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

Sigh…

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.

 

Image

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

buy
plan
in vest
sell
profit

grow
regenerate

ld

cdde

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.

THE FACT IS THAT WE HAVE BEEN RIDING ON THAT SAME BUS ALL THESE YEARS ONLY PROBLEM SOME ARE TRYING TO DRIVE IN DRUNKENESS OR NOT CLEAR HOW TO OR MAYBE DRIVING US OVER THE CLIFF OR JUST GOING ROUND IN CIRCLES CLAIMING WE ARE MOVING ON. BUT ACTUALLY THE BUS GOT AN OUTDATED ENGINE 300YEARS OLD AND ALL I AM SAYING IS LETS GET THAT UPDATED CHANGED AND REALLY GET IT GOING. CAUSE WE HAVE NOT MOVED AN INCH FOR 20 YEARS. WE ARE ONLY PARTYING AND REDECORATING THIS BUS IN AN ILLUSION THAT WE MOVED ON BUT HEY WAIT I SAY HEY LOOK BROTHERS AND SISTERS LOOK WHAT CHANGED RATHER MAYBE WE ARE CHAINED BY INVISIBLE CHAINS OF COMPLACENCY, ABARENCE OF COMFORT MISTAKING OUR SECURITY AS SAFE WHEN WE ARE DEAD AND DROWNING IN THE PRISON DECORATIVELY BUILT LIKE A PARADIZE, WE ARE NUMBED, BRAIN DEAD BY PROPAGANDA OF PARANOIA AND FEAR, BLINDED BY FAKE SUCCESS. IF WE CANNOT SEE THIS WE WILL NOT SEE THE CHANGED WORLD WE DREAMED FOR….FOR DREAMS CAN ONLY BE ACTIVATED INTO REALITY BY WAKING UP.
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 me..so 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”

Prelude:
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.

Reference:

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

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

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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

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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.
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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

 ubin5

Rain

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

Open Letter to the Nation of Josef Ng’s

Originally posted on Republic Of Daydreams:

3 Generations


He lives in Shanghai now
and he’s doing fineHe is a man of dignity and understands
about art and money better than most of you and me
i met him in the Shanghai gallery that he runs recently.
A stately gallery on the bund with a team of well educated ladies fluent in at least two languages
Well done Josef!! but
i can’t say if he is happy but he’s doing fine
in fact more than fine
cause he knows where to draw the line
the lines that draws blood
the lines of power and judge
the lines that speak from the artist’s heart
the lines that break the law and mother’s heart

“hey lee wen “, he gave me a line i will never forget,
“tell them i am fine,
i may have broken the law
but i did no wrong.”

he is fine dear
my dear nation of…

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