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.
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.