Thursday, November 1, 2007
Fete Officielle de l'Ouverture
Party's over for tonight... strange affair, really. We began by communing over satay and prata with vegetable curry at $5 a pop, then got ushered indoors for a speech by KS, introducing the artists (selected because they are artists
1) whom Singapore should definitely get round to witnessing,
2) whom he just plain likes.)
Then DJ Spooky started spinnning, and what should have happened was that everyone should have got down on the floor and started boogieing till the cows came home. But
1) it was three hours before midnight (which was three hours too early),
2) no-one was tipsy enough to be over his inhibitions yet
3) everyone over the age of 40 was unnerved by the sudden loud music,
4) everyone below the age of 40 was dying for a fag,
and we all thought we could all just talk and eat for a bit before going inside later at night. Unfortunate idea - in the end only three faithful musicos stayed in the room, so Paul decided to put on some prerecorded music and skip out to chow down with the crowd.
Very cocktail party atmosphere in the end - I'd been hoping for a more presentation-heavy opening, but opening parties seem by necessity to be about schmoozing rather than art appreciation itself.
Jun Nguyen-Hatsushiba got a pretty good reception for his Memorial Project Nha Trang, though - the famous video from the Yokohama Triennale with underwater fisherman slowly pushing pedicabs along the ocean floor.
Keng Sen and the rest of us got into a little wine-sodden discussion at 1am on the beanbags over the idea that beauty might remain the most important entryway into even contemporary art. Me, I took issue with the neo-exoticist-activist way the disenfranchised fishermen/pedicab drivers were being depicted in the film, till I thought about the universal humanity of the rise and fall of the fisher boys as they gasped for breath - it's not "they are underwater", it's "we are underwater", I said.
The point of the evening in the end - the point of the day, the point of the Project itself - was about talking, sharing ideas, getting somewhere beyond small talk. D J Spooky/Paul ended up telling me how he got his name: he was studying French literature and philosophy and in college and he started arguing with his prof about Freud's notion of the Unheimlich; what is uncanny anymore he said now that people are watching ethereal moving images all the time on their TV screens? Life has become - wait for it - spooky.
The art world is without music. It's very boring, he said at the opening of the night. What happens when the 20th century looks back and realises you can play with the archive? He's interested in records/recording, this man; of music as information; dematerialisation of social context. Which is why he makes works like Rebirth of a Nation, mashing up D.W. Griffith's Birth of a Nation will Bill T. Jones and his own live music. He speaks in quotable quotes because he used to write for advertising; good money, he tells me. He was going to be a diplomat but somehow DJing and art got in the way.
Somehow we all ended up gabbing about love and war: family and history: Katarina told me about how Sweden's economy took off after World War II because they'd stayed neutral while every other Scandinavian state got invaded by the Nazis and had its factories destroyed; Michiru persuaded me to tell stories of the Japanese Occupation and how his countrymen Sook Chinged and bananamoneyed and comfortwomaned the denizens of 1940s Singapore and cut off their heads and stuck them on pikes from the top storey of Capitol Cinema. And of course in the background of everything there's the Vietnam War: a transformative event for Vietnam America Singapore Southeast Asia The World, which is why we're going to Ho Chi Minh City directly to query the past.