Recent writings

My writings have been going elsewhere and in exchange I’ve been getting money.

Back in September, I was selected to participate in an Arts Writing Masterclass by the Cultural Economy Development Agency (CENDANA) and Akademi Seni Budaya Dan Warisan Kebangsaan (ASWARA). The masterclass began as a weekend-long event of four sessions with four different writers and journalists, and then 12 participants were selected to embark on the next phase, which is a sponsored, 5-month writing programme. Every month, I’m asked to write between 2-3 articles, each of which CENDANA-ASWARA pays me for in what I believe (I may be mistaken) is decent compensation for someone who’s writing they’re obliged to accept anyway even though many of us aren’t professional writers. It’s been going well. There are ways that I could complain, but overall I think just having deadlines set externally for me has been a good incentive for personal improvement (the problem with most writers is that they just need to get over themselves and actually write), along with having a sponsored mentor who gives you constructive feedback. You can judge the quality of the work I’ve produced so far for yourself; in order of newest to oldest:

  1. Alone in Bangkok: Ise at A+ Works of Art (Part I)
  2. Fadilah Karim’s Endless Decade
  3. Inside the Ellen Lee Collection
  4. Tale of Two Tomi’s
  5. The Theological Thorniness of Instant Café Theatre’s CMCO Nadirah
  6. Izat Arif vs. the art world
  7. Curatorial meanderings in Fergana Art’s Se{SUMPAH}
  8. Look East Gone West: Ho Rui An @ A+ Works of Art
  9. Reminders of death in Dhavinder Singh’s Tagistan

(I still have two more articles pending publication, and four more to produce as a mentee in this Masterclass. I’ll post future updates to my “other places” page.)

I’ve spent the past week like a distracted rabbit burrowing through the digital warren of Singapore Art Week 2021 in order to produce this review of some of their online art stuff. I only covered a fraction of Singapore Art Week’s digital offerings, and then an even tinier fraction of what Singapore Art Week has to offer in its entirety, including all the physical stuff. I’m telling you, if you look through their website or Instagram or booklet you might go mad. It’s just so much. I genuinely can’t imagine that half the stuff they have listed (a lot of live-streamed artist and curator talks) would have more than 10 viewers. I really don’t get it, like who is it all for. Maybe there’s a quota I’m not aware of.

This push to digitalise or virtualise art arises from a push towards “accessibility”. The idea is to make art more accessible to… “more people”. If I knew more Lacan instead of the mere froth I’ve managed to skim off third- or even fourth-hand references made by other writers and Twitter users, I would make some sort of comparison here to a Big Other whom all this is supposed to be made accessible to. Or perhaps it was for people like me, under lockdown, restricted from travelling — even though I wasn’t even thinking about SAW before I was asked to write about it. I’m just a slacker… And yet, I was the one who went through it all, and my takeaway is that it was just too much — every event had its own dedicated website (all beautifully-designed btw), its own fluently-written exhibition text, and all the artist bios were in the right places with the right formatting. So much text, damn! My brain was frizzing out; I clearly don’t know how to use the Internet like a normal person. Which of course made me wonder what a “normal person” is, and if I’m so inept at getting the hang of all this, then who is the one who’s actually adept, and who is the one who shuts their laptop feeling pleased, fulfilled, and enlightened from all they’ve learned about Singaporean contemporary art, thanks to the accessibility of the Internet? Who is this normal person who’s supposed to parse through all this in a normal manner instead of their brain frizzing out like mine, and whose experience will thereby justify the sheer volume of it all???

Anyway. Read it here: A Malaysian under lockdown reviews Singapore Art Week 2021

In the review, I propose that this is all just a marketing strategy to leave me with FO(H)MO (Fear of Having Missed Out) at all the Great Stuff that’s happening out there, despite not having managed to parse through all the Great Stuff and critically dissect whether it was all actually great or not. Forest > trees and all. Well, on that note, there is an exhibition I’ve just been made aware of that I wish I was aware of earlier: In Our Best Interests: Afro-Southeast Asian Affinities during a Cold War (“In Our Best Interests”: another very Big Other-y headline! Who’s “our”? Guess I’ll find out). Although, this looks text-heavier than anything I covered in my review, so maybe it’s best to have been unaware. With the Internet, processing time gets short-circuited.