LEAVES

we walk alone together

Category: Uncategorized

After Cyril Wong

At your touch I fold into half
And become a plain through which

Both of us might run. In bed,
When we have loved and lost

I sing you a Joni Mitchell song.
Those moments render themselves

Perfectly to the reader, an origami
With every fold precise, sequence

Immediately obvious. There is no
Boat here. As we wrap into each other

Our fear of forgetting triggers
The camera click, enshrining us

In this memory already not ours.

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the sound is growing, let us listen, let us speak

I am relieved. I am relieved that we are finally talking publicly, loudly, messily about race in Singapore. It is bringing out the worst in people, yes, but we are finally opening up conversations we need to have.

We have technically talked about race before, but I don’t feel it’s ever been on such a scale, with such climbing awareness and courage. We are moving slowly past comfortable ignorance into a state of heated debate. People are shifting somehow, even those who stamp their feet and refuse to listen.

It is not a great thing – these mounting years of unacknowledged privilege, discrimination in insiduous and comedic forms, vulnerable people told to “take a joke, you’re so emotional”. Depressingly, we’re finally talking about it because the privileged people have woken, many unwilling to acknowledge just how much race and class divide us in Singapore. Many scornful and indignant. But we are talking. We’re yelling at one another in the open, in multiple conversations, and I feel like a weird bubble has finally burst. As much as I hope we soon reach a state of greater listening and kindness in our Facebook arguments and coffeeshop debates – this is good, I think. I might be too relieved.

I think I am primarily happy because the thing I’ve most feared and most resented in Singapore has been the apathy. We have been sleeping for so long, and it’s terrified me to no end. Perhaps this is how we begin, and maybe through all these tiny-big jolts we will transition into a nation more active, awake and aware.

To the people who have been willing to listen and articulate yourselves with generosity and openness – thank you so much! You have been part of a waking wave for Singapore and I am emotionally and spiritually indebted to you. Thank you for having the courage to speak even as people like me, afraid and passive, wary and weary, held back. Thank you for opening up conversations and creating space in which dissent is possible and people can be generous enough to apologize for ignorance, insensitivity and cruelty. And this extends beyond Singapore – because meeting politically-active students here in the UK has allowed me to grow more than I ever thought I would.

Although in those moments I am ashamed and often defensive (something to work on), I am relieved to be called out when I say insensitive things. I am relieved that people are willing to debate. I am relieved that I now have the nerve to apply my knowledge and eloquence (when it emerges) against discrimination. To everything and everyone who has grown me from a wee frightened human into someone who will use her voice – thank you!!!!!!!! I will keep on going on, and grow and learn and make and do.

I recognize that my relief is the particular shade it is because of my privilege as a part of the Chinese majority. And…I don’t know. I don’t quite know yet what to do with that knowledge, that strange self-hatred. I feel I must have done some terrible things. I, in my ignorance, have been part of the problem for so long, and I want to ‘make things right’. I want to ‘make it okay’. I feel misplaced and ashamed for daring to feel misplaced when all I’ve had is a blessed, fortunate life.

I refer here to the only sort of answer I’ve found so far:

I will have in an undergraduate class, let’s say, a young, white male student, politically-correct, who will say: ‘I am only a bourgeois white male, I can’t speak.’ In that situation – it’s peculiar, because I am in the position of power and their teacher and, on the other hand, I am not a bourgeois white male – I say to them: ‘Why not develop a certain degree of rage against the history that has written such an abject script for you that you are silenced?’ Then you begin to investigate what it is that silences you, rather than take this very deterministic position – since my skin colour is this, since my sex is this, I cannot speak.

— Gayatri Spivak

I will keep reading, keep talking, and learn to listen better. I know I sound fluffy and stupidly hopeful and optimistic very often and I can’t imagine how people still read the things I write but. I am. I am determined, and I am hopeful, and that’s just how I want to/can carry on.

I’ve never been a nationalistic sort of person, but. Right now I low-key love my country for growing, even as I resent it for it’s persistent small-mindedness. SINGAPORE LET’S GOOOOOO WE CAN DO BETTER !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

arts & money & what now

“I have a theory that if one wishes to gauge the general health of a society, contemporary or historical, one can take the pulse of the society, like a Chinese doctor does to gauge his patient’s qi, through the current condition of the theatre. The state of the theatre will tell you many things about the state of the society as a whole.”

— Stan Lai

“I believe that you can make art with very little money if there is a desire. But there is very little desire in Singapore. So, whenever I hear an artist saying, “well if I get this grant, I’ll do it”. For me that’s not a true passion, it’s not a true desire. I’m completely with this belief that Singaporeans have no desire and we are really machines working. And we are wound up in a certain way. I think for example, the arts in Singapore has a hard time because people want to just see the arts as somewhere to relax. But it cannot be. The arts is meant to be provocative, the arts is talking about issues in society.”

— Ong Keng Sen

Should it be this difficult to be an artist? What does it mean when so few of the public visit museums, theatres, galleries? Why is there so little money to go around? What is the state of the arts in Singapore?

I find it deeply frustrating when people say “there is no money in the arts”. It’s not a good enough statement to stop at. I want to press: “Why? Why isn’t there? What about the people making their livelihoods in the arts? What about the people who want to be artists?”

I can’t help but feel there must be money to go around – but where is it? There must be some way to pull funding together. There must be a way, in a society with as much money as ours, to feed the poor, house the homeless, care for all who are sick, and for the arts to thrive. For art to be reinstated as a public good, a public joy, a public need.

I’ve never been much good with deconstructing so many intersecting issues in a single breath (money, education, public funds, the place of arts in society, class, etc.), so I will probably mull a little longer; maybe I will write another post when I have clearer thoughts and more mental energy to articulate an analysis coherently.

With regards to possible initiatives, however, I see two possibilities in my mind (which aren’t the only ones, but they’re the ones I am fixated on right now):

1.

Setting up a(nother?) Big Fund which can be applied for annually or biannually by contacting and bringing together various corporate sponsors and art patrons. I feel Singapore still lacks sufficient avenues for new groups to acquire necessary funding to move forward. It can’t be that as a new group I pretty much only have the National Arts Council to look to, I feel. I am quite keen on somehow making this happen. I don’t know how.

2.

Establishing a less intimidating means for the public to donate to the arts. A simple platform where people can donate, say, $2-$5 a month to the arts. If there was some way to make this fuss-free and not intimidating, maybe this could help fund a small project every month.

(Slightly secondary to what I’m focusing on above, I think it would be cool if there were an alternative educational institute where anyone who wanted to be trained could take a course where they would take classes by all the various arts practitioners in Singapore. Or some organization which somehow wrote to arts groups and set up a running cycle of courses, ad hoc classes, etc. I feel like there are already similar organizations but I’m wonder if there can be a more effective sort of….epicentre.)

To the wiser and more informed people out there – what do you think? Are these ideas misplaced? Feasible? Silly? I’m keen on trying to make the fund happen, but I don’t know. When I first thought of these things I felt very full and energetic and hopeful and eager to work hard but now I feel a little. scared. and uncertain. Any suggestions, ideas or feedback would be useful and deeply appreciated! Truly.

lorde: ‘life as new baby adult’

 

edit

i’ve come back to say that that’s what i want to be — sure of what my vision is, what it means, where it must go. i want to be conscious and alive and chill and at ease with where i am in the world, in my life

and then what will it matter then, how good i am? what will it matter what people think of me and my art and my personality and i won’t feel so small so often

that’s what i think

i am afraid of never making art good enough, or making art that is good but incomprehensible never loved until i am dead

i am no van gogh i want to be loved while i am alive

three meditations

Meditation
Charles Baudelaire translated by David Yezzi

Take it easy, Sadness. Settle down.
You asked for evening. Now, it’s come. It’s here.
A choking fog has blanketed the town,
infecting some with calm, the rest with fear.

While the squalid throng of mortals feels the sting
of heartless pleasure swinging its barbed knout
and finds remorse in slavish partying,
take my hand, Sorrow. I will lead you out,

away from them. Look as the dead years lurch,
in tattered clothes, from heaven’s balconies.
From the depths, regret emerges with a grin.

The spent sun passes out beneath an arch,
and, shroudlike, stretched from the antipodes,
—hear it, O hear, love!—soft night marches in.

*

Recueillement

Sois sage, ô ma Douleur, et tiens-toi plus tranquille.
Tu réclamais le Soir; il descend; le voici:
Une atmosphère obscure enveloppe la ville,
Aux uns portant la paix, aux autres le souci.

Pendant que des mortels la multitude vile,
Sous le fouet du Plaisir, ce bourreau sans merci,
Va cueillir des remords dans la fête servile,
Ma Douleur, donne-moi la main; viens par ici,

Loin d’eux. Vois se pencher les défuntes Années,
Sur les balcons du ciel, en robes surannées;
Surgir du fond des eaux le Regret souriant;

Le soleil moribond s’endormir sous une arche,
Et, comme un long linceul traînant à l’Orient,
Entends, ma chère, entends la douce Nuit qui marche.

Meditation
David St. John

after Baudelaire

Quiet now, sorrow; relax. Calm down, fear …
You wanted the night? It’s falling, here,
Like a black glove onto the city,
Giving a few some peace … but not me.

I think, well, almost everyone I know
Loves to be whipped by pleasure—right, Killer?—
As they stroll the boardwalk, parading their despair.
So why don’t you come too? But instead, with me,

Away from all these tattered ghosts leaning off
The sky’s balcony like last year’s lovers;
We’ll watch everything we regret step from the sea

Dripping … while the dead sun drags its arc
Towards China. Shroud of my heart, listen. Listen—
How softly the night steps toward us.

the last one, Meditation on a Grapefruit, is here.

édouard louis, where do I go from here?

http://lithub.com/edouard-louis-on-class-violence-and-literature-as-a-space-of-resistance/

Édouard Louis. Ed-dwa Loo-ee. That’s what Google offered as the pronunciation of his name. (I hope it’s right; I hate getting names wrong.) What a beautiful name.

But me—with my story—in front of the computer, I felt ashamed of writing fiction. For the people of my childhood, of this lower working class that I describe, we had this very strong feeling of being invisible. My mother would always say No one talks about us. No one cares about us. We would open the newspapers, turn on the TV, listen to the radio, but we would never hear about our lives, our suffering, exclusion, and poverty. That’s a reason I started to write.

I’ve always wanted to write the truth. It doesn’t matter if it’s fiction or non-fiction. Neither is necessarily true, or false. I want the truth. Unlike Édouard Louis, though, I wonder what sort of truth I might offer. I write from places of pain, and my pains, I feel, are personal. They are universal, but they are personal, small, nothing about representing a whole community of people. How to place the value of my work in a world which places value on everything? I am proud of my writing, possibly too proud. I don’t know how to understand the economics of literature.

The writer Pierre Bergounioux says that one of the biggest differences between powerful and powerless people is that powerful people exist twice over. They have the life of the body, when they eat, when they walk down the street, when they make love—and then they have another life in the world of representation. They see their life on TV, in The New York Times or Le Monde, or in literature. But everyone deserves this second life, you know?

Maybe I could offer something about my people. But who are my people? I don’t see myself as a categorized being. People do that to me, but that’s not how I see myself, not how I live. I identify as certain things, but for me they are fluid terms: ChineseSingaporeanartistwriter. What do any of these things mean? I could be anything.

I am a very privileged person. I belong to the ethnic majority of my country, I am cis-gendered, I know two languages (both of which are some of the most commonly spoken ones in the world), I have never had to worry about money, I’ve been able to spend outside of necessary things. I am intelligent, I’ve had access to a rigourous, competitive education, I am physically able. I might be a woman, and I might not be white or heterosexual (I don’t identify as anything, I just love people), but I’ve been able to have most things. I got to taking a fricking year off to do internships, run around, find myself. I’ve been able to choose a degree I want to do.

Even though I face bouts of racism now – what a privilege it has been to only meet with racism at twenty years old. What a privilege it is to be in a community that will not assault, arrest and imprison me for being who I am. What a privilege it is to know my privilege. I have been mollycoddled.

I have gone off track. This was supposed to be reflections on the article about Édouard Louis and his book, The End of Eddy. I suppose it still is.

**

[I]s it possible to write a book that doesn’t reproduce the border between the powerful and the powerless, between the people who have access to literature and the people who don’t?

I love reading and writing, and I’ve always wanted to create work that transcends and brings people closer together. But what if the medium obscures the message? How do I tell truth that is accessible, vivid and powerful? This is probably made worse by my desire to produce challenging, experimental work, both in writing and performance. What do I do with this desire, this urge that propels me so definitely and forcefully? Is this the language with which I will speak?

I forget that a person can speak more than one language. There are many more I must learn, then. I will hustle on! And I think I must take back what I said about being normal, average, without anything important to tell. I have many stories bursting from my body. And I think some of them might offer something real to someone else. So I will write. As fearlessly as I can. There is much I want to say, and I find speaking verbally distressing and incomplete. I would rather write to or move with you.

If you have read/watched things I’ve written or made, thank you. I hope that when I next have something to offer, you’ll be willing to take a leap of faith on me again.

And dear Édouard Louis – thank you for your words.

questionable vlogs

some attempts which aren’t great but i’m still proud of
it takes so much from me to share myself now, and i think that’s a little sad
i used to be very easy with vulnerability

Processed with VSCO

Failing and Flying
Jack Gilbert

Everyone forgets that Icarus also flew.
It’s the same when love comes to an end,
or the marriage fails and people say
they knew it was a mistake, that everybody
said it would never work. That she was
old enough to know better. But anything
worth doing is worth doing badly.
Like being there by that summer ocean
on the other side of the island while
love was fading out of her, the stars
burning so extravagantly those nights that
anyone could tell you they would never last.
Every morning she was asleep in my bed
like a visitation, the gentleness in her
like antelope standing in the dawn mist.
Each afternoon I watched her coming back
through the hot stony field after swimming,
the sea light behind her and the huge sky
on the other side of that. Listened to her
while we ate lunch. How can they say
the marriage failed? Like the people who
came back from Provence (when it was Provence)
and said it was pretty but the food was greasy.
I believe Icarus was not failing as he fell,
but just coming to the end of his triumph.

23/03

It is a dream to move out of image-saturated spaces. I want to share images, the ones I find important, or meaningful, or beautiful. I don’t want to consume careless ones, especially the ones that repeat until everyone looks the same and faceless. There is very little uniqueness or creativity to be found on Instagram. I do not mean that I am. I might think I am but really am not at all. As much as I love and am proud of my work I don’t want to make assumptions.

Perhaps this will work as an alternative space. A selfish space where I get to give and not have to take. I could be more alive, I could find myself finally, this way.