Page 23

64 / 65

al’s outrage that no man have the right or need to treat another person in what i saw was intolerably sexist and oppressive and rudely in my opinion then was so uncool in front of guests in a welcome party. so i am sorry i was presumptuous in behaving in an equally unjustified capacity to hit a newly introduced friend in a foreign land. i say sorry from the bottom of my heart but must admit that in hindsight, if i were able to go back to that moment i might still do the same foolish act as i remember going into burma was one of the most difficult decisions to make in comparisons to all the invitations i have got. it may seem that i do these things like just any old vacation trip but nay i actually got initiated into traveling quite reluctantly as i rather lay snugly in bed with a good travel book than going on the actual road with its inherent discomfort and unexpected inconveniences but now i can’t help being who i am, just an old fool who fell into the silly conviction of our only meaningful pursuit is that of living an adventure and joyfully, in as responsibly as i can partake in widening the eternal network, albeit risking bitten by the bug into nomadic habit. but burma to me was one hell i rather not step into and i failed to be convinced by pacifist’s means whether by way of art, performance or civil disobedience, and in the past thought it futile to even think about art. in this trip i only went because my friends jay koh and chu yuan invited me and i did helped to get them started in some ways, however my doubts did not wavered much as i found myself in a society in severe crises of more urgencies to dispel its evil dictatorially governed system than to waste our efforts but going there and meeting many people struggling to believe in human dignity of working through the obscure activity of cultural work rather than that of power and violence humbled my arrogance. yes heraclitus the same river can never be stepped into twice and i m now more than willing to push the boulder of my sinful ignorance up the mountain zeus assigned to me. please advise how i may mend my errant ways. don’t leave me awry if you please... sissyphus9

the Myanmar artists that might lead to other interpretations of the event. Moe Satt, for example, recently described Lee’s act as an offensive iteration of the status and power differentials already in play between economically imperialist Singapore and Myanmar. Rightly or wrongly, I read the performance as a libidinal outcropping in the frame of Lee’s long-term practice in performance art. As mentioned above, performance art – more assiduously and less theoretically than photography and film that just preceded and developed alongside it – has maintained an erotic dalliance with the missing referent: the Real (that dark territory outside the fourth wall). I wonder if Lee would have had the sheer chutzpah to deliver this real slap without his years of boxing with his mirror Other.10 And to do it with an attitude of detachment or indifference, raised it to the level of art. Carpe diem! He took agency. He displayed his spine. He finally, slapped a real Other. I don’t recall Lee’s formal piece of performance art that he presented at NICA, but I have retained an awry memory of this intervention. And it has seemed to me ever since that it was one of the most remarkable moments of performance art that I have witnessed anywhere. Despite its appearance of spontaneity, the slap dragged in its wake the complete modernist apparatus of performance art: the corrective orthopaedics that, since the 19th century, the modernist avant-garde has repeatedly imposed on other artists and intellectuals, on the working class, and especially back on the bourgeois culture which gave it birth. It is an orthopaedics also recalled by the textual slap delivered to Lee Wen’s cheek by the revelations in this article, and by all the other discomfiting interpretations of Lee Wen’s performances by this group of catalogue writers.

This text, it seems to me, like the shoes placed on his back, has again inculcated Lee. He is a man haunted by these acts, and perhaps by acts in general. At the time, Lee Wen did not seem angry. His posture before and after was not threatening. Again taking Moe Satt’s recollection, he had simply gotten up, walked across the circle, paused, and in what seemed to be an experiment in human conditioning, slapped another person. He then punctuated the act with his apology. Then it was over. Obviously we have all forgotten the many micro-gestures present then in the intervening seven years, and there were certainly complex social dynamics amongst


Lee Wen, email communication with author, 7 February 2012.

Using two pairs of boxing gloves sewn together in opposing positions, Lee began using a segment of boxing with an imaginary opponent, in longer performances, first at the Recontre International d’art Performance Et Multi-media 1996, Quebec as part of Neo Baba and Ghost Stories, and then at other sites.


Lee Wen: Variations On The Exquisite Body.  

"Lee Wen: Variations On The Exquisite Body" written by Lucy Davis, Ray Langenbach, Lee Weng Choy, Adele Tan and June Yap. Lead essay of Sing...

Lee Wen: Variations On The Exquisite Body.  

"Lee Wen: Variations On The Exquisite Body" written by Lucy Davis, Ray Langenbach, Lee Weng Choy, Adele Tan and June Yap. Lead essay of Sing...