When Peace Comes To Town

We ain’t gonna lay no military budget down

When Salman Rusdie said+

“But the overwhelming weight of the problem lies in the world of Islam, and much of it has its roots in the ideological language of blood and war emanating from the Salafist movement within Islam, globally backed by Saudi Arabia.”

We could change the words Islam and the backing country name and the Salafist movement with other relevant extremist movement just as easily and not be far from the truth in our globalized world of great bright hope for the future in the midst of grand old ideological paranoia getting more and more visibly threatening poses of inevitable terrorism to come. His aggressive tone is an extremity in defence of his position as an intellectual, artist writer who had done masterpieces said to be detrimental to a way of life and an insult to those who are in close identification with those Rushdie criticizes nay condemns.

I understand both sides but I would cross the line to be where Rushdie will be standing but I shall have a heart that will also find blood in my tears for those on the other. For whatever atrocities they have done we look back in history and find equally horrendous things have been suffered by them, just as well if not more and been mostly perpetrated by those who held the flags of freedom and democracy most high but at the same time also raping the lands of these angry societies that accumulated so heavily that resulted to the current anxieties in  retaliation in such desperate and violent measures. Looking at them all in more historical details, it won’t be a big gamble if we will bet to our last dollar that will reveal those humiliation and shame that pushed them into their present fearful sad situation.

 

PingPongSUzhou copy

“The Realm in the Mirror, the Vision out of Image”, Suzhou Jinji Lake Art Museum, SuZhou, China, 9 May 2013 – 18 August 2013 http://www.chinanews.com/shipin/cnstv/2013/05-09/news213680.shtml

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WHERE IS THINK IF THERE IS A TANK?

my pain is sane
to acknowledge it
not ignore or trivialize it
to confront it not glorify it
it is the first step to healing
i feel anger and if i cry it is more from anger
and anxiety than sadness
that we do not get together to do something about but rather remain alone
screaming our silence with tears of rage alone
that leads to suicide of the hopeless
In resignation of the choiceless

In solidarity with the pro-democracy in Hong Kong rally held at Hong Lim Park last night gave me a hopeful insight to prop up my already dismal and fading jaded faith in Singapore’s sundown art scenario attempt to hurriedly switch into sunrise. I must admit that my attendance had been encouraged more by my need for that of going out from Gillman Barracks for an affordable dinner while at the same time to bring a guest visiting from U.S. there as she wanted to know more about the scenario here and was an captivated audience of my so called ‘not a performance’ presentation last Friday. I would almost classify this as one of those local attractions like Bird Park, the Zoo, or other attractions whereby may never crossed my mind for me to visit until a foreign friend asked for directions that I realize that it would be advantage to go with her out of my good will and hospitality and at the same time gave me a chance for me to refamiliarize myself with my home country while giving points of key importance so as to also re-analyse my changed perception of our nation in transition if not revolution.
The difference this time is that a public rally like this is also organized and attended by humans and not merely a venue of interest. I arrived in Hong Lim Park just about when the speeches had already finished as one man was announcing his wrapping up last words concerning the lighting up of candles and messsages on paper as instructioins for a final wrapping up. I was all sweaty from the quick paced walk of anxiety towards the park from Chinatown MRT where i would think any other tourist attraction would have better signage of directions pointing towards the park from the MRT station.
However I must say I was happily surprised to see a larger crowd than expected and although as I suspected to observe the gathering in solidarity consisted I believe of a larger crowd of people from Hong Kong than of that of Singaporeans.

I am much clearer than ever about what is happening in my life as an artist since the return from Istanbul. The only thing that I have a great deal of difficulty with the status quo is what is preventing the game players who are not that different especially when the people who were once upon a time from the same beginnings of our struggle, see the need for solidarity and to be honest with the times as of by now we should notice how the house we are all in had a different permutation of our “musical chair” game, of which at the end of the day still played to the tune provided mostly by one of the powers that be. The only way we can get that tune to rock out more diversely and providing positive contributions, in line with the kicks in our lives is for us very much in need to be willing to forget the differences between the ones who are asking for these changes. If indeed there are serious reasons to complain that the tune being played is getting dangerously drifting towards that of the military and uncomfortable drumbeat of boringly if not wavering towards fundamentalistic intolerance, in the name of traditions or other conservative regards, that the authorities are so clearly in need of a check and balance coming from the grass roots and grounds of art and cultural workers. And yet we who find them really for want of a better comparison is still stuck in the rut of patriarchy treating us like teeny boppers fearing our immaturity may destroy the status quo when the time we had seen deserves a more complex tempo.
It reminded me of the A.G.A. times in which the suggestion of pooling of resources to print the one page statement in Straits Times was at first received with warm enthusiasm but switched to that of a cold silence when Kuo Pao Kun cautioned the community of the repercussions of the state’s possible harsh response. Alas are we not yet grown beyond that? Do we still have not the stick in our social fabric to work together to make sure our rights be served by rulers as servants of the people and not tyranny nor dynasties with their entourage of cronies?
Mind you I have grown up in this society with great respect if not deeply in strike with marching towards the day of reckoning and fool am I if while adhering to ideals of old, to still believe that it’s possible to dream that ours may become a great society albeit tiny in comparison to the mother country and empires of past history.
If it makes any consolation I sometimes tell myself to let by gones be bygones as aren’t we all merely playing a movie in the footnotes of the Truman Show. The only thing that is not happening is that the individualism I so much believe in and fought for just about cut so much into one for the selfish gain and pride to serge forward so much so that we are in the tendency of now lacking the ability to switch to one of solidarity when the time and contexts have shifted where civil society needed action again in union of individuals in social groups of common ground. And if we cannot drive on in the required shifting of our gears to work together then I am afraid that my belief in individualism together with my fear of the game of defeat become mine and yours forever more…
Last sigh for the black hole of Malevich
into thy squareness i shall dive.
Pray my friends let’s rise up and together shine
and make our revolution that of love
that our leaders should know have no higher
as we all are servants to that one and only one above
No need for anniversaries
Nor mobs Nor armies
but real guys with real hearts for real democracy shall
rule with laws and true to serve all at the eternal game of win and win all round
not one one one one one one one
but EVERYONE
EVERYBODY!
image
thanks to Rachel and the organizers of the rally
i slept well last night feeling less shame from walking with you!!!

image

To my dearest friends in Hong Kong,

I am in solidarity with you now, the way you have always been in solidarity with me, supporting my human rights work throughout the years.

Thank you for believing in the value of my work, and now comes the time for me to render you my moral support from where I am.

Yours in solidarity,
Rach

Related events:

Democracy Now! Singapore in Solidarity with Hong Kong

Calling for International Support for Democracy in Hong Kong

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Longing for the Mountain retreat (with room service)

thought that things are getting better
how wrong
when the battle heats up to boil like broth
for dead chickens and screaming monkeys
the call to arms rang all day
in every ding dang dong dung
noisy purposelee wanto dig streets of singapure
buzy bobbee bochap for poetry only hot ok on moneeey
tell you no talking about demokrazee wait kena pantak kaya guyu then you jaga
go and art conference DaWu good ah know who is papa mama go back kampong
forget the long long mountain lah
how correct?
NOT?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shiro and his mother.

Shiro and his mother.

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!!

Amen
Malevichl

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

Open Letter to the Nation of Josef Ng’s

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 Singapore
a nation of fines
we lost a man of honour and sensitivity
an artist whose actions shook minds and hearts
asked questions of care and concern
intelligence and fair comment
with actions performed with unrehearsed theatre
of spontaneity in authentic plainness
real life in situ no need for skill nor dramatic art
what did we do to him?
it was 1994
enough enough
let us redress this error for ever more
he did no wrong
an individual of rare courage so strong

he dared to speak his mind while in silent apathy others watched on
did he really break the law?
must there be judgement based on the parallel of equations liken to math and algebra?
for are we not human homo emotional and, sapiens who knows what is what and what is not
what we saw were actions that knowingly knocked on questions hard and sore
surely not even a hint on erotic score?
surely non of obsessesion of flesh nor eros call?
surely the law is more than words on a page of thy holy queen long past their prime over our nation’s land and door?
surely we have come this far in higher consciousness and expressing our humane need to be of even higher heartfelt passion for our fellow beings even strangers in pain and suffering.?
surely Josef Ng’s actions were those that shook us for only our passionate return to those in need of redemption
when did he go wrong ?
where is the flaw?
it is now 20 years and 300 odd from when the queen gave nay pressed upon us that law
and surely had application not towards such a noble ritual that came forth on an eventful night of celebration

that our nation has arrived with the future
possible sons and daughters of hundred flowers
nay, a  hundred sunflowers on one trunk
shall we not embrace what may be our rightful fortune of brightness
and cheerful pleasure yet to come
if only our hearts were open
that we should receive such genuine touch of risky edges of precocious flashes
instead of fearful thundering guns and canes
heavy insistence of absent intentions
to take aim and blame upon
Josef Ng
He is an artist
He is now a director of an art gallery in China
a human being with inquiry and responsibility
he is an important son of Singapore
with him i wish
with the future generation i pray
with the present optimism i want
to live on this land this home this nation
my nation in pride to walk in stride
with integrity and say i do yes i do
live in a fine country and people

maju lah!

Lee Wen
3 August 2013