“Join us, we are all scum-of-the-earth.”
Pretending to be calm and comfortable at Punch, X had little idea of what to expect meeting the creatives behind #GYMLIFE #NOPAINNOGAIN #BETHEBEAST.
And all of a sudden it was pouring and pouring rain – from which DXXXXD trickled into the café one by one. This is a conversation, not an interview, we remind them. But of course general questions first. General answers first. Hello, who are you? And you? Order? Paid by NAC it’s ok
So how did each of them get involved in this collective? It was in cafes like this where they would meet and conceptualize with drawings on paper. Their first *click* as a group began with a very spontaneous band performance many years ago that we have no record of.
Something about the open minimalist setting, caffeine in the late afternoon, surrounded by a torrential downpour, kept us in a bubble of flowing, unassuming conversation. We didn’t have to pretend to be calm and comfortable for too long. We talked about creative energy, spontaneity, art and money, true love, “I’m still a millennial okay!” and of course, about their installation No Regrets For Our Youth at Aliwal Arts Centre (12 Jan to 12 Feb 2017). Just don’t ask them: so which parts of the work did each of you make? They’re a collective, please.
Being in a collective is a whole new gameplay from working as a single artist. It seems that everybody these days wants to collaborate and do things together, but we felt that often it can seem forced – too much intention shown.
DXXXXD tries to work as a vessel, a connector that allows the collective to become an entity by itself, casting away the idea of individuality. Fate brought this vessel together in that spontaneous band performance. They fulfilled their fate because the way they approach art, the way they work as a collective and as individuals, are the same. There was friendship, but there was also experience. They all had their own things going on, but each of them was simply doing things to have more time to create art. After all, time is the most highly sought commodity. We buy it with regularly paid jobs to have more time to be whoever you want to be with anyone, anywhere. Art comforts the disturbed but it also disturbs the comfort.
One member came in two hours late and the first question thrown at us was: “Are you guys the best? Because I only work with the best.” In 2011 this member once curated a show with 11 artists, like a football team. It was supposed to be like a game except one where the player is changeable and the game is not. You’ve got to play the game to survive. Hate The Player, Not The Game.
The irony of life itself becomes a form of art – it becomes the sole purpose of why artists do what they do best. We were inspired by DXXXD’s “GUTS OR NOTHING” attitude, their attitude of staying interested, how they were not working for a grand spotlight but using art to spark conversations like this one.
After talking about No Regrets for Our Youth, we moved on to how the emotions of a space can be entirely controlled and how spectacular happenings were made – seeking and creating brief euphoria. How much of the space do you actually fill for it to feel like something really good?
The project manager of DXXXXD left first, but the rest of us decided that the night was still young and back alleys needed exploring. By then, all concept of time was lost (because this was a conversation not an interview) and we decided that we should probably eat something and head home. Until now we don’t know what it was, but that day we all agreed to blame it on the rain.
Listen to music, draw every day, look at un-curated artwork. Keep arguing with the people who tell you things that don’t feel right, make stuff together, have supper with DXXXXD at midnight.
I refer to your open call objectives “… Ground Zero is about people and spaces connecting with each other through their rawest emotions and identity.’ I believe that Chinese Calligraphy would be a good medium to fulfill those objectives.
The Chinese saying “ 书者心画也 ” whereby the written calligraphy reflects the calligrapher heart i.e emotions. While a meditative mind throughout Chinese calligraphy history had created many masterpieces however there had been other prominent masterpieces which were written without the meditative state of mind by instead with one full emotions. A piece written reflects Yan ZheQing titled Requiem to my nephew, 祭姪文稿 is a good example. The piece written reflects Yan ZheQing unsettled emotions on his nephew‘s death.
With this in mind, there had already been plenty of live performance involving Chinese calligraphers writing poetry accompanied with music to invoke the emotion expressed by the poem that they are writing. I believe that with the aid of virtual reality we can heighten the emotions of a calligrapher and the audience further by bringing them to a different space/reality during the performance.
I hope that you will allow me the opportunity to explore and add value to this idea through further collaboration with your other selected artist.
Malik Bin Mazlan
—————————————————————————————————— From : X < >
Sent: Thursday, March 23, 2017, 3:05:57 AM
To: “ Malik Mazlan” <email@example.com>
Our apologies for the delayed response.
Thank you for your detailed reply! Have you ever been involved in any performance involving poetry and/or music for the creation of your works? Would you be open to trying it out? We hope you understand that as we have just begun this experimental platform we cannot offer monetary assistance, only an online space with complementary text for your work, and hope you could be open in the spirit of collaboration.
And yes we love to work with all possibility of virtual reality and art. How exactly do you think virtual reality could enhance the emotions of a calligrapher? Do you have any specific ideas in mind that you would be willing to discuss?
Looking forward to hearing from you,
—- On Sat, 25 March 2017 01:13:38 +0800 Malik Mazlan <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote —-
As an aspiring young artist, any form of collaboration regardless with or without money is not important at this present moment. I believe the experience working with other artists and getting involved in an art project is more valuable.
I had not been given much opportunity to involve myself and my calligraphy in any poetry or music performance except for an occasion last year during a performance at SOTA in which I recited the poem of 陋室铭 and displayed my calligraphy work in front of an audience. As such I am open and will readily take on any opportunity that will present itself.
I must admit that my understanding of virtual reality is very limited. However, I had my first virtual reality experience in Takashimaya on Friday. It was an event done by BVLGARI on their new ring design. I was transported to the flagship store in Italy and even felt a sensation where I was virtually lifted up.
With this in mind maybe we can affect the emotions by a calligraphy by affecting his environment through VR for e.g if his writing a poetry 陋室铭in which he describes the almost quiet and serene environment of the mountains,
Maybe we can use the advertisement for the Taiwan National Palace Museum as an inspiration for our project :
RE: GROUND 0000ZERO
What items did you start with and why did you choose them ?
i chose based on interactive possibilities from domestic household things that people are familiar with. i didn’t want to have items that people feel alien towards and avoid.
What did it feel like when people started drawing on you (or does that not even matter) ?
i felt like an object like how canvas feels when paint is applied on to it u guess. sensorially it was a new experience trying to understand what they are drawing on my body with my skin. it reminds me of the torture device in kakfa’s in the penal colony where words are tattooed onto skin and the victims can only decode the text through feeling the needles and pain.
Did you have certain expectation for this performance?
i remember emailing mr loo zi han for some advice when preparing for this piece because it was the first time i was doing something like this. the most important thing he told me was to be prepared for contingencies. that meant having at least one other person who understood my piece and knew how to react on my behalf since i basically cant move during my performance. it also meant that i had to consider how im getting into the performance and getting out of it . and other thing like how do you react if something unexpected happens like if someone stabs my neck. for me i went into the performance expecting that i should commit it completely. i think for such pieces you have to prepare to give yourself up. so if someone cuts away the hair ive spent so long growing out, i have to let it happen.
How do you connect U N I with Maria’s and Yoko Ono’s art?
compared to marina abramovic’s rhythm 0 or yoko ono’s cut piece i faced a lot less psychological and emotional trauma. this was perhaps because my audience was made up of friends, younger people, and the piece was in school, or that singapore possesses a self-censoring, policing mind set – there was nothing too exciting that could happened. nobody injured me physically or tried to humiliate me as in marina or yoko’s case. the audience was really nice. there was audience members who were cleaning paint off my body, people read poetry from charles bukowski’s love is a dog from hell to me. some offered me water. i think this niceness was in a part due to the last pointer in my guide which stated: “ after you have interacted, initiate a hug with me.” people know that whatever they do to me they had to confront a kind of intimacy with me after that. in marina’s piece, when she started to move after her piece ended, people backed off. in a similar way, i guess you could say that i protected myself by reminding the audience that i’m a living human being.
What was the duration of the performance?
i did 3 performances over 3 days, each lasting an hour. for my performance i decided to keep completely still and not respond to the audience. we didn’t have a steady flow of audience all the time so for some moments i am alone in the room, those were the hardest parts because in a live interactive performance, you need the energy from the audience to maintain focus. i also started to feel certain strains in my body when holding positions im placed in, or even just standing, and i explored micro shifts in my spine to maintain my position in the least taxing way. during most of the performance, i was in a place where i was aware of what is going on but consciously being a detached observer. at certain point i felt that i was looking myself as an object being used by the audience. the most interesting part was seeing audience members negotiate with one another what to do to me. i felt i was in a strange limbo of being present but also not present.
What are your thoughts in real time and space?
for me personally art that is authentic are the most powerful. that means doing something genuine, unrehearsed. and authenticity doesn’t have any tangible means of assessment. i think it is simply felt by the viewer (ive felt this authenticity, so i know its real but many its not true for everyone.) i think live art for me feels the most authentic, especially those that emphasise audience interaction. you happen in the moment. that for me is exciting both the performer and the audience they are consistently negotiating power, space, persona with each other. they take turns playing each other like in my piece, the audience usually observes, but they are also aware at moments that they are interacting with something alive, something that is also observing them. those people who are hyperconscious of this fact finds it most difficult to do anything to me because they cant see me as an object.
When do you know the performance is at its end for you?
i had a timer which rang after an hour to signify the end of each performance, after each performance i was thoroughly drained and didn’t want to interact with anymore. i would drink some water and go for a smoke.
Do you think photography is enough to record/capture the afterlife of performance art?
no it isnt. the power of a live performance piece lies in its liveness. so whatever you try to do after that cannot compare. honestly this applies to any kind of art. a painting viewed through a photo is different. a photography viewed in a full print is different from a phone screen. ive come to learn that the documentation of a work must also be its own art. its just not about capturing the details hyperrealistically but how you photograph the work such that you can convey the mood of the piece good but often discounted medium for documentation. like this interview thing, when you describe your work for others to read, it helps yourself to clarify what happened, and also allows the audience to glimpse your thoughts and feelings.