Spritz and Hiatus in Venice
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!
Tomorrow is thesis day! No excuse!