Change after Cane after Art

I’m building a house where i can think
And have some balance and dignity
I’m building a house where no one can hurt me
I’m building a house where the weak are strong
I’m building a house with a real song
I’m using faith that is immortal
I’m building it with simplicity
And the way that we feel, you and me
I’m building it with what i believe in
                         – Iggy Pop, “Brick by Brick”, 1990

To date not anyone has come close to the meticulous research on “Brother Cane” than Ray Langenbach whose PhD thesis [1] gave an outstanding perspective on performance of the state as artist in parallel with performances of artists as individuals during those turbulent years. I first met Ray at a party hosted by Veronika Radulovich and Helmut Lemke, artists who apparently met Tang Da Wu while they were traveling in Japan when Da Wu was exhibiting there. After returning back to Singapore in 1993 and I had rejoined the train of changes in our rapid pace society, driven by Singapore’s natural geography that gave her a focal role to the region political increasingly cultural development as well as the ubiquitous hand of a meddlesome one party state.

As with many artists I met in the house that Tang Da Wu lived in and also sheltered or opened to transients like Veronika and Helmut who cared to seek him out. Da Wu’s house was like an organic artists-in-residence by offering studio spaces and loving advices straight from the heart and wisdom of experience and practice, Ray Langenbach too gave to me invaluable tools for living with direction and purpose while consciously choosing to being an anti-disciplined rolling stone, jack of all trade mixed media anything goes artist. From Ray I had learnt not only the use of video, as an essential aid and medium of art but also to carry forth my disenchanted cynicism and beyond negative gripes but with dialogical queries value added with theory and supported readings.

The study by Ray Langenbach give us enough reasons to believe if ever our society seek justification for investing in art beyond its materialistic inclination for tangible results, and the preservation and glorification of power, she should in confidence also allow art to happen freely whether or not in allotted zones or spaces and respect in not only presenting them but also be open towards seeking and gaining insights from the sovereign power of art to help us re-adjust for changes. Beyond the heavy handed  methods of coercion with the cane or other inhumane oppressive regulations we have arrived at a stage of civilized conscience to actualize and allow individuals if not society the freedom to transform by self-will and grow into mature graciousness.

The immense interest and debate that preceding days, weeks and months of counter arguments that were put up while time ran its course up to the date of presentation of Cane by Loo Zihan gave us various valid points of significant contentions by advocates and detractors for considerations and evaluation, touching on art and society. Zihan’s interventions showed that the enactment itself is relevant and is necessary as all the questions expressed are unresolved issues, some carried over from Josef Ng’s initial act and remain for us to ponder and hopefully more thoroughly go over in order to call for real changes in our society.

For artists as practitioners in the field as much as enthusiastic audiences at large, there are various complex issues on authenticity, licensing and censorship, sponsorship, integrity vis-à-vis market and motivation, readings of documentation and archival representation.

Let us not make the same mistake again by making hasty conclusions or emotion charged positions of taking sides, victimizing the artist, or even the form. Many of us do not take lightly to be working under a quagmire of bureaucratic regulations enforced by an overly paternalistic authoritarian social system. Given the fact it did go on and scarring debate transpired in a social media today that was not available 20 years ago. In all good measure let us give ourselves time and take all that transpired at large with serious reflections beyond emotional and selfish motivations we could suspect the time has come for us to petition for changes and rescue Josef Ng’s original initial performance from its dark displaced destiny of injustice.


[1] Performing the Singapore State: 1988-1995
Centre for Cultural Research (CCR) and the Department of Art History & Criticism, School of Cultural Histories & Futures, University of Western Sydney
Research Supervised by: Prof. Ien Ang & Prof. Bob Hodge, Centre for Cultural Research and Prof. John Clark , Power Institute for Art History & Criticism, University of Sydney.
Examiners: Dr. Rustom Bharucha , Dr. David Birch, Dr. Edward Scheer

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Other Links:
The Longue Durée …Articulations.The headline that launched a thousand hissy fits
http://jusdeananas.wordpress.com/2011/07/23/the-headline-that-launched-a-thousand-hissy-fits/

One thought on “Change after Cane after Art

  1. Pingback: Vroni lemke | Ajaygoud

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