Incidentally conceived in China, raised in Singapore, Wayne Wang-Jie Lim is an art practitioner working and living in Amsterdam. Since 2009, he had exhibited and presented in shows at various venues, from the Institute of Contemporary Arts Singapore (ICAS), Centre for Contemporary Art Singapore (CCA), to the Singapore Art Museum. He was awarded the Winston Oh Travel Research Award in 2013 for a research in Hong Kong, a writer-in-residence at maumau Art Space in Istanbul, Turkey in 2015 and most recently part of a research-residency project co-funded by the Creative Europe Program of the EU, called “Understanding Territoriality” at Cittadellarte-Fondazione Pistoletto in Biella, Italy.
He is currently pursuing his MA at the Dutch Art Institute as a recipient of the Non-EU scholarship grant from ArtEZ Institute of the Arts. His current inquiry focuses on geopolitics, language, philosophy and history in relation to art and hence, experiments with formats that are not the conventional, such as, travelogues, thinking and the writerly.
During his BA studies, Wayne was drafted into the army for mandatory military service that brought a two-year halt to his “practice” — he practically made/produced nothing, and participated in a few minor exhibitions for which he only showed old works he had done in school. Instead, he read a lot, and in retrospect, “prepared” for his final year after his obligatory service ended. This was the first time he questioned what an “artistic practice” meant.
When he returned to finish his degree, he could no longer make art in the way he used to, and his production shifted to a focus on researching and writing, making strategic plans on practicing at the fringe of what can be called “art” before spending only a short couple months at actually producing the “artworks”. Though a national arts body has funded his projects and exhibitions, he is not recognized officially as an artist under the institutions’ national framework of what constitutes artistic practice. This simultaneously “insider / outsider” state has further led him to his current research.
As Wayne begins his hiatus, he will also be working towards his graduate degree, where his thesis-research explores the notion of “non-position/location”. He feels that this timing will prompt him to really ask himself how he could “nourish” himself and re-strategize his artistic practice in order to benefit from the artworld’s infrastructure/institutions but not be subsumed into the wider agenda of neoliberalism and nationalistic rhetoric as a contemporary art producer or a cultural and knowledge producer. He hopes to investigate alternative modes of art production with an ultimate goal of infiltrating the arts market from the peripherals while being completely non-positional and ambiguous. Or practically, what he has to do in order to survive as an artist in a way that will also afford him a comfortable living -- and not like a "poor artist".
During his residency at RFAOH, he primarily wants to spend time on brooding over the function of his “art” and his “practice”. He plans to use the stipend “for nourishment” by purchasing books and organizing a reading group, putting food on his table, paying for his website domain, buying a hashtag on his Instagram account, paying an exorbitant amount for a VIP ticket to an art fair to look at art-for-sale, etc. He also plans to routinely write and perhaps finally learn how to use Instagram to “market” his non-art/borderline art activities.
Hello from Eindhoven on behalf of Southern Wave, Van Abbemuseum and the DAI!
I just delivered a piece Leaving/Living the Netherlands in Dutch, in collaboration with Mirjam Linschooten, my colleague from the DAI. The text is a shorten text of the speech “Be normal or Be Gone”, made by Mark Rutte, the Dutch PM. During our first Southern Wave broadcast in Mexico City, I read a really long text by Walter Mignolo in Spanish, which is a language I do not speak — reflecting on my time and experience there — where I realized that it was the first time I was expected to speak a foreign language. As an English speaker, I always assume how people should speak English. It is my final month in the Netherlands after living here for a year and a half, I realized that I was also never really expected to learn Dutch.
I suppose, this time I am also really reflecting on my time and experience having lived in the Netherlands. To be continued… and if you’re free, please tune in to Southern Wave Radio!
Oh Venice! It’s been wonderful! It’s been a pleasure — only art and pleasure. This is a trip very much needed. Besides the fact that I do need a short break from my thesis, it was nice to meet and talk to people at the Venice Biennale. More importantly, to find some kind of inspiration for my final presentation at the DAI.
Well, I am not going to delve into details of the pavilions since this is ultimately not a reportage but Tehching Hsieh’s works at the Taiwanese pavilion did trigger some form and ideas. Still processing the fact that I got to see Tehching in person within a few days after reading about his works. And of course, the fact that he is the advisor of RFAOH now makes loads of sense. I wanted to write about how I thought and relate to his work in my last post but I think I am better equipped to do that now than before.
Hsieh’s dedication and discipline to his work are extremely admirable. At his talk, Doing Time, Marina Abramovich made a comparison of his works being polemic to Damien Hirst’s. Some critics have pointed out that his military experience has been a significant factor in his durational performances or what Hsieh himself called, “secondary art”. However, I am looking for a different kind of directive. Considering my history and background, I wonder what kind of authority do/can I have as a citizen (or an artist) to question state formation. What would it mean if I were to serve my supposed jail sentence? My recent retrospective inquiry — and conversations with Rebecca — clearly shows that I’ve been rather “jailed” or soft-traumatized by the different state apparatuses.
I recorded the second half of Doing Time, Tehching Hsieh’s artist talk in Venice. The recording is almost an hour long I think.
I fear to produce works because the works I want to produce often question the state. I fear these works will not garner a return. I fear for the risks I have to take. The thought of appearing in court again or to be held in a cell again is stopping me from speaking. And by speaking, I mean making art/works. However, is exposing the state apparatuses and state formation what I am seeking for? Perhaps not explicitly. I do want to be able to speak or reflect on the current conditions faced in Singapore and elsewhere. I do want to be able to imagine what is beyond the nationstate project.
I am an overseas-born Singaporean, who was at some point almost stateless while submitting two years of my body and youth to the state due to mandatory military conscription aka National Service (NS). Pondering more and more about the codes I embody, I am also increasingly conscious about what I could potentially perform for the state in order to guarantee my existence and citizenship.
Putting the two situations together — both in confinement — I seek to understand the limits of freedom. Are we really free? How does displacement (Arendt’s idea of displacement) reveals one’s location?
The contract of citizenship is ultimately a binary of betrayal and loyalty (to the state). I was going to write a post about the negation of the role of the artist last week. However, after Tehching’s talk two days ago, I am more encouraged now to take the risks involved in negation, alienation or exile. I wonder how do we go beyond the limit that we constantly and so readily accept?
While speaking to Shinobu and Matt in Venice about artmaking and my thought processes, I have admitted that I am indeed looking forward to make art again. As a matter of fact, RFAOH had assisted that artmaking process very much. I entered the DAI feeling that I often lack form in artmaking and this further prevented me from making anything at all. However, the bigger reasons were those I highlighted in Part One. I hope I can (re)frame this question as my final presentation at the DAI in one way or another.
I’d love to write more but I am beat from the heat and the trip. My sinus seems to have returned because of the heat too and I can feel the strain and aches from all the walking the past few days!
It has been about three weeks since I got back from New York but it was only the last couple days that I felt like I’m here after returning from Eindhoven and Arnhem for the DAI. It was really nice to see Joost and Rachel in Amsterdam again and I finally sat down for about 9 hours writing my thesis. That was good. I have been busy planning my post-DAI life that I’ve really neglected my thesis for at least 3 months. And here’s what needs to be completed in the coming 6 weeks:
finalize graduating presentation at the DAI
At the moment, I am really tempted to go to Venice Biennale for a few days but that means that I will potentially lose two weeks to work on my thesis because the next DAI week is going to be a week and a half. I regretted like hell two years ago when I missed it and this time, it’s a difficult choice that I have to make, or end up not making.
I’d love to write more but I’m not sure what I can form right now. And I’m panicking once again as the deadline draws near for my thesis. But below are things I’ve been looking at or things I have given some thoughts to:
How to disobey and get away? How? Against who and what?
How do the aesthetics of the military enforces state formation?
What can be considered “peripheral practices”? Selective isolation? Alienation? Self-exile?
So I’ve been reading Gilles Deleuze’s Postscript on the Societies of Controland assessing whether Singapore is a “society of discipline” or “society of control” or, both. Under such conditions, how do we think about ways to disobey, to avoid being governed or bypass governance itself? Tehching Hsieh‘s work comes to my mind. His practice on isolation and alienation wouldn’t have been possible with the strict discipline he went through during his 3 years of mandatory military service. His works are deeply regimented and philosophical. As I write about the “impossibilities and limits of art”, the more I am made to convince the importance of aesthetics and symbolism behind an artistic practice that is at the peripherals art practice itself. How to give form? How to give meaning?
Once again, all these make me think about artmaking. The stakes somehow get higher and higher and there is no way out…
Touristing the United States/But Let’s Call This an Airport Rating
Writing from the airport again — Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) this time — thinking about the time I’ve spent in Mexico and the United States. I must admit I’ve been loving New York City and I actually thought I was going to hate it. Entering JFK wasn’t too pleasurable though, albeit smooth. I witnessed border security officers making racist remarks and being aggressive to people. I actually passed through without a single question or checks (but let’s see, I still have to leave) but so far I’ve been rather happy here. And I honestly can’t even say if there was a trip I was sort-of-truly happy about for the last two years (recalling my break down in Madrid last summer). Of course, not to forget being able to speak in my own tongue after two weeks was such a relieve.
New York is strange-comfort. New York is perhaps, deep-undesirable-(capitalist-)desires. Washington D.C. is super serious and has some kind of majestic aura to it.
I wrote the above segment in future-spect.
Now, writing from JFK trying to comprehend what the hell went wrong today. My bus from D.C. to Newark Penn Station was scheduled to arrive at 4pm but it only arrived at 4:40pm due to the downpour and caused some flooding on the freeways. I uber-ed to EWR and when I got to the check in counter, I missed it by just a few minutes. The guy called the gate only to find out that they closed it. Then, I was directed to the airline services of United Airlines and they told me that they cannot put me on their flight and turned me away. With the original airline counter closed, floor staff not knowing where the hell airport information counter is, and me being hungry and angry, I sat down and had an “All American Cheeseburger”. Used the free wifi, book the next flight, which luckily was the cheapest. The only issue was that, it was taking off from JFK at 00:30. I had time (not too much but enough), so I said to myself, “fuck I’m not gonna miss this one, otherwise it’s going to get too expensive to go back to Amsterdam”. I booked the tickets and hurried my ass to JFK. Problem was that, the journey from EWR to JFK wasn’t that smooth sailing either, the subway wasn’t supposed to stop locally and also there was ‘issues with the tracks’ and was stopping for 5mins — that-felt-like-eternal — on each station that its not supposed to stop. Anyhow, I got to JFK and arrived at the check in counter, handed my passport over and they told me that my ticket got canceled because my payment didn’t go through. At that moment, I swear I went dumb. The woman at the counter explained to me that I might not have gone through with the entire booking or ‘further confirmation’ which supposedly prompts the system to cancel the ticket. Okay sure, but I saw my records there and I told them that I could pay for the ticket right there and then but they said, “oh but now that’s too late”. Then I asked for the airport information counter since they couldn’t help me. I had to go from terminal 7 to terminal 4 (where I am at now).
Both EWR and JFK give you free 30mins of wifi which is ridiculous considering how many stranded travelers there are/JFK gets. You’re lucky if you have a few devices with you.
There are hardly any seats or even lounges, lounge pods.
Regular staff at EWR knows nothing, really.
Considering the proximity of both airports, shuttling between (which means going through New York City) the two, is a fucking nightmare.
The terminals of JFK really aren’t that big, why didn’t the architects/builders made 1 larger terminal instead of multiple small terminals?
From the Air Train, only terminal 1, 2, 4, 5, 7 and 8 are shown, what happened to 3 and 6? Don’t fuck with people’s mind.
I finally paid for unlimited wifi here considering that I might have to call JFK home for the next 18 hours (or more). This time, the next flight/cheapest flights out cost(s) at least $1,000. I walked by the different airline ticket offices and quickly logged on to Singapore Airlines to see if I could redeem a flight from New York to Amsterdam but the only SQ flight out from JFK is to Frankfurt, so I hastily put myself on the waiting list. I started looking for ways to get back to Amsterdam from Frankfurt, trains would’ve cost me at least €100 for 5-6 hours of traveling and buses between €40-60 for 5-8 hours. Now, I’m also waiting for an answer for car pooling from Frankfurt to Amsterdam.
Everything is in suspense! If all goes well, I will spend not more than €50 to get back to Amsterdam. Please Singapore Airlines, bring me back to my bed. This is not funny anymore.
From Brussels to Mechelen, Mexico City to New York City
I’m writing from Mexico City airport, with a rum and coke. Feeling somewhat ambivalent about this trip. From Brussels, Mechelen to Mexico, I find myself trying to process the past 3 weeks of pseudo-work-study-trip.
Mexico was a relieve from Amsterdam, honestly, but the roughness, the disorganize-ness brought back the stress. Daytime felt extended, the heat in the day was demanding and the chills at night created too much discomfort as well.
In Oaxaca, we (DAI-Casco-Crater Invertido) got involved with the actual construction of the residence of Lugar Comun. Which was fun as hell and a great hands-on learning experience on building a residency “from scratch”, as well as understanding the organizational aspects of running a residency program. Upon returning to Mexico City, we (DAI-Casco group) finally got our shit together for a community-radio broadcast on the 25th in collaboration with Crater Invertido and other partners on radiolibre.co. We had segments that ranged from interview discussions to songs and experimental noise. I presented my segment almost entirely in terrible Spanish (except for the opening lines), reading a subchapter titled “Zapatista’s Theoretical Revolution” by Walter Mignolo that lasted torturously long (for an hour) after much encouragements from colleagues from Crater Invertido. At some point I actually hated myself for doing this radio-performance, making people listen to me for an hour in badly translated English text into Spanish. However, the idea behind is really to expose the reality of a “(post) colonial assumption” of how everyone should be speaking English — overentitled-ness of that expectation. The subchapter of Mignolo’s text itself explains very much Zapatistas’ political strategies in Mexico in the light of decolonization theory, which then brings Zizek’s critique on Singapore and ex-Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew into Mignolo’s argument. The crossover of decolonization theory and role, double translation sort of reveals this complex power structure behind economic strategies of nationstates and (crisis of) identity. Anyhow, my segment was well-received and it feels like there is actual potential in developing this work. But for now, I’m going to have to prioritize on my thesis in order to graduate in time!
At some point I actually hated myself for doing this radio-performance, making people listen to me for an hour in badly translated English text into Spanish. However, the idea behind is really to expose the reality of a “(post) colonial assumption” of how everyone should be speaking English — overentitled-ness of that expectation. The subchapter of Mignolo’s text itself explains very much Zapatistas’ political strategies in Mexico in the light of decolonization theory, which then brings Zizek’s critique on Singapore and ex-Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew into Mignolo’s argument. The crossover of decolonization theory and role, double translation sort of reveals this complex power structure behind economic strategies of nation-states and (crisis of) identity. Anyhow, my piece was well-received and it feels like there is actual potential in developing this work. But for now, I’m going to have to set my priority right, on finishing my thesis in time for graduation.
During this two weeks in Mexico, I had a bad stomach, fever, my sinus returned, got sunburnt and starved way too often (lost weight). Still, I must say I enjoyed very much despite tensions and some discontentment. Perhaps, only started enjoying a wee bit too late! I miss those guys at Crater Invertido already, to be honest, and it feels like there is something to accomplish there although I have no idea what yet.
For now, I look forward to reclaiming my Singapore identity by visiting Chomp-Chomp, a Singaporean diner in NYC.
To experience the departure of someone is always difficult, especially if that person is valued or influential to one. I guess going/leaving is a notion that no one likes to deal with, as one would only get repeatedly hit with the actuality of nihilism. I just arrived in Brussels, will be going to Mechelen on Thursday, Mexico City the following week, Oaxaca, then New York City and Washington D.C. before returning to Amsterdam again. This is likely the last major trip during my stay in Amsterdam — the last going. I am currently trying to wrap my head around the fact that I have more or less decided (after weighing out the pros and cons) to leave Amsterdam after I graduate.
I have the assumption that I will “work full-time” as an art practitioner after I am done with my studies. Although I have pretty much gotten used to the idea of going the past couple years, I realized that leaving is a completely different ball game. I figured this will be the third “leaving”, of something/someplace/someone and leaving is never easy. Sometimes I wonder how much suffering can one take? When does a person’s mind officially leaves (the self/body)? Could madness be located? And no, I don’t mean the psychiatric clinics, asylums and mental institutions. I mean, how much madness do we have in a contemporary society where everyone tries to conform? Is arriving at madness a kind of leaving?
The past week has been an awful battle with myself (and perhaps with you) again and it’s not over. But what is this, really? This struggle and discontent that I’m facing now; post-breakup, the artist’s condition, the effects of capitalism, the state… Or just, thinking too much? 2016 took a huge toll on my mental health. Since my last episode in Madrid, I have been relatively okay until last week. I want to cry every time I talk to someone about my problems/issues because it hurts so much inside. My thoughts are so quick and far and I cannot keep up. I admit that I have known my problems for a few years now but only recently being confronted by them because I lost the person whom I love very much and could connect with me on this level, guiding me and holding me through. For the past two years, I’ve been trying to understand (and trying at the same time) to just, stay afloat, alone.
Most of the time, it’s the problem of being unable to channel out my thoughts (those big ones — philosophical ones — in relation to art and politics, life, people, etc.) and being disenchanted and desolated by things and the state of order around me. This has caused me my ability to even grasp simple things in life and I want to grasp simpleness of life, I do.
Last night, my friend said that I’m always in either the past or too far in the future — never here and now. She continues to say that for the time that she has known me, she never saw me happy and I lack emotional intelligence despite being an emotional person. She had said so much more, although not as a critique on my personality. I can’t help feeling a certain degree of helplessness and a need to seek for support from friends and family from time to time. It is certainly okay to be not okay.
“Nocturnes, Op. 55: No. 1 in F Minor” from Chopin: Nocturnes by Arthur Rubinstein.
You used to tell me to smile more because I’m too dead serious for anyone — too inaccessible and too unapproachable. I must have forgotten to smile lately because I don’t even know how to anymore.
This post was supposed to be a rather lengthy one but I think I lost what I could say because there’s so much to say.
It’s 2017, It’s Going to be Better, and More Dangerous?
2016 year is finally over, but the horrids of 2016 recognize no year?! Since the year, is just a measurement. Today did not feel any more fresher just because it’s a new calendar year; it’s really just another day. So, no, it doesn’t feel like it’s a “new year”. Perhaps, this is just my resentment towards the last week of the year, a week (most of the time longer) of anxiety, compounded stress and the fear of being forgotten. A conversation with a friend recently made me think why don’t I try to treat 2017 differently by making New Years resolutions and so, I did it! Although, she said that my goals are not “quantitative” enough and are too personal/subjective.
Which brings me to a particular subject; how does one calculate risk? I have been pondering about this in relation to my kitchen presentation at the DAI. In retrospect, I must admit that I have lived rather riskily in Singapore; being investigated for using a sensitive word (which I’d rather not use here) on my blog at the age of 15/16, charged in court for 7 counts of vandalism at 19, arrested and charged in court again at 23 for illegal driving. I’ve been rather obedient after the last incident simply because I do not want to give any more reasons for the state to “restrict my freedom” due to my “crimes”, jeopardizing my “artistic practice”. And when I say “restricted freedom”, I really meant being locked up.
I began to analyze what encompasses this risk. Hence, the following “quantifying” questions of; what do I want to do that is so gravely dangerous that I have to think in such a way? Am I already traumatized from that 36 hours lock-up? Have I already lost my fight after being handcuffed in my own home that one time? Is this how much faith I have on Singapore (the state)? Would I put unnecessary attention/shame to my family for challenging the system, or the authority? How do I generate controversial narratives without putting my freedom or identity at risk? How much risks can I take as a citizen/an artist before my personal freedom gets impounded? Does it have to be at the expense of an individual — an “exemplary convict”? How can I talk about the fraud committed through the different state apparatuses? How far of an extent is the exploration of the limits of (il)legality done by utilizing a body or by creating a fictitious one, challenging the rhetorics of state apparatuses and thus, questioning the legitimacy of law, authority and power?
I’m just thinking aloud here. I hope this thought exercise can trigger a larger discourse and perhaps an ongoing writing/propositional work.
Now, happy New Year again, to readers, RFAOH crew, all ex and current residents, wherever you are!
Finding Home, Finding Love and Finding Work: the Proximity Between Us
It’s 8,500km kilometers as I type away (when en route from Singapore to Zurich). This is finally over, I meant my time in Singapore… Pardon my tone but it was hard being there; the anxiety, the panics, the stress and so on. Work was hardly possible — except during my first week — with everything going on at home now.
One would accuse me of being an escapist. Perhaps I am, but I am also very much so trying to face the problems that I (and everyone else) have of; finding home, finding love and finding work. I do not expect these things to magically be resolved and therefore I’m constantly telling myself that it is okay to be in such a state — a state of precarity — I just have a more unconventional approach, that’s all. Moreover, it’s been way past that question of, “why leave, not stay”, it is exactly because of my failure to see and grasp the reality of staying after that trauma. Despite that, my heart is dying to stay but my soul gets sucked dry each time I try.
I’m glad we did not meet (yes, I said it) although we did briefly and coincidentally crossed path. And the reason being because we are just not ready to see each other again, or maybe it is really just me. Being friends is wishful thinking because the moment we fell in love we both knew going back would be impossible (as our history has shown). I am accepting that “we” will become memories we hold dear to. Since all else has failed, my insistence on moving on and letting go came on so strong after that trauma, it is only fair that we both try to let this love go, just like how we held on to it.
Chances are, I’m going to be drifting for a few years but that’s fine as long as I’m doing something. I will naturally “settle” once I find a place that gives me a reason to. The possibilities of moving back to Singapore is high considering the urgency but then, how possible is it for me to maintain life both in Amsterdam and Singapore? In terms of work, at the moment (as I always say at the end of the year) it looks promising. My main task would be completing my masters thesis and graduating from the DAI in June with a kick-ass research on hand. Then, hopefully ending my hiatus and kicking off with a Demasculinized research residency with Andre in Switzerland and then a research (I cannot disclose yet) in Beijing for two months before returning to Singapore for a bit and Amsterdam during late fall.