“Reality Is More Virtual Than Virtual Reality”
This chapter title was taken from a friend’s whatsapp profil – honestly frightening to encounter when all we wanted was a casual chat. Upon confronting the friend, they said that it was a frustrated response to reductively untruthful newspaper articles, statistics and information that generally come from ‘well-respected sources’ online in the mainstream media. Note: this is NOT about fake news or yellow journalism. This is about writers and creators losing integrity in their work and about the public losing integrity in what they consume. In conclusion,
NEVER TRUST MAINSTREAM MEDIA
Basically to be a genuinely intelligent and reliable individual one must go through life with severe trust issues about everything. Reality has never been so elusive or complicated before. Likewise, Don’t Tell People Sh*t If You’ve Only Read the Damn Title.
It is now more important than ever for art to be integrated in everything we do. ‘Art’ in the holistic and multi-faceted sense of the word. In its very concept of fluidity, diversity, creativity and imagination – not as a title but as a whole body of organs.
Mark Cuban talks about the importance of traditional liberal arts degrees in the face of the growing robot workforce. Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates also spoke on this topic in similar lines. And like all other articles, whilst these need to be read with a pinch of salt, it brings a new kind of spotlight onto future reality and what it means for the untouchably human areas of creation – though what really is ‘human’ remains contested. Perhaps instead we can understand it as a wider notion of greater appreciating our thoughts to be that of a creator’s first before anything else.
A true, apolitical fact that is not in the mainstream media is that the historian of science Cyril Stanley Smith noted that important advancements in metallurgy, one of the oldest forms of technology, were made by artists and not scientists. Another true, apolitical fact is that an even older form of technology is ceramic production, discovered by archaeologists in Japan.11,000 years ago a group of humans figured out an incredibly technical process of heating clay to a temperature of 500 to 900 degrees celcius so that a specific fusion of elements would allow for the glaze to hold – all for a pursuit that neither hindered human survival nor benefitted it. All we can gather is that humans seemed to like engaging in the making of ‘art’, which was harmless but intrinsically worth an unquantifiable value.
It is thus said with certainty that technology could not have come about without art. In essence, the robot scientist is not far from a curious craftsman. The innovative coder or programmer is an artist in their field. Don’t forget that humans have inherent inclinations to make, create and experiment, whether this has value or not. Even in the age of intense technological advancement, we must leave room for the indefinable, for the things that make us feel easy. Address our addiction to escapism, so we can escape into something as good and real as irrational imagination.
A’shua Imran’s practice is important to us because of its rawness and focus on touch and tactility. In this performance, the arbitrary forms and shapes controlled by Imran’s skill indicate a natural, earth-created mimicry of life’s movements.
Here he continues his practice of using clay from when he was an assistant artist to a master sculptor for a large-scale ceramic mural at Marina South Pier MRT. An entirely improvised collaboration on the rooftop of a ship at Marina South Pier, the viewer is drawn into a strange journey or procession of the movement of a body imprinted through clay and open space, guided or agitated by the sporadic sounds in the background. He says:
“Clay signifies a tool to build community. The role of an artist and viewer in a performance is challenged through the invitation of the audience to reconstruct the process of the ‘artists’.” (A’shua to X, email, April 2017)
Amongst his active involvement in mural projects with public and private educational systems, corporate and community groups, he also founded an independent platform Mural Lingo through which he trains young artists and designers to collaborate on mural painting projects.
Stefanie Yeo was actually inspired to create this text-based work after seeing X’s open call poster on campus, which we were thrilled to hear. She was:
“inspired by an article I read online about transhumanism – the belief that humans can evolve beyond our current physical and mental limitations, through science and technology – which I felt was interesting and worked very well with the idea behind Ground Zero. I’m not usually very experimental with my writing, but I’ve been trying to see poetry beyond its traditional forms, and push the limits of what a poem can be.” (Stefanie to X, email, April 2017)
Transhuman is just as ‘ground zero’ as Ground Zero, and for that, we are so grateful.
Dave Lim uses stop motion, music and photography to bring together this quietly captivating artwork. This work only comes into being through the little sunlight that comes into the room, and in that is enough.
It is absolutely relatable in its grey listlessness and the sense of the body disengaging with the space of a dark bedroom. At the same time, it evokes the unexplainable feelings and little pleasures of everyday privacy. It also reminds X of those moments at night when you can’t fall asleep so you keep scrolling through your phon, lulling your eyes to at least perform sleep with the rhythm of the flashing screen in the dark.
Malik Mazlan & X
In an ancient comparison, we move to a jueju poem by Tang Dynasty poet and painter 王维(Wang Wei). Artist Malik Mazlan, who has been practicing traditional Chinese calligraphy and seal carving for almost six years, mailed this poem to us through his own calligraphy on rice paper and a recording. The numerous translations will only suffice to grasp the true meaning of this piece when all of them are read together, which a thoughtful unknown blogger has provided here.
If we have not made it clear enough, performance art exists in all manner of forms. It is perhaps more blatantly recognizable to the public in musical or theatrical performances, but by understanding exactly what it means to perform opens up avenues in which we can understand creative expressions that exist across times and cultures.
We had the great opportunity to engage with Malik in a conversation about how calligraphy could fit with performance and virtual reality, which we have put together below. Our collaboration with Malik was grown over the months after this conversation, over which X experimented with projections of empty shopping malls, audio (though this didn’t work out in the end) and videography at night, inspired by a special advertisement for the Taiwan National Palace Museu.