Mr Kiasu versus Annabel Chong: Round 1 to 251
By He Zhiyan *


        Mr Kiasu - a caricature of the 'mainstream' Singaporean desire not to lose out. Annabel Chong - an icon of 'transgression', apparently against everything that Singaporean culture stands for.

        Yet the visage of Mr Kiasu, decontextualized from the seemingly innocent pages of the comic book reveals a visage brimming with lust. And Annabel Chong, considered in context of her record-breaking achievement of taking on 251 men signifies a distinctly Singaporean sense of Kiasu-ness. Thus, the artist finds cartoon character and hardcore porn-star strangely complicit. Seeming opposites collude.

        The images are repeated 251 times in order to simulate the banality and boredom of Annabel Chong's 'gang-bang' [all the variations you can do in her]. The relatively large amount of floor space covered by the images also makes the artist complicit in what he is trying to bring to light - the insatiability of desire, albeit manifested in the context of art. The work, consisting of images appropriated from print and the internet, and multiplied by the photocopier, emphasizes the theme of banality in this age of mass reproduction - a system, which Annabel Chong and Mr Kiasu similarly are complicit within. However, repetition always generates differentiation - an object multiplied or reproduced does not remain the same. It becomes a term in a series, the object is no longer singular, but remains one of two, or three, or four…or 251. Hence, on a note of optimism, the artist feels that Annabel Chong's great event, banal and boring as a sexual act repeated 251 times may sound, every repetition must carry with it differentiation. This is expressed through the art-work by the process of ensuring that every photocopy is of a different tone or of a different definition. This is in turn reemphasized by the random orientation of the images as they are laid to the ground.

        Lastly, the formal arrangement of the work alludes to the grid [10 by 25], which in turn, signifies rationality. But claims to rationality or 'clarity', in turn, is merely another fetish, an anal obsession for clarity. Hence the disruption to the enclosure of the grid - 10 by 25 plus 1 - the one that got away, the disorderliness of desire. In pretty much the same vein, the images form 'floor-pieces', to avoid the verticality of paintings, to avoid the verticality of high-art. Horizontality, on the other hand, alludes to low culture [of comics and porn], the base-ness of animal that crawls on all fours [not the verticality of upright humans], and of course, a low-ness that is to be stepped upon.

*the artist himself explains his controversial work