I. For the Black Days
You ask if black is a colour -
I think it is, however sombre;
if you see it, it must be one.
I hear, however,
that white is not a colour - we see
it exists here for the others.
For the obvious fiery days
when the words must not be spoken -
or will not -
then the lines appear
and the stories.
Almost everybody wants something else from it. I'm afraid if I ask for more, it'll all disappear.
Check out their music at: http://www.siliconsounds.org
or live at "Live & Wired Presents The R.O.S (Religion Of Sound)", 21st March 2003 @ Zouk
When I went back this summer
I thought the Esplanade beautiful.
Only later did I find everyone else
Likened it to hideous fruit.
What people dismissed as flippant,
I saw the gazes of old men that broke my heart.
Where people saw the ease of poetry,
I could only write the difficulty
Of not knowing when, what, where,
For I could only write of what I see.
In the beginning, there was House.
the2ndrule talks to their excellencies, Lomo ambassadors fFurious, on the recent Lomo Wonderland project and what makes the camera so funky.
Howdy lomo ambassadors. Please inform us lowly subjects what being a highly respected lomo ambassador entails. :)
We help to co-ordinate the setting up of Lomo retailers in Singapore, so that it's easier for everyone here to get their hands on a fabulous Lomo camera. We take care of all Lomographic activities, events and exhibitions locally. So far there have been 3 exhibitions. The 1st was Red in Sep 01 at the Katong Bakery, and the 2nd was While You Sleep in Feb 02 at Atelier Frank & Lee. Red called for all pictures red to be submitted, the lomographs were eventually made into boraded window curtains. While You Sleep was much more complex, we selected 9 visual innovators from different creative fields (music producer, fashion designer, film editors, student...) and handed them each a LC-A and gave them a period of 9 nights to shoot. Each lomographer's pictures were then remixed by an art director and video editor accompanied by a local artiste/band's music. And right now, our 3rd exhibition, Wonderland is showing at the Esplanade - Theatres On The Bay. Most importantly, we're always here to provide technical and especially emotional support.
What are the wonders of the lomo? (i.e. what makes the lomo such an amazing camera?)
Lomography makes photography fun for anyone. Without prior training in "professional" photography, you'll be able to take amazing photos. Each one of the Lomo cameras are different in function. The pictures from the current wonderland exhibition are shot with the LC-A, which shoots like a normal camera would, 1 picture in 1 frame, but its lens makes every image ultra-vivid eye-candy!
Tell us about the recent lomowall exhibition. Were there cute Japanese manga characters involved? How was the public response?
There are cute and scary all mixed into one Wonder-ful concoction. Everyone's image(s) of Wonderland was a surprise in terms of subject and mood. So far, we've had positive responses from the press and our friends. Being that the exhibit is in a MRT tunnel, most people just stop and look while on their way to or from the Esplanade. Although I must add that the Singapore public response is exceeding. After travelling through 5 Asian countries with not much problems, the Singapore exhibit has a few photos ripped off. What does that say about Singapore?!
Taking photographs, especially with the lomo, can feel like a very private capturing of the moment. What do you think is the value of sharing these private moments with the public in an exhibition?
Photography essentially is a private point of view. By sharing a lomograph online (http://www.lomohomes.com
) or in an exhibit, other people get to appreciate your distinct point of view and sometimes they also provide the lomoographer with their own interpretation which can be interesting. It also becomes encouraging to other people who want to do similar photography.
Organising such a large scale exhibition (part of a global event) must be hard work. What are the difficulties you face in organising an event such as this? What are the rewards?
We learn with every event; co-ordinating with other countries, other people, sourcing for sponsors, securing an exhibition space, making sure that the contractor does a good job, applications for various permits, finding people to help with the setting up... The rewards - meeting new people, other lomographers, making new friends, learning a new thing, exposure, and having a great party on the opening night!
How does the lomo liberate the masses?
Lomography is about freedom of expression and living with lesser rules. We can all do with more of that.
What is your message to the young people out there?
Do something new and fun every day.
I was having coffee with my ex-teacher on Sunday and we got to talking about political awareness, which was quite a strange topic, considering that we were soaking in the weekend laziness of lower Siglap, sipping on our kopi and teh at Killiney kopitiam.
We'd actually started talking first about Martin Lee and the Hong Kong democracy movement, which was itself sparked by the local government's redevelopment policies. 'I don't understand why they've got to tear all those old places down, and I'm sure I'm not the only one to feel that way,' I said. She said something about Singaporeans not daring to speak out. I said something else about Hong Kongers being more politically apathetic. We agreed on how sad Martin Lee was, but that he was essential, an emblem, if you like, of a cause that is far from lost in the SAR.
But she said something that really made sense: if Hong Kong, which isn't, and never was (and sadly, probably never will be) has its pockets of vocal dissent (Lee, Emily Lau, etc.) why can't we? Are things going to change? People like Chee Soon Juan are still being thrown into prison for holding open forums in public: this time, very audaciously within the semi-hallowed grounds of the Istana; others like JBJ are Chia Thye Poh have been bankrupted and silenced into submission to the guided democracy that has long characterised single party rule here. Which begs the question: are young Singaporeans going to want to make their voices heard as they eventually mature into adulthood? Hong Kongers, in contrast, are a lot more insistent in getting their message across: rallies and protests are far from a rare sight in the SAR, and bills such as Article 23 are heatedly debated by both politicians and the man in the street. In Hong Kong, democracy is an issue: I remember riding in a cab in the NT once, when the driver made a reference to LKY dictatorial bendings. He was, perhaps, in his way, right, but even if his idea of a dictatorship was by no means flawless, I think he quite concisely pointed out what too many Singaporeans routinely dismiss as unimportant: the existence of the democratic concept within the fabric of any society. At least he recognised it in the languishing chaos that modern Hong Kong has become. And don't get me wrong here: our cab drivers are quite possibly the most politically-reactive in the region. Notice I said reactive: where do all of them go come election time? Or do they all live in Chiam See Tong's constituency?
All of this led me to the sad conclusion that young Singaporeans, particularly those of my generation (those born during the 80s) are largely politically ambivalent, if not apathetic. Politics to most of us doesn't mean anything, and cannot be fully separated from the forces of economics. Not hard to see why, actually, when almost everything and anything worth discussing in the papers centres around dollars and cents. Yes, you know these are strange times when the 'value' of a banyan tree can be calculated down to the nearest K, and the success of a theatre production it's ability to set a precedent in boosting future tourist arrivals, hopefully on gleaming new Singapore Airline carriers, which by the way, so the front page of the Straits Times tells us, has had a scanadalously profitable year.
I don't think it's right, and I certainly don't understand how it is possible to turn a blind eye to the issues that surround and determine our lifestyles each and every day. Democracy here really means nothing more than submission: if something sounds right, it's got to be right. If something doesn't sound right, there's nothing we can do about it. We're wrong to think that democracy equals politics: it isn't politics, if you ask me; it's common sense, and it's important to take a stand, if even for the smallest issues. If we don't hold the government accountable for each bill they vet and each law they pass, we ourselves become the perpetrators of that very injustice, that would certainly come back to haunt us in the form of larger, more pressing issues. You might say that that is a massive responsibility to shoulder. Well, I happen to think that the alternative is far worse.
I am the Caliph of Baghdad, city of wonders, jewel of jewels. From my throne mercy and wisdom and justice flow, for I rule this city. I moulded it, and the hands of my forefathers moulded it. The same blood runs in my veins, in the veins of the throbbing city. She is mine, my own.
But sometimes even kings may tire, when the spirit goes out and I do not have the strength anymore, and that is when I become nothing. Nothing, like a beggar, clothed in tatters, I escape from the troubles of my mind. And it in such a likeness, with my troubles behind me, that I haunt and roam Baghdad.
The beggar in rags goes unnoticed, sitting on the flagstone of the marketplace. The sun is rising over the jewelled city, making its facets glimmer. Already, the city is stirring, the cobblestones rumbling to life. A whiff of the sweet smell of jasmine and sweat fills the air. The city yawns. And then they come - the merchants of every kind, selling fruits, sugars, cloths, slaves, and every other commodity. The smell of a city awaking tickles his nostrils, even as a silver coin clinks in his bowl.
He hears music. Music that twists and turns like a lazy fume. It is the old snake charmer with a body so slender it is serpentine, and eyes like rubies, and he kisses his melodious pipe. The cobra, glistening golden in the sun, sways in the morning breeze, a poisonous grass. From it rises the cantankerous cacophony of hawking and bargaining, somehow is more perceptible than the figures themselves. In those sounds are the play-noises of little children - the teasing, the crying, the howling. And below that, the noises of their parents, squabbling over the colourful goods in an almost jovial way. And further down, the strange moaning song of the beggars, less hopeful than habitual.
The jewels of the city are truly dazzling. The rolls of coloured cloth, royal blue and saffron and blood-red, to be sold by the arm-length. The threads of gold and silver that weave their intricacies in translucent scarves. The fruit, nuts and berries that seem to hail from every last corner of the world. The odd contraptions which sang, the jewelled birds, the strange counterfeits of life. The pottery that is black and white and their blind tender.
And he thinks to himself, this is Baghdad the beautiful. Beauty is in the plums of the richest velvet, like the dewy eyes of a young boy. Beauty is in the clockwork wonders, a tiny golden bird with its mechanical song. Beauty is in the lush eyes of a slave, her face hidden by a beauteous scarf. They are beautiful, these sights and smells and sounds.
The rabble grows steadily louder, the heartbeat of a city. The people are its lifeblood, he thinks, coursing their bright trailing lives through its veins in surges and waves. Their stories hang in the air like shimmering tapestries, and they are like the threads. Let the eye pan over the intricacies and you see a pattern emerging - the grand pattern. The songs, the stories, the incense... they intertwine in loving embrace. They are magic, these wonders - no less.
Magic is in the flying carpets, suspended by nothing but air. Magic is in the vials of perfume and poison and medicine - their fumes are malice. Magic is in the marketplace. It hangs like threads of heat, buoyant in the air. It lies in the soles of the feet that walk on hot coals. Magic is in the domes and the stars which enclose the city of Baghdad. Magic is in the floating orbs of the earths and suns and moons of the ages.
And I, the Caliph of Baghdad, am satisfied. This magic has healed me. It sparkles, this beautiful city, this jewel of a city. It sparkles behind my eyes. It wraps me up in its shifting shapes, its rioting odours. I can smell the sour sweat of my brow and feel the mix of salt and dust on my cheeks. The sun has left the sky, leaving the marketplace a desolate mist of shadows.
I stir, feeling the cold in my bones as the sparkling city disappears like a vapour. It melts away, my beautiful city, leaving only sharp edges and broken stones. When I was sleeping, a small boy had stolen the one coin from my bowl. There he is, scuttling away on his one good leg like a mutilated beetle. Too weak to go after him, I curse and swear.
Sighing, I gather up my feet and my bones. A scrap of newspaper flutters by, declaring that the Americans will never defeat our Great Leader. But they are all deceived. They do not know who the true King of Baghdad is. They do not know. And how would they know? For the Caliph of Baghdad, city of wonders, jewel of jewels, has just woken up a beggar.
"The stencils came about after one particular night when I'd spent too long trying to paint 'Late Again' in big letters on the side of a train. British Transport Police showed up and I got ripped to shreds running away through a thorny bush. Then I hid for about an hour under a dumper truck with engine oil leaking out all over me. As I lay there I realised I had to either cut my painting time in half or give up altogether. The whole time I was looking up at this stencilled plate on the engine of the dumpster when I realised you could just copy that style and make each letter three feet high.
I got home at last and crawled into bed next to my girlfriend. I told her I'd had an epiphany that night and she told me to stop taking so many drugs because they're bad for your back."
Poems for James © 2002 Yvonne Tham
Taste me: Silicon Sound@Baybeats © 2002 (Interview) Koh Beng Liang, (clips) Shannon Low
Back, Home © 2002 Ng Shing Yi
Undress me: Lomo Wonderland and fFurious © 2002 (Interview) Koh Beng Liang
Untitled © 2002 Ken Lee
Eat me: Instant Cafe Radio Episode 12 © 2002 Sasha
The Caliph of Baghdad © 2002 Judith H
Drink me: Operation Art Core © 2002 (Interview and photos) Shannon Low
Bearbricks are Dangerous! Series 2 © 2002 Shannon Low