who did wrong
But who should be forgiver
Not me either

“More China Than You”, Performatica’08, Four Artists From Singapore, 26cc, Rome, Italy, 2008

I had a brilliant simple plan of beginning not to stress my body and accepting my age in order to remain young. Taking the example of my friend’s nice 80 years old mother visiting in Belfast as inspiration while I was there. She lives in Yokohama in an elderly home for healthy grannies and pops. A well-endowed retired secretary to the director of a public institution in Tokyo, she visits her two sons of two different characters and to this day shower them with love and care visiting them in two different foreign countries every year. The secret of her health is simply to have good exercise, good food, a good regular routine of work and rest. Sleep early, she retires to her room at 9 or ten at latest each evening and rising at 6am daily. Even when in foreign countries, here in Belfast she diligently gives herself household chores of cleaning each morning and continues them when nothing else are planned.
She enjoys simple conversations and cleaning cooking all our meals even when i do not ask for them. Knowing my needs for regular sleep and meals i was grateful to her consistent care for no apparent reason other than i was there.
So after one week returning home each day i tell myself i must shift my rountines into this simple pattern of 6am rise and 10pm sleep alas to naught as each day new encounters of disruptive interventions planned, unplanned and due to the ties that bind seem to pull me deeper into negating a simple back to good health plan.
Letting things flow and letting it go, i am trying not to try too hard from now on. Was not the Tao supposed to flow by itself?

i want to live…

At 55 and beyond, i guess one is already playing the endgame of our life and have less reasons for failures, and by now should have enough clout for reason and rationale not to make impossible engagements beyond ones abilities nor useless demands but deal with care so as not to disappoint our own expectations at least if not those around us. But most of us go through life without self reflections nor assessments of our actions, our bodies and our social as well as physical and psychological environment. as regards the times and changes through experiences we encounter along the way.
We are creatures of habit and routine, even the adventures we seek fall into patterns of the known and orders of natural law if not designed by human powers that be new or renewal to be updated in keeping with changes of consciouness of the times.
Hence the spade of these recent rage between conflicting interests shaping cultural behaviors and our physical environments may seem like new manifestations but hark back to old habits of tensions between adherers for conservative restraints on the one hand and impetus for freedom and emancipation from formulaic traditions of time past advocating changes for newer adventures.
We need both if i may say and over my hippie dreams of love and peace and harmony you can sniggle and doubt my calm idealism to propose that revolution may only be one of belligerent manifestations of quarrels and squabbles, violent fights and bloody battles but can be one based on mutual respect and spare each other the right to live if not exists side by side tolerance of dignified right to be different.

And i do mean different in a wide range of possibilities.
I blame the conveniences of mass cultural production and consumption going on everywhere. Including mass media, TV, Internet, and fashion house propaganda…
we are mesmerized into sameness as norm so much that any deviance from the nor m is more often than not seen as an unnecessary array or seeds of inconveniences we do not want to see it proliferating too much. Or if seen as innovation we also prefer for it to remain less common in order for it to be of demand and retain a rareness that secures heightened value perhaps and gathers stature. However they are not expected as much and in social engineering terms better off hidden so only those of heightened inquisitiveness shall find them anyway.

Perhaps our recent barrage should not be such a surprise but like a timely surfacing of sorting our previously hidden layers of latent burbling hot air boiling just beneath the social fabric surface of the melting pot comprising global complexities explicitly manifested as conflicting values in cultural terms and indeed show a consistent need not just for our inevitable accumulated gross national debate to vet, verify and find acceptance an release.
If only we had more platforms for dialogues hence giving chances for forums as leading us and providing heated topics to be discussed in cool manageable debates and not angry fights.

Hopefully with peaceful mutual respect of differing perspectives, of diverse communities may still come live together and in protection, tolerated under one flag. One that in terms of coming of age reaching 50 necessarily have rule by law and if not also like a healthy mother shower love and protection to all, her children like flowers of varying diverse shapes and demands. Not all of us want some visibility of citadel heights but at least dignified positions unashamed for difference and not to be ostracised like an unwanted ill child in shame or disgrace. Instead all deservedly in their human place to play and live with pride not prejudiced nor discriminated against. We do have equal rights to share the walk and parade with joy, peace and harmony under bright sunshine as equal sojourners of the dream to be that small great social ambition as the brave new world and call to the rest of the world at large that ours is not just a day celebrating national independence but liken it as World Revolution Day. One not just in pink or red or brown or black or green or white but we could all be decked out in psychedelia of thousands of thousands of flowers blooming under the same sky as Allah and her 99 hundred names intended as we serve to believe and hold high with real intention and directed faith. The strength comes only with care to heal our sick ways.
“”Singapore in 2050″ Tang Da Wu, Performance at National Art Gallery, Singapore 1988 / © Koh Nguang How caption]

Just Another Ghost Story

"Kill the Chickens, Frighten the Monkeys" (杀鸡 吓猴) ---Chinese idiom

“Kill the Chickens, Frighten the Monkeys”
(杀鸡 吓猴)
—Chinese idiom

My works are often in series and it seems most of them are not ended or in fact are “open ended”. As such circumstances arises subsequently that may be deemed necessary to revisit them and continue with them once again. I must say my recent episode in Hong Kong is so bizarre yet haunting me that I had to recall two, if not three past projects “Ghosts Stories” and “More China Than You”. And also “Stagger Lee”.

It was of the least expected that the success of participation at Hong Kong Art Bassel ended with such drama that involved the injury of my physical body. The effects were made visible and yet the cause of it was not entirely revealed. Not a trace even in terms of memory in my brain, that we have to conjecture it like a detective theorizing what happened and looking for clues.

I wish to say that some of the Facebook entries concerning my bizarre incident in Hong Kong by friends such as Nanxi Liu and Wen Yau were inaccurate, and even implicate that my gallery as being censorious. This is grossly wrong and I h. I may have indicated that I wanted to play my guitar and sing in the art fair of Art Basel Hong Kong but did not do so as I did not find it appropriate. I brought my guitar that day because I had plans to go to a pub in the evening to play in an artists’ hangout. On the contrary my gallerist was the one who wanted to help me to fulfill my potential to the fullest.
My friends Wen Yau and Nanxi may have heard me thinking aloud that I wanted to play and sing with my guitar at the Hong Kong Art Basel, but my gallerist did not liked the idea because it would be problematic as this is our first outing there and we did not notify to the management of HK Art Basel or seek their permission before. She had asked me before if I would like to I understood her and agreed 100% with her and did not wish to sing and play my songs at the fair while I was there/. There was a choice given to me to sing and play my songs there but I had already declined it myself before even going there. I was apprehensive about the audience there being to straight laced to dig my music cause the stuff I do is pretty raw and I was suspecting it will not go down well with the majority that go to the HK Art Basel.
Being an artist from Singapore I know full well of official permission requirements and respect, people who stood against such tight and strict regulations.

Although this is my first ever participation of actually exhibiting my works in an art fair I do have experiences of attending them in Singapore. As I am on the VIP list as an invited observer or in the art forums. Personally I found the atmosphere in Art fairs in Singapore much left to be desired in terms of audiences, suspecting in the majority were buying and selling merely as instruments of investment and where the question of “How much?” was the focus of discussions, rather than “Why? Or what was the motivation? Of any of awe or beauty came into discussion or ecstatically being moved by the works of art in display. I usually attend them just to keep in touch with my artist’s friends taking part in them. Having had 20 odd years taken part in various international events and I am often delighted to get a chance to see the foreign artists coming to Singapore in droves although just for a few days each time.
As for being beaten up or not, I have to admit, I don’t have any clue except that I went to the toilet of the City University of Hong Kong at around 6.30pm and had a lapse of nearly 30 minutes of unconsciousness. The first things I remembered was I had four or five not one but four bums on my head and my face was stained with blood. Looking around I could not find other clues except some smirches of bloodstains on the toilet floor, where I returned to consciousness between the open standing urinal to where the mirror, faucet and sink was. The point is even if I had been attacked, it would have been done under such irrational thinking that makes me angry inside but in my quiet moments one feels sorrow more than anything. That such is the ways of the powers that be, that the innocent multitude is still under the rule and jurisdiction of a social system that is intolerant of criticisms. Added to that when what I have expressed are conjectures with no solid evidence. One way is to look at it as just another Ghost story…

Forget tragedy…Laugh and be Angry!

Internal security police of China has a reputation for being dumb to poetry and blind to art …the only thing they are good at is catching rabbits with their bare hands. I went to a good school and my schoolmates are in all kinds of professions. One close friend unfortunately joined the secret police but cannot reveal his name. He was telling me that artists are not that different from Police as there are meetings where international secret police meet in camps or conferences to discuss and exchange just like artists do in festivals, biennale and camps. The only difference is theirs are heldin secret while artists ones tend to seek publicity and media coverage.

Once this friend of mine gave a story that came to prove my opinion is true. There was a multilateral secret policeman meeting and they had an intensive 30 days workshop in the Chinese countryside getaway camp outside seventh ring north of Beijing. On weekends they were allowed free time to relax and the first 3 weekends they all foolishly were squandered the time playing mahjong. On the last weekend the guys sharing the same cabin as my friend decided to have a lighthearted time having a BBQ and just chill in the quiet natural environment. Then the Japanese guy suggested “Hey I think there are rabbits in the jungle surrounding us. I challenge you to catch a single rabbit with bare hands and the one who does it in the shortest time shall have the honor of winning and gets the chance to fuck the other policemen in the backside. The other policemen one from U.S one from mainland China and my friend from Singapore at first laughed and did not take it seriously as they were all macho guys who often say bad things about homosexual as being weak and sissies. But since their macho libido was kind of itching for some sex they slowly shifted into taking the suggestion seriously.

As usual the American guy volunteered to go into the action first and dived into the jungle before anyone could say yes. 5 hours later he came out with a rabbit still half alive while he held its long ears with 2 shaking hands, sweating like a pig and groaning “hey here you are not bad huh?” confident that none can do any better. My Singapore friend went in next and being “kiasu” (Singlsh literal translation: “afraid to lose”) he actually cheated and did it with a trap but don’t tell anyone. He came out 3 hours later and tore his shirt himself and had a swim in the lake and pretending to be huffing nearly out breath holding the rabbit he caught in smooth hands and swinging the rabbit by its tail said with cheeky lying eyes that this is probably the last rabbit before sun set. The Japanese guy gave a bow and some ritualistic actions like that in the beginning of a sumo-wrestling match. In two hours he came out like a ninja somersaults to throw the still breathing rabbit with a shout like the karate guys do when they chopped breaks with their bare hands. Last guy was the policeman from China.

All 3 were suggesting the guy should continue tomorrow morning but he shook his head and grinned with diabolical grunts as he confidently swaggered in the nearly dark evening glow. In less than 5 minutes they heard screams and shouts and the sounds of punches so hard as if there was some one being tortured, Next thing the three could not believe their eyes out of the jungle a bear as tall as a man ran out with blood streaming over his face and all over his whole body almost as if it were wearing a wet red dress and screaming “OKI OK stop hitting me I ADMIT I AM A RABBIT”, as the secret policeman came out grinning rubbing his groin and getting ready to have his fun….

But seriously folks should we get a pettition to the United Nations if not let us all boycot China !!!

This no time to celebrate the genius of China as tragedy! No time to be sad but time to get ANGRY!!!

Art is Art, Life is Life

Before i forget the punchline i got to tell you
next time i see you…

This morning i woke in laughter, it felt like deja vu but actually it was my hunger for life. I rearranged my schedule and put it this way
1. Sweep the floor
2. Eat breakfast
3. plan for the day
4. go see mom
5. start working not at the computer but out there please!!


Will the New NMP make a difference? Yes NO Maybe OK lah


The NMP scheme is one of many painful reminders of what’s right and wrong with this country.*

The foundations of democratic processes earlier on after being born had learn to consolidate the small population of diversities into a united stronghold that was able to seized power from the imperial colonizers relegation. Despite various impervious sins of give and take, the one party rule learnt with each succeeding round of victory, how to keep tipping the battleground in ways that perpetuate the initial capture by fairly democratic processes that keeps the opposition at bay from their possibility to grow into a better credible force of contention and critically expose any threat of corruption that tempts any growing centralization of power.

Within any society regardless how good beginning intentions could have been, History repetitively taught us how the concentration of power, intensified unchecked especially within smaller countries, despite all claims of self-sacrificial intentions added with pragmatic wisdom are in danger of tipping itself into dictatorship. It is expedient we give it enough pressure to remember and remind ourselves and especially the elected parliamentary members of their role as servants of civil society and not authoritarian rulers. Our unique demographics had contributed factors that helped support the invention of the NMP expediency. It is a clever invention based on relevant responses to the unique dynamics of small nations of advantageous qualities. However these inventions may contribute to the semblance of the democracy that is sick and in need of real solutions in order to upkeep our constitutional intentions and forget that the scheme is and should remain a temporary replacement for the missing voices that should be speaking and be heard in a real working parliament.

Suspicion grows if the NMP measure is perpetuated permanent solution since looking seriously for real cure may then mean the need for measures that actually lead us towards a healthier stronger opposition than the NMP who are fall guys that have ability to play and make peace with this sick society into acceptance of illness as curing ourselves recedes into insignificance and complacent inaction and ugly selfish pride of mistaking a prison as a paradise, a dysfunctional democracy as a utopian republic of happy yet helpless citizens, forgoing participation in choice less electorates become liberal zombies of futility.

But to discern its flaw as we must do still necessitate a responsible decision of choice to make in order to keep the democracy meaningful unless we give up into abstention and allow the sickness to continue into decay and deteriorating into its impending rotten stench that some claim already begun. The rotten decay shall only bait if not feed the advancing tyranny into the fearfully transformation into the complete totalitarian destined for our deserved decline and self-destruction if we falter to redressing the search for a healthy recovery in earnest.

We should be thankful to Audrey Wong and to Janice Koh for taking time and commitment to directly filling the roles. Your efforts have given the artists in this society that continuation of keeping the faith in the evolution of a social system that often neglects humble needs of our human potentials in place for the ambitions for greatness  and empire proclaimed by its technocratic leadership. Forgetting how the good society we live inl remain a vacuum that desperately pretends of empire excellence with investment into shining infrastructures that cripples our parched desert island souls. Thank you for your attempt to voice out the lack in the vision of pragmatic leadership, in desperation of maintaining cultural actions in a spartan stunted nation yet to believe in herself as a people and least of all lacking the trust and belief that art has a role to see us through the contemporary crises. For ours is an age of shifting changes that is learning to allow the blossoming of individualism. Your voices are important calls that must continue in order to allow spaces to manifest with autonomy in order to keep away from the dangerous grip of bureaucratic censors and other policemen.

The NMP must remain in suspicion, yet let us take a while to reconsider and not hasten into rejection so quickly.

Yes I fully agree to the fact that the only route into Parliament should be through the people, and not a committee. Parliament itself is the committee of most high importance in a working democracy. The need for the NMP acknowledges the failure of the democratic election in securing a parliament with ability to voice the multi-diversities and hence is required to ensure and upkeep the ideals of our constitution. At the same time to speak in defiance the arrogance of dogmatic capital in the service of selfish politicians, forgetting how the republic began with themselves as servants instead risks the emergence of yet another aspiring to become yet another emperor wearing the latest new clothes of power and corruption.



“More China Than You”, Performatica’08, Four Artists From Singapore, 26cc, Rome, Italy, July 2008

A Song for a northern home from a southern man

SONG 2lwennowhere
Good feelings comes from friends even when the weather be damned
Even when work is not done and our flowers become guns
those old negs never change blocking my blue sky open mind
dragging my vibes down with what cannot be done should not be sung
another tax load oh! sack my skinned obligations to sweet blind time to wine

Wine like a windy woman dancing indisco-veri-diced so I am sure and POST sure if not
the idiocy in amatuer interest in the moon light with the strings so swing
ah yes damn health care is so well subsudies -traditional math rock rhythyme and soul
or zeros to infinity there is still so much more that we shall be discovering

in vest




Old Shoes

Old Shoes

Dead Art Daydream Action #55

School Of Hard Knocks
Knock Knock Softly Softly

Each generation finds the previous inadequate in deed having seemingly to inherit a world that seem to be better than theirs and yet a harder future. While the next generation seem often lacking in experience and yet reluctant to go out and get them.They are the generation of the current times, the contemporary the now and ever if only they continue to make themselves relevant, by the choices they make. Other wise they go to that of passé if not the possible heirs apparent. But one thing if we only know how much technology and intensity of change have confused our perception of scale, priorities and worse than what anyone is able to discern from the beginning, that which is true and that not. It all comes to the one begging question that we oh so typically fail in order to assert ourselves as “homo sapiens”, man the wise one, to dream the impossible dream.

I see it clearly how the technology and the rapid change confuses us into losing the quest the test the zest into the doldrums of inui futility existential fuddy duddy biddy complainants of discontent ever hung up on the virtual world of the internet. We are more and more hung up with it as we hug it to sleep in our lonely world of make virtual belief. Everyday we spend more time with this soft virtual world more and more that we do not have enough time to relate with the real bodies in the hard knocking world. That is not true outside it is raining inside it is a sunny day

And therefore the suspicion is not only do we suffer from the aberration of the economies of scale but also I believe in terms of time, numbers as well as quality if not ethics.

Once upon a time we used to say that is how we learn in the deal by get knocked down, knocked up and side ways the wrong way inside out until we get it right and we call that the University of Hard Knocks. But what I see and hear ain’t no hard knocks going on with the soft generation, nay instead we have how one of my friends with Sharun gave us the Stagger LEE /intelligent joke.
Stagger Lee Many-Pull-Leg Zhao Ah Leng, Part 2
So now Ah leng zhao ah leng beng bo hor si hah humbled and learned why he should take his IMG_20130815_060137place and feel happy go lucky that he is working for someone so intelligent and generous like Stagger Lee. I continue my own game of shooting pools and sent Ah leng on his way to collcct the monthly loan and go get sold to the devil for what’s it’s worth. He jumped on his motor and scooted off to Toa Kow who already hear the news since the last time Ah beng leng been big sound little sound cry father cry mother been complaining about working do all the dirty work for Stagger Lee. So the minute he saw ah beng leng coming down the kampong road at the side all the fish farm ponds, very hot no trees no houses no walls also. Toa Kow waved and stopped on the middle of the road and asked excitedly ho bo ?! i heard you go to ask Stagger lee why he boss all of all the members ah what you very big guts dare to ask ah how hah? what did he say ? how come he can Many-pull leg zhao ah leng huh? ah leng did not bother to hear the rest and waved his hand over his face again and again like fanning himself without a fan. “Don’t talk too much just pay me what you owe other wise will break every bone in you !!”
Toa Kow tried to stall him again “alamak i waiting so long to hear your story until cannot eat cannot sleep cannot even play my short hand gun…let’s hear it first lah?”
“Aiyah nothing lah he got intelligent we do not have so good intelligence like staggerlee lor!”
Toa Kow asked “what ? what man ? what’s that? intelligence_?”
“ohhh? you don’t know? OK i show you…what you dunno ? just hit my palm as hard as you can! and..
Ah leng looked around and found there was no wall to be found anywhere near since they are on this village muddy path surrounded by fish ponds farm…he put his palm over his own face “Hit my palm as hard as you can….”

Dead Art Daydream Action #22

Or how to continue to live when all around are dead?

- I’m the creep who dwell in deja vu of the damned
the prophet of doom who sweeps clean with the broom
unseen detritus refined superior kinds turned a blind eye

believing they’ll just go away when left alone long enough

Last year I was going through a period of self-doubt whereby I did a series of works under the title of “Diary of A Dead Artist”.  By the end of it I felt psychologically stronger in accepting the changes around me. The people are growing in dissatisfaction due to higher expectations and the pressure of achieving success made it harder to get help for work in the useless project of art. It is not just about the time constrain due to too much work but since I had gotten ill with Parkinson’s Disease I needed help per se in terms of physical muscles to do some physical work using the physical body. The irony of it all is my imagination and dreams not only got so real as I found out that I tend to blame my self often and we all have guilt but should not reject these feelings without reviewing them. It is for those who do not wish to meet them in good time that we find them to be dying if not already dead.
At a time when I was perhaps 6 or seven years old I finally figured out that my dad who died when I was barely four would never return. On understanding about the difference between life and death, I had a terrible nightmare where I dreamt that everybody else around me was dead. I was walking or stumbling over miles and miles of piles upon piles of dead bodies. I was not sure how long but I remember to this day I had woken up wailing in tears, that woke the whole family. They all knew I had a nightmare but did not know what it was because I could not say a word out of completely drenched in cold sweat of sorrow. It felt like holocaust and I was too young to even knew about the world wars, but later when I learnt about the world wars I always envisioned them liken to the nightmare I had then. I went back to sleep on that tear drenched pillow but always remembered that as the day I gain knowledge of the differentiation between life and death as good as day and night.

The heavy inclination of market capitalism has bullied us all into submission so much that our ideals and completely eroded to the point of empty values except for consumerism and materialism. I do not pretend to be beyond the need to participate in the accumulation of money and wages for my work done as I too have bills to pay but I must be on guard that I am not completely eroded of my motivation for higher claims of what poetry and idealism is that keeps me alive beyond that of the differences between beasts and humans. Soul and dough do not make good bedfellows non the less they are not incompatible to have in correct perspective and balanced in terms of priorities.

To top all of these is we all live in the yellow supreme wing ding system that sometimes we don’t even know what we are saying and doing no more but  expect everybody to listen to us. Why? Just because of the shoes we standing in? The best thing about it is that after all that happened in our history, we still have no trust in art and artist…so anyway it maybe better to be gungstar…

Stagger Lee Many-Pull-Leg Zhao Ah Leng, Part 1

you know me, i’m stagger lee so dun mess around with me in fact i dun carry no gun but i can kill just for fun, ain’t much but at least i can still see the sun, cause i learnt long ago you can’t trust no one…it was wednesday and 2 of my buddies we hung out together drink beer and shoot pool just to stay cool and one of my fun dub gunster kaki got angry just cux i was having too much fung. his name ah leng but we call him zhao leng cuase he think he got dragon so what a gunsta is a gunsta so doubt is his own problem and zhao leng accuse me of cheating shooting pools and looking cool and not only boy he start calling me names but he complaint to ah boy, “hey age dun mean nothing here ok why we alweys have to listen to stagger lee bo kaki si bo? he alwwey no need do enuf work and we all do for him never mind some more alway play cheer cheat in pools try to look cool some more ha? enuff is enuff ok!” Ah boy no quarrel with me hen or cock he know where i am and where is the limit with me aah… “you ask me i ask who ah? you go and direct ask in his face lo!!! dun waste your saliva on me la”… soo mr zhao beng leng eyes never open come and throw anger red and sour on me ah in front my baby and boob cry father cry mother some more never mind ask me stupid question some more…2″%%$#”(!”#$&&'(==`”#%!!! tell me why why you everytime many-pull-brake alway people like me and ah boy, why you alway come boss us and we be your small thug ha? i feek for him one time two timw can but this time too much…usually i keep quiet but i baytahan say “you dunno i have intelligence … you dono nothing thats why” whalau wei this make him vere very very hot!!! red chilli padi also not oh so hot law!! “what you mean ?/???” “you dunno? of course not because you got no intelligence no brain ma!!” Wah lau eh really his blood boil now” Ah leng zhao ah leng beng bo hor si lah all hot anger and boiling shouted to me “what you got i don’ got meh? show me where is your intelligence?” scream challenge i put my palm spread on the sidewalk wall and ask ah zhao beng leng “here” pointing to the center of my right palm spread against the wall, “give you punch if you can? as hard as you like!!” so thinking its his chance to get back at me for manypulleg him so he took one two step back breathed deeply and tried to punch so hard at my palm on the wall. i pulled back my palm just in time so he hit the wall !!!! hahaha!! i laughed and staggered all tbe way to shenton way as always say laughed and laughed until cry shaking my head i saying hahaha that is intelligente !!! hahaha!!!

end of part one1796992_10151928522747957_1201180194_o
Something else later/….
part two will resume shortly….

Dead Art Daydream Action No.1

I am license
…Or why I think licensing performance art is not necessary.1384143_10151750351011989_386293260_n

I made 2014 New Year Resolution that I will not present performance art in Singapore under the compulsory need to apply for a license.

2014 is 20 years after the event of Artists General Assembly (A.G.A.). An event held at “5th Passage”, the artists’ run space in Parkway Parade Office block’s fifth storey between the lift lobby leading through a concourse both that opens out towards an adjacent spiral car-park building. The event was organized by artists from the collectives, 5th Passage and The Artists Village. Taking the inspiration of the 24 hours TIME show that was held on new year’s event of 31 January 1989 to 1 January 1990, at the original site of Lorong Gambas, the A.G.A. expanded the idea to that of an eight days event inviting contemporary artists who were embarking on cutting edge or contemporary practices in art making within the Singapore context to convene in exhibition, exchange and dialogue. The event was held together with self-motivated artists and responsible anarchy where we pitched together each other’s ability and when the sun rose on 1 January 1994 to the sounds of the trio, “Non-Sex”, led by under-rated musician Azmi Hassan that played their own take on “Shine on you crazy diamond”, it felt like the finale to a week long initiation rites to the Brave World we were all helping to create.

AGA brochureBut we had a shock of our lives when we got news of how the event was brought to attention on the front page of the tabloid which completely threw all our good intentions into that of suspicion and almost stereotyping our lot as rebellious enemy of the people. The  pandemonium added on as our inexperience at dealing with the media that seems to checked all our efforts to correct the negative image with slanted quotes and added to the confusion of artists as divided self-promoting individual egos. The recent exhibition of “Ghost: The Body At The Turn Of The Century” at the Sculpture Square curated by the courage and vision of it’s new director Alan Oei held at the end of last year, gave a plethora of the darker side of Singapore’s claim to fame as art centre of note this side of the Global Village. Amongst the stories most likely to be swept under any red carpets of shining Singapore Paradiso or the official utopian image of most propaganda media do is the work of the artist Loo Zihan. Loo changed his trajectory as a narrative documentary film maker into performance art, whose research for his Masters program at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2011  gave us the re-enactment of the infamous “Brother Cane”. As a follow up he presented ‘Artists’ General Assembly – The Langenbach Archive’ a comprehensive survey of the archive material from the said event of 1993-1994 that allows us to look back with care again and it gave us much food for thought. A small group of us gathered at its closing on 31 December 2013. I came away with mixed feelings, asking myself a bunch of questions that still left to be desired.

There are many things beyond one’s control, and although you and i may know the facts are plain as the light of day yet sometimes  we would still find it hard to say.  For my love to speak truths for the people, for this society is as pure as I may claim to be as Wahab’s honey and yet when offered them forth it still surely to find some tongues tasting them like the bitterest poison as if they were verses from hell. Thus i  find myself going over my quandary and setting them apart to two or three sets.

1) Questions I can make a decision now and carry them forth as that is my insignia for the battle of the present state of affairs, the ground for my negotiation, and to invite my friends to ride with me. Full battle speed, like Andre Stitt say: “Either you are on the bus or you are off”, i welcome all passengers, young and old, short term or long term, even my enemies! But “don’t stand in the doorway, don’t block up the hall…”

To make the resolution I considered for ten years. In the first place I did agree to it for a good ten years, at least since we did go into it with our eyes wide open when the proscription on the funding of performance art was lifted in 2003.

It had been ten years after it was first implemented by the National Arts Council. With Tommy Koh as the Chairman, that had cast a dark shadow on performance art. It resulted in it becoming almost forever spoken here like a dirty word or in the same breath as any other inexplicable actions most of them of derogatory leanings arousing adjectives veering towards wrong doing, trouble maker, stupidity and non-sensical rather than the possibility of poetry and philosophy.

In fact, the question of having gone ahead with accepting the requirements of grantees to play according to the rules of the game was asked to me by one of the speakers in our very own public forum during Future Of Imagination 2, held at the Sculpture Square.
My contention was that: after weighing the pros and cons, I still think that there were pros that far outweighs the cons.
Furthermore, we had been knocking on the doors of the arts council for the past ten years, since the traumatic aftermath of A.G.A. in 1994. Now that they open the door I must enter although it may not be comfortable.

But I had from the beginning sounded out the problematic list of do’s and don’ts on the licenses and have said so before. As with my first performance in the first “Future Of Imagination” series of international performance art event that I had initiated and organized, I had the license conditions read out loud while I made my actions.
If anyone had taken notes they would have immediately find many of them have been broken by me already, although they may not be breaking other more serious laws per se.
Here my contention was and still is, that if that were the case, then the only need for us organizers and artists to do is that to observe the law; and not necessarily a whole bunch of other regulations that are too indicative of impossible controls that can only hamper our freedom to create, without over looking our shoulders every step in fear of being an offender ever before doing a thing. As a performance artist, I find myself stumped in my flow of imagination every time I stop to consider its legality. And worse still to host international platform of ‘world class artists’ embarrassingly I apologetically ask them to forgive my shameful country whenever I invited them. For my only wish is to show their works of purest creation. To ask me to continue after ten years of tolerating such humiliation can only mean I am willingly agreeing to partake in the Republic’s hemlock laced cup of poison offered to Socrates but here seen as due procedural necessity of civil decorum.

2) Questions that for the moment we leave them on the shelf but we must not forget they are there. The road to freedom and justice is a long road. We may not yet arrive at victory in our life time, but so long as we keep asking them and not let the cobwebs of greed and selfishness cover them up into oblivion, our cause is not yet lost although we may have conceded the battle. To me grand failures do not count. They only count if they are important to be in the memory shelves to be fought again when the time is right otherwise throw them out. For they only collect dusts and that is just decorative masks, not the real face that will last.

Looking at the evidence, as far as licensing goes, the A.G.A. event was licensed too and it did not prevent this to happen because none of us knew then that any law would be broken. To me even when looking back at Josef Ng’s performance, there was no crime discernible. There was nothing either intended nor actually could be seen or unmistakably discerned by anyone who saw the live performance, or even the video documentation.

As I understand from readings the justice system is implemented to protect the citizen’s rights and I am just by asking questions hereby asking for these rights to be secured for me as an artist who practices art and just as any other individuals who swears allegiance to the flag and the nation.
From discussions with many including artists and organizers involved in the event what transpired seemed to be showing us a different understanding that perhaps there were other considerations that led to it’s eventual notoriety, or even ‘clamming down’.
1) there was the internal security question of performance art being a possible threat to public order.
2) there was a need to slam down hard as the performance not only questions the news reportage of the punishment on gay behavior but also seem to advocate protest.
3) it was to keep at bey the propagation and proliferation of homosexual behaviour in Singapore.

Being a patriot schooled and imbued with the Rafflesian spirit, even though I call myself a born again hippie, I like to think that all these are mistaken conjectures that arose merely because those of us who are concerned citizens have looked closely at the evidence if not even seen the actual performance itself and cannot see any evidence in the presentation to have anywhere come close to something we categorically call pornography or an obscene action not even one that is erotic in a artistic way. The only close to fault if any, was that of the words being said by the artist himself to the effect that he was going to cut his pubic hair and after which it was done without any direct revelation of such an action. The artist then went to stand facing a far end wall from the space where the majority of the audience was. He showed a little of his buttock as he lowered them apparently to cut the pubic hair. He then turned around to walk back up towards the audience and put some of the hair down on the floor over some tofu. Then nervously looked around randomly and asked for a cigarette, as he probably was looking for a way to end the ritual. After a few puffs, in the silent tension he put the burning cigarette out on the square of his left shoulder saying the words: “Perhaps a silent protest is not enough.”

Clearly such actions all have nothing obscene about it and  would even add that even IF the artist had cut his pubic hair in full frontal view I would still not find any of these sequences of actions anywhere close to obscene or pornographic actions. However what some have explained to me is that the law says the act of cutting pubic hair is obscene in itself hence it is not necessarily have to be seen.
However should we not reconsider some changes after all if really the law on obscenity was supposedly meant to protect public decency and by all means some of us find it obscene by just thinking of it. But I believe ours is to be a sophisticated society that should be serving us all and not only those of lesser tolerance to actions deemed less commonly seen as normal. Especially when performance art is now accepted officially and the fact that it could be re-enacted by Loo Zihan in a theater ticketed event all the more added more reasons for us to review and to recast it again.
Otherwise I shall remain an artist of shame for I carry in my heart an allegiance I had pledged to a society that I believed in the possibility of a system of justice that protects us all. That includes creative thinking individuals who speak up for the suffering of others in poetic actions, in provocative actions that may include the unusual use of the body, situations in public interactions or agitate in purposeful confrontations but still allowing, nay, in fact demanding each and all in the audience to decide with responsibility what is the correct course of action, but in fairness let the artist be free.  What Josef Ng did in 1994 was indeed just that. He courageously spoke up for the suffering of others by innovative re-inventing the new language of performance art with sensitive responses to local contexts. We punished him, and also the artist Iris Tan, who merely took the blame as she was handling the admin work. The way I see it today, I am equally responsible and I am equally guilty for their crimes if at all any crime was committed. I am proud of Josef Ng for what he gave us and Iris Tan who suffered humbly, quietly, a duty-bound giving us her name and time as a service to art and artists, forgoing her own chance to also be directly practicing as one. (I know Iris well, she was glad to contribute her hair to my A.G.A. cupboard installation but I remember hearing her talk to us working on our installation where I could detect a subtle envy beneath her humorous words of encouragement and praises to our work. She sacrificed her own artistic inclinations cause somebody needs to do the paper work and she got charged and found guilty for it and no one even bothered to call her after)

And no I don’t blame the government. I don’t blame the P.A.P. and don’t mention my mother but I blame my country. Yes I am still ashamed of my country. And this country includes you and me. A country who put good art and artists on trial and make them criminals. And now after 20 years say let’s move on!, the world has changed.

Not yet changed as it should if you ask me!!
But it should.

AGA Opening

Joy of Living

2014 New Year Resolution:
I will not present performance art in Singapore under the compulsory need to apply for a license.

Look for me in the sunrise
while I sing to the sun set in the east
I wish you good morning while I lay down to sleep
this dream of life has no chance for peace
baggage to rid and yet cravings to keep
with these weary bones I hobble
its my form to function as a creep
To catch your dreams to fill my hollow.

“Joy of Living”

September of year 2013, I was invited to Saitama  for a residency in an initiative that is run as a non-profit organization called “Contemporary Art of Japan”. As I was riding on the bus from the airport into Saitama I reminisced to when I first stepped on Japanese shore was in 1994 in Fukuoka where I was invited to participate in the 4th Asian Art Show. So it has been nearly 20 years now.  I ran over the past years and back again several times in my mind and tried to figure out what I had been doing in this life.  Images and nuances of a dream that felt like a lifetime or a book? But maybe just another song, an anyhow blues song. or a fairy tale perhaps…not one but a myraid of fairy tales of different origins,  that overlap and become difficult to decipher which is which and told by whom, but all have some facet of truth in it, not only facets but actually these days i find it fascinating to look again at the complex life that our mixed up world seem to be entangled into an hopelessly immaculate Gordian knot.
IMG_0175         And yet each and every one of our lives may only be lived at once as an individual one.  After all we may also find that the only way to approach and enjoy this chaotic confusion we call life, is by savouring each and every passing moment that adds up into the minutes, hours and days that we inevitably need to fulfill with enough work and rest, that make up the 24 hours of one day at a time. These days that passes as the sun rises and sets will come to add up into 365 and a one quarter come what may, totalling up to make a year. And as the years passes with the revolution of the earth circulating round the sun one full circle each year one’s life when lived in conscious effort at making a direction of changes for the human revolution may be seen as snippets of fairy tales that when told perhaps by the learned ones we call academics and historians end up as history and milestones of changes sometimes joyous as they liberate our human condition whereas sometimes may be painful and tragic as they perpetuate the suffering of the weak and enslaved to the dictates of powerful and selfish despots and tyrants.newMoon
There’s a new moon in the dark sky
Like a yellow boat I long to ride
Across the milky ocean like the sailing gypsies
Roaming homes in kingdoms of one man islands
Outside the self-doubt of a velvet prison
free from Gordian tangled knots of accursed shares
Drifting like the weightless clouds
Above and away from the tear-stained bleeding heart snares
I maybe a romantic but I find my role as an artist coincides with that as an agent for revolutionary changes, without any need to partake in other activism but to act and be motivated as an artist carefully considered line of actions at crucial pacing with other moments of social change, responding to the daily occurrences of current state of affairs, is enough work. In fact a hell of a task in the complexities of today’s world as such that to take on other intentions of activism will shore me on the other side of life ie on that of hades.  Everyday is a struggle as I find the strains of individualism an extremity that make us lonelier souls, less we understand where we stand and not be confused by the need to make conscious efforts to keep abreast with the external changes of the social structures, the technological inventions, the resulting variable distances of personal contacts upon engagements continued with impersonal methods of communications. We may easily jeopardise all the advances of secured freedom over decades and creeping years of gradual emancipation as our preceding generations with gaining consciousness realized the need to break from old entanglements of power relations based on religion, political and other ideological constrains necessitated by the human need of unity to function as a social group; a society that was held together by old power structures be it law, government and capital or economy that distributes the energy that supports life of earth find the increasing demands of free individuals a threat to maintain itself as a strong fabric in one piece if the freedom of individuals actions and inabillity to advance cultural work for gradual liberalization but instead lead to further fragmentation.
More often than not it is to learn to speak to each other with greater trust and belief the other is genuine to the cause of indeed redemption for all. If we seek out any tyrant or dictator and interviewed or questioned them for sure they will tell you that they are trying to help society and what ever you may deemed to be atrocious evil crime against the people were actions implemented for the good of society and humanity at large. As for artists as individuals with our varied histories, cultural, linguistics and personal backgrounds permuted further with difference of intelligence and characteristics not to forget sexual orientations and other human inclinations that may also be too extremely alienating and deviating from the norm. And that includes fanaticism for holding on to outdated rules and regulations or even religious beliefs if you ask me as after all not everyone in this age of post-post-modernity are able to deal with the freedom that is there for us to manifest even while living in restricted social structures. If we knew what we want we will find out how to get it. Whatever prison one is incarcerated in with proper understanding the walls of the social prison may be not that impossible to break out from. However most of us do not know what to do once we are outside and  possibly enough to drown the unprepared, and those who only recently encountered differences of self-transcendence that our age of philosophical inquiry has attained via the new sciences such as psychology and sociology that built on the ancient religions and other knowledge of cross references and multi-disciplinary studies.
Those who claim to adhere to systems of control for the sake of peaceful coexistence often forget  to include the consultation with those who are already walking the streets daily free from these shackles but expect them who are already free to continue to wear those shackles when they enter the common social spaces and arena or places of common human rituals that are over-lapping and lagging behind in out-moded anachronistic structures that no one cares to review and update. After all they may still be usefully manipulated to serve the powers that be in the guise of justice yet serving other purposes of maintaining conservative demeanours of conformity.
One may of course in the beginning take it calmly as humane kindness tend to accept the mistaken notions of strangers in order to befriend them and with familiarity we begin to let them know that our participation in such behaviour actually insults our dignity and we would like to be excuse from them and if only the other could learn to tolerate our differences, if not even participate and enjoy our lives together in freedom.
So in our history we had been cowered into asking permission by license and submissively provide details of the intended manifestation of a genre of art that encourages spontaneous improvisations, inspired moments of fresh creative presentations based on impulses, that sometimes arises by way in reaction based on the unexpected gestures and responses in live audiences’ interactions. As an experienced organiser I must admit that the liability to break the law in holding a license with that long list of restrictions far outweigh that of maintaining propriety.


Schrag Carl. O. – The Self after Postmodernity, Yale University Press, 1997.

Young Alison,  – Judging  the image: Art, Art, Value, Law (Transformations) Routledge, 1995.


Look for me in the sunset
rising out from an old bag looking for a mended vest
Try to have another good time, another chance for another test
I’ll match your youthful verve your joy of living
All your rigging and stone throwing babel
To keep up the petition against all them sanctions
Time to get off and re-assemble
Before they stop us at the twelfth station

I’m not the one who you hated me for
In forgetting what was only kills knowledge learnt
to return to review to react to remember
Dear friends and loved ones still dwelling in déjà vu
The dancing years passed so fast if only we knew
How suddenly we’ve became old
those were the days my friend
When real was real and time stood still
When real was real and time stood still …..and never end


Night & Day and back again

Night and day you are the one
only you beneath the moon or under the sun
wheather near to me or far it’s no matter darling
where you are
I think of you
day and night, night and day
why is it so that this longing for you
follows where ever I go
in the roaring traffics boom, in the silence of my lonely room
I think of you
night and day, day and night
under the hyde of me , theres an oh such a hungry yearning
inside of me
and this torment wont be through
till you let me spend my life making love to you
day and night, night and day

- Cole Porter, 1932

I just returned from a bittersweet experience tonight, THE LAST GIG @ Night and Day Bar…that oh so much reminded me of another.

The year 1990 was a bitter sweet one as March The Artists Village were just evicted from the original kampong in Lorong Gambas and Tang Da Wu had relocated in Queens Avenue, rented three large bungalow black an white houses rental costs was S$2,000 each per month. Tang hoping to reactivate together to build a space for artists in communal spaces of a village in natural environment was forced to move to Queens Avenue and paying the rental costs of total S$6,000 per month for 3 large black and white bugalows which Tang took down the fences that divided them. Today in 2013 $6,000 can hardly be enough monthly rental for one of those houses if you are lucky. And dear Kelley is closing Night & Day in Selegie…

We took days even weeks to move as Tang was a man of strong resolution and resilience and as I helped with lorry loads filled with even broken chairs and tables. They were things we could repair like taking broken dreams in belief we shall put them back up again. Twice mind you. At first under-estimating the things we had in a kampong could easily fill up 3 walk up apartments in Sembawang, Da Wu in less than a week reluctantly moved again to the 3 houses in Queens Avenue. The Catch 22 was that these were not venues for public exhibition or events as the premises in Queens Avenue were classified for residential use only. I took up a room in one of the houses and we operated from there to participate in the Singapore Arts Festival making installations in shopping malls and pedestrian walks along Orchard Road, Raffles Square, Raffles City and Fort Canning Park.

We were shown various locations as possible sponsored spaces but all came to nought as we were not registered entity. I left Singapore in December to participate a sculpture symposium at Portland Sculpture Trust in Dorset through the invitation of Hannah Sofaer, one of the trustees. Hannah Sofaer was participating in the Singapore Art Festival 1990 by way of Tang Da Wu’s recommendations. Together with Hiroshi Mikami, they were one of the first foreign artists in residence at Quens Avenue or if not even Singapore. As I was also staying in the third house that Da Wu rented my daily casual talks with them unknowingly were my tutorials and my learning expanded without even the idea of receiving an education.

Hannah taught me the possibility of nature as a refreshing earth studio and the shade of a tree as working spaces. And not to worry if we do not have craftsmanship or technical skills as actions of daily life may have gone unnoticed easily unless one took up the ritual of spending time working with them and putting our hearts and soul to it. She dug the earth and made turtles gather under the spreading canopy of the biggest rain tree she could find in the open lawns of Fort Canning Park. The strings of brightly coloured ribbons strategically hung from the branches looked like rains of rainbows that the turtles seemed to be congregating and slowly walked towards the trunk in order to…? Drink the rainbow rain perhaps or climb the rain tree to the source of the rain? My bet was that the rain had produced the mounds swelling up from rainbow rain drops transforming the mounds into live turtles when given the magic hour and the touch of an open heart of imagination,

Hiroshi Mikami carried a small backpack wherever he went, so heavy I thought they were filled with treasures of gold iningots. But no they were his magical tools of sets of well sharpened chisels any self respecting stone sculptor would be proud to own. But Mikami san is the only one I know who carried them in a small but compact back pack almost everyday when he did his project, which was breaking stones. To make a sculpture? Naturally one would presumed a three dimensional one but nay his were done in the dark sometimes in a tent if not in the darkest room possible. It was the sparks of light that he collected on a time-frame remote camera that took a shot every each stroke gave a bright spark in the dark when he chiseled away the chips off a huge granite boulder. As the sparks flew out at the same time tiny stones were chipped off a well placed camera hung from above clicked away to exposed a time based negative or slide film that later would be printed out as a ball of sparks that so delightfully feasted our eyes. The experience made me literally come to believe that every little stone we see everywhere are the same twinkling diamonds in the skies at night.

While working here Hannah Sofaer, in her capacity as one of the trustees of Portland Sculpture & Quarry Trust in Dorset invited Han Sai Por, S. Chandrasekaran, Amanda Heng and myself for a month of residency. I left Singapore to participate the sculpture symposium but stayed two years as I enrolled into Sir John Cass School of Art, in the east end, and lived in a squad in Plaistow. My housemates were eastender punks, there was no heating the house but for the kitchen stove. I spent my first winter with nights learning the cockneyed dialect over cups of English milk tea or Carlsberg special brews with open kitchen stove our fireplace.. that’s another story. After living in London for 2 years Hiroshi Mikami invited me to participate in an International Sculpture Symposium, held on a farm 2km outside the city of Gulbarga, Karnataka, India in November to December 1992. I returned to Singapore just after New Years day in 1993 reading in the papers about Vincent Leow’s infamous urine drinking performance, ‘Coffee Talk’. I wrote a letter to defend his actions.

One year later The Artists Village collaborated with 5th Passage to organized Artists General Assmbly (A.G.A.) Now that was the bitterest of bittersweet of them all if you ask me cause tonight I still found that taste lingering on the tips of my tongue. As 5th Passage lost their space due to sensational reporting in the tabloids. But I shall stop now cause I got a morning appointment at Tan Tock Seng Hospital…and cause…i got

22 degrees of loneliness…

A Country With No Names

A Country With No Names

At birth, individuals are given a name by their parents and they go through life known by this name. They grow through various permutations of possibilities – playing in the neighborhood, getting educated in school, and they become useful to society when they are old enough to work. Working in some specific role or job rewards them, and it becomes their livelihood.

Yet this generalization too simply equates human labor to goods and services. The goal of work becomes like any consumer product, to provide so-called labor or service for an exchange economy, based on demand and supply and profit motivation – the backbone of market capitalism, the form of capitalism that seems to rule today’s world.

It is hard to believe that artists often have little regard for this tendency to equate labor with product, and demand that they deserve to be treated differently. This is, for the most part, an attitude that is bestowed not by society, but by one’s self – a self that wants to be free from social norms and wants to allow creativity to manifest itself freely.

But sometimes the sensitivity toward one’s originality can be seen as selfish and egoistic. Others try to appropriately respond to the tides and tribulations of revolving changes, riding the waves of historical time, so as not to drown; We may all be luckless survivors on a ship of fools, but we could also be like the Argonauts, ever struggling to repair, remodel, and remake the very ship, the Argus, that carries us on this odyssey that requires constant shifts in order to cross the ever challenging oceans.

We were given names when we are born, but the possibility of wearing different hats may comes across as trivial or merely romantic, the futile assertion of free will in a world dictated by power and money. We forget that the artists were meant to serve our human values in the service of a higher source: the spiritual, the one and only, whatever one’s traditional “essence” may be – that convenient name for our diverse ways of manifesting ultimate reality.

Our “art” productions become accepted and consumed, even if they were originally made by selfish egos seeking to remodel and remake themselves. But even then, such artworks might not only express the individual’s search for meaning, but also the social group to which he or she belongs.

Be it as an open group of loosely affiliated friends and associates, or a more defined, legally-bound entity (such as a registered limited company), our functions as individuals mingle in overlapping, and differently permutating, institutions and affiliations.

Consciously or not, we inevitably find ourselves working and living in part of a larger social group. More often than not, the groups we find ourselves in have been in existence for a longer time than us – some going back generations, some originating in far-flung lands.

However, although we continue to operate with the background of older social groups, we live and participate today in newer social groupings and affiliations relevant to contemporary society. These recently-innovated social structures respond to current needs, and we are all caught within this multi-layered demographic web.

We see our mobility in this web as the potential to emancipate ourselves from basic needs (like food and shelter), and to be free from the social pressure to be branded or typecast (to fulfil some statistic), rather than actually pursuing individual and social happiness.

We begin life as players in the theater of life, each one of us given a name. Along the way, at each turn and crossroad, we are asked to choose the path that further differentiates us as individuals within the larger social fabric. Some of our choices will lead us to the ritual of daily role-playing, in games of learning, participating and acting. With growth and maturity, some of us attain more chances at manipulating the game. The ability to shift also entails more responsibility in re-enacting the roles that we have imbibed for ritualistic social play. Caught up in total involvement, some of us lose sight of our original goal.

We seek authenticity and ask for change whenever we become dulled by the loss of meaning. And therein conflicts begin to crop up, if not for a willingness to uphold the individual’s right to different values and to deviate from the social norm. Homogeneity, it seems, must be upheld religiously in the face of thinning societal values. The division and separation that comes between us makes previously held common ground uncertain and shaky. Our apathy, in fact, increases the chances of chaos, crises and doomsday prophecies becoming reality.

We need to survive our contemporary world, which is in perpetual movement and is constantly changing. However, there are different priorities on the part of the game designers. Most of us would only want to play a game as it had been outlined for us – with certain boundaries, goals, time or duration, form, materials used, gender and the power relations between players endowed with different physical, intellectual or emotional characteristics.

In theory, global capitalism has high respect for the individual and allows the individual freedom in rights to physical and intellectual property. However, everywhere one sees the ideals of freedom and individual rights violated by state intervention, mostly out of simple, flawed self-interest. What originally began at a level of ambitious, all-encompassing populism inevitably fails to fulfill the interests of society and ends up exploiting the weaker and poorer sectors to perpetuate the standing of those in power.

Hence no matter how any state claims to have comprehensive schemes and institutions to take care of society’s needs from education, to dating services, to armed military forces, to cultural trade fairs; from visual enjoyment to consumption via taste and digestion, from ingestion and expulsion through to the tail end of one’s physical body, the individual would in good conscience say “NO, NO, NO!!!” to the homogenization and centralization of human experience.

Independent cultural institutions are in fact important for re-humanizing our centrally-directed lives, to live and work with a network of artists in consciousness and compassion. For we are living in an overly-planned system, and one must question and openly cry out for the individual. Why do so many of the rules and regulations said to be necessary to protect us from dangerous conflicts and chaos end up being an iron cage?

We should always seek ways of organizing based on principles of anarchic thought, based on the revelation of truth drilled for authenticity, leaving the satisfaction of open-endedness for our children’s future growth and our further emancipation. We take a stance that rejects apotheosis and says: “To hell with all doomsday prophecies! We live to live another day, in the readiness that we do not fear to die trying!”

Along the way, we too make gains and losses in terms of power and material gains. Enjoyment for some may be the bane of others. Whether consciously or not, our society has evolved into greater complexity based on the motive of accumulation; however various archaic systems of wealth and power are unfairly tipped to favor past hierarchical structures, and these need constant re-evaluation to remain just and fair. Our need to incarnate social meaning is also the need to make the public view and participate in these public rituals,  pleasures of spectatorship that manifest our consciousness of human civilization.

There is no such a thing as art. There is only invention and creativity. There is no such thing as literature, only imagination and the will to remodel remake recreate the future by understanding our history. The ability to fully accept our wrongs and right them by facing them and willing to be ashamed and apologetic. But do not turn away from mistakes as if we do not make them.

We do not live in a country with no names but we may soon be if we do not learn to deal with our future history of mistaken anonymity, an anonymity based on our inability to be strong individuals within an oppressive state that pretends to give us our rights while keeping us in the golden cage of paradise.

Give me back my body!

Give me back my name!!

Give me back the possibility

… to be really me!!!

Lee Wen, March 10, 2013

commissioned text for “Files Not Found”, Palais De Tokyo, Paris, France June 21 2013



Once there was shortage of water in the Land of never poor. Come rain or shine they never had shortage of water. But due to some mysterious forces no rain and rapid draining of the lakes for the last three months or more, it made the citizens of the Land of never poor became worried. So they went to talk to the soothsayer on the mountain side where the wind blows. The soothsayer told them not to worry but instead should organize to prepare for big rain and floods instead. So the people did. When lakes were nearly dried the skies became dark covered by heavy clouds and rained for nearly a month non-stop. Not much damaged happened as the people were prepared after hearing the soothsayer’s prediction.
The rain stopped and the people of the Land of never poor decided to make big celebrations and the soothsayer was sent an invitation to be the special guest. And the people of Land of never poor asked the soothsayer how he knew the rain would come so. He said he did not know at all. It happened that he just came back home from visiting the other side of the valley, the Land of the always poor. The people being poor try always to be prepared for worst to come, whatever the situation so when no rain for such long time and never before so the people became worried and they got together and in serious discussions came to the conclusions that they should be prepared both for no rain; which there is not much you can do about; and so instead they busy themselves by preparing for too much rain. He was only passing the idea to them.

Performance at National Art Gallery, Singapore

“Singapore in 2050″, Tang Da Wu, Performance at National Art Gallery, Singapore, 1988, Photo: Koh Nguang How

Longing for the Mountain retreat (with room service)

Originally posted on Republic Of Daydreams:

thought that things are getting better
how wrong
when the battle heats up to boil like broth
for dead chickens and screaming monkeys
the call to arms rang all day
in every ding dang dong dung
noisy purposelee wanto dig streets of singapure
buzy bobbee bochap for poetry only hot ok on moneeey
tell you no talking about demokrazee wait kena pantak kaya guyu then you jaga
go and art conference DaWu good ah know who is papa mama go back kampong
forget the long long mountain lah
how correct?

Just before heading for Hong Kong Art Basel I received the good news from Performance Studies International that I had been chosen to receive this year’s PSi Artist/Scholar/Activist Award 2014 to be presented in the next gathering of international performance studies afficionandos in Shanghai come July 4 to 8/2014 at the Shanghai Theatre Academy.
Unfortunately my tour de force with…

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Forget tragedy…Laugh and be Angry!

Originally posted on Republic Of Daydreams:

Internal security police of China has a reputation for being dumb to poetry and blind to art …the only thing they are good at is catching rabbits with their bare hands. I went to a good school and my schoolmates are in all kinds of professions. One close friend unfortunately joined the secret police but cannot reveal his name. He was telling me that artists are not that different from Police as there are meetings where international secret police meet in camps or conferences to discuss and exchange just like artists do in festivals, biennale and camps. The only difference is theirs are heldin secret while artists ones tend to seek publicity and media coverage.

Once this friend of mine gave a story that came to prove my opinion is true. There was a multilateral secret policeman meeting and they had an intensive 30 days workshop in the Chinese countryside…

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