Sunday, July 31, 2011

Texts July 2011

I'm flying to Kuching today! Given that I probably won't finish any other texts in the next 24 hours, here's the run-down for the month:

+Jean-Joseph Rabearivelo’s “24 Poems”
=Theophilus Kwek’s “They Only Speak Our Mother Tongue”
=“Fifty on 50”, eds. Edwin Thumboo, Chia Hwee Pheng, Isa Kamari and K.T.M. Iqbal
+Koh Jee Leong’s “Seven Studies for a Self-Portrait”

+Shamini Flint’s “The Seeds of Time”
+JMG Le Clézio’s “The Prospector”

=Soeuf Elbadawi’s “Moroni Blues”

Michael Steane’s “The Last Colony: An Experience of Réunion Island”
+Stephen King’s “On Writing”

+“Ceriph: Issue Zero”, ed. Hans Wong-Jensen and Wei Fen Lee

+Matthew Vaughn’s “X-Men: First Class”

+Fantastic Entertainment’s “Beauty Kings”
+Queensland Academie of Creative Industries’s “Drowning Ophelia”
=Pentas’s “3 Wajah”
+Nederlands Dans Theater’s “Mémoires d’Oubliettes/Sehnsucht”
+Lit Up’s “The City Limits” (yeah I was IN IT!!!)
=Actors Studio Singapore’s “Food, Sex and Death”

=Singapore Art Museum and Centre Pompidou’s “Video: An Art, a History”
=Lit Up’s “The City Limits”
+National Art Gallery’s “Liu Kang: A Centennial Celebration”

Sunday, July 24, 2011

SPORE Art Salon 8: featuring slam poet Zuni!

I'm a little brain-dead right now, so I'll just advertise this quickly: there's a SPORE Art Salon tomorrow, only it's at THE PIGEONHOLE, a lovely little shophouse bar, instead of the normal venue.

In short:

SPORE Art Salon 8
Mon 25 July, 7pm drawing, 8pm performances
$15 entry (inclusive of food, catered by the Pigeonhole)

Directions are as follows:

From Tanjong Pagar MRT Station: EXIT A
Choon Guan Street - Wallich Street - cut through Orchid Hotel - Craig Road - 52&53 Duxton Road

From Outram Park MRT Station: EXIT G
Cantonment Road - Neil Road - Craig Road - 52&53 Duxton Road

But you want to know what's actually happening on the day itself, don't you? Well, here's the info:

SPORE Art Salon is a non-profit opportunity created for visual artists to meet, mingle, inspire, and share with performing artists. During the event, we alternate between drawing sessions with live models, and performances from musicians, contortionists, poets, dancers, actors and more. We also feature works of, and demonstrations by visual artists, individually or collaboratively.


NG YI-SHENG (featured model)

SUZANNE SUBHA CHEW (Laughter yoga artist)

Suzanne zests for continuous learning and upgrading herself has motivated her to sign up for the Certified Laughter Yoga teacher (CLYT) course. She was trained under the world renowned guru Dr. Madan Kataria and had successfully obtained a certificate on the course in January 2010 conducted in Bombay, India. She is convinced, upon completion of the CLYT course, that the world could go HOHO-HAHAHA !!! and enjoyed the cheapest way to a healthy and happy living with little and best no medication. It can also be said that laughter is the best medicine to a stressless life.

JURANE (musician)
21-year-old Jurane Solano has been singing since the age of 4 in her native country, the Philippines where she spent a part of her childhood. “Growing up, music has always been a huge part of my life, and I think it always will be.” When she migrated to Singapore, she joined and won a few singing competitions, spurring her to purse her passion in the performing arts. Her latest achievements include being the central female character in a musical ‘Paul the Musical’ staged in NUS University Cultural Centre (2009) and also lead actress in the musical ’13:34’ staged in Singapore EXPO (2010) to sold-out.

ZUNI (poet)
Metaphorically speaking, Zuni is part-lion (not lioness), part-flying whale, part-fastest mealworm in the world. Literally speaking, she is a young woman who sang before she spoke, told stories before she learnt to read, speaks with respectful intent to people and objects and is grateful to her pillows for listening to her early compositions which were altogether incomprehensible, violent and vulgar. It is most shameful that she did not discover poetry slams until she turned 19, but throughout her life she has always tried to put words in a hear-worthy order. She tells stories through spoken word or music and she does not compose fiction; everything she writes has either happened, is happening or will. There is a peace sign in her signature and it is easy to forge.

As a poet, she has stuck her toes into Blu Jazz poetry slams and Open Mics at TAPAC. As a musician, she’s performed originals at post-museum and other places with a feminist-male/partner-in-c​rime . She is currently a philosophy student who spends her time in the company of Descartes, an ever-creasing dysfunctional poet family and deathly reassuring music. She writes everyday, half of which is discarded by the evening. Please give her your opinions because she's always up for more angles to frame the English word. Also, persons without opinions simply don't care.


MELISSA TAN​tan/weixiang

Melissa is interested in the idea of the push and pull of opposites. Elements and processes that are seemingly contrasting, and discovering the harmony of the in between, that gives her work its balance. Lately, she has been exploring materials, and learning to manipulate them differently. Merging them with other mediums, allows her to incorporate fragility that harmonizes into organic forms, translating a certain dialogue between the materials to inspire a certain ethereality of the work.

The theme for her recent work is on the transience of reality. Inspired by accidental mark makings, the uncontrollability of change and the constant act of trying to control. Merging the accidental marks with her own renderings, make it difficult to differentiate the two processes, however, the delicate line works that harmonizes the piece, aims to elicit the fragile beauty of the ephemeral.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Making a Great Art Museum

So on Wednesday I attended the NHB/IPS Symposium on “Making a Great Art Museum”. And you know what? It wasn’t that great.

In retrospect, I think the event was sabotaged by the subtitle: “Contending with Southeast Asian Modernities and Art”. The panels of academics and curators didn’t spend much time talking about proposals: instead they agonised over the historiography of art: how the origins of European museums are embedded in cultures of colonialism and objectification; how we’re stuck in the hegemonic discourse of European and American modernism as the centre and all other global modernisms as the under-exhibited periphery.

But Singapore, they gushed, has the unique opportunity to present a new historical narrative of Southeast Asian modernism. We have the wealth, we have the location, and we have the total absence of pride in our own art history that would make us focus exclusively on Singaporean art (okay, they didn’t mention that last point, but it’s true).

What was missing was any sense of what this alternative narrative should look like – perhaps not surprisingly, since Southeast Asian artists began their modernisms rather independently of each other: Vietnam, Thailand, the Philippines and Indonesia all have different encounters between colonialism and revolution and innovation and aesthetics: genuine intra-ASEAN crossovers between artists didn’t start happening till the ‘90s. The speakers’ presentations on their specific fields of study didn’t provide much of an idea of how to unify things.

Yet some constructive ideas crept through the academese:

1. Expose underexposed histories.
(Prof Adrian Vickers, Director, Australian Centre for Asian Art & Archaeology, University of Sydney)

The conventional narrative is that Balinese art didn’t become “modern” until 1930s European artists like Walter Spies and Rudolph Bonnet arrived in Ubud and commissioned traditional artists to paint everyday life instead of mythic subjects. But in fact, some Balinese artists were incorporating contemporary elements into their work by the 1920s.

2. Include marginal communities.
(Dr Apinan Poshyananda, Dir-General, Dept of Cultural Promotion, Ministry of Culture, Thailand)
“Spaces must be open for voices from nomads, tribes,” he says, exposing the “cultural faultlines within nations”, from the. Acehnese to the Rohingya.

3. Work with local stakeholders
(Ms Gridithya Gaweewong, Curator and Co-founder, Project 304 & Artistic Director, Jim Thompson Art Center, Bangkok)
I.e. local artists, none of whom were actually invited to speak at this symposium. In fact, it was all curators and academics – no artists at all. Why’s that?

4. Figure out how to include transnational artists.
(Prof Nora Taylor, Alsdorf Professor, South and Southeast Asian Art History & Director, Grad Programme in Modern and Contemporary Art History, Theory and Criticism, School of the Art Institute of Chicago)
In Vietnam alone, how are you going to classify folks like Viet Q returnee Dinq Q. Le and Vietnamese-Japanese Jun Nguyen-Hatsushiba?

5. Dare to display popular culture.
(Oscar Ho Hing-Kay, Programme Ditrector, MA Programme in Cultural Management, Chinese University of Hong Kong)
Ho knows how overpopulated the museum scene is going to get: China plans to build 1,500 museums in the coming decade, more than the current number of Starbucks in the country. There’s gonna be tough competition for artefacts. Why not serve as a record of what’s happening in pop culture instead, making yourself immediately relevant and analytical of what’s happening today? (Another tip from Ho: celebrate difference, not sameness)

6. Dare to display material culture.
(Assoc Prof Flaudette May V. Datuin, Dept of Art Studies, College of Arts and Letters, University of the Philippines)
Datuin’s exhibited chamberpots, watercrafts, dresses, etc, to reflect the way average people look at history. Mind you, this is different from pop culture because it’s based on the curatorial decisions of village people, not fashion and style mavens – it’s about empowering and including local communities who don’t even think of themselves as artists.

7. Create a paratopia
(Ong Keng Sen, Artistic Director, TheatreWorks)
As part of his “If I were the Museum Director”, Ong went heavy on the jargon: mondialisation, affinities over ethnicities, a museum of empty space. But what’s at the core of his suggestion is that the museum could be centred on people as much as it is on artefacts: bring in camps and teach-ins and alternative intellectual community gatherings so you have a living space for art creation and analysis rather than just worshipping dead brown and yellow males.

… ooh, and Studio Wong Huzir's Creative Director, Huzir Sulaiman, had an “If I were the Museum Director” speech that was excellent. Besides being terribly funny, this is what he concretely recommended:

8. Don’t try and please everybody.
Given that there are multiple conflicting reasons why a person might want to visit the gallery (e.g. to learn, to show tourists around, to socialize) just focus on one.

9. Your goal should be to deliver great experiences with great works of art.
I.e. don’t pile on the history shit too deep. And definitely don’t buy bad art just for the sake of historicizing things. “There are only so many dull images of village maidens in harvest time that ne can take before one runs from the building,” he says.

10. Design your experience with your HEADS:

a) Holistic – does the exhibition feel like a coherent whole?
b) Emotional – does it make us proud to be Southeast Asians?
c) Aesthetic – does the space look beautiful even without art in it?
d) Dramaturgical – does it tell a story?
e) Semiotic – does it resonate with complex meanings?

11. Trust the art.
Huzir is uncomfortable with the slogan on the TNAGS website: “Here at The National Art Gallery of Singapore, we bring modern art to life.” To which he answers, “Dead meh?”

12. Finally, assert some political independence.
Don’t list a state-sponsored history. Undermine the chauvinistic narratives of ASEAN’s own government-issued textbooks. “Do not regurgitate the sanitized stories of tyrants and despots.”

Pretty useful, you’d think? But then Kwok Kian Chow, the actual museum director, had to give a wrapping-up speech. And here he claimed that he agreed with Huzir, and since there were so many demands to be made from different prospective viewers he had to satisfy all of them (directly contradicting Huzir’s point number 8.)

Seriously, the folks around me in the audience were horrified at this statement. Was this man being stupid (it was at the end of a looong symposium), or was he twisting Huzir’s words around, assuming we were stupid enough to believe him?

Also worrying me is what happened when I asked a question early in the symposium: what should we do, as art-loving citizens, when a museum censors work or acts unethically? The panel speakers just hemmed and hawed and regurgitated their own agendas without answering my question.

So at the end of the day, what did we learn? What makes a great art museum?

Maybe not this guy.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Phishing alert!

I just got the following e-mail, and I'm pretty sure it's a scam. Just want to make sure as many people out there know this.

from Gmail
reply-to Gmail
date Mon, Jul 11, 2011 at 11:51 PM
subject Database System Update
hide details 11:51 PM (2 minutes ago)
We are shutting down some accounts that are not presently updated on our database system and your account was authomatically choosen. We are sending you this Email to verify and let us know if you still want to use this account..

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Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Texts June 2011

Before anything else, I'm reading poetry tonight!

Carnal Stash, the House of Incest Reading
Tuesday 5 July, 730-9pm
Post-Museum, 107 Rowell Road.

Otherwise... Huh. I guess I really didn't finish a lot of books while I was travelling.

+Jack Mapanje’s “Of Chameleons and Gods”

+Mia Couto’s “The Last Flight of the Flamingo”

Richard Sampson’s “With Sword and Chain in Lusaka”
+Nelson Mandela’s “Long Walk to Freedom”

“Young Wildlife: Dawn of a New Kingdom”
+Dav Pilkey’s “The Adventures of Ook and Gluk: Kung Fu Cavemen from the Future”

+George Nolfi’s “The Adjustment Bureau”
+Orson Welles's "The Lady from Shanghai"
+Clint Eastwood’s “Invictus”
+Craig Freimond’s “Jozi”
+“30 Rock” Season 4

+David Bryan and Joe DiPietro’s “Memphis”
+Ian Rickson and Jez Butterworth’s “Jerusalem”
Teater Ekamatra’s “Pariah”
Kreativ Outbox's "LakiBini"

+Permanent exhibitions at Constitution Hill, the Hector Pieterson Museum, the Apartheid Museum, the Nelson Mandela House
Various exhibits at the Museum Africa