A Sneak(y) Preview of D E N S E
Featuring 2 new video installations Chlorine Addiction & Pale Testament by Tan Kai Syng & Heman Chong aka NoSleepRequired
21 July 2000 Friday 7.00pm Alliance Française de Singapour The Société Générale Gallery 1 Sarkies Road S258130
Wine and Cocktails to be served DENSE be at the Alliance from 22 July - 12 August 2000 (Except Sundays)
10am - 7pm Société Générale Gallery Alliance Française de Singapour 1 Sarkies Road Nearest MRT station is Newton
ART PACKED DENSELY (appeared in Juice magazine, July 2000)
Coming July, for a whole three weeks, The Alliance Française de Singapour is playing host for the first time to Video Art. Two contemporary, edgy video artists, Heman Chong aka NoSleepRequired and Tan Kai Syng are assimilating the Société Générale Gallery on the fourth floor and transforming the space into representations of a hotel room and a swimming pool. Talk about being groovy... slide into DENSE. DENSE; Mass congestion, mass activity, mass hysteria, mass everything. Multiple voices, multiple views, multiple personalities, multiple everything. And all these notions cramped up within a seemingly too-small space. Perhaps none other word describe this ability to flood a space seemlessly with moving images and sound. Getting warm in that corner yet? Another Martini? Video Art is a relatively obscure art medium in Singapore as compared to Film, with only a handful of artists interested in engaging the moving image technology of video. Unlike Film, the medium of video has always been associated with amateur home made variety shows and cheap ugly wannabe art. Fortunately globally, things are a-changing and perceptives are a-shifting with gurus like Wim Wenders creating masterpieces like Buena Vista Social Club and Lars Von Trier evoking a ton of new hope with The Idiots using mere digital video technology, proving that aesthetics exist within video and content requires nothing more that good direction and a reliable recording medium. All so exciting! CHLORINE ADDICTION; ten video essays created chaotically by Tan Kai Syng.Tying up the disparate pool of aural & visual data is the the central metaphor of a fictitious protagonist who swims obsessively & compulsively. With a generous dosage of humour & irony, it is hoped that the videos will address several pertinent issues e.g. politics, culture, mass media, gender, time, geography, self, desire, awkward tension, complacency, existence & evaporation, insatiability, intoxication, obsession & objectivity, evolution & technology (including digital). To further ensure that the videos do not have a self-important tone or come across as pedantic, they will be in a self-reflexive mode. That is, they will critique themselves as cultural objects, as well as critique the world in which they-- & us-- exist. PALE TESTAMENT; a installation of three videos, namely, The Light Approach, The Second Henriette and The Other Marrakesh by Heman Chong aka NoSleepRequired. The interior architecture of the space will be configured to suggest a hotel room through the inclusion of furniture; beds, tables, chairs, shelves and fridge. These objects can be created either in 2 dimensional (prints), 3 dimensional (objects) or 4 dimensional (video). Several notions will be explored in Pale Testament. These notions may act as parallel ideas, converging ideas or conflicting ideas in the course of the development of Pale Testament. These notions are : Intimacy; of closeness to another, of nativity, of physicality and sensuality. Isolation; of separation and divorce, of claustrophobia, of denial. Anonymity; of namelessness, of facades, of secrets and lies. Identity; of self, of community, of our urban existence.
This article appeared in LIEN Issue no. 276 May/ August 2000 DENSE by Mathieu O'Neil The Alliance Française is proud to present an exciting joint exhibition by two of Singapore's most promising young contemporary artists. Heman Chong and Tan Kai Syng have joined forces to create DENSE, an exciting double-bill of sound, video images and installation art. Though both artists primarilywork in the video format, their outlooks are different: Tan's approach is raw and self-deprecating, while Chong's tends to be more polished. What unites them is their willingness to deal with issues uncompromisingly, and the astonishing drive which both have demonstrated: at 22 years of age, Chong, a graduate of Temasek Polytechnic in Electronic Media Design hascompleted graphic design assignments for various art groups and businesses, as well as launching several artistic projects (see below). Meanwhile the diminutive Tan Kai Syng packs an explosive punch: in 1994, a scholarship enabled her to study Fine Art at the Slade School in London; she graduated as top student. She now teaches film theory and film-making at Ngee Ann Polytechnic. Her works have been screened in Singapore and in the US and UK, winning the Merit Prize in the experimental film category at the San Francisco International Film Festival. Heman Chong: Pale Testament Heman Chong's installation-in-progress "Molotov Cocktails" has been shown at the Singapore Art Museum, and is now touring the globe. His book "LastCall" was presented at the Substation in 1999 and has since been distributed through various bookshops and shows. He is currently collaborating with Alfian Sa'at on "Geograffiti", a website that allows Singaporeans to fictionalise specific personal spaces in prose or photographs. Heman's contribution to DENSE is entitled "Pale Testament". It offers a physical reconstruction of that most illicit of intimate spaces, a hotel room. The work explores isolation, anonymity and identity through a fictional conversation between French semiologist Roland Barthes and Heman. The installation features three video narratives dealing with sex, violence and "a childhood hallucination about loss". Combining emotional enquiry to a concern with urban space, "Pale Testament" should be a challenging and stimulating journey. Tan Kai Syng: Chlorine Addiction "Chlorine Addiction" is Tan Kai Syng's first major show since her return to Singapore. She writes that this series of ten videos will address "politics, culture, mass media, gender, time, geography, self, desire, awkward tension, complacency, existence and evaporation, insatiability, intoxication, obsession and objectivity, evolution and technology". Whew! Anything else!? What would seem to be overarching ambition for most is par for the course in the case of Kai Syng. Her indefatigable ability to maintain a punishing schedule is mirrored by the exhibition's central metaphor: a fictitious protagonist takes 30 minutes to accomplish ten laps, covering a total distance of 10x100 metres. Symbolizing these laps, ten three-minute videos will be randomly projected on the walls and ground of the gallery. The audience will swim around the room in a sea of images and sounds created by local composer Philip Tan. Video segments include: Alien Nation, Vertigo, Cruise, Consumption and Pussy Galore (about a cat show). Imbued with a rough and edgy feel, intent on rudely subverting self-expression, self-aggrandisement and the act of creative (self-)destruction itself, Tan Kai Syng's work for DENSE refuses to neatly tie up loose ends, choosing instead to question the meaning of art and life as they now exist.
KAI SYNG'S & HEMAN'S MUTUAL BACK STABBING & BACK SCRATCHING
PART I: KAI SYNG INTERVIEWS HEMAN KAI SYNG:
As an artist who has been concentrating primarily in video and other electronic means of expression, I have had accusations like "Video is not art!'; ?Video is not fine!', ?Video is not fine art' hurled at me. Do you think video is a ?valid' art medium?!? HEMAN: Everything is a valid art medium to me, as long as that something can enable us to project certain ideas that are swimming around. Video is something that is very close to me because when I was young, I had very few friends due to my mother's paranoia about bad company. As a result I spent a lot of time watching television and when my father bought a tape recorder, I would tape cartoons and Hong Kong movies and watch them over and over again until I could memorize the script flawlessly, even till today! I think I belong to a generation where TV and video play a huge parental and peer role, and that represents a step in which we're becoming post-human. KAI SYNG: The title of your show Pale Testament is intriguing. What is it about? What are some of the concepts you are trying to deal with? HEMAN: I think with Pale Testament I am playing with a lot of ideas about "What next?". I am exploring how conscious and unconscious we are in anticipating what is going to happen the next day, who is the next person we're going to fall in love with, where is the next country we're going to tour. I have chosen to work with certain grand "Before and After" notions; Intimacy vs. Isolation and Identity vs. Anonymity. I think these ideas came from reading the works of Roland Barthes. The word "Testament" found its way into the title because of this strange inheritance of knowledge and personal experience from Barthes, while the word "Pale" refers to death; every single human being's "What next?". As you can see, there are many influences of my ten years of studying in a mission school, singing hymns and reading the Bible each day, but now, it's all coming out of me in a twisted sort of way. KAI SYNG: I like the stills of The Second Henriette. The girls look spontaneous, caught unawares. One of them wearing a white shirt has a button done slightly wrong. Now that's teasing and erotic. I like that... HEMAN: Teasing seems too tame to describe the videos in Pale Testament. I hope they provoke - not in a disgusting, distasteful manner, but they will cause uneasiness in your body and your mind. Unsettling, posing questions,unnerving. There will be quite a bit of eroticism in Pale Testament, so thefaint-hearted can stay at home and watch "Under One Roof" while the rest of us get our senses tickled... Every other Hollywood movie features some form of sex so viewing Pale Testament could be a new experience for people who have never seen eroticism separated from mainstream appeal. KAI SYNG: Like you, I enjoy being anonymous and taking long walks. Being in a state of solitude while surrounded by millions of particles, persons and non-persons alike. Sometimes it's out of a pseudo-pre-pubescent shyness, almost apologetic that I am around; at others it's me gallivanting at the margins, observing, sneering, peeping, spitting at everyone. HEMAN: I enjoy long walks, feeling anonymous, being in solitude amidst thousands of people along Orchard Road. I think there is a fully grown voyeur in me,always seeing, watching, decoding gestures, picking up mannerisms... it is as if the real video camera exists within me and my brain is the tape...
PART II: HEMAN INTERVIEWS KAI SYNG HEMAN:
Swimming is a very unnatural thing for mammals, we have lungs not gills. Do you feel unnatural when you swim? Do you swim in swimming pools or in the sea? How often do you swim? KAI SYNG: Ever since I was first conceived in my mother's stomach (which must have been eons ago since I can hardly remember any of it!) I have been swimming. I know I will live for eternity but as when I do kick the bucket I know it will be a bucket full of water too. (I may just forget to breathe while managing a breast-stroke and if that happens at the age of, say 80, it could be lethal) Hence swimming 1 km nearly every day in man-made pools is certainly not un-natural. I returned home late November 1998 and for the past 400 days or so I have accomplished about 400 km but that is nothing compared to the distance I have flown from the other end of the world to reach this island. I may be 1.57m short only but my laps are 100 metres each. It takes me about 30 (breast)strokes and 3 minutes to complete each lap. 10 laps X 3minutes, that makes 30 minutes worth of aqua-sports daily. But fuck, it is so much more than a sport. It is MY BLOODY LIFE & LIFE AT LARGE ITSELF. I like the repetition. It's simplistic and negligible a gesture. Everything is transparent or at least translucent. There's no mystery behind it. Nothing grand or too serious about it. There is absolutely no meaning behind it either. It almost feels as if I am on nirvana! Ha ha. I like being afloat, floating, gloating, bloating. There are no life-guards around so there are no rules, nothing to hold on to, nothing to get a grip on! Everything is intermediate and indeterminate, transient. I adore the fact that the more I swim the more I seem to be arriving nowhere. I reach one end of the pool and I make a U-turn, head back and do exactly the same thing again! I mean what's the point. It is not about anything. I love it, darling. The endlessness of it all. It could go on and on, arriving at no real conclusion or resolution. Well actually there are some effects, here and there, from my long-ish-term immersion in this kid of artificial solution. The more I swim the drier, harder I become. You can't imagine how exfoliated my skin is. The chemical is making me more & more myopic. There is so much filth & undefined particles that may come your way underwater. There is no filtration or purification process & it may feel like I am drifting in my own sea of puke. So the short-sightedness is a gift from god. Everything underwater is out-of-focus! Out of water too I am getting more & more *blur*! (Does that make me more and more Singaporean?) HEMAN: What are you working on next? KAI SYNG: After *Chlorine Addiction* I want to start a New Life. Life is one struggle after the other. I have failed (melo)dramatically as a normal citizen, as a teacher of sorts, as a writer or visual artist or image-creator or video-maker. I want to now do something useful & meaningful instead. I want to represent, if I may, my community, my country & my planet in all the swimming competitions, Olympic meets and what have-you-s. I am working very hard to become *The* Champion Swimmer. Swimming is an end in itself. Life is a giant bathtub of roses. The pool is an industrial, heavy-duty sized KY jelly. I want the rest of my life to flow as smoothly as possible. This will happen as I swim more & more everyday. I want my life to be ONE CONTINUOUS SWIM, a single prolonged climax. As *The* Champion Swimmer I can finally contribute to human history & account for & explain my ongoing existence in life.
Heman Chong aka NoSleepRequired
The Alliance Française de Singapour presents D E N S E featuring 2 new video installations Chlorine Addiction and Pale Testament by Tan Kai Syng and Heman Chong 22 July - 12 August 2000 (Except Sundays) 10am - 7pm Société Générale Gallery Alliance Française de Singapour 1 Sarkies Road Nearest MRT station is Newton