Archive for the ‘09 the arts II’ Category


Slightly more than a year ago, when The Arts I was published, guest editor Tan Tarn How noted that he solicited critical reflections on the connections between the arts and culture on the one hand, and society and politics on the other hand in Singapore at the present and in the past. It had taken us longer than expected to present The Arts II, the continuation of Tarn How’s efforts, which included working closely with the authors to finesse their thoughts and writing. The delay however, has enabled us to invite Teo Soh Lung to publish the sketches that she did while in detention, and the notes that she has written in retrospect to accompany them, drawn from her recollections as narrated in her book Beyond the Blue Gate: Recollections of a Political Prisoner (2010). We’ve also managed to be somewhat up-to-date, with observations made by Richard Chua on the Singapore Biennale 2011.


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Sketches from Prison

Teo Soh Lung

Lizard scratching its ear. It is kind of funny to see this lizard using its hind leg to scratch its ear! It was the first time in my life seeing this and I was very amused!


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Robert Yeo

This is a personal essay to remember and chart my experience as a writer in the context of Singapore’s development, during the decade 1970-79, from cultural desert to global city.

I will try to make connexions and generalizations which will, I hope, not seem too sweeping. “Only connect,” wrote E.M. Forster, and that is what I will do. If these connexions appear arbitrary and forced, perhaps they will have a force fuelled by instinct about where the arts in Singapore in the seventies were swinging into. (more…)

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Alvin Pang

Some months ago I was given the opportunity to curate an anthology of contemporary writing from Singapore. The result was a selection from thirty-nine living Singaporean writers spanning multiple genres working in the four major literary languages (Chinese, English, Malay, Tamil) in use today. (more…)

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A Tribute by Chng Seok Tin

Translated by Karen Goh and Teng Siao See

First published in 方修印象记 (Impressions of Fang Xiu), 2005

I was acquainted with Mr Fang Xiu. He was an unassuming but knowledgeable and amiable elder. Those who were not familiar with him could have easily dismissed him as an idling senior citizen if they encountered him seated at the void decks. (more…)

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Richard Chua

The late Singapore theatre practitioner William Teo served tea to audience members in every evening performance. Kuo Pao Kun used to stand at the front of house of his theatre productions greeting and giving out programme booklets to audience members. (more…)

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John Low

The legitimacy, rationality, psychology, technical expertise, training, education and history of the artist-person; in effect, everything that marks him out as an individual professional with a right to his own stakes and claims in society is, with one fell swoop, cast off on to the rubbish heap of irrelevance. Is it really any wonder then that it is the artist, always the artist, and particularly the artist engaged in the practice of contemporary art, who must end up accommodating society; and why the arts in Singapore will never be anything more than the icing on the national cake? The first and fundamental question that must be answered is this: Does the government really want Singapore artists to do anything other than produce the sweets?

— Thirunalan Sasitharan, “The Arts: Of Swords, Harnesses and Blinkers”, in State-Society Relations in Singapore, ed. Gillian Koh and Ooi Giok Ling (Institute of Policy Studies and Oxford University Press, 2000), p. 138.

In surveying the development of contemporary visual art practices in Singapore today, one question among many dominates. Has our recent historical past occasioned an awareness of the power of visual imageries, its potency as substantially representative of diverse social, economical, political and philosophical ideologies to motivate societal resentments, awaken perceptive political sensibilities against governmental powers, disrupt the prevalent state-social relations still regarded in Singapore today as necessary to safeguard against unregulated authorship, ostentatious display, and media circulation? (more…)

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Isabel Ching

First published in Cheo Chai-Hiang, The Story of Money, 2010, catalogue

The Story of Money shows in Hong Kong with adjustments to the exhibition hall as specified by the artist. A frontal wall has been built such that one can only enter via its central opening. Flanking the entryway on each side is the Chinese character 當 (more…)

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Gwee Li Sui

There is a case to be made for a literary impression that adaptation is the most difficult sub-genre in the field of comics. Any attempt to give Dave Chua and Koh Hong Teng’s Gone Case: A Graphic Novel its proper critical evaluation does well to keep this point in mind. (more…)

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Review: Singapura Uber Alles

Joseph Tham

X’Ho, Singapura Uber Alles, Warner Music, 2010.

This might just be the album I have been waiting for X’Ho (previously known as Chris Ho) to make. From the very title, Singapura Uber Alles, a double entendre of a line from the German national anthem associated with its Nazi past (more…)

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