Thursday, August 02, 2007


For the short story that MDA banned, please click here - Alex Au's posted it on Yawning Bread.

I wrote it for the "Tall Tales and Short Stories" event on Sunday. I won't be able to read it at this point, but come anyway - Ovidia Yu will be reading from her story "Pierced Years" and I'll be giving a talk, because indoor talks do not require a licence.

"Tall Tales and Short Stories"
Organised by
Sunday, 5 August

72-13, Mohamed Sultan Road

Below is the rejection letter we received:

CC: Amy TSANG <>, Liane LOO <>,
Norsabariah TUBI <>
Subject: Arts Entertainment licence - "Tall Tales and Short Stories"
From: Veronica Vivien LOOI <>
Date: Wed, 1 Aug 2007 14:25:02 +0800

Dear Ms Chong

Your application for a story reading session, entitled "Tall Tales and Short Stories", has been approved on condition that the reading of Lee Low Tar is taken out

The content of Lee Low Tar has been disallowed as it had gone beyond good taste and decency in taking a disparaging and disrespectful view of public officers.



There's a small parallel case here of Tan Tarn How's play "The Lady of Soul and the Ultimate S-Machine", which was not permitted to be staged for some time because (among various reasons) its main character was a male civil servant who was having an affair with a male Minister-of-State.

But it's a different Singapore now. The arts scene has progressed to an extent where people (including journalists) are interested in the cases of censored work, and the Internet's technologies allow banned texts to be distributed freely (go watch Royston Tan's "Cut" on, or Martyn See's "Zahari's 17 Years" on googlevideo, or Tan Pin Pin's "Lurve Me Now" on her university's site).

And while a filmmaker or stage director will suffer large financial setbacks if his/her work is banned for screening/performance - a writer loses very little. Isn't that odd? (Authorities may now try and prove me wrong by making it difficult for me to have future works staged - maybe they'll claim "Georgette" espouses Marxist values?)

This being said, "Lee Low Tar" is an amateur piece of writing - I am not an experienced short story author, after all. And the entire setup is, on a certain level, a wanky artistic gesture, an attention-getting device (compare with the works of Lim Tzay Chuen). And it may hurt the gay movement or the socially-engaged arts community in the long run. I don't know.

But I do like how it works in testing the bureaucratic systems of censorship we have in this country - they are such strange, antiquated, self-sabotaging entities, like warthogs on Pulau Tekong, that it seems to be vital to engage with them before they go extinct (which they will, dear children, they will - someday they'll set up the artist-run system of self-appraisal based on ratings systems rather than muzzling, just like FOCAS suggested).

You see, yes, censorship is violent and stupid.

But it is possible to dance with violent and stupid people.

I gave MDA a test, and they failed it. I'm not the victim. They are.

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