Thursday, January 21, 2010

Jan Verwoert

I like the way Mr Verwoert writes about art. From his article Standing on the Gates of Hell, My Services Are Found Wanting:
Standing on the gates of hell, my services are found wanting. For I cannot give you what you want. What you want from me, here, on the gates of hell, is to open the gates and let you in. But I cannot do that. I don’t even see why that service should still be required. Because you have already passed the gates. You are inside. You live in contemporary hell. You inhabit the hell of the contemporary. And now you want me to perform the rite to confirm your passage? And give you reasons for being in there? I’m sorry, I can’t. To grant you a license to be where you are does not lie within my powers. Thus powerless I remain, standing on the gates of hell, observing what passes and sharing my observations with you.

Passing the gates of hell, you get everything you ever wanted. And everything you wanted is all you are ever going to get. Nothing more. Just that. Exactly what you wanted. Everything included. In hell. ...
I wish more art writing, especially n Malaysia, could be this way: writing that is so obviously inspired, earnest, confident, open, clever (I don't mind showiness sometimes), energized... Imaginative.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Precocious Eleanor Catton

Thrice now in bookshops I have tried to pick up Eleanor Catton's much-hyped first novel, The Rehearsal, and each time I have not been able to get past the second page. The dialogue seemed painfully contrived and showy.

And yet, her latest short story Pawn Broken, set against the New Zealand gold rush, makes for an impressive read.
Victoria - the word alone was a promise, exultant, queenly, and wrapped around that triumphant syllable - ore.
By the end of the story, you will discover that the title holds a double meaning.

Christina Poblador's perfume bar

The Singapore Art Museum is currently celebrating art from the Philippines and by far the most engaging work is Christina Poblador's Halimuyak ng Ma-i. It is a display of the various perfumes Poblador has created to evoke the culture, history and her memories of the Philippines. Yes, a very ambitious project indeed, and Poblador is only in her early twenties. She even crafted the glass decanters herself. Behold, how exquisite:


This one's called Wasted Youth. A sweet-smelling scent, it tells the story of the poor children who sell jasmines to help their families earn a living. Hence its sad title:


The perfume titled Gobyerno (Government) is kept in a decanter depicting the struggles of government. The two figurines on top show the precarious nature of governments:


This one had to do with families. The scent was a mixture of sweat and vinegar to remind us of the sacrifices we make for our families:


More perfumes: