Saturday, September 29, 2007

Anyone notice I've been blogging on a daily basis all week?

Wonder why? It's an awful habit of mine whenever I've a big writing job due. I chain myself to the computer nightafternightafternight. And aside from necessary supper and toilet breaks, I tend to distract myself with every online resource possible - webcomics, aggregators, Youtube, pornography, blogs.

This week, my big job was finishing the first draft of the opening chapters of a book for my old secondary school, ACS (Independent). As part of the deal, I've been interviewing old boys and administrators, including...


Actually hor, he's very nice and easygoing - he's the baby brother of LKY, a family medicine practitioner still going strong at the tender age of 74. He bought us (me and English teacher Ms Kavita) tau sar biah and Coca-Cola and met us at the Pyramid Club near Goodwood and told us a whole bunch of stories, printable and unprintable, about his Chairmanship of the Board of Management and the Building Committee and whatnot.

Candid shot! (Actually, just before I took the real shot. I like imperfect poses.)

And what the hell, one more:

He gave us a lift to the main road in his car too. Having been put in touch with me via the school, he only had a vague inkling of my other work - he knew he'd seen me in the papers before, but had no idea why. He's a big Methodist, and I didn't want to alienate him before the interview, so I politely suggested it might be because I won the 24-Hour Playwriting Competition ten years ago.

Yeah, I know some of you'll say I should have queered it up in front of him and demanded he lean on his gor-gor and nephew to repeal 377A, but 1) I don't think he's of that much political influence and 2) as a paid professional copywriter, I shouldn't sabotage the book project. Maybe at the book launch at next year's Founder's Day dinner I'll jump on his back and give him a copy of SQ21. Yeah. That'd work.

Friday, September 28, 2007

For Your Reference

Since the Substation Magazine is having trouble with their archives, I've decided to use my blog to archive my reviews of Spell#7's "National Language Class" and Ho Tzu Nyen's "Utama: Every Name in History Is I" and Jeff Chouw's "6ixth". Good stuff.

Thursday, September 27, 2007


There's actually a reason why I'm not going to JB for the film fest... I have artist friends performing in the Future of Imagination Festival, and I'm gonna catch some of 'em. Singapore artists participating include Lee Wen, Lynn Lu, Khairuddin Hori and Andree Wechsler. Website here.

Below's a photo I took recently after Andree Wechsler's "Innocence 2" performance, where she herself with baby powder and then ate it and blew it out at us four times in a row.

Substation co-Director Audrey Wong and me, both wearing Khairuddin's Restitution T-shirts.

And - ah, what the hell - another photo from the Tunnel Party, of four very smart and socially activist ladies - Audrey, Tan Hui Yee, Yap Ching Wi and her sister Yap Ching Yi. (I know I don't have a chance in hell, but Hui Yee is frickin' hot!)

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Marilah kita ke JB!!!

The Freedom Film Fest in Johor Bahru is screening films related to human rights in Southeast Asia, including a number of banned Singapore films, including Royston Tan's "24 hrs", "15" and "Cut", as well as Martyn See's "Speakers Cornered".

It's on this coming weekend! Quite close to the Causeway also! Don't think I can go though... sigh.

Was alerted by Martyn See's blog.

Monday, September 24, 2007

The music videos of Mark Romanek

I've recently discovered that a number of the music videos I've admired were made by the same director. (Though I'm not really a music person, I really dig the visual poems that the music video genre is able to provide, although way too often MTV proper features lacklustre unpluggeds in a sea of adverts and reality shows).

Anyhoo, Mark Romanek - director of "One Hour Photo" - isn't just a wonderfully imaginative music video auteur - he's also an unapologetically literate one. And call me a wanker, but I lerrrrve his pomo back-references to the Masters. Consider the following works, where artists, writers and musicmakers dead and living crossbreed and fertilise the eyeballs:

Madonna's "Bedtime Story" (Bjork wrote the song!) paired with images from women surrealists Leonora Carrington, Frida Kahlo and Remedios Varo.

The Red Hot Chili Peppers'"Can't Stop", with antics inspired by Austrian performance artist/sculptor Eric Wurm.

k.d. lang's "Constant Craving", filmed against a set of Samuel Beckett's "Waiting for Godot".

Nine Inch Nails's "The Perfect Drug", featuring the live art of Edward Gorey. Also check out the Daliesque gore of their other collaboration with Romanek, "Closer".

And of course, Johnny Cash's cover of Trent Reznor's song "Hurt", the last video of his life, created when he had already been diagnosed with Shy-Drager syndrome and his Museum had recently been damaged by flooding. Video mashup meets Baroque still life/memento mori meets country meets metal. Brilliant.

There's a review of a DVD compilation of his best videos here. Not so crazy about the big-budget ones he did for the Jacksons, Audioslave and Lenny Kravitz (although it turns out "Are You Gonna Go My Way" is patterned after Fellini's "Satyricon"). Gah, and it turns out that he also did that amazing "Do Something" video with naked furries for Macy Gray, only no-one else likes it but me and it's nowhere online.

Sunday, September 23, 2007


Our run's over! And we got generally good responses! (Although the ones who couldn't quite grasp the concept didn't stick around for the talkback, so we really don't know what proportion of the audience was receptive or not.

Here's a Photobooth pic of me in my Confucianised schoolboy costume:

Sorry about the colour: I was in the dressing room and it was only 20 min to house opening by then. More photos at the VISTA blog.

Feeling really good about the way we collaborate - we're all really quite unconventional artists in our fields, and we work rather well together in terms of exchanging ideas and being willing to interpret each others' art forms. Ich bin ein Interdisciplinarian, already. :D

Next workshop's in early October, in prep for a further presentation in December. I also get my first paycheck at the end of the month (I know! We get paid to experiment! Gnarly, huh?)

Friday, September 21, 2007

V.I.S.T.A Lab 1.0: IMPETUS

An installation/performance by Choy Ka Fai, Zulkifle Mahmod, Ng Yi-Sheng, Torrance Goh/FARMWORK, Patricia Toh and Joavien Ng

Haven't really splashed it around yet, but I'm part of an interdisciplinary art collective now under Theatreworks. We've been collaborating on a performance piece about history/memory of Singapore in the 1980s, and that's going up on Friday and Saturday night - 21 and 22 September - at the Theatreworks home, 72-13.

V.I.S.T.A stands for Visual.Interactive.Sound.Text.Architecture, and I'm especially lucky to be chosen to participate because the director/curator/multimediarian Choy Ka Fai rarely works with text. He said he chose me because he knows I won't write a conventional scripted play - in other words, I've been chosen because I'm a bad playwright. :D (The truth is, most of the writing I've done for this show comes closer to poetry than drama.)

The other collaborating creatives are Zulkifie Mahmod (Sound Artist), Torrance Goh/FARMWORK (Architect/Set Designer), Patricia Toh (Actress/Performer), Joavien Ng (Choreographer/Performer), Mohd Fared Jainal (Graphic Designer) and Andy Lim (Lighting Designer). For our next installment we should be joined by Khoo Eng Tat (Interaction Engineer/Designer), Lim Hock Siang (Musician) and Grace Tan/Kwodrent (Clothing Designer).

Here's the brief:

Conceived and created by Ka Fai, V.I.S.T.A Lab is a series of workshops that encourage interaction among the collaborating artists, who each produces unconventional works in their respective fields. Besides IMPETUS, two other productions under V.I.S.T.A Lab will be staged in December 2007 and February 2008.

Date : 21, 22 September 2007
Time : 8pm
Venue : 72-13 Mohamed Sultan Rd (located next to The Pier) Singapore 239007
Admission: $5

To book seats, ring: 6737 7213 or email :


(being a performance poem from Impetus, to be presented in garbled form)

Build language.
Build happiness.
Build language of religion.
Build people of religion.
Build the languaage of

Build religion
And nation
Build religion and society.
A society of people.
One nation, one progress.
Build religion and the language
of the democratic society.
Build happiness:
Our democratic religion.

The people of one religion of our society
build society of one religion on our society -
one nation based on people of our nation of our people
build a language, build a democratic language; our society as

We build,
We progress,
We race,
We progress,

We race united citizens of happiness, we

The people achieve ourselves, so as to
build religion!
The nation, we the nation, we the
democratic justice!
And equality for people
And for justice for religion,
We the people, for citizens of ourselves -

We pledge ourselves one united people for religion.
We pledge our nation to our language, one race united
We pledge ourselves to religion,
Pledge our nation to religion
Pledge the citizens, pledge society, happiness to religion -

Regardless of race, language or society
Regardless of nation, regardless of prosperity
Regardless of equality, based on democratic happiness
Regardless of justice


We, the citizens pledge ourselves as one united,
build a democratic society based on justice and religion,
So as to achieve race or language our prosperity based on people
On our nation as a race to build to progress to equality









Regardless of our democratic society.

One nation.
One religion.
Our happiness.

We the citizens
Of regardless.
We the citizens
of religion
of one.

We the citizens pledge so as to achieve prosperity.
To progress.
To democratic society.

The religion regardless.
The society regardless.

The happiness
of the people.

The language
of one.

re: Impetus. GAH

National Archives refused to give us permission to use Teh Cheang Wan's photos in our performance. Also, MDA has refused to approve my rhythmic poem using only the words of the Singapore pledge based on late submission.

Very, very upset. It's definitely not funny anymore.

(Clarification: MDA refused to approve the pledge poem because we submitted it late, not because of content. Wouldn't even look at it. Still, it turned out for the best - I performed it gripping a pen between my teeth to garble the words, and that heightened the violence of it.)

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Misgivings - a short film by the Video Renegades

See more of their work here:

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Oh noes!!! I kena censorized agen!!!

MDA contacted Theatreworks and asked for us to remove one line of my Confucian timeline poem/monologue from our "Impetus" performance.

The line cryptically referenced the 1982 death of Wong Ming Yang - Lee Hsien Loong's first wife, who had a fatal heart attack 3 weeks after giving birth to their albino son Lee Yi Peng. (Hey, I printed the official version - I never even mentioned the rumours of what kind of pressure caused the heart attack.)

Mood: grumpy.

Monday, September 17, 2007

It's Ramadan.

These shots were actually taken before Ramadan, in Geylang, where my Arabic classes are taught. Were taught. We're taking a break between basic and intermediate level.

Friday, September 14, 2007

I am the dictionary definition of overcommitment.

I don't know how exactly I ended up getting involved in so many... odd projects and activities. In the last coupla weeks, I've been:

1. Studying for my Arabic exam at Jamiyah business school:

(The hawker centre near the Muslim converts' association has very good duck porridge).

2. Rehearsing for Impetus, the first production by art collective V.I.S.T.A (more on that later)

3. Doing nude modelling for a life drawing class at NTU:

(Someone drew a smiley-face!)

4. Babysitting my niece Kimberlyn.

(I actually took her to the Museums, but because of upload problems I'll just show this monstrous Care Bear dance that was going on at Compassvale Point. Gawd, isn't it hideous how animated figures are small and talkative on screen and then huge and mute in meatspace?)

5. Attending my capoeira batizado workshop.

6. Meeting ACS (I) administrators and old boys regarding a commemorative book I'm doing for them

7. Eating frogs' legs porridge and sting ray with my parents in Geylang (which is not so strange unless you have parents who love to ogle the sex shops together. Also, I don't think I've walked through the colossal noise and richness of it before... phonecards being hawked in Mandarin and Tamil, old men spitting in the street, giant plaster models of crayfish hanging from the doorframes... the sex workers are the least of it. Great food, btw.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Flemish Blemish

A really goofy phonetic translation of a kids' song from Belgium. Enjoy!

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Friday, September 07, 2007

ROJAK 09!!!!

Like I said, Torrance and Willie from invited me to design the invite for Rojak 09. And here it is:
The design's based on Chua Mia Tee's "National Language Class", of course. The event'll be held at the Central Green Patch of the new LaSalle campus, with socialising from 8pm and presentations from 9pm till late. Bring drinks!

And since we're at it, I'll show you some of the other pastiche designs they turned down:
Based on Raphael's "The School of Athens" (with Leonardo and Diogenes as our interlocutors).
Based on Rembrandt's "The Anatomy Lesson of Nicholaes Van Tulp". I liked this one best, personally.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

National Language Class

Hey guys. A brief history of my misappropriation of Chua Mia Tee's 1959 oil painting, National Language Class.

I was approached by Torrance Goh of to design an invitation for Rojak 9 (in spite of the fact that I'm not a card-carrying artist or designer. I decided to borrow from a few real artists (as well as bucking the photographic and cartoon genre of the previous Rojak invites) by using National Language Class as a basis for my advert.

It's a social realist painting of Chinese Singaporeans studying Malay in preparation for their new role as citizens of an independent Malaya. Spell #7's done a dramatic interpretation of it, P-10 and Koh Nguang How used it as the impetus for their conceptual art series "Errata". I found the image through Google Images, added a few cartoonish lahdidahs, and showed them to Torrance and Willie. So far so good.

But I knew I'd have to approach Singapore Art Museum to officially request legal use of the image. Thankfully, my request ended up the hands of the young and very generous Seng Yu-Jin, who's just curated a great little gallery show called "From Words to Pictures: Art of the Emergency 1949-1960" about this very period of Singapore art and its place in politics. He invited me down for the curatour the very same day he received the request.

(Yes, that's National Language Class just behind Patricia Goh's shoulder.)

Y'see, Yu-Jin had watched "Georgette", and he's studied Lichtenstein, so he was rather amicable to my pomo machinations on early Singapore art. He did, however, believe I should approach the artist himself. And although Chua Mia Tee was once a prominent member of the socialist-linked Equator Art Society, he's now the court painter for the PAP - he's done glory-hallelujah paintings of Lee Kuan Yew and all six of our Presidents, and his work's terribly commercially collectable

So he's got a nice swank bungalow where he lives and paints with his wife, floral painter Lee Boon Ngan. And that's where Willie and I went on Monday, to ask him permission to use the painting.

It was like walking on eggs - me pulling off the stammering-humble-good-kid routine, Willie explaining everything in biaozhun huayu about the unimpeachable projects of, before getting round to my explanation of why I was using his painting in connection in ka-tong-pian style. He wasn't too happy about this - he said that his piece was "yuan lai hen yan su" and I agreed that my design was "wan pi" but that was the whole point of a younger perspective - we have to pay homage through our silliness.

And eventually, Mr Chua told us, "da shuan shi ke yi."

And we breathed and drank our milky coffee, and he showed us around his living room. He pointed out his wood carvings from Zambia, the prints he sells with oil brush textures added because the originals are just too expensive for collectors, his design on the old two-dollar bills and his koi paintings - people were doing knockoffs of his koi, so he started drawing hungry, angry koi in turbulent water, gaping and shutting their mouths to break the surface. No-one else does that. It's become his signature.

Willie was marvelling at how hard it must have been to learn to paint water. Mr Chua told us it was all a matter of studying and practice - he told us about the old days, when they channeled all their energy into focussing on their technique and polishing it till it shone - and how today, all of us young people want everything to be done fast, efficient, and clever.

Guk. I'm guilty as charged. Things like "Lee Low Tar", they're written with wit because I don't have the craft.

Anyway, Mr Chua gave both of us copies of this book from one of his recent exhibitions.

I'll have to post him a copy of "last boy" - I figure he'll find it less suspect than "SQ21".

He also told us a bit of trivia about National Language Class - how it was done within a week, 10 hours at the easel a day, and how when S. Rajaratnam saw it at the show and said he liked it, the young Mr Chua just *gave* him the painting, like that. I should have that sense of charity. I should.

Btw, it's just been confirmed - Rojak 9 will take place at the new LaSalle building, on the green, from 8pm onwards on Saturday 15 September. Be there!

Tuesday, September 04, 2007


I dreamt I had a ghost-wedding
to a man with the face of an antelope.
I woke up and the cat was riding my butt.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

I Am the Biggest Blurfuck Ever

On Friday morning I lost my mobile phone in the bus. (Strangely enough, although I checked with the bus company and home before cancelling, I didn't think of *calling* the number to see if someone who'd picked it up might answer...)

Saturday night I get a replacement SIMcard. The Hello shop guy tells me the SIMcard will only get activated tomorrow.

Ten minutes ago, a friend instant messages me to check if I'm okay.

It turns out I missed one of my best friend's weddings because I thought it was in December instead of September. Everyone's been trying to call me to find out where I am since the church service in the morning.

GAAAAAAAHHHHHH!!!! How can I make up for a blur fuckup like that? Plus, it was going to be the first wedding of a friend my age I'd attend - not too many of my friends can actually *get* married.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

August Texts

17 books in a 31-day month. Decent speed considering that I was busy with IndigNation for most the month... as well as a bunch of other research projects.

Incidentally, I really would check out the Singapore Art Museum's two new displays - curator Seng Yu Jin's got a great little gallery that looks at both the Singapore Art Society and the Equator Art Society in the light of the anti-colonial upheavals of the '50s, and the UOB Paintings of the Year are, while of uneven standard, rather charmingly arranged in a new niche gallery on the 3rd level.

+Davis McCombs's “Ultima Thule”
+Anne Carson's "Men in the Off Hours"
+Jacob Sam-La Rose's "Communion"

+Neal Stephenson's “The Diamond Age”
+Anita Desai's “The Zigzag Way”
+John Steinbeck's "Of Mice and Men"
+Jeanette Winterson's “Weight”

+Sarah Kane's “Complete Plays”
Stella Kon's "A Breeding Pair"

Anglo-Chinese School's “Hearts, Hopes and Aims” and “On His Wings”
T K Sabapathy's “Configuring the Body: Form and Tenor in Ng Eng Teng”
Constance Sheares's “Bodies Transformed: Ng Eng Teng in the Nineties”
+Judith Helmer and Florian Malzacher's “Not Even a Game Anymore: The Theatre of Forced Entertainment”
Confucius's "Analects" (reread)
+Ding Wangdao's “Understanding Confucius”
+The Promote Mandarin Council's “Huaren.Huayu.Huawen”/“Mandarin: The Chinese Connection”
+Chua Beng-Huat's "Communitarian Ideology and Democracy in Singapore"

Toy Factory's “Big Fool Lee”
+Jochen Roller's "perform performing"
+Action Theatre's "Hitting on Women"
+The Theatre Practice's “If There're Seasons”
Action Theatre's "Real Men, Fake Orgasms"

+Tan Pin Pin's "Invisible City"
+Royston Tan's "881"
+Adam Shankman's "Hairspray"
Rajendra Gour's "Labour of Love: the Housewife", "My Child, My Child", +"Eyes" and +"Sunshine - Singapore"
+Brad Bird and Jan Pinkava's “Ratatouille”

+IndigNation's “Idiosyncrasies”
NAC's "Singapore Art Exhibition"
Ming Wong, Lynn Lu and +Ho Tzu Nyen's "Word of Mouth: Curating Lab"
Victoria Dunn's "Now”
+Singapore Art Museum's ”From Words to Pictures: Art of the Emergency”
+Singapore Art Museum's “The Best of UOB”