I think it is inevitable that I often delve into this ‘insider’ and ‘outsider’, or ‘local’ and ‘foreigner’ topic since I’m living in Amsterdam right now. However, it was only recent that I have accepted that I am a moving body and I have un/subconsciously ‘performed’ this displacement over the last years residing in Singapore.
I was hit hard with this confrontation while in Bandung with the DAI last October. Later on, I wrote an essay titled, #ILEFTMYPDFSOMEWHEREBETWEENSINGAPOREANDINDONESIA: Locating Geopolitical Identity Displacement and the Act of Locating, uncovering my own doings and trying to understand my position from this displacement. Moreover, this oxymoronic title illustrates the missing point pretty darn well; as arts and cultural producer, our work is still very much location-bounded — despite the supposed convenience brought by technology — and this only means that time and space will be redefined over and over again.
But let’s put the ‘art’ aside and talk about how do or should people deal with this transition of time, space and place? Its easy to put a finger on globalization after many places have/had benefitted from this system and these places have since gave rise to forms of ‘localism’ — with some being extremely right-winged and many becoming to be as such. “Our” political system and society is not ready to take on the transnational (cultural) identity that globalization have brought us to. The idea of the nationstate is built based on the fact that it is a body that can keep and protect its people within a border and therefore to ensure the existence and ‘conceptual notion of survival’ of a particular group of people. This modernist project have now of course expanded to be something with a ‘darker side’ and this ‘darker side’ is ensuring the ‘basic needs of survival’.
I was thinking about these issues while having a conversation with a friend/artist-colleague from Singapore about how she only feels happy when she’s away from Singapore. I told her that that feeling or conception is a total misconception because you can also feel unhappy elsewhere. One fact also remains for her, she has never lived anywhere else other than Singapore. If returning to Japan a few times a year and can renew your ‘happiness’, then you can keep doing that and retain your ‘unhappiness’ in Singapore. While I’m not saying that if she’d live in Japan, she’d also feel the ‘unhappiness’, I’m simply saying that we humans constantly pick out good and bad things from the places we live anyway but whether we ultimately can like and choose to live at a place depends very much on our own psychological navigation of a place. Or, it can be deduced to how we choose to psychologically deal with a physical space considering the dynamics and patterns of the city, interaction (both human and spatial) and these factors often changes the personal, psychological and emotional perception drastically.
Truth is, it will always be hard for Singaporeans to live anywhere else (I’d love to elaborate on this at some point because this is altogether another topic itself, dealing with governance and management).
Here I copied part of our conversation:
Me: How do you think in Singapore, we consider a ‘foreigner’ a local?
Friend: When they get a PR (Permanent Resident status) or our citizenship.
Me: Ya but that is state/modern-nationhood rhetorics. I meant on a ground level.
Friend: When they can speak our language?
Me: I bet that there are tons of people who has our citizenship but still retained their culture. Should we allow that? We should, right? Considering that we’re a nation that empathize and ‘tolerate’ such (cultural and religious) differences.
Language (if referring to Singlish) is a very complex tool that Singapore uses but it is also the thing that creates that division of this ‘local’ ‘non-local’ phenomenon. Is Singlish (colloquial Singapore English) our language?
Friend: No la. Not like this — perhaps it’s like we can behave and speak the way that we feel comfortable to one another? I don’t know how should I put it.
Me: Singapore is ‘doing great’ in terms of cultural ’tolerance’ and in fact better than any country on this planet but not transparent enough I think. (I have the impression Canada isn’t too bad given their liberal views on immigration but I haven’t been there or know that much to say).
I think I need to read more otherwise I keep getting these ‘thought blocks’ that’s not helping with my writing. Although rfaoh is really giving me a great reason and space to write and read more.
I decided to also post an extremely rfaoh-appropriate photo of what I did yesterday. I composed most parts of this post the day before, read a bit of Walter Mignolo, drinking, then finally playing Civilization V and drafting a logo for my handmade leather goods business on etsy.
Here’s a link to the store: wayfarerworkshop.etsy.com
And follow us on Instagram?
I’m gonna give everyone here the ‘better’ discount code [FRIENDZONE] — 25% off, so show some love if you can? I’m still going through the rebranding phase at the moment and I need help with the logo, and also language translation from English to any of these languages; French, German, Italian, Japanese, Dutch. I’m doing this to support myself because as I mentioned before I’m running low on funds and might have to withdraw myself from the DAI and return to Singapore before end of this year if money doesn’t come into my bank account magically (just kidding). Well, I want to simply avoid taking more loans, especially not from the banking institutions.