Singapore Creative Writing Residency Showcase: Object Lessons
What does it mean that language is not about objects, but language itself is an object? Can language be more than just a description and something that takes its place among other things?
This exhibition explore ways of materialising language by placing emphasis on open-ended experimentation and play. The showcase consists of sculptures and installations by poets from the National University of Singapore who have been mentored by Ong Sze Yoong, the 2015 Singapore Creative Writing Resident.
Growth explores issues surrounding one's identity in a society that imposes labels onto an individual. The superimposition of both official and non-official statements on the roots symbolises the paradoxical nature of one's growth in society. Despite the suffocating nature of foreign ideals being placed on one's roots, these ideals eventually become a part of the crucial support system. The cactus symbolises the individual who restricts herself from these labels but must inevitably be exposed to these. Similarly, the cactus absorbs all nutrients in a liquid even if it is detrimental to its growth. By placing the cactus in a rounded and transparent bowl, the glass cage allegorises both a means of shelter and restriction, depending on how an individual sees it.
Alisa Maya Ravindran
The Seven Sins (2016)
The Seven Sins plays on the Biblical trope of the Seven Sins by suggesting a contemporary, Singaporean interpretation on the term. The poem attempts to express complex but commonplace “sinful" emotions such as boredom, anxiety and lethargy through materials. Each emotion and its corresponding art work is placed in its own box, and lined up in a row, much like a pillbox. This is to express how we consume and express these emotions routinely, much like the vitamins and medication that we store in pillboxes. The exhibit encourages viewers to make use of their senses of touch and sight to engage with and fully appreciate the message of the work.
Ink on tracing paper
Friendly Advice invites closer scrutiny towards the "rant"—the mass-appeal polemic, the outburst of vitriol. By means of overlaying, rearranging and fissuring the text, the seemingly transparent "rant" approaches unreadability and excess.
Lisabelle Tan Min
Butchering Bukowski, Glassy-Eyed Flint-Hearted One
Butchering Bukowski and Glassy-Eyed Flint-Hearted One are experiments that explore how fragments of images are spliced together to form an (inchoate) assemblage of the chaos of thoughts and emotions that belie the inscrutable façade of the self. They are, in part, inspired by Fernando Pessoa’s words, “My soul is a black maelstrom, a great madness spinning about a vacuum, the swirling of a vast ocean around a hole in the void, and in the waters, more like whirlwinds than waters, float images of all I ever saw or heard in the world: houses, faces, books, boxes, snatches of music and fragments of voices, all caught up in a sinister, bottomless whirlpool”. These poems encapsulate the swirling maelstrom of the poet’s imagination at the point of writing. Readers tunnel through the whirl and at the end of it, find themselves on the other side, a safe shore of stillness.
Writing is not necessarily purely an act of creation. It is also a derivative expression of our surroundings, the people we meet, and language itself. So instead of presenting a piece of writing, this piece presents the headspace - the data set - of a writer.
From overheard conversations to the lines that zig zag across roads, the head becomes a database of people, places, and patterns, some of which rise above the others. Somewhere in this contained universe, behind bushes and vine, is a voice and an emptiness. This piece is about that contained universe, that voice, and that emptiness.
Ong Szu Yoong
I'd rather be the One
What’s the difference between the semblance of friendship and true friendship? It is impossible to describe, or even to show - after all, actors perform “friendship” in movies all the time. Only friends know what friendship is. Friendship is not up for discussion. It can only be known from within friendship.
With this in mind, Ong has attempted to make a film “in” friendship. As the Emily Dickinson poem used in the film reads:
I would not paint — a picture —
I'd rather be the One
The point is not to make a picture of friendship, but to be a friend. Rather than straightforwardly depicting friendship, the film is itself a gesture of friendship. It evokes the texture, the touchiness of friendship - ease interspersed with violence, strength mixed with vulnerability.
Wai Thu Khin
Text on paper
Night Falls is a poetry painted on yellowed paper, to capture the colour of age. The first three stanzas are in grey, and written over them are the later stanzas in black, reminiscent of a palimpsest. The poem itself can be read as writing on oblivion, or a metaphor for ageing. The second half of the poem, with its focus on the after-effects of decline, overwrites the first half. Overwriting one half of the poem over the other, while avoiding un-readability of the overwritten half, reflects the way history is told not the way it was, but the way it was recorded and officiated. The official story what is more visible than the forgotten story, regardless of which is more real.
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