National Gallery logo should have a dome on the taller box

From various letters, 12 April 2014, ST Life! Mailbag

(Chia Ai Tong, William):…My main complaint is that the new logo looks odd and incongruous. Having tried my best to look for beauty, I’m afraid all I can see is a long row made up of two rectangles of different sizes and proportions standing side by side. And why have two logos of the same design, one in grey and the other in red?

(YG Yap): The National Gallery logo is simple. It is the two buildings it is housed in. Good. But it is a little too simple. How about adding a dome on top of the taller box? That will make it look like the former Supreme Court building.

Add an artistic and nostalgic touch by making the lower edge of the dome slightly embedded in the top of the box. That should fix it.

(Lim Fang Kiat):…As if to pre-empt the anticipated slew of brickbats the renaming of the the art gallery will likely engender, National Gallery director Eugene Tan has said: “We want to be known simply as the National Gallery. Gallery itself implies the word art.

This renaming comes after several names had been bandied about in the past two years or so. These names included National Art Gallery of Singapore (NAGS), The National Art Gallery (TNAG) and National Art Gallery (NAG). These acronyms have been the butt of jokes, but at least the word “art” tells us what the gallery is about.

To have the word “art” removed from this new name when all the proposals in the past have included it is a surprising turnaround and I wonder how much of this decision is due to the need to avoid the negative connotations of the acronym.

It may seem a matter of semantics, but some of us feel that having “art” in the name will provide some semblance of identity for this new gallery, especially when we already have a National Museum, until such time as the name of the National Gallery can stand on its own for the visual arts.


Where Art thou?

Below is my interpretation of how a domed taller box for the much maligned logo would look like, with it overlaying the current facade of the former City Hall and Supreme Court buildings.


The NG Singapore

Now it looks like 2 Duplo blocks or a man with a big nose lying on his back, making it harder for the layperson to, according to the logo description, interpret the design in ‘every imaginable way’. There’s a limit to what you can do with 2 rectangles, really. Corrie Tan of ST thinks the use of boxes smacks of our ‘baggage of over-pragmatism’, and ironically, this ‘geometric abstraction’ of two boxes befits our reputation for being ‘square’. If this were the eighties, we’d have no shame because, as Huey Lewis and the News once sang: It’s HIP to be square. To most people who don’t over-analyse simple geometrtic shapes, it’s just two bloody rectangles.

Asylum lead for the logo project Chris Lee was actually flattered when critics cried ‘My child could do that!’ (‘it speaks of a young child’s purity’, he says, which is really an excuse for ‘lack of imagination’). He also explained that its ‘reductionism reflects the museum’s dynamism and confidence in its vision….It could also represent two platforms, two dialog boxes etc… Art should be a two way conversation’. With a child’s purity. That’s the thing with art, you can explain away rubbish with snappy buzzwords like ‘dynamism’. I could come up with a National Gallery logo in less than 3 minutes, not to mention 3 months as the designers did, using nothing but the letters and symbols on my keyboard and say the following without the slightest hint of satire:


The parentheses symbolise the ‘implicitness’ that defines modern art, the brackets and embracing periods melding the disciplines of art and language into one seamless, universal dynamic whole – an ironic, playful dualism of words being bounded, yet at the same time designed without boundaries in all its emoticonesque, symmetrical simplicity.

Surprisingly, most of our current museum logos don’t consist of anything beyond some fancy fonts. The National Museum has its acronyms floating in mid air like it were suspended in alphabet soup (NMS also stands for Neuroleptic Malignant Syndrome.)

Screen Shot 2014-04-12 at 2.41.29 PM

The Peranakan Museum has a bold, flowery typeface that wouldn’t look out of place in a Jurong Bird Park logo. If I had to suggest an acronym for this, I’d go with PAM.

Screen Shot 2014-04-12 at 2.45.54 PM

And there’s SAM, which is an exercise in stark black-and-white minimalism, which you can also replicate using Microsoft Word. Yes, you don’t even need WORDART for this.

Screen Shot 2014-04-12 at 2.49.23 PM

The only one with a graphic is the Asian Civilisations Museum, which depicts the Empress Place building’s facade casting a shadow. Nothing Asian about its ‘neo Palladian’ style at all. Its acronym ACM sounds like an insurance company by the way.


Those who look beyond the logo complain about the dropping of ‘Art’ from the former NAG, or more bizarrely, NAGA (The additional A is part of the word ‘GAllery’). Naga is also the name of a serpent deity in Hindu and Buddhist mythology, one that would resonate with anyone who plays World of Warcraft. TNAG or TNAGS look like a typo horror dying for the autocorrect treatment to TANGS (the shopping centre). I’m not sure if the new acronym NG is any better, which not only spells out a common Singaporean surname, but can be an abbreviation of ‘No Good’, in reference to bad takes when shooting a film, while NGS resembles an acronym for a government hospital or a convent girls’ school. Personally I’d prefer NAG to TNAG any day, the latter sounding like an annoying adolescent rapper.

Contrary to director Eugene Tan’s assertion, not all ‘Galleries’ imply art. The Singapore Maritime Gallery exhibits stuff that allows you to play a Captain or a ‘Matey’ for a day. The Sustainable Singapore Gallery shows you how the Marina Barrage works. The HDB Gallery shows you how living space has shrunk over time (probably also the LEAST visited gallery ever). There’s a KINDNESS Gallery devoted to Singa the Courtesy Lion. You can even have a gallery of ICE CREAM. In our context, a ‘gallery’ is just a general space to showcase stuff, whether it’s artifacts, toys, photography, paintings, food or campaign paraphernalia. So don’t be surprised if you invite someone for a trip to the National Gallery, the response you get is ‘Gallery of WHAT?’ To which you’ll reply ‘Erm, ART?’. And then you’ve already wasted 1 second of your life explaining as such.

If naming and logos aren’t problematic enough, some have even opposed the use of the existing building facade to house a modern art gallery, that the stuffy English ‘neo-classic style’ just isn’t ‘shocking enough’ for an institution like NAG. The building needs to be ‘dynamic, contemporary and confident’ like its logo and ‘Akzidenz-Grotesk’ typeface. It needs to ‘push boundaries’, something which the logo has failed to do, and rival the Art Science Museum’s lotus dome in terms of instant iconic recognisability. If it weren’t already too late, they could have come up with an architectural style that shouts ‘playful’ and ‘geometric abstraction’ at the same time.

Something like this, perhaps.

Screen Shot 2014-04-12 at 3.20.01 PM

The National Gallery logo is simple. It is the two buildings it is housed in. Good. But it is a little too simple.

How about adding a dome on top of the taller box? That will make it look like the former Supreme Court building.

Add an artistic and nostalgic touch by making the lower edge of the dome slightly embedded in the top of the box. That should fix it.

- See more at:

My main complaint is that the new logo looks odd and incongruous. Having tried my best to look for beauty, I’m afraid all I can see is a long row made up of two rectangles of different sizes and proportions standing side by side. And why have two logos of the same design, one in grey and the other in red? – See more at:
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UOB Painting of the Year is an ‘indignity’

From ‘UOB painting win: Calls to tweak rules’, 28 Nov 2013, article by Deepika Shetty, ST Life!

The new rules for the United Overseas Bank Painting Of The Year have kicked in, but the winning work by German- born, Singapore permanent resident Stefanie Hauger, 44, has generated talk in the arts community that the rules might need to be tightened further.

Hauger, a former interior designer who became a full-time artist two years ago, snagged the South-east Asian painting prize worth US$10,000 (S$12,500) and the Singapore award of US$25,000 for her 170 by 170cm acrylic on canvas, Space Odyssey.

…Singapore artist Aaron Gan said the fact that Space Odyssey trumped Suroso’s more nuanced and detailed painting titled Indonesian Artist’s Studio was an “indignity”.

Said Gan, 34: “I understand that artworks are judged on message, creativity, composition and technique. While Space Odyssey may score highly in message and creativity, it should accordingly score equally low points for composition. The technique is nothing to write home about. You pour paint on a canvas and turn it around. That’s it. You do not have to be trained to do it.”

It was a point picked up by Indian classical vocalist and visual arts lover Krishnapuram Venkatachar Godha. She felt Space Odyssey was “not that impressive” to win a first prize in such a prestigious competition.

“The painting reminds me of the artworks we did in school. Essentially pour some three to four poster colours, fold the paper into half and get this effect. It looks exactly like that except for the size of the painting,” said Mrs Godha, 42.

A swirl of controversy

A swirl of controversy

Hauger’s painting looks like a bird’s eye view of our blue planet from the perspective of an astronaut dropping acid in space, a psychedelic portrait of her morning coffee just after stirring with colours inverted and distorted, or what the worst oil spill ever would look like. It seems too splashy and accidental a work to be a winner in the eyes of fellow artists, professionals who come out harping every year about unworthy champions. Bai Tianyuan simply ‘copied’ a photograph, while 17 year old Esmond Loh’s victory was a slap in the face of ‘established’ artists who slog day and night to hone their craft. Both young winners weren’t even born when veteran participants were already showcasing their work.

This year, you have a 44 year old PR upstart whose work some claim can be accomplished by a kid in a blindfold during art class. I’d like to see Aaron Gan pour cans of paint on a canvas while turning it around and achieve what Hauger did with ‘Odyssey’. Or better still, rub 4 colours on your naked body and roll around on paper in a circle. If you can replicate a UOB Winner by throwing random buckets of paint on a wall, then point taken, though by the sheer element of chance, you can still create crazy, fantastic ‘art’, like a monkey typing out a couple of stanzas of poetry on a keyboard. In other words, winning the UOB Fluke of the Year.

Hauger’s swirly work represents the muddle that local art is in when it comes to recognising and rewarding true talent. Or someone was spinning the work around and got the judges hypnotised into giving it full marks. People are questioning how the categories are defined, or how skilled the winner is, but not the credibility of the judges, who are the ones selecting paintings of the year in the first place. If your judges are supposed to be able to discern the work of an amateur from an experienced hand, it doesn’t matter if your participants are a mix of wannabes, snobs or greenhorns painting for the first time trying their luck. We’ve seen how a piece of ‘emerging work’ has been deemed to be no lesser in quality than an ‘established’ one, a fact proven a few times already from past shockers.

Perhaps I should start training and submit a still-life of fruit as my entry in next year’s contest under the ‘emerging’ category. I could call it ‘Sour Grapes’.

Orchard Xmas colours similar to traffic lights

From ‘Orchard lights up – in safer colours’, 23 Nov 2013, article by Jermyn Chow, ST

GREEN, red and gold may be traditional Christmas colours, but they are also similar to the ones on traffic lights. Given that this could lead to motorists confusing yuletide decorations with traffic signals, the Orchard Road Business Association (Orba) has decided, from this year, to avoid the use of these colours for the shopping belt’s annual light-up that it organises.

“While we want to create the festive mood, we have to ensure that motorists will not be distracted by the displays,” Orba’s executive director Steven Goh told The Straits Times. He explained that initial plans to use silver and gold – which is similar to the amber signal of traffic lights – for this year’s display were altered.

Instead, the panel of senior Orba and STB representatives which plans and chooses the decorations decided to turn Orchard into a winter wonderland with giant diamonds and snowflakes – all blue and white. Called Christmas on A Great Street, the lights for the 2.2km stretch from Tanglin Mall to Plaza Singapura will be turned on by President Tony Tan Keng Yam tonight in a ceremony at Shaw House Urban Plaza.

…Said marketing executive Lynn Seah, 33, who drives down Orchard Road at least three times a week: “What is Christmas without its iconic colours? Safety is important but which motorist can be so clueless as to mistake fairy lights for traffic lights?”

The Orchard Road Xmas lights are like the Miss Singapore Universe costume; you can never please everyone. Last year’s generous decking of red and gold, the ‘traditional’ colours of Xmas, reminded some shoppers of Chinese New Year instead of a ‘warm Yuletide ambience’ that is supposed to simulate a nostalgic misletoe-draped, pine-scented family gathering by the fireplace.

Cai Shen Night

Cai Shen Night

In 2005, someone complained about a structure that looked like a God of Fortune hat sitting on top of a season’s greetings banner.  And yes, it was in ‘Christmassy’ Red too. I’m not sure if they recycled that for the following CNY celebrations. Not enough red and Singaporeans complain. Too much of it, and we accuse you of defiling tradition.

Huat the halls

It looks like for ‘safety’ reasons, we’ll have to settle for monotonous Winter wonderland blues and silvers for good, though it may not just be the red, gold and green lights of Orchard that causes accidents, but the very distraction of having Xmas lights along ANY road in the first place. This precautionary measure may have been triggered by a video of a car sent flying last Xmas, though it’s impossible to tell if the driver was spellbound by the Christmassy atmosphere, plain reckless, or pissed drunk.

In 2000, a man was killed by a motorcycle while taking photos of the Takashimaya lighting in Orchard Road. (Man killed in Orchard Rd accident, 10 Dec 2000, ST). 9 years later on Xmas eve, a driver responsible for killing an Indonesian maid on pillion along Whitley Road blamed Christmas decor for misleading her into ‘running a red light’.  In 2010, someone ploughed into a Xmas float along Orchard.  But why take it out on Christmas decorations when the yuletide season is known for a more probable cause of accident deaths, drunk driving?

You can judge for yourself how dangerous red Xmas lights are to motorists from this 2012 video below. Note how the amber roadwork beacons are contributing to the kaleidoscopic confusion as well.

If we’re so certain that Xmas decor is confusing to drivers, we should ban the same colours along EVERY street in Singapore, not just our famed shopping district, especially areas where drivers would LEAST EXPECT to be dazzled by Xmas lighting. Or maybe even ban cars from Orchard Road altogether during the festive season, just so that thousands of shoppers can have their fill of iconic Xmas lights in all colours of the rainbow instead of, you know, boring stuff like spending time at home with loved ones.

I’m just wondering what’s to become of CNY, and Cai Shen Ye, now.

Changi Airport’s Kinetic Rain damaged by woman in white

From ‘Woman arrested for intrusion into Kinetic Rain sculture at Terminal 1′, 3 Nov 2013, article by Royston Sim, ST

A woman was arrested by the police after she climbed over the railing at Changi Airport Terminal 1 onto the netting below the Kinetic Rain sculpture on Saturday morning. A police spokesman said they received a call about the incident at 8.28am, and on arrival at the airport, officers arrested a woman in her 30s under the Mental Health Act.

Investigations are ongoing, he said. A one-minute video circulating online shows the woman in a white dress perched precariously on the netting. Police officers later helped to pull her back onto safe ground.

A Changi Airport Group spokesman said the Kinetic Rain display was damaged by the intrusion, with some strings on the art sculpture entangled. “We have referred the matter to the police and our engineers are arranging for the sculpture to be repaired.”

A great place to hang out, T1

The Mental Health Act stipulates that a police officer may apprehend anyone they might believe to be ‘mentally disordered’ and is a danger to himself or other persons. In a Yahoo report of the incident, an onlooker thought the woman’s antics might have been a stunt or performance, and did not ‘respond in English’ to the airport security, while CNA mentions that she is ‘not a local’. Some people are just desperate for last minute souvenirs and maybe our terminal shops ran out of ‘It’s a Fine City’ T shirts.

A few months back, a street art installation at the Night Festival was ruined when itchy-fingered visitors stole more than 180 wooden blocks, though the thieves were never arrested. This woman in white probably suffers from the same artpiece fetish, that a hanging shiny copper-coated aluminum raindrop would be so alluring that she’d risk her life for it, like the proverbial Eve plucking a golden apple from the garden of Eden. Or the entrancing ‘dance’ of the computer-choreographed raindrops was simply calling out to be groped, lulling one into an altered state of suicidal stupidity, like the ONE RING from LOTR. The ‘I Walk the World’ blogger admits that the ‘temptation to reach out and touch them was just too high’. I would, too, be fascinated like how I would have the urge to poke a water bubble in zero gravity. Kinetic Rain, or HYPNOTIC rain?

Weirder things have happened at Changi Airport. A man with a TV for a head was spotted in June last year. Rob Zombie was chilling out in the airport lounge in 2011. In 2004, the Amazing Spiderman scaled the airport control tower to promote the Spiderman 2 movie. It’s no surprise that we wouldn’t be able to tell a publicity stunt or performance art from someone of unsound mind being a nuisance to himself and others. The Kinetic Rain installation was once the site of the iconic ‘mylar cord’ fountain which was there since Changi’s birth in 1981. For more than 30 years, it wowed passengers without having anyone jumping headlong into for a free rainshower and destroying it in the process. It was also the first thing my family took a photo with the first time we visited the airport. Then last year it simply disappeared with the multi-million renovation of T1, replaced by a bunch of synchronised metal bulbs that move up and down in concert to create a wavy illusion of flight. There’s supposed to be a dragon and kite somewhere among the 1216 moving droplets, but I guess I’m the sort who prefers the soothing drizzle of water than stand around racking my brain over a charade of metal and strings pretending to be water.

The Kinetic Rain sculpture is just over ONE YEAR old and has already been desecrated like a monkey breaking an expensive chandelier after swinging on it (The Changi group have declined to reveal the cost of this contraption). This is also the WORLD’S BIGGEST kinetic sculpture, created over a span of 20 months, weighing a total of 2.4 tonnes and broken within a day. No mean feat to single-handedly dismantle a product of German design, though I suspect the fine that is likely to be slapped (provided the intruder is certified sane) wouldn’t exceed the cost of even a fraction of the 1000 plus 180g raindrops.

Once a fountain which actual water. Kinetic water

Kinki Ryusaki copying Moon Pang’s bow tattoo

From ‘S’pore, Malaysian artists in spat over copycat tattoo’, 20 Oct 2013, article by Lim Yan Liang, Sunday Times

Is a tattoo design an original work of art that should not be copied? That has been the subject of an ongoing spat between a tattoo artist here and one in Kuala Lumpur, with lawyers weighing in to say it might well be a question of copyright.

It was in June last year that teacher Shan Ho, 25, got Singapore tattooist Moon Pang to put an original design of a lacy black bow on her back. All was fine until a few weeks ago when she discovered an exact copy of her tattoo on the photo-sharing app Instagram.

The photo was credited to Kinki Ryusaki, the pseudonym of Kuala Lumpur-based artist Wong Wei Yin. Ms Ho was flattered at first, but later felt indignant. She told Mr Pang about the copy, and he tracked down a photo of his design on Ms Wong’s Facebook page. Entitled “Tattoo by Kinki Ryusaki”, it had garnered over 26,000 “likes”.

Mr Pang, 37, who uploads his work onto Instagram, Facebook and his own website, confronted Ms Wong via Facebook, but his comments were deleted. Reached for comment, Ms Wong insisted she had done no wrong. She claimed she worked off a picture provided by her client, modifying the design “a little”.

“If you want to talk about copying, then everybody is copying each other,” said the 26-year-old, pointing out that other versions of the lace bow tattoo have been uploaded onto the Internet recently. “The artist should be proud of it instead of making such a big fuss,” she added.

But intellectual property experts say tattoo art might well be covered by copyright laws. An original work has copyright protection from the moment it is created in a tangible form, whether it is a sketch or a tattoo, and the original artist has the exclusive right to adapt or reproduce it.

Discovering that someone else has the same customised tattoo as yourself is like bumping into someone in town wearing the exact same funky clothing as you. Except that you can’t chuck a tattoo in the wardrobe and never wear it again. People who seek body modification usually get their inspirations from elsewhere like how we define our dress sense through magazines, whether it’s celebrity ink on David Beckham, Maroon 5 frontman Adam Levine, Rihanna or the mark of secret society members, and it takes a really proud artist to reject customers who’d want anything other than an ‘original’ design etched on their bodies.

If you want a tattoo that you can strictly call your own, a design that brings out your unique personality and history, you can either ink a portrait of your face or your loved ones (like your Godmother perhaps?), your I/C number in gothic font, something so uncool that no one will ever mimic it (a party logo, our National flag, a Chicken Soup for the Soul quote, or Phua Chu Kang) or a badge of shame to remind you not to cheat on your wife ever. You needn’t have to worry about anyone ripping off your ‘individuality’ then.

Post-it pads are so 2000s

Moonstruck’s Pang said in his Facebook page that he was both ‘appalled and flattered’ at the same time by Kinki’s imitation, though the Malaysian did cite his studio as reference in her own FB. It’s the same mixed feelings when someone plagiarises your blog content without seeking permission, or steals a photo off your Flickr account, knowing that your work is appreciated, but just not respected enough to have someone pay you for using it. But hey, on the bright side you get free publicity, and both Kinki and Moon are benefiting from it here, though Kinki, being somewhat of a hot sensation, model and celebrity in her home country, probably doesn’t need the attention.

So is Kinki right about everyone copying each other? I browsed through Moon’s gallery to view his ‘original’ artwork and found these (taken off Moon’s Instagram and website)

‘Red Black’

The ‘tribal’ design above looks vaguely like the facial ink on a major Star Wars character. Being influenced isn’t copying, you say?

Darth Maul

How about this DUMBO tattoo then?

For your kid’s 6th birthday

Which looks exactly like the Dumbo image on a Disney wiki page. Not sure what the Disney lawyers have to say about that. Who’s the copycat now?


And what would Antoine de Saint Exupery, author and illustrator of the Little Prince, think of this?

I don’t think the tattoo industry can thrive in conservative Singapore if everyone insisted on etching something truly one-of-a-kind on themselves, without involving some form of ‘copyright infringement’. Even if you got something special from Moon or Kinki’s parlours you’re going to find it on someone else who has the same taste because tattoo artists are normal people who need to sell stuff to make money and they’re not going to design something JUST for you

If you look at tattooists’ designs in general, they’re all familiar motifs with little personal touches here and there, whether it’s influenced by Japanese demons, koi, busty naked women with a python wrapped around them, dragons, religious icons, scripture or Chinese characters. It’s an artwork from a catalogue, not a gown at a Star Awards gala night, and anyone who contemplates getting tattoos because they want to be ‘special’ should think twice because chances are your chosen design may become as banal as a Nike swoosh in no time.

Le Restaurant’s Buddha statue in the wrong place

From ‘Buddha statue in wrong place’, 5 Oct 2013, ST Life!

(Danny Cheong): I refer to the story Chinese Goes Chic (SundayLife!, Sept 29).

In Buddhism, devotees become vegetarian in order to refrain from killing livestock. It is improper and discourteous of Le Restaurant of Paradise Group to place a huge Buddha statue in its meateating outlet.

Even if it is a piece of art, it is certainly in the wrong place


Le Restaurant is the brainchild of former Entrepreneur of the Year Eldwin Chua, and has been described as a ‘bar featuring Nordic-style wooden latticed ceiling, sexy pink lighting, and a DJ spinning soulful house music’(Chinese goes chic, 29 Sept 2013, Sunday Lifestyle). It also serves ‘Asian tapas’, which sounds to me like swanky fusion dim sum with toothpicks, where you can pass off mantou as ‘sliders’. Not a place to celebrate Grandma’s 80th birthday I suppose.

A Buddha statue in Le Restaurant or plush ‘Asian bistros’ like Tao in New York seems ‘right’ for the concept, since the idea of Buddha and Buddhism has come to represent everything ‘hip’ and ‘mystical’ about the Orient, but wrong to those who revere the image as how one prostrates before the same statue at an altar. Other than sprucing up the place, a Buddha statue can even double up as a feng shui talisman for prosperity and luck. Westerners may find such themes appealing in a ‘Seven Years in Tibet’ kinda way but to me it’s just tacky decor, like a stuffed antelope in a BBQ diner, or a wax figure of Sly Stallone as Rambo in Planet Hollywood.

The liberal use of religious artifacts as a restaurant/bar/lounge theme isn’t new. The Buddha Bar was the pioneer of modern ‘buddhist chic’ back in 1996, with its own range of exotic new age CDs to bring the ‘neo-spiritual’ vibe of the establishment right into your living room.  Nevermind if the tracklisting contains titles like ‘Egyptian Disco’ or ‘Salaam‘, which makes you wonder if the French who came up with the idea thought Buddha resided in the ancient Pyramids or traversed vast Deserts on the back of a magical camel.

In 2010, Indonesian Buddhists in Jakarta protested against Buddha Bar for insulting their faith and tarnishing the ‘good name of Buddha’, not because of the meat they served, but that it came across as a debauched hangout for drunkard party-goers and prostitutes. Here, the Buddha Bar owners already decided in 2000 to change the ‘controversial’ name of their UE Square branch to ‘Siam Supperclub’ (Buddha at the Bar has gone off the Siam, 26 May 2000, ST), where not only can you gawk at Buddha statues but order a lychee martini called ‘Laughing Buddha’. If turning your restaurant/club into a temple alone isn’t New Age enough, why not name an alcoholic beverage after a deity too? Some practitioners believe the Buddha himself would turn a blind eye to the glamorous exploitation of his image. Not sure if you could pull off the same gimmick with Jesus on a crucifix; your menu would have to be restricted to wafers and red wine.

Cocktails aside, there’s even a meat broth named after Buddha, containing sharks’ fin, ham, abalone and scallop. An origin story behind this renown dish describes how monks would leap over temple walls just to have a whiff of this fragrant concoction. Why, it’s the famous ‘BUDDHA jumps over the wall’ of course, a delicacy that I’m sure some Buddhists do enjoy nonetheless without complaining that it’s not vegetarian. Not sure if Le Restaurant has its own version though. Maybe it’s called ‘Bouddha saute par-dessus le mur’ and comes in shot glasses with tiny umbrellas in it.

188 words of inspiration stolen from Night Festival

From ‘Stolen art pieces paint ugly picture of society’, 10 Sept 2013, ST Forum

(Aw Yang Kang Ming): I WAS disappointed to find out that people would actually steal pieces of an artwork at the Singapore Night Festival (“More words of art go missing”; Sept 2). The installation by artist Karen Mitchell featured 365 wooden panels that were supposed to represent the shared aspirations of everyone.

Why would anyone want to remove an artistic installation that was supposed to inspire people?

Removing the panels is akin to downloading licensed content from the Internet without permission from the author; it is theft and a clear sign of disrespect to the creator. It also showcases the dissolute side of people; what would foreigners think of our society?

Perhaps the 188 panels went missing because they were not affixed onto any permanent structure.

Did any one of these say ‘FREE’?

When artist Karen Mitchell made her woodwork installation to be of the interactive sort, she didn’t expect viewers to ‘assimilate’ her work so well that they decided to take them home. Clearly, some people still don’t grasp the concept of street art. When they see others playing with these wooden slabs like how one browses wares at a flea market, but don’t see anyone around collecting money, they assume that it’s a free-for-all jamboree like those cheese samples promoters dish out at NTUC supermarkets.

Respect for the artist is one thing, but taking something that clearly doesn’t belong to you from public space is the fundamental no-no which we were taught as babies. I don’t see any practical use of Karen’s panels anyway, unless they were swiped by parents too cheapskate to buy spelling cue cards for their kids. I would, however, pay her if she could craft a sign for me that says ‘SILENCE’ or maybe ‘TOILET’. If anyone did surrender pieces of her work to her eventually, they deserve a gift panel with the word ‘CHAMPION’ on it.

The term that describes such ugly behaviour in the local context is ‘itchy fingers’, and Karen isn’t the first artist to suffer from a meddlesome public. A dragon sculpture displayed at a square near Chinatown Complex vanished completely in 2000 (So who stole the dragon? 15 May 2000, ST). In the 2001 Nokia Singapore Art exhibition, Tay Bee Aye’s 179 small fabric cushions shaped as lips gracing the pillars of Suntec City were nicked. Wikipedia explained away the theft by mentioning that her work was ‘too well received’. You could say the same thing if my sculpture of a famous politician built entirely out of gold tooth fillings got amputated overnight, that it was ‘overwhelmingly popular’ with the public. Sure, these petty looters ‘appreciate’ your handiwork. Like how a starving mongrel ‘receives’ a gourmet butcher meat display perhaps.

Even artistic attempts to spruce up our streets by government agencies are not immune from grubby hands. In 2009, STB introduced flower ‘totems’ to brighten up Orchard Road, but decided to move them to Sentosa instead because people were stealing flowers.  I wonder if in this instance such anti-social behaviour would have been considered vandalism instead, though you’re more likely to be charged for defacing public property than taking a piece of it with you. Spray-paint over the Cenotaph and you’ll go to jail, but I doubt you’ll be punished the same way if you chisel off a bit of staircase as a souvenir. For a country so paranoid about CCTV surveillance that we have them set up to catch people taking a piss in lifts, we still don’t seem deterred from messing around with someone’s livelihood in broad daylight.

Perhaps Karen, and anyone aspiring to be a street artist in Singapore, could learn from this experience and come up with immovable themes instead of designs that easily come apart encouraging people to ‘interact’ with them like a pack of wolves descending on fallen prey. Otherwise, rig each detachable piece from your work with an electric charge so that people will be conditioned to keep their hands to themselves once and for all.

As the Bee Gees famously sung,

‘It’s only words
And words are all I have
To take your heart away’

In Karen’s case, her WORDS, not the audience’s HEARTS, were the ones swept away.

National Flag dropped in Wild Rice play

From ‘Wild Rice play hits a sour note’, 8 Aug 2013, article by Feng Zengkun, ST

THE provocative ending of the recently staged play Cook A Pot Of Curry caught many people by surprise – and none more so than the authorities. When asked, the Media Development Authority (MDA) replied that the final scene – where a huge Singapore national flag is raised and then dropped to the ground – had not been included in the materials submitted to it for the play’s classification.

The agency added that it has sent a note to local theatre group Wild Rice, which staged the play, to remind it of its obligations.

…”As the last scene in the play was not part of the final script submitted, we wrote to Wild Rice to remind them to do so in the future and to also consult the National Heritage Board on the use of the state flag in their performance,” said a spokesman.

According to the NHB, the flag must be treated with ‘dignity and respect’ at all times. This includes not flying it IN THE DARK, displaying it on the exhaust pipe or wheels of your car, or in ‘bad weather’. If you just won a gold medal for Singapore, you’re also not allowed to wrap it around your body ‘like a sarong’ and run around waving to the crowd no matter how happy you are. You may hold it up after winning a national football trophy like a big Royal Baby, just not when it’s raining, or in the haze for that matter.

As for the play’s ‘gimmicky’ curtain flag dropping on stage, this violates the rule that the flag ‘shall not touch the ground’, though if you’re picky and lazy to explain the act in abstract terms, you could argue that technically a stage is a raised platform and not ‘the ground’.  Such ruling isn’t about veneration of a state symbol so much as anthropomorphizing it like a spoilt little princess, one that must not come into bare contact with mortal skin not to mention a man’s groin, or exposed in any way that outrages its modesty or desecrates its honour. The worst insult to the flag would be burning it, a crime akin to  assassination of royalty. I’m not sure how ‘dignified’ it is, then, to wrap a gurgling, pissing, shitting newborn baby in the flag to symbolise rebirth and renewal. If I were a national flag I wouldn’t be too comfortable with the idea of being hung at a great height from a noisy helicopter either. Some of our very own Red Lions even use the flag as their parachutes during their NDP freefalls. Not sure if they catch the flag entirely before allowing it to drag all over the ground.

You can’t use the flag as an artistic device without seeking permission and the people at Wild Rice should have realised this based on past crackdowns on our flags being ‘abused’ in the name of art. Yet it’s also baffling why the MDA paid special attention to a local play while not doing anything about the flag being vandalised with the words ‘The Used’ at a rock concert some months ago. But flag pampering aside, how much ‘love, respect and dignity’ was given in the MAKING of our flags in the first place? Did anyone check on the factories producing these flags to see if they were packed in boxes in a ‘dignified’ manner, or if faulty ones were disposed in a sanitised, government-approved receptacle without being mixed with used staples and banana skins?

According to a ST Forum writer on 7 Aug (Produce better quality flags), a $2 flag purchased from a community centre had many ‘missing stitches and patches of red dye on the white section’. She complained that the poor quality control from the relevant authorities was a lack of ‘respect and dignity’. For $5 from a petrol station, you may get a similarly crappy flag with distorted red and white sections. Made in China too. NHB makes no mention in its guidelines about how a single stitch on the flag should not be out of place, but perhaps they should also take some responsibility for the distribution of such shoddy merchandise from the beginning. If you’re so particular about how a flag is treated, you should jolly well start ‘respecting it’ from the very first stitch from which it birthed and not just when it’s out of its packaging, unless you’re willing to admit that a flag is only to be revered when you unbox it, before which it’s a mere piece of cloth that can barely pass off as a hankerchief.

In fact, if you’re a true patriot you should boycott all poor quality China-made flags and only settle for an artisanal one painstakingly handstitched to precision, down to the exact Pantone 032 reds and Pantone whites, by homegrown veterans. If it weren’t forbidden, I would even use it as a blanket at night and dream sweet dreams of how we built a nation, strong and free.

Happy 48th birthday, Singapore!

Cartoonist Leslie Chew in contempt of court

From ‘Attorney-General’s Chambers acts against cartoonist Leslie Chew’, 25 July 2013, article by Walter Sim, ST

The Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) has commenced legal proceedings in the High Court against Chew Peng Ee, better known as Leslie Chew, for a series of comic strips published on Facebook.

He is alleged to have committed contempt of court by scandalising the Judiciary of the Republic of Singapore. The AGC said in a statement issued Thursday: “The present legal proceedings are aimed at protecting the administration of justice in the Republic of Singapore and upholding the integrity of one of our key public institutions.”

The case will be heard before the High Court on Aug 12. Chew is the illustrator behind Demon-cratic Singapore, a Facebook page that was started in May 2011.

Centre to this case are four comics published on 20 July 2011, 3 January 2012, 5 January 2012 and 16 June 2012 on the Facebook page, which claims that Demon-cratic Singapore is the “full name” of a fictional country, “often referred to as Singapore for short”. It also says the series is a “totally fictional comic with entirely fictional characters based on wholly fictional events”.

Despite his arrest for sedition earlier this year, Chew continued to mock this ‘fictional’ country’s government while other artists in his plight would have toned down the political barbs or stopped drawing altogether. In the 3 Jan 2012 strip, the AGC may have taken offence to the use of the term ‘Kangaroo Court’ and the suggestion that the courts give preferential treatment to celebrities when they get into trouble, in this case ‘Quan Feng Feng’. Just a week prior to this, Mediacorp host Quan Yifeng was sentenced to 15 months’ probation for trashing a taxi, citing mental illness in her defence. Chew may be talented with colouring pencils but subtlety is clearly not his forte. For one, he tweaked the name of every character but left ‘Singapore’ intact.

Blogger Alex Au of Yawning Bread was lucky to escape with an apology and removal of his post for likewise SCANDALISING the courts by suggesting that another celebrity, plastic surgeon Woffles Wu, was let off easy after getting an elderly scapegoat to take the rap for his speeding offence. Incidentally, Chew also took a swipe at the Woffles (or rather, Waffles) Wu verdict in his 16 July 12 post. Does a picture paint a thousand contemptuous words here? Or perhaps it’s the ‘Kangaroo Court’ jibe that got the AGC hopping mad. In 2008, a trio wearing kangaroo T-shirts to the Supreme court were slapped with jail terms up to 15 days for ‘scandalising the Singapore judiciary’, their depiction of the proverbial marsupial in judges’ robes considered the ‘worst insult possible’. Worse than calling the law ‘stupid’ or a ‘senile old fart’ perhaps?

Worse than wearing the F word

2 days after the Quan Feng Feng strip, Chew published ‘Justice is Dead part 2′, which featured a ‘Romanian diplomat and a ‘New Zealander’ fleeing the country to escape jail time. The obvious diplomat reference would be Silviu Ionescu, who fled Singapore after knocking down and killing someone in 2009, went on trial in 2010, and only sentenced to 3 years in prison in May this year.   The ‘New Zealander’ is likely to be Robert Stephen Dahlberg, who was sentenced to 5 months jail in 2012 for being involved in a Suntec brawl in 2010. After the assault he jumped bail and was only brought to justice because he SURRENDERED.

Well you sure took your own sweet time, Justice. Not sure how a ‘kangaroo court’ insult is akin to calling one’s mother a whore in the legal sense, but I would think the speed at which these foreigners are made to pay for their crimes is an insult more to kangaroos than the Judiciary. Except when the crime involves ‘scandalising the judiciary’, like what 77 year old writer Alan Shadrake was charged for some insulting passages in his book ‘Once A Jolly Hangman’. Unlike the other foreigners, Shadrake didn’t run over innocent people or bash their heads in, but he served more than a month’s worth of prison time. Did I mention he was 77 YEARS OLD?

A certain Lord Anthony Lester called the ‘contempt of court’ offence ‘outmoded and archaic’, but what more can you expect really from a system that’s unwilling to let go of an anti-gay law like Section 377A? I wonder if the term ‘dinosaur court’ would make more sense instead.

Chen Show Mao posting disrespectful cartoon on Facebook

From ‘Chen Show Mao’s Facebook post shows lack of respect’, 15 July 2013, Voices, Today

(Gary Chua Sheng Yang): Over the last few weeks, the verbal sparring over the issue of hawker centre cleaning has been kept relatively civil by the Workers’ Party (WP) and the People’s Action Party. On Saturday, though, WP Member of Parliament (MP) Chen Show Mao posted a caricature on his Facebook page depicting Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his colleagues Mr K Shanmugam and Dr Vivian Balakrishnan as three dwarves with cleaning gear.

While he probably intended it to be funny, it displays a lack of respect in the political arena and not something I expect of an MP, much less an established lawyer like Mr Chen. The WP has spoken of building a First World Parliament. Is this the behaviour it would condone from one of its MPs?

The party should respond with facts if the allegations against its MPs are inaccurate and, if the allegations are proven correct, accept the mistake and apologise unreservedly. This action by Mr Chen is disconcerting to neutrals and suggests that the WP may not be ready to be taken seriously as a political party.

Come, clean!

Come, clean!

Chen Show Mao’s caption for this post was ‘I heard the news today, oh Boy’ –Good Men on the march, though the quote may also be attributed to a Beatles’ lyric in  ‘A Day in the Life’. There’s nothing really scathing, humiliating or even FUNNY about the caricature, and in fact it even puts the ministers in a good light because they’re depicted as ‘getting their hands dirty’ to do the job, though you’re more likely to see a baby in a politician’s hand than a bucket or rubber hose. At least Breakfast Network putting Tan Chuan Jin’s face on an equally diminutive Ewok was ridiculous enough for the Minister to have a hearty chuckle about it. All part of this big-head-on-little-bodies fetish that people seem to have when it comes to minister caricatures. Even LKY has a Mini-me of himself.

One should still be careful when publishing political cartoons here, as the Demon-cratic Singapore artist found out when he was arrested for sedition. If you are less artistically inclined but dying to show off some funny bone, you may joke about a fellow party MP-to-be on Facebook provided you’re of a certain rank, namely Emeritus Senior Minister rank. Just ask Tin Pei Ling.  I think this is really about bad timing rather than ‘disrespect’, considering that both Vivian Balakrishnan and the PM himself have been nagging non-stop at WP leader Low Thia Khiang to sort this thing out. Perhaps not the best time to make a joke about the hawker situation if the ruling party is breathing down your neck waiting for an apology.

Chen’s flair for sketching is apparent from his Facebook page. In 2011, he posted a self-portrait created on his iPad. For those old enough you’d see the Beatles connection too.

He did not comment, however, if the 3 dwarves pic was in fact his handiwork, and it would be a mistake to admit so, because that implies that instead of helping your team work out a defence against allegations of lying in these desperate times, you’re cutting out photos of PAP ministers’ heads, gluing them on paper, and doodling around them like you have all the time in the world.


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