Laaid off work. What now? Resist or revolt? Such futility.
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.
What do I think about when I don't think? As I round up my last few beautiful days in the outskirts of Seoul before I have to head off to Beijing to reunite with my family for a well-deserved vacation, a defiant North Korean missile was fired at 6am this morning, and it landed in the sea not far from Hokkaido, Japan. While the US is conducting its 'regular’ — often unapologetic — military exercise with the South Koreans military, I am sitting here opening, closing, and reopening this report, contemplating — or even procrastinating — about I can possibly write.
“What am I doing here?”, is a question I routinely pose myself. I now wonder if my relentless pursuit of the never-ending “here’s” is perhaps too disruptive. In the same vein, I can’t seem to know where I want to be; except knowing where I do not want to be. It’s an excuse I sometimes use to cover up my escapism. On a different note, while noting the political context of the Korean Peninsula (or the nature of conflicts), I have been rethinking the difference between presence and occupation. It questions not just the essentialism of identity and place — if not nationalism, and the rhetorics of the nationstate — how else and what other ways to justify the existence of being/the conception of statehood. Where is the “inside” and/or the “outside”?
A year ago, I applied mainly with the intention to understand my own practice, and perhaps to find a “direction in my life”, in regards to being simultaneously, an "insider" and an "outsider" of where I come from. The combination of my trajectory at the Dutch Art Institute and RFAOH have certainly pushed my practice into a more theoretical, and political direction/place. With that in mind, it is, therefore, important to think, and employ strategies that bring about higher agency in one's (artistic) practice. Although my initial research premise relating to my thesis have changed — from a "non-position/location" to the "hyperrestrained order" — it nevertheless helped me to understand better my position or role (and even the escapism), and my relationship with the state (Singapore), that changes from being a citizen, a soldier, to an "artist" (as an occupation). I have seen this process as a crucial development — as a theoretical inquiry, and the understanding of the previous — in relation to my art practice. During my hiatus, I have learnt to bring research-traveling-writing to the forefront of my practice — not entirely inclined to the notion of producing artworks as the 'only' way of art-making. Ironically, I believe this journey — of art and life — will/can never truly be on a “hiatus”. If one is practicing life (thinking about Tehching Hsieh's talk), can we say or consider art as the medium of life, while life never stops, and art nourishes life?
The “here” now is post-hiatus. I am excited about what Beijing can I offer me, as well as what I can learn from this potential move. “Post-hiatus” is, so to speak, actually getting over an ex-lover, and confronting some fears I had the past couple years; anxieties and insecurities, where I don’t just ask myself the purpose of my existence at a physical location. It is about living through it, making decisions even if I won’t be liking it, whether its on life, art or love.
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.