For Jeremy Hiah and Lina Adam, and all brothers and sisters of the revolution.
Copyright © 2007 Lee Wen, Singapore All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without prior permission from the publisher, except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages in a review. Published by Lee Wen in conjunction with “Freedom of daydreams, Mothers of imagination”, solo exhibition by Lee Wen at Your Mother Gallery, 11 September to 11 November 2007 Photographs by Lee Wen, with the special assistance of Chua Chye Teck. Design by Lee Wen, with special assistance of Ken Yeo ISBN 978-981-05-9112-0 With the support of
Your Mother Gallery, 91A Hindoo Road, Little India, Singapore 209126 Tel/Fax: (+65) 97877874 / (+65) 63963310 Email: email@example.com Website: www.geocities.com/yourmothergallery/
Invocation Did you come so far Just to buy that car? Or was it just a game of golf You were looking for? There was so much more In your dreams before When you were young, green and full of steam Whistling and singing your sweet idyllic songs While happily working along on that factory floor Oh virtuous virgin in spirit and innocence Now if not later you won’t recall the words To those quixotic songs you sung But the melody still sits On the tip of a once so fresh now bitter-soured tongue Hey why do our hearts still cry? Oh why are our weary souls still yearning? No don’t want to keep on compromising Don’t you know there’s a battle still raging? While the fat cats sits on the mansion on the hill They are still scheming for more games and greed for to kill So ever ready to send you on the killing fields So they can lick that shame stained gain Be proud oh chosen one Not to mindlessly help them steal the sacred act and close their deals Don’t touch that blood and dirt on their hands Bite your lips and make your stand For yours is the freedom to daydream Oh mothers of imagination Be my consort be my guide Steer us clear from our fears Trauma this life have brought us aplenty Your manifold forms to dispel our varied distressing ordeals Oh mothers of imagination You are one though your manifestations are limitless To attend our human multiplicity In nature we hold our inner splendor In reality we created a world of destruction and conflict Oh mothers of imagination With your brilliance and benevolence Return us to our fateful deliverance That which in harmony for affection of learning and wisdom That which is equilibrium in composure That which is bliss Ecstasy Rapturous in freedom of daydreams once and forever
The Republic of Daydreams
When was it first Yin San or Cloud Mountain was able to escape the Void and enter into the Republic of Daydreams, he can’t remember. Despite many a stimulating successes evil is ever adamant at every step of the progression. And if anyone so much as doubted they would be returned to the Void. It was rumored amongst those who had similarly found their way in that there was a limit to the number of times they were allowed a re-entry by their own individual processes and for those who had been returned by way of self-doubt or compromising to the ways of the Void too many times beyond that limit they would have to find a new process or means of re-entry into the Republic. Otherwise the processes they had practiced would merely be the remainders, good for the passage to a simulacrum of the Republic of Daydreams and worse than that a simulacrum of the Void or even the simulacrum of the simulacrum itself. Most of those who found their way in were called arthists and many thought it was their privilege however the truth was the idea of privilege was a delusion and that there were more who were citizens in the Republic than just arthists. Boeys or Not Yet was one who knew well this and even used this as one of his processes by announcing “Everyone is an arthist” and became famous for that. In countless talks and interviews to the media, which was part of his process, he spoke of
it and he was well regarded for this. Sometimes sounding like a wise enlightened man of mystical dimensions and there are those who claim heâ€™s a fake because he played it too well that he seem like a trickster charlatan especially with his funny hat on all the time and the way he makes in clumsy means by way of something called performance art. But that was his knack, which only showed how each one of us had our own means of entry into the Republic. And then there would be many who tried to follow suit and copied his processes even to the point of the way he dressed as if such processes could be replicated. There are those who not only think that their presence in the Republic and evasion from the Void were that of being an arthist of privilege but were also so arrogant as not to accept their fellow citizens of daydreams whose practices were processes and means which were at the same time seemingly useful directly for the expansion and upkeep of the Void and not what one would normally call an arthistic process. This did not cause them their dismissal or expulsion from the Republic for arrogance is quite common amongst those who arrived through processes as arthists, which entitle them as such so we normally call them arthists. For it is the extension of the exaggerated ego, which is mostly useful for the arthists who need this somewhat egotism to overcome their being rejected for being indulgence in processes not usually seen as supportive of the auspices within the Void. There was also a persistent confusion for there are overlaps between the Void and the Republic of Daydreams in trans-activity and some like to see it as actually one and the same but there are gaps which catches all of us and that its nature had been evolving all the time, dying and regenerating itself through a process of historical and cultural revolution. But not all arthists have such self-seeking needs for impulses like that does limit one in the end if not bring one to the end. Whereas those who go by other selfless processes not even caring for those of the so called arthists may go about the Republic of Daydreams out of the
Void, completely ignoring the existence of art or the arthists let alone being known as one. And this is one thing Yin San or Cloud Mountain have been trying at best in his processes and capacities to incorporate and inculcate but not yet found success in, for he believes it is one major necessary step towards bringing the Republic into a new level of pursuit which would put the transformation in its original intended direction once again. For Yin San or Cloud Mountain is not like that of what Boeys or Not Yet spoke of “Everyone is an arthist” but instead of that “Everybody is a revolutionary”. Those whose practices are not what normally would be called that of the arthist can be as equally capable of bringing about changes for the transformation, or what may be referred to as that of the revolution. And it is more important for Yin San or Cloud Mountain to see that everybody as revolutionaries than as arthists. * The work and practice has to be motivated by questioning. Making processes of daydreams is a thought process seeking a language to put forward questions of our individual living condition with response to history as well as to current changes. Yet much of what is being done today is actually rubbish made for entertainment and for the profit of speculators or the game of one-upmanship in the Void. Of course it is not wrong if we aim to entertain and make a living in order to continue with the work of trans-activating between the Void and the Republic but that should not be the sole motivation, which would then kill the spirit of our genuine intention. I have my doubts about the current situation of the trans-activation of daydreams based on tested traditions that is why I need to explore alternative processes to overcome them. * 11
The Art Competition was one of the ways those in the
Void was always trying to show their sympathy for those of us who gained entry into the Republic of Daydreams. It was also a way to gain complicity of those in negation of the Void and almost revolting by way of seemingly self-imposed poverty and their exceptional economic attitudes amongst the arthists who inhabit the Republic of Daydreams. These ways will hopefully affect those who are slacking in faith, conviction and commitment to the mothers of imagination and hence are occupying a shaky existence between the Void and maintaining their enduring stand in the Republic to be enticed back into the Void. Such arthists would sit on their laurels after winning the awards offered or acceptance by the Void, repeating in already irrelevant and by now mendacious processes only to gain and maintain riches from the Void but losing their continuing effectiveness in the Republic. There had been a growing interest within the Void in what the arthists were now doing as over time in history new forms and processes were developing in the Republic beyond the comprehension of the Void. Mostly those in the Void indulge in activities of pointless entertainment of popularity and functional pragmatic consumption. With their recent changed status as powerful and wealthy authorities of the Void they would want to be seen as sophisticated and cultured within the Void if not beyond it. The beach at Sentosa was reputed to be most special on the autumnal night where the full moon would make the sand on the beach sparkle and shine exceptionally. Arthists used to congregate there drinking wine and creating spontaneous works of daydreams. This attracted the wealthy of the Void to also hold wine drinking parties often accompanied by a shopping spree of the inspired production by the arthists. Bau Li Lard or Father Strong Pull had rightly observed that the Art Competition was a culmination symptomatic of the possessive megalomaniac nature of those in the Void to overcome their anal 12
retentive and accumulative neuroses in order to recollect themselves. It was also an act indicative of a pompous consumption disorder to show their authority and supremacy. The Mayor took advantage of the phenomenal success of the spontaneous full moon festival on Sentosa beach to inaugurate an Art Competition and also offered a grand prize more than the record amount paid for any work yet sold before at the shopping spree, which accompanied the full moon festival on Sentosa. What was interesting in the first inaugural competition was how Yin San or Cloud Mountain had responded to the call to submit his work for the competition. Yin San or Cloud Mountain was at the time reputedly one of the most consummate arthists who could paint in any medium and wrote poetry in all possible manner, and his work was easily seen as worthy of respect to those who clung on to traditions as well as those who only accepted the experimental or even fashionable. Thus he was one most likely and favored to win if there ever was a competition. The competition was to be held in the central main section of the beach and arthists were invited to pitch their works there for the judges to view them. It was open the whole night and arthists were allowed to submit their works up to an hour before sunrise. Two hours before sunrise most arthists in attendance had already submitted except for Yin San and this upset the Mayor as he had many dignitaries and special guests and would feel embarrassed by Yin Sanâ€™s shunning the competition because of his reputation. Neither the festival nor the competition was of any concern to him. Yin San or Cloud Mountain was enjoying himself with his few trusted ones from the Republic of Daydreams as if the festival and competition was not even happening. He was one of the first arthists who had congregated there in the beginning. In fact many had said that it was he who initially invited just a few friends to the first full moon party on Sentosa beach many years ago before it grew to become 13
such a popular practice. The Mayor sent one of his clerks to specially invite Yin San to submit his work. By then Yin San already smashed and inebriated had already made many works of exception and anyone of them could be worthy of an award if not the Grand Prize. When the clerk announced the Mayor’s special invitation he rose in silence and followed him empty handed. His friends followed him thinking he will make a spontaneous submission. As he approached the official competition compound he felt his stomach acting up and aching. Without even a salutation to the Mayor he proceeded to the shore in full view of all who gathered and took center stage. He felt a need to answer the call of nature and loosening his sarong he squatted down to discharge his bowels a nice pile of shit. He cleaned himself with some leaves lying around and as he dressed he announced: “Writing and drawing shit on moon-lit sand, for the rich, to get rich, that’s not art.”
Yin San’s act turned out to be a historical milestone, which
many had tried to interpret and theorize his act as spontaneous theater or performance art to this day. Bringing attention to the debate and to what De Dubei or Virtuous Poison Cup had said that art today should no longer question “what is beautiful?” but rather, “what is art to be?” Some even saw it as the kind of radical gesture, which was at the most essential point of fission and fusion of trans-activity between that of the Void and the Republic of Daydreams necessary for the continued success of the revolution. In his drunken state at that point of execution, Yin San or Cloud Mountain did not even consciously knew in exactitude if it was art or not but a spontaneous bodily response in disgust how the natural processes of the Republic was being hijacked by the Void. In order to avoid punishment by the authorities of the Void, he had to admit that it was a serious submission of performance art to the Art Competition as there were no restrictions stipulated. It was a field day of scandalous news for the media arousing condemnation and also led to a twelve-year prohibition of performance art and other spontaneous 15
theater within the Void. Even today after the proscription was lifted a licensing process of policing was enforced which had crippled many for a natural and unaffected production of daydreams. * Whether you hang a painting on the wall or when you perform an action, what matters more is its relevance to the ability of the process to trans-activate between the Republic and the Void. It may be different due to the time frame and the nature of the presentation. After all, painting is a performance done with paint on a surface then hung on a wall for some time to be viewed. What is important is what are we doing as in terms of this thing called art? The need to shift our attitudes may be responding to as what De Dubei or Virtuous Poison Cup suggest that we also question, “What is art to be?” And not only “what is beautiful?” hence at the same time questioning the value of art itself. Is art still necessary? What is it good for in our day and age? I have not found all the answers to these questions yet but my work is also to use it as my thinking process and hope people can help me or I would think we are working together on this through further dialogues and discussions. In terms of making a live presentation as part of the creative process one feels totally absorbed in it both physically as well as spiritually while also being conscious of looking and being looked at. But it is like a moment we look for to make it “right” and then the work is “done” and hence a kind of catharsis perhaps or overcoming some opposed threshold which we bring forth though that does not always happens or if it does its not always the same in terms of intensity or success. That is the risk we take to get to the edge in order to trans-activate the processes. * 16
During the twelve years of proscription Yin San traveled
widely and almost abandoned his own gift and aptitude of painting and other object making processes. The proscription was blamed on his act at the inaugural Art Competition and his paintings and object works were shunned, accumulated and filled his humble tiny dwelling to the brim, as no one wanted them even when they were of exceptional and unique quality. Mostly the authorities used its media machinery in the Void to spread rumors about his inauthenticity and dishonesty and made a joke about his previously admired experimental nature of his paintings and object works as only of equal worth to the droppings he had discharged during the inaugural Art Competition. Even his circle of fellow practitioners who made works of a similar inclination were also desecrated and censured. Many had to abandon them and seek other processes in order to overcome the concerted official censure. He pulled the accumulated disgraced works out of his home on the field outside the Farrer Swimming Pool one day and invited all his friends for a barbecue. Singing his poems he gave each one painting or object work of daydreams a last chance to be seen by his friends and burnt them one by one. Many friends were moved to tears but for Yin San or Cloud Mountain it was a new beginning. After this he was seldom seen in any one place for long in the Void giving rise to the suspicion he had given up or was living in exile.
After the burning of his paintings and object works of
daydreams was the beginning of his new processes of daydreams in performance art. In fact it was at this time that he decided he was now an artoot and no more an arthist. He did not believe in art but would be seen as doing it still as that was how he could still trans-activate between the Void and the Republic of Daydreams in a process more or less like performance art or seen as such. However what Yin San or Cloud Mountain did was something yet unnamed. He left his tiny 17
dwelling and moved to stay and live surreptitiously on the cremation grounds in Redada where he met another of his mothers of imagination for the first time which he had never seen or heard of before when he was most prolific in making paintings and objects of daydreams. Yin San or Cloud Mountain had a strong urge to inhabit the cremation ground in Redada as he felt himself a desire and need to have to die somewhat in order to live anew.
To help him overcome his urge to practice his surrendered
gift and former aptitude in making paintings and objects of daydreams he began to write instead. The act of writing was a new habit, which he had difficulty with. He copied his favorite books by hand when he did not know what to write and made notes on all his thoughts and questions in seeking new discoveries and new processes of daydreams. Yin San or Cloud Mountain became interested in the roots of rituals and theater and what was sometimes seen as the indefinable performance art practice. He sometimes used the notes to repeat them as answers to interviews and questions from the media of the Void about his processes. Especially after he was awarded the LCC medal of honor as usually they often asked the same questions repeatedly, as it seems they lack the facility for history and memory in the Void. * Ritual or repetition is a dirty word for some; even within the Republic of Daydreams when it is unquestioningly performed as “prescriptive motions” it is not functioning, as it should. If one goes by the definition of ritual it usually comes with many derogatory adjectives and insinuations such as “prescribed patterns”, “inflexible, stylized repetition”, “rigid formality” etc. it should be noted that rituals are meant to function in a way, which is more alive than dead responding to the Void and up keeping the principles of daydreams. 18
I suspect somewhere along we seek to enter into what Dun Er or Storage Ear had described as the “liminal”, that neutral state between the pre-conceived, already defined and before entering anew back into the Void that is pushed forward by our present action and I believe this is where the essential state of “questioning” and being alive lies with our work or our actions and rituals while transactivating between the Void and the Republic of Daydreams. *
He could not sleep the first few nights after moving to the
cremation grounds of Redada. The sudden withdrawal from the making of paintings and objects of daydreams left him with too much unspent energies within him, as his new practice of writing did not dissipate them. Then one night his tiredness overtook him and he went to sleep just before midnight and met her. He felt her coming across the sky like overcast shadow and suddenly lay over his body. Her face was covered with black long silky hair and he could feel her breath on his cheeks. She felt weightless yet he could not move when he tried. He felt an unusual serenity and knew that she is one of the incarnations of the mothers of imagination he had never met before. Yet there was fear in him and so he shuffled with all his might that made both of them tumble off the bed to the floor. When he got up she had disappeared. In his tiredness he went back on his bed wondering if it was just a dream and was soon sound asleep. On waking, Yin San or Cloud Mountain dismissed it as a dream or a nightmare as sometimes when one moves to a new habitat, the changed environment may trigger one’s perception that results in them.
The next night she appeared again in the same way. This time
Yin San or Cloud Mountain was not with fear as he came to understand that she was Tian Ker or Sky Song, the mother of imagination who was the guide to processes of daydreams that involved an element of time, 20
materials and environment, and usually a presence of the progenitors during the processes. Within the Void it would appear as ritual, dance, theater, performance art and usually referred to in the lowest common insignificant descriptive name of performing arts. Performance art was the closest term to describe what Yin San or Cloud Mountain used as processes when trans-activating between the Republic of Daydreams and the Void. On the cremation grounds at Redada, Yin San or Cloud Mountain came into acquaintance with various other dwellers that practice processes of the Republic of Daydreams of whom Tian Ker or Sky Song was also a mother of imagination to. Many had found the cremation grounds of Redada a serene space of inspiration to develop their processes away from the hustle of increasing population in the Void. In less than two years and half they were also evicted from the cremation grounds of Redada as the powers of the Void had been watching and was getting signals that it was a fast breeding ground for the Republic of Daydreams who were able to live without contributing much to the economy or paying taxes to the Void. They gave the excuse that the site would be redeveloped into a new station for the subway trains that was diverted in the direction running under and across the cremation grounds of Redada. By the time of the eviction from the cremation grounds at Redada many of those who dwelled and worked there had gained some reputation and were in fraternity with each other. However the eviction and ensuing dispersal caused many fractures and tensions amongst them as they scrambled for alternative locations for continuing their processes in the Void. The news of the notorious incident of Yin San or Cloud Mountainâ€™s performance at the Art Competition and the following imposed proscription had had by now spread far and wide which aroused the curiosity of various organizers and presenters of performance art to seek him out. Yin San or Cloud Mountain accepted these invitations with 21
reservations but was curious to find out how by way of performance art the processes of trans-activating between the Republic of Daydreams and the Void were being enacted by others in the far corners of the Void. Though Yin San or Cloud Mountain found excitement at the idea of travel he was more concerned about his ability to carry out his processes of daydreams in strange lands with strange people who spoke different languages and have different histories. Not only there were also new friends and associates of the Republic of Daydreams but also Yin San or Cloud Mountain discovered many other mothers of imagination he had never heard of before. But not all of them were responsive to his practice for perhaps they were there to help those of a different climate and temperament. He encountered a greater range of different forms and degree of collusions between the Void and the Republic of Daydreams for it usually require more resources to bring the many practitioners from further a field than those from the neighboring sectors. The complexities and convolutions brought on more corruption and arrogance of privilege amongst the arthists and they begin to work in self-interest and competition amongst themselves rather than in co-operation. There was also complacency brought about by a lack of reflection by arthists over time where they merely repeated tested processes formulated to address the already past state of affairs but not responding to the recent changes. Yin San or Cloud Mountainâ€™s disgust and disappointments with the current situation for the effective trans-activation between the Republic of Daydreams and the Void grew and became diverted to more and more the behavior of the fellow arthists which made him all the more the need to differentiate from them and thus calling himself an artoot instead. * We are losing the essence of our trans-activation processes 22
of the Republic of Daydreams. So-called arthists are more selfishly addicted to the idea of amassing financial and political powers from the Void and forgetting the genuine joy of sharing and community work of the Republic. At the same time the commercial powers in the Void are dishing out popular mass cultures of mindless entertainments, appropriating ideas from the Republic of Daydreams and using them to stupefy the audiences with endless hypnotic games and programs of seductions. Can we still believe the arthists when we know this is happening today? What remains is just residue of what it used to be, only wastes, corruption, pollution and the consistent repression of those who persists to differ. I am apprehensive of how we as arthists also contribute to the destruction of the intentions of our actual work in our enthusiasm to create processes of trans-activation. We need to be more careful not only in what we say but also how we say it before its too late. Perhaps we need to differentiate from those who are lost without a clear consciousness. Perhaps we should stop calling ourselves arthists. Yes a new role needs a new name in order to raise the questions anew. * Yin San or Cloud Mountain one day announced: “I don’t believe in art, but I do it.” He called himself an “artoot” instead to differentiate himself from other arthists as a response to all the confusion of recent times and the profusion and burgeon of arthists in conspiracy with the Void, which Bau Li Lard or Father Strong Pull spoke about. For now that there was an acceptance within the Void for the various once frowned upon processes many arthists had lost their genuine relationship with the mothers of imagination working within the policing enforced by the Void. Many saw the dangers that the Republic of Daydreams faced and the impending loss of sovereignty to 24
that of the Void and agreed with Yin San to calling themselves artoots as a way of showing solidarity in the continuing processes of daydreams for the revolution. By the time Yin San or Cloud Mountain was conferred the LCC medal of honor and hence properly rehabilitated into the Void, his disgust and disappointments was almost so extreme he was on the verge of giving up any hope for the processes of the Republic of Daydreams ability to still trans-activate for the sake of the revolution. For to him the degeneration had meant the need to ask various searching questions and to desist in the process until all the problems are resolved. With the recent state of the Republic of Daydreams and its dialectical relationship with the Void where many who attempt to grasp and gauge the speed of recent massive changes have pronounced the death or end where even all mothers of imagination would not be able to resurrect at this stage. The present situation is considered by them who proclaim the end or our state of death to be continued only in simulation or surrogate form of what it used to be or some would even claim the ultimate fate of daydreams of which Yin San or Cloud Mountain would strongly profess to defer. It occurred to some that when he was conferred the LCC medal of honor that it would mean the death of the arthist in Yin San or Cloud Mountain and he would be exorcised for good into the Void while only in simulation remain one within the Republic. As there were many speculations why Yin San or Cloud Mountain was given this LCC medal of honor, which in the first place there was no clarity what LCC actually stood for or how one was selected for sanction. The official version was that it stands for Legendary Cultural Conveyer but some said it meant Lowest Common Culture with reference to what Bau Li Lard or Father Strong Pull had expounded in his theorizing. In actuality no one knows for sure as it had often been referred to simply as the LCC medal of honor but they were all in suspicion that once bestowed one would actually be subjected 25
to the control of manipulators and perpetuators of the Void. However the medal does have its advantages especially when negotiating the bureaucracy of the Void, which even now Yin San or Cloud Mountain have to intermittently enter by necessity for the sake of acquiring resources lacking for the sake of the revolution. But it is Yin San or Cloud Mountain who admitted it himself that the one primary rationale for him to accept the medal was to make his aging mother happy. For after all she was Yin San or Cloud Mountainâ€™s first of the many mothers of imagination that had given him the initial stimulation and motivation to enter into the Republic although she had never once was in agreement to his decision to quit an apparently promising career in the Void. But demands of working for the revolution especially during the prohibition period would not allow Yin San or Cloud Mountain to sort the actualities in details and as from his own perspective not all revolutionaries are conscious of their own roles not to say those of their fellow citizens of the Republic. Such was his mother who had the intuitive nature of incarnating herself as a unique mother of imagination as she entranced Yin San or Cloud Mountain with her natural ability to tell tales of vividness based on her real tragic experiences from her life. Which in reality was half as spirited as her lively storytelling. And as Yin San or Cloud Mountainâ€™s financial situation had become worse over the years in the Void as is common for a sincere practitioner of daydreams to the point of being cold-shouldered although he gained respect with his work in the Republic. He only wanted her to feel with pride as she saw it as an honorable award so that she in her old age would not be spent worrying for having a simpleton son lacking in respectable status within the Void which did not worry Yin San or Cloud Mountain as much as her growing disappointment in him over the years. * Besides making my mother happy one could only hope 26
for a voice that would be heard more clearly especially from those in the Void in order to make things happen. But alas! What kinds of revelations would I rather not be shown in those who should be more sympathetic to the struggle? I have always believed and persevered in what I do. At the end of the day, we must be responsible for our actions. How difficult can it be to continue the play with the processes when the codes of functional consumption in the cycles of the Void will only be yet trivialized into fashionable trends and sterile simulacra? And who needs the arthists today when most are in conspiracy with the Void and instead of working towards higher possibilities find it more profitable to send negative vibes about death and destruction of the cause for the Republic of Daydreams? * With the lifting of the twelve years of proscription and Yin San or Cloud Mountain being conferred the LCC medal of honor soon after, there was a widespread suspicion that it was the death of the arthist in Yin San or Cloud Mountain and he had been seduced to return to the Void. Little do they know that he had already embarked on being an artoot instead which was another level of practice he had discovered in the Republic of Daydreams. For some felt that even the Republic had already ended and dismantled itself after its acquiescence into the Void especially with the inauguration of the Great To Be Alive Biennale which superseded the Art Competition as a celebration of the many new processes of daydreams conventionalized and appropriated, some say hijacked by auspices of the Void which even included performance art. But in order to rehabilitate performance art without being confused by the other kinds of extreme and often deemed as disgusting and obscene acts or subversive dangers by the Void, the new name of â€œlive artâ€? was invented. One could still partake in acts involved with nudity, 28
bloodletting, bodily wastes or the transgression of other social taboos but in a more constrained or acceptable form of “live art”, officially sanctioned by the Void. Hence the Great To Be Alive Biennale, which superseded the Art Competition also now accepted performance art but are being repackaged as “live art”, a more acceptable and domesticated form for the mass consumption of the Void. Perhaps it was all the speculation that art is dead or near its end as proposed by Bau Li Lard or Father Strong Pull that such a new name was invented just before Yin San or Cloud Mountain was being conferred the LCC medal and the subsequent inauguration of the Great To Be Alive Biennale thereafter. It was a clear attempt to emphasize the living-ness or aliveness rather than a dead or dying practice through such names. The situation put him in a rut and whatever Yin San or Cloud Mountain did was unsatisfactory to himself as well as to a harsh suspicious audience that he faced. It was also the confusion of our time of the beginning of the decline which made many efforts hardly now effective for the trans-activating between the Republic of Daydreams and the Void although the collectors and speculators of the Void were snapping them up mindlessly and escalating their prices further with little relevance to their actual worth. In his dejection Yin San or Cloud Mountain turned to the bottle in extremity. Barely a day past without his total abandon to alcoholic drunkenness and many were of deep concern for him. It was not doubt he had but perhaps an overwhelming desolation filled with confusion, which perplexed him to a point of frustration. One day he passed out in his bed and lay there for 3 days or more he could not be sure. During his state of unconsciousness all the mothers of imagination he had come across visited him. They were a comfort to his perplexed state of mind and being and probably kept him alive as he found himself lying in a pool of his own vomit and shit when he woke. He realized the need for reconciliation of his contradictory dilemma and this would have to be 29
based on his historical act during the inaugural Art Competition. He decided to package his shit in tin cans and sell them at the prize beyond any work sold to date in the Void and to submit it as a new work for the Great To Be Alive Biennale. He had produced with careful planning a limited edition of 24 and will premiere it as part of a presentation at a conference on international multi-trans-activity at the Art Station. The Art Station was becoming a trendy meeting space for arthists where many conferences were held discussing and presenting the current questions about the trans-activation between the Republic of Daydreams and the Void by way of processes normally known as art. Although Yin San or Cloud Mountain had gained a status of higher regard since being conferred the LCC medal it was still not easy to find venues sympathetic to the presentations of sincere processes of trans-activity between the Republic of Daydreams and the Void. The Art Station was one of the few places in the Void where he could find ready acceptance for his work. Despite its popularity, the Art Station faced financial difficulties with accumulated debts from year after many years of not being able to be financially sound, that is showing profitable returns in presenting works which were pertinent processes of trans-activity between the Republic of Daydreams and the Void. There was a decision to hold a fund raising exhibition during the annual conference held in conjunction with the Great To Be Alive Biennale. Half of the proceeds from the sale of works during the exhibition would be donated to the Art Station. Yin San or Cloud Mountain submitted his 24 tin cans and exhibited them neatly in a pyramid pile on a pristine white pedestal. All the cans were neatly labeled “The Artist’s Shit” with details such as its date of production and its weight of 30 grams each, and the announcement, “freshly preserved, produced and tinned”, which he signed and numbered personally. Many crowded round to make jokes about it but some went into serious discussions about their significance 30
as bringing the question of art to a different level. Just when they were about to speculate if anyone would be convinced about the validity of such a work to be submitted, word began to spread amongst them like wild fire that the millionaire philanthropist, Mr. Soho had bought the whole lot at the record price. The interest in the conference was immediately diverted to the sole discussion of Yin San or Cloud Mountain’s submission and its hasty sale. There were all kinds of stories that circulated about how it happened. It was said that Mr. Soho was the most typical of conspicuous consumers who needed the exercise to show his supremacy and recollect his anxious, anal driven self-image through offering to buy the most expensive work. He had just arrived in a hurry from another art auction and was anxious to purchase the most expensive work before anyone else at the Art Station exhibition. Just when he was instructing his personal assistant to make the purchase he received an urgent call on his mobile phone. His broker was calling him for instructions regarding his shares at the stock market, which was going through some jittery fluctuations as he arrived at the Art Station. “Just buy the most expensive work,” he instructed to his assistant while being distracted on his mobile phone. “But that’s just some artist’s shit,” his assistant replied. “Ya, any shit will do as long as it’s the most expensive,” he retorted while distracted by his broker on the phone. Later when Mr. Soho found out he had actually bought 24 tin cans of Yin San or Cloud Mountain’s work, “The Artist’s Shit”, he was initially embarrassed and angry but in order to save face, he began to defend the work. Everybody was surprised to hear Mr. Soho the well-known philanthropist who only collected conservatively and mostly of the highest priced watercolors and scroll paintings and at the most the odd abstract oil paintings had now become an outspoken defender of such complex works of trans-activity between the Republic 32
of Daydreams and the Void. But as Bau Li Lard or Father Strong Pull has propounded, such proclamations was more than that of a simple act of self-preservation but bespoke of intricate signs of our complex social intimations and sublimated motivations. Although Mr. Soho had defended the work with all the jargon he knew of the ideas of Bau Li Lard or Father Strong Pull, he secretly felt he had made a mistake in actuality. However he consistently used and quoted the ideas of Bau Li Lard or Father Strong Pull and even studied them more in order to defend the work and hence his own action of purchasing it. Anyone who questioned him for buying the most expensive shit would receive an earful from him on the ideas of Bau Li Lard or Father Strong Pull. Over time Mr. Soho even convinced himself entirely into becoming a firm believer and one of the most updated followers and staunch believer of the ideas of Bau Li Lard or Father Strong Pull, which he tried to also impart to his family and his descendents. Mr. Soho gradually became quite reverential of Yin San or Cloud Mountain and his work that he even enlarged his collection of which “The Artist’s Shit” became the most vital piece of them all. However Yin San or Cloud Mountain’s production was not that prolific after “The Artist’s Shit” and he also soon passed away of a rare illness at quite a young age. Not all of Mr. Soho’s family and descendents were similarly devout for they were too indulgent with the ways in the Void and only dismissed ideas of Bau Li Lard or Father Strong Pull as superstitious nonsense. Over time it was also difficult to sustain newly acquired family traditions and it was only one great grandson, Ah Tai who was the most ardent follower of ideas of Bau Li Lard or Father Strong Pull or other family traditions during the time of the continued decline. The descendents of Mr. Soho were still in possession of the 24 tin cans of “The Artist’s Shit” and other works by Yin San or Cloud Mountain’s. However over time and especially after the passing of Mr. Soho the 33
family’s faith in the teachings as propounded by Bau Li Lard or Father Strong Pull waned and became corrupted with the decline. Yin San or Cloud Mountain’s works lost the status of pride and reverence within the family and would have been sold at some auction if not for Ah Tai’s insistence on keeping them. Most of the other works were gradually sold at auctions and “The Artist’s Shit” was the only one Ah Tai could salvage but it was relegated from its honorable place of display, to be stored in a black cardboard box in an obscure corner of the basement storeroom. * There seems to be repetition within the context of rituals. To me that repetition within rituals references our being in time and becomes in itself an image or metaphor of or for time within eternity. Such as in nature we see the sun or stars rising and setting everyday or the planets revolving around the sun and in the waves on the beach. In most ancient traditions there is a tendency to create human rituals based on the observation of nature. When we refer to repetition within a historical context a different discourse ensues. Perhaps it becomes numbing and hence an anesthetic function or rather dysfunction occurs due to overkill of repetition when done to the point of losing its original creation of meaning which is not my intention nor I believe what motivates us towards ritual and repetition in rituals. That is why we need to recreate them and via making works of daydreams with the consciousness of the need to make it novel and that our current production of daydreams remains relevant and contemporaneous. Yes every repetition makes difference that is why a production of process in daydreams can never in actuality be repeated however the essence of it can only acquire authenticity if it is done with this consciousness. 34
There were signs that the final days of the Great Decay was
nigh due to a continued decline and the corruption of the preservation of sincere practices of trans-activity between the Republic of Daydreams and the Void. Natural climate was disrupted to unusual behaviors of extremity. Animals and flora were disappearing to the point of extinction. Great floods caused by freak hurricanes and excessive rains were followed by great periods of drought and famine. Monstrous pests and self-destructive weeds evolved due to unnatural practices of technological advances in violation of the ways and grew to consume the crops in the fields. It had become a constant battle where crops were lost from the attack of monstrous pests and weeds or for the lack of proper irrigation, extremities of climate and the land was exhausted of all its fertility. Mr. Soho’s family and descendents were fortunate to have a large storage in the basement. In anticipation of the depletion of food supplies due to the decline, dried preserved foods or tinned canned food were being kept in the basement storeroom. While rummaging through for canned food, during the great drought, his great grandson Ah Tai found the all but forgotten 24 tin cans of Yin San or Cloud Mountain’s “The Artist’s Shit” in its black cardboard box. Inside the box was also a scrolled up certificate explaining the work and acknowledging its authenticity of “The Artist’s Shit” as a process work of trans-activity between the Republic of Daydreams and the Void. When Ah Tai held those tin cans in his hands he immediately knew what he needed to do. He brought them out to the fields where grains were growing before the great drought. On each plot he opened a tin can and sprinkled out what was inside spreading out as evenly over the plot as he could. The rain immediately fell as he opened and sprinkled out the last can. 36
The land soon was all shining again with crops and fields of grains in splendid glory. There were many speculations about how this could happen. Some said that Yin San or Cloud Mountain did not put his shit in the tin cans but something special that he had discovered in his travels. Others conjectured that it was the vegetarian diet he was on during the time he produced that work and the years of fermentation in the tin cans that transformed them into fertilizers of exceptional potency. What reasons in actuality no one really knows. For Ah Tai, it was quintessential point of fission and fusion of trans-activity between the Republic of Daydreams and the Void and a completion to full cycle had transpired as predicted in the writings of Bau Li Lard or Father Strong Pull.
Lee Wen’s performances and installations often expose and question the ideologies and value systems of individuals as well as social structures. His work attempts to combine Southeast Asian contexts with international currents in contemporary art. Lee emphasizes versatility in strategizing and establishing visual language, meaning and message through live performance work. He is also interested in developing new possibilities of performativity and interactivity in art. His early practice was associated with the Artists Village, an alternative art group in Singapore and later forged a more individuated artistic career. Lee has been represented at the Busan Biennale (2004), the 3rd Asia Pacific Triennial in Brisbane (1999), the Sexta Bienal de La Habana, (1997), the Kwang Ju Biennial (1995), the 4th Asian Art Show, Fukuoka (1994) Sea Art Festival, Busan Biennale (S.Korea, 2004), National Review of Live Art (Scotland, 2004 & 2005). Born in Singapore, Lee now lives and works extensively on a global circuit and based between Singapore and Tokyo. Lee’s enthusiasm as an artist goes beyond his solo work and continues to be active and involved with the new generation in spawning possibilities of collaborations, networks and dialogical discourses. In 2003 Lee initiated, “The Future of Imagination”, an international performance art event encompassing forum, documentation and presentation of performance art in Singapore. Since 1999 Lee has also worked with Black Market International an utopian performance art “group” comprising artists from various countries and cultural backgrounds. Lee was awarded the “Cultural Medallion”, Singapore’s cultural award for artistic excellence in 2005.
Published on Aug 7, 2011
Published on Aug 7, 2011
A tongue in cheek, surreal urban mythic take on the art world. Published in conjunction with his solo exhibition, “Freedom of daydreams, Mot...