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!

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…

View original 557 more words

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