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.
Wayne Wang-Jie Lim finished his RFAOH residency at the end of June, just as he completed his MFA at the Dutch Institute of Art at the same time. We initially debated whether/how “studying art” could be NOT “practicing art ” but in the end, we welcomed him as our resident and are happy we did. He has sent us his thoughtful final report, in which he contemplates the meaning of life, hiatus, and the politics of “inside” and “outside” while on the Korean Peninsula, and on his way to another “somewhere”. RFAOH sincerely sends Wayne our best wishes for his post-hiatus endeavours already lined up — we hope to see you again “somewhere”, Wayne!
Click “Final Report” to read on his experience at RFAOH.
So, I’ve officially graduated — party’s over. It is “back to reality”. Although I do have projects lined up until December, I need to bear in mind the 5-digit debt I racked up over the past two years which I need to start repaying from 2018.
I have been feeling rather shitty the past days and frankly not quite sure how to think about it. It is the end of an era and I am exiting Europe. I am upset about whether I will ever get see some people and my DAI colleagues whom I have gotten so close to the last couple years.
Other than the graduation, today is also the last day of my hiatus. Unfortunately, I feel extremely exhausted to go on (writing, or thinking), having just returned to Amsterdam again, and just generally tired of not knowing what I am feeling; from graduating, leaving people behind, or moving away.
I apologize for my ineloquence, and my terrible articulation but I am going to bed now. It’s 5 minutes to midnight, and Amsterdam is raining.
I’m feeling it, yes — the burnout. It’s coming I know. I probably have never felt this busy my entire life. I have been sleeping lesser, and even dreaming about what I would present for the DAI. Fortunately, now that thesis is near completed and my presentation is half-done, with my belongings in boxes going to Seoul, Beijing and Singapore piling up in the room I am about to vacate, I am starting to feel the burnout — literally feeling both fearful and excited about upcoming projects.
I have a week in the Netherlands after graduating from the DAI to do whatever else I want to. Besides that, I need to prepare for a presentation in Switzerland at Arc Residency for my collaboration Demasculinization, with André Chapatte. After which, I take off from Geneva to Seoul and will spend 6 weeks there for a research until September 1, when I head off to Beijing for yet another 8-week residency. I am particularly thrilled about my trip to China because it will be the first time I spend such a long time there to not only research, and also meet my family there for a holiday. Other than that, I also scheduled to meet a couple friends along my journey to the south of China before culminating with a presentation at the Institute for Provocation in Beijing. Then, finally, I will get to be in Singapore for (I think) two days before I take off for Indonesia, for the two biennales in Jakarta and Yogyakarta and the opening of MACAN.
I’m taking a break from work to write this but I really want July to come. At the moment, I’m just thinking when the full-on burnout will come. It will come, I know. And, time stops for no one…
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. 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?