Spoken images

 SPOKEN Table of Contents

CG game cloudy night silhouette jumoing over moon

David over the Moon by Eugene Soh

black and white image of man dropping vase

Ai Wewei, Yesim Agaoglu, Stephen Black, Eugene Soh collaboration in gallery.sg

Avatar drinking

Nhung: overhead perspective

Jeff Koons Balloon Dog in SPOKEN

Nhung: Floating

low tech in hi tech

Works created with ink

SB & 3D (Why I’m excited to be in Eugene Soh’s virtual gallery project)

THIS post was written before SPOKEN started. SPOKEN is a project I am doing with Eugene Soh, an experiment in which art, text, virtual reality and social media intersect. Learn about SPOKEN here.

To enter gallery.sg and experience SPOKEN, click here.
Here is the extremely short version: from 2002 until 2008 I was involved with a visionary virtual reality project that combined educational practices with gamemaking and multimedia. However, the spiritual captain of the project was part Disney, part Microsoft and part Sex Pistols. An unexpected death, treachery, incompetence, inexperience, bureaucratic boondoggles and more made my life “interesting”… I have pages of notes about the events and the spirit of the times. We were doing things like Youtube and Second Life before they started. The project was so close… and yet so far away. (Actually, now that mobile technology has settled down, I hope that the lessons and products of that experience can be revitalized. But that’s yet another story.)
In 2006, as a way of showcasing our technology,  I entered a gamemaking hackathon. A theme was given on a Thursday morning and the next day at five the results were judged.The theme was something about healthy eating, I think. Working with my programmer in Hong Kong, we made a game in which the viewer learned about the calorie count of certain foods. The player competed with an AI character.  It was fun to do.
However, what I remember most was a team that made an incredible flash game. I don’t remember if they won or not, but I do remember two guys on that team very well. George Parel and Eugene Soh were full of energy, knowledge and bursting with creative ideas.
They still are.
I’ve been lucky to work with George and Eugene on a few projects since then. In 2008 I finally had to put the educational gamemaking project on hold while I waited for a programmer and the mobile device situation to stabilize.I put more time into writing and art projects. George and Eugene (that dude from Singapore) however, have kept on doing remarkably creative things with IT, art, design and more.
Virtual reality may seem to be an artificial place, but the gallery Eugene has created fills me with memories and hope. I am honored and very thankful for I Ate Tiong Bahru to be on display in gallery.sg
IATB in virtual gallery
Cheers, Eugene! Cheers, George!

Ebooks: Born to Click (1 of 3)

Preface

This informal essay is my way of marking the end of a certain era in ebook history. It’s part snapshot, part reference materials, part journal.At the end of this post are notes about me, my experiences and my books.
Thanks to Doug Rolph for his insights on economics, Eric Hellman for his input and my dad for having taken care of our family by selling books.

το πνεύμα του Ιανού

After I finish writing eight books, I will begin marketing. Until then, I’ll probably study the ebook world less and hopefully do more writing, arting and engaging with Life. When it does comes time for me to contribute to the marketing conversation, I hope I have something to say. For now, I present the following notes, quotes and thoughts as a means of punctuating a phase in the development of ebooks as I have seen and experienced it.

This is an exciting time. The ebook delivery platforms are finally stable, self-publishing has proven to have great value and a number of services have recently appeared that shorten the distances between readers and authors. It seems to me that indie ebooks and ebook marketing are about to enter a new era.

This blog post makes little mention of traditional publishing. This is simply because, as much as I would like to enjoy the benefits of being a Big 5/6 author, that fruit is not now within my reach. I am however, considering joining the Author’s Guild.

Although I’ve done almost no marketing, I have studied the environments in which ebooks are created, presented, bought and sold. Some observations:

1. Except for uploading, nothing about ebooks is easy.
Writing is the anti-social social media, full of long, long hours of pressure-filled solitude. Assembling an error-free book is never simple. The social part, finding an audience, is an immense challenge. I respect all of the authors mentioned in this post for they have successfully met these challenges and more.

Talent is cheaper than table salt. What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work.
Stephen King

Based on my experiences, the work breakdown of an 88,000 word novel looks something like this: 1000 words a day (88 days) or, more likely, 500 words a day (176 days). Call it 200 days to prepare something for a proofreader. Two months for corrections, art, and ebook conversion. So, a book takes about 300 working days to finalize. About…
And then there are the thousands of actions needed to connect with readers… The title of Guy Kawasaki’s excellent book says it all: APE, meaning Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur

This document, by Mark Coker, the founder of Smashwords, is a data-based analysis of the ebook market. Highly recommended, it covers topics important for newbies and veterans. It touches upon issues like word count, pricing, marketing and more. For instance, his research shows that the average bestseller on Smashwords is 100,000 words, and the average romance is 112,195 words. (There are more links to resources at the end of this post.)
Very few traditionally published authors became bestsellers; the same is true for ebook publishing. My goal is not to become a bestseller, but to connect with the largest possible community of people who enjoy the art of reading.

2. A great writer or a great marketer…
….or, the frustration of being caught between not doing enough writing and not doing enough marketing. A writer writes, a salesman sells.
Self-publishing does not equal self-marketing. Spending money wisely on promotion money means income and time to write. (See the links below)
Twitter, Goodreads, FB, LinkedIn and blogging? All have their advantages and disadvantages…

3. There are no independent, hugely successful ebook-only self-publishers.
Note: Two days after this post went up, I became aware of this great piece by Dana Beth Weinberg on Digital Book World. Thank you Jacqueline Church!

Amazon is huge, Apple is huge, Kobo and Smashwords are very big. Unless you are selling from your own website or the back of your car, you’re not truly independent.

OK, A bit of an attention grabber there…but the author’s need for a partnership with Amazon and ebook distributors is a dependence that cannot be overlooked. These “automatic partners” will always protect their interests first. They call the shots. Amazon is a business, not an author.

Amanda Hocking is a hugely successful author. At one point, the average daily sales figure of her self-published ebooks was 9000. Again: average DAILY book sales: nine thousand! Her success was based on hard work, technological first mover advantage and an indirect tie-in with Hollywood.
Consider:
-the successful and pioneering integration of ebook readers into tablets and mobile as well as the launch of the Kindle (2007) and the iPad(2010)
-the large demographic of young women who bought readers and tablets
– the fact that, having written many books, Hocking could quickly provide a new and large market with a variety of new titles
– writing books about the paranormal when Hollywood is pushing the same cannot hurt. Twilight, the hugely successful series of movies about teen vampires began in 2008. Hocking’s first book, My Blood Approves, began selling in 2010.

E.L. James’ book phenomenon began in the fan fiction chat rooms for Twilight. The characters in Fifty Shades of Grey were originally the characters from Twilight. Could Master of the Universe, as her series was originally called, have achieved its success without an existing network of thousands of Twilight fans?

These two women made their mark upon society in two different ways. As shared, collective book-based experiences: WOW!
However, the writing is…”not terrible” or worse

I remember SF/F authors complaining (back in 2011) that their readers hadn’t switched to e-books yet, casting jealous eyes at the outsized romance audience. But as readers did move across, we saw people like David Dalglish and BV Larson breaking out, and the rest of “genre” fiction soon followed.
http://davidgaughran.wordpress.com/2013/10/22/amazon-makes-life-easier-for-authors-of-historical-literary-fiction/

There are “indie success stories” about authors who “rode into town” on the backs of traditional publishing. Funded by Big 6 money these “indies” were advertised and publicized, sent on book tours and given things like business cards. Possibly, audiobooks were made. Hundreds, if not thousands, of their books were given away, many to reviewers.
As the ‘first mover’possibilities of the ebook market became clear and realistic, these authors, knighted by the Big 6 and armed with credibility and connections, rode onto a battlefield with little opposition… Undoubtedly hard work was involved, but to label them as indies brings to mind the quip about George Bush: “…was born on third base and thinks he hit a triple.”

There certainly are “ebook only” indies connecting with many readers and enjoying sales. I just don’t know of any. (FOUND SOMEONE: LINDSAY BUROKER Please tell me about others! them! Somewhat related to this, are there any “ebook only” awards?

Here, authors talk about their sales experiences.

4. The ebook world evolves to reward the reader; the prepared author benefits from this.
Fan fiction. Goodreads. Ebook readers on mobile phones. The mashup between big data and metadata. Entrepreneurs with vision who see ways to connect authors and readers in a new ways.

It is an exciting time.

Ebooks: Born to Click, Part 2 of 3

visit www.blacksteps.tv for parts 2 and 3 of this post, as well as information on art, books and ebooks

 

Three Pauls

Paul Dodd, Paul Stamets and Paul Theroux.
I have spoken to two of them. I listened to a talk by, and wrote a short story about, the other.

Paul Dodd.
Scorgie’s. If Scorgie’s was in New York City, it would’ve been more CBGB than CBGBG. Unlike CBGB, Scorgie’s toilet usually flushed. Scorgies was by the river in downtown Rochester, New York.
Personal Effects probably played at Scorgies more than any other band. Paul Dodd played drums. Somehow we met and one thing led to another and now, Paul and his wife Peggi and I have been friends for over thirty years.
But, Paul’s art is the thing.
More than technique, more than style… there’s always a lot of that undefinable-whatever-it-is appearing and disappearing on his canvases.
I am very happy to present his work in SPOKEN.

Paul Stamets
Well, Paul Stamets knows about SPOKEN and he is listed as a writer, but the text associated with his name was simply copied from a Youtube video. And that’s OK.

Paul Stamets is busy saving the world and that isn’t hyperbole. The book of his that is featured in SPOKEN is Mycelium Running: How Mushrooms Can Help Save The World.

I did speak to him once, as I was researching the agaricus blazei Murrill mushroom for a book project. I approached him after his presentation at the 2001 Bioneers Conference.Later, his company Fungi Perfecti was extremely helpful to me . I was sourcing agaricus blazei murril extract for a medicinal company who later greatly disappointed me with their unprofessionalism.

Paul Theroux spoke at the Singapore National Library in 2005. In 2001, while I was living in Tokyo, I had, for no real reason, photocopied a number of pages from Theroux’s book entitled The Happy Isles of Oceania: Paddling the Pacific. Those papers travelled with me to Singapore . Theroux’s talk was serendipitous and just what I needed to finish the story that began at one of the copying machines on the 10th floor of the Chofu Library. The following is extracted from Who Will Bite My Head, one of the short stories in Furikake.

“You sure you don’t want to go back? You’re 5 minutes from your hotel. It’s almost twelve.”
“No, no this is alright, this is alright. Where to next?”
“The East Coast”.

The bungalows were full of parties. Crazy kids, yelling on bikes, zoomed throuh roller skaters and joggers.

Groups around barbecues played charades or guitars or just sat dranked and talked. Offshore there was a long row of ships, their tiny lights sparkling on the
waves. We really didn’t talk much. We were totally relaxed, the night was flowing nicely and that was that.
Once, though, he said he was the same age as Dick Cheney.
Again I was lucky; the fishermen had just brought their buckets ashore. They had catfish and rays and thick green and blue fish. They remembered me and
the four of us sat at the picnic table quietly drinking beer. Rosey was writing, preparing for his talk. Every once in a while one of the white buckets thumped and splashed as a fish tried to escape.
Eventually we all made a decision: the fish and the fishermen were expected in Geylang, so Rosey and I went along ”as planned”, drinking beer in the back of the truck, surrounded by buckets of fish.
We watched the fish get sold and picked our meal– we were hungry again. More beer and we finally talked: Detroit in the Fifties, the skies of Beijing and the
Sydney Olympics. The life history of Nadia Comenichi. Why John Arbinger couldn’t make the 1984 Olympic rifle team. Rosey once sold a young Brigit Bardot a vacuum cleaner in New Orleans. Wink wink ,nudge
nudge.
We strolled over to the swarms of Chinese girls. Rosey told me to keep an eye on my wallet and walked into the perfumed crowd. I eventually found him again and again he winked. “Research”, he laughed. ”I wanna know all of the latest trends in Chinese house cleaning!”
Things began winding down. Pete walked over and stood in front of me, thoughtfully rubbing his hands together. ”All right, all right. This has been much more interesting than I would have expected. Despite the
sameness of the government.”
We headed back, asking the taxi driver to go down Arab Street very slowly. Pete remembered this and that: a knife fight here, a friendly shopkeeper used to be
there, prata guy with a pony tail who was always on that corner,
etc…

In Bugis too, we went slow. Stopped across from the National Library. Slow, slow, slow: too slow for me. I was now more sleepy than drunk. It was almost
dawn.
“Alright, let’s call it a night. Take this and no arguing.”
He jammed two fifties into my hand. I just nodded.
“Can I drop you off somewhere? Where do you stay?
“Um… the Mitre Hotel. Near Orchard Road.”
“The Mitre! The Mitre is still around? Let’s go! Christ, it’s been what? Thirty odd years? My god…the Mitre.”
He looked at me differently than he had before. “You know all about it, right?”
“1860, nutmeg plantation. The Japanese military headquarters. The guys from Vietnam, the offshore oil riggers. The ghosts, the gambling, the girls, the
parties.” Someone could write a book about thatplace.
Pete smiled.
The taxi driver drops us off at the bottom of the hill. The dark tunnel of trees, then the dramatic appearance of the dilapidated grand hotel. We piss in the driveway and walk up to the gate. I gently call for Uncle to let us in. He’s snoring deeply on the old couch, two meters away. Finally he wakes up and wobbles over on his bad legs. He looks at Pete, then looks at me.
“Uncle, he’s gonna help me carry something out of my room. Fifteen minutes.”
With a sleepy scowl, he limps away to get the key.
He returns, stares at the keys, then tries a few. Finally we are in.
Pete walks slowly over to the bar and runs his hand across it, then looks around the decrepit lobby. The dim bulb behind the bar gives him a saintly glow. He
could be an angelic detective poet, looking in that big old dusty space for clues or inspiration. The tinny radio plays a sad Teo Chew ballad.
”No beer!” Uncle barks.
Up the dark stairs. Another cavernous room, lit only by a single fluorescent tube on the dirty wooden  floor.
Covered shapes of boxes and broken furniture are barely visible. Rosey lights a match to discover books and the rusty springs from a mattress. The flame
flickers and we see a long box the length of a man.
His match goes out. Darkness. Pete begins babbling to himself. I fumble my way to my room; fumble my way to find the wires for light. A final fumbling before
my hands make sense. The light flickers on, lighting the high ceiling covered with mold and dusty peeling paint. Ballpoint pen graffiti is written all over the
yellowed walls. A sink in the corner, ready to fall of the wall. The rotten window area is without any glass.
In the center of the small room is a miserable bed, at least fifty years old. On the bed, Nenek, my black and white cat, watches us. Pete’s eyes move from the room to the desk and he picks up the photocopies, oblivious to my
embarrassment.
“Um… one of these days I’m going to write something based on those. It’s an experiment. Important, but really not that important. “
He begins reading:
I sometimes felt like the only person in Oceania who had wrecked his marriage, and I was reminded of that overwhelming sense of remorse I had felt that
dark night in New Zealand, when I looked though the front window of the California Fried Chicken family restaurant on Papenui Road in Merivale and I saw a happy family and I burst into tears.
“This is me,” he says, crashing onto the filthy bed. He bursts into tears like the man in the book. Nenek licks his hand. ” This is me.”

 

 

SPOKEN Notes October 17 (artwork for Singapore)

low tech in hi tech

Two artworks created by hand on display withing a virtual environment.

Artwork for Aliwal Street

1. Utilize the cut pieces of cardboard collected from Michael Lee’s Office Orchitect text and sculptural installation. Office Orchitect debuted at the 2011 Singapore Biennale and has since  toured major art exhibitions in Asia. The cut pieces of cardboard have been carefully stored since the Singapore Biennale.

2. On each piece of cardboard, write SPOKEN and gallery.sg (The intention being to contrast the high tech info-laden digital environment of SPOKEN with an anonymous, handmade, UNIQUE invitation).

3.  Submit the cards to the management of an arts facility on Aliwal Street.

4. Have a pleasant conversation with the staff, explaining that SPOKEN is actually very hi-tech and the handmade cards are meant to contrast with that. Mention that Vincent Leow, Stelarc, Morimura, Sjon and Xu Xi are participating, along with an eclectic international group of artists and writers

5. Return the next day to bring more cards. Be informed that the cards have been rejected; they cannot be displayed in the official racks used for promotional materials. The staff is not in the office and the information is relayed by a security guard.

6. Accept this situation with a smile. Do not mention that a large percentage of the slickly printed, full color materials on display in the official display racks  are full of confusing English and “interesting”design sensibilities, to put it mildly. Do not touch upon the idea of censorship. Or taste.  Or open-mindedness. Or diversity. Take consolation from Matisse being called an animal. Chuckle at the fact that Agnes B. is sponsoring a “Punk” show at the Substation, a show only possible because of handmade, low tech, promotional pieces/artworks. DO NOT MENTION VOICE OF PIECES TO ANYONE.

7. Impose upon the kind people at Word Forward, on the second floor of the Aliwal Arts Center to distribute the cards.

8. Offer a free signed printed copy of I Ate Tiong Bahru to the first person who gets one of the grey handwritten cards and then posts a photo of it online. Give a free ebook version of I Ate Tiong Bahru to anyone else who does this. Be happy.

 

 

 

Not Jack Welch and SPOKEN: Art as a start up 

Art is a business, and although I firmly believe in “art for art’s sake”, l recently began thinking about how some art projects are similar to IT start ups. One thing led to another and I soon found myself being interrogated by Jack Welch, the business leadership guru, about SPOKEN, my own art/creative writing/virtual gallery project…

(The name of Jack Welch is used respectfully and symbolically. Mr. Welch himself has not been involved with this in any way. To underscore this, NJW (Not Jack Welch) is used below.)
Virtual gallery curators at the opening of their exhibition

Glasses in hand, Stephen Black and Eugene Soh welcome visitors

NJW: Alright, what’s SPOKEN’S  “big aha” and how can our readers  benefit from it?

SB: SPOKEN’s “big aha” is recognizing the needs of the huge number of independent artists, musicians, writers and creatives of all kinds. All of these people need exposure, yet most cannot afford the time it takes to build an audience. Social media and the possibilities for direct engagement between creators and their audience are also part of SPOKEN’s “big aha”.  Your readers will benefit from reading about how SPOKEN is developing new ways to reach audiences and then using what is applicable.
NJW You got the right people?
SB: Eugene Soh, is SPOKEN’s co-producer and an artist. Not only did he build a great virtual gallery,  he made an interactive game; a tribute to Ai Weiwei’s vase smashing legacy. Eugene also put a huge balloon dog in the sky over the gallery as a tribute to Jeff Koons. You can jump on it.
Plus we have an eclectic mix of contributors like Stelarc, Xu Xi, Jamie Grefe, Yasumasa Morimura, Buke and Gase, Sjon, Kembra Pfahler, Xu Xi, Lagos 2060 and more.
I have some great programmers lined up for the next version.
NJW: What’s your playing field look like?
SB: The playing field for showcasing art, music, writing and most creative endeavors now looks like this: educational institutions, cultural institutions websites and companies. There is a need for new platforms as the numbers of independents overwhelm the existing structures. Also, the idea of what art is and how it is being distributed is now being redefined because of the possibilities of digital.
SPOKEN is, perhaps the start of a new kind of art, or maybe an incubator for something that could be the next Behance or deviantart.
NJW: Threats? Problems?
SB: We are avante garde in the way we are creating and presenting art.We’re new. We must explain and demonstrate what we are doing.The biggest threat to SPOKEN is inaction: we must create dynamic documentation: ebooks, artworks, music and video. We must be more than a great exhibition complemented with great writing: we must redefine what a gallery can be in the digital age.  With SPOKEN, we gather experiences and data then we disrupt.
NJW: What’s your winning move?
SB: Promoting all of the SPOKEN artists individually. If we listen to them carefully and respond well, SPOKEN will grow.

To Eat Tiong Bahru Book Cover/Artwork Proposal

A Book Cover for To Eat Tiong Bahru

A proposal for a commissioned artwork to be crowdfunded on Avvio

Target: $800

 

I Ate Tiong Bahru, Stephen Black’s popular book about Tiong Bahru, has a sequel that’s nearly finished. It’s called To Eat Tiong Bahru. And it needs a cover.

A striking cover will allow a second fundraising campaign (for actual publishing) to begin. For now, though, the goal is to commission an artist to create an artwork. That artwork will become the cover as well as the basis for a limited edition print.

To Eat Tiong Bahru features more original research, more interviews, more creative writing and more life experiences; it will be another “must read” for anyone who enjoys great writing about  the food and culture of Tiong Bahru, Singapore and Southeast Asia.

“… the anecdotal tales you have recorded jump back at me through time. It is a rare occasion when I get the opportunity to meet someone who is so dedicated to writing up the heritage of the area with stories from the street.

Donald Wyatt, resident of Tiong Bahru since 1942

“… I Ate Tiong Bahru, your exquisite ‘lyrical documentary’ on Tiong Bahru, gave me many hours of pure pleasure… I wish I’d read it before visiting the estate, and still in Singapore so I would be able to go there again. It’s in Paris that I read it, and followed all your descriptions and encounters, street by street, on my detailed map of Singapore… I loved your book.”

-M.Abreu, urban scientist

“ I Ate Tiong Bahru is a must-read for gourmets, architects, historians and just about anyone who wishes to learn more about this evolving neighborhood.”

-5 star review on Amazon

“.. reads like a travelogue, a personal story and a history book… a pleasure to read.”

- www.breviewer.com

To Eat Tiong Bahru, and the cover you help make, will continue the excitement of I Ate Tiong Bahru.

 

red and black text, Palatino bold

graphic statement about To Eat Tiong Bahru, teh sequel to I Ate Tiong Bahru

What will the cover be like?

Colorful! Descriptive! Charming! Thoughtful! Contemporary!

Scenes to be featured include The Tiong Bahru Market, Yong Siak Street, a typical coffee shop, architectural highlights, “Tony’s”, the Monkey God Festival and The Hungry Ghost Festival and morel. Kite flying on the roofs, a bit of the Bukit Merah Fires and other historical scenes too.

And you! (Check the rewards section.)

 

The money will be used for…

To create the cover artwork, three steps are necessary: creating and finding photographs, layout tests and actual creation. The cost for the artist/illustrator cannot be exactly determined at this time. Frankly, the budget means that either a fantastic artist/illustrator will work at a special rate or we can find a  promising young artist/illustrator who would like exposure and a great portfolio piece. Either way, photographing, researching and testing are necessary.

Once the artwork is made the poster will be created. The feel of the cover will be light-hearted and contemporary, with a little surprise.

 

What happens after the goal is reached?

We start an Avvio campaign for publishing!

And, the poster will go on sale, with a portion of the profits going to the Tiong Bahru Benevolent Association. For more than thirty years, this all volunteer group has been feeding and helping the elderly and low income families in Tiong Bahru.

 

About Stephen Black

An artist/writer/photographer/producer, Stephen Black has been based in Asia since 1984 and has lived in Singapore since 2002. His artworks and images have been shown, published and collected around the world and he has worked with Annie Liebovitz, Kazuo Ono, Michelin three-star chefs, CNN, Cartoon Network, Fox, Fuji TV and France 2. His other books include Obama Search Words, Furikake, Bali Wave Ghost and Contact With Shadow. A fictional biography that he co-wrote featured prominently in Michael Lee’s Office Orchitect installation which premiered at the 2011 Singapore Biennale and has since been shown regionally. The co-founder of 3how, a music/theatre performance ensemble, Stephen co-produced 3how: The Riverwalk Session, a spontaneous recording session by Amith Narayan, Curtis King, Bani Haykal and award-winning vocalist Wilson Goh.

Online until February 2015 is SPOKEN, a co-production with Eugene Soh, that is a phenomenon of art, creative writing, social media and virtual reality.

 

Online at gallery.sg until February 2015 is SPOKEN, a project Stephen co-produced with Eugene Soh. A phenomenon of art, creative writing, social media and virtual reality, SPOKEN features contributions from Yasumasa Morimura, Stelarc, Sjon, Nhung Walsh, JUMPTHECUT, Lagos 2060, Buke and Gase, Vincent Leow, Irving Paul Pereira, Xu Xi and other dynamic creatives.

 

About To Eat Tiong Bahru

Like its predecessor, To Eat Tiong Bahru will skillfully merge anecdotes, historical research and loving explorations of food. The book will be a rojak of snapshots of daily life, snippets of information, essays, written portraits, short stories and food tips.

For example, the story of Singapore’s first rock and roll band, Ronnie and the Burns, will be revealed for the first time. The long vanished Chinese School is brought to life through interviews and research. Also included is Donald Wyatt’s breathtaking story on how his family outran the Japanese across Malaya to become one of the first families to live in Tiong Bahru. These and other factual essays contrast with lyrical short stories that include one about a Danish woman who fancies herself to be the Diane Arbus of Tiong Bahru, circa 1974. Other short stories feature a narcissist, the Monkey God, a very wealthy Indonesian and cats.

Why I’d like you to consider funding this project

Over four years of research, interviews and life experiences have gone into these books about Tiong Bahru. All this work was self-funded. Although the first book has been well-received, the reality of the situation is that, without your help, To Eat Tiong Bahru cannot be published. Your support of the cover/art edition is a beautiful way to support a notable independent project about Singapore, while adding to your art collection at the same time.

The first book cover symbolized the white architecture  of the Estate. It was anonymous, with no information except the title. The cover was meant to be an intriguing challenge.The cover of To Eat Tiong Bahru, however, will be dynamic! Festive scenes, depictions of everyday life and private moments will make the cover artwork eye catching and informative.

 

 

Rewards

$5  An original  photographic postcard mailed from Tiong Bahru and signed by Stephen Black and a whole lot of thanks!

 

$35  A signed copy of the poster plus the postcard from Stephen Black.

 

$80 A customized  Tiong Bahru tour of at least two hours, for one to five people

 

$180 Be in the cover artwork and in the poster! Your caricature will appear in a Tiong Bahru scene. Eating in the market, walking down Yong Siak, watching the Monkey God Festival parade etc.If you have a request of how you want to be pictured, let me know. However, first come, first served, so get your request in soon, lah. Great gift idea! Limited to 12

 

Note: I would like to thank anyone who even considers supporting this project. And, if you do think To Eat Tiong Bahru is worth supporting with your hard-earned dollars, I am extremely grateful and honored. I will do my best to make it the best reading experience possible for both Singaporeans and an international audience. Getting the cover artwork finished would be a great help. I cannot thank you enough. Sincerely, Stephen Black

To Eat Tiong Bahru Book Crowdfunding Proposal

To Eat Tiong Bahru

A proposal for a book to be crowdfunded 

Target: $8,888

 

I Ate Tiong Bahru, Stephen Black’s popular book about Tiong Bahru, has a sequel that’s nearly finished. Your help will get it made.

More original research, more interviews, more creative writing and more life experiences will make To Eat Tiong Bahru another “must read” for anyone who enjoys great writing about  the food and culture of Tiong Bahru, Singapore and Southeast Asia.

“… the anecdotal tales you have recorded jump back at me through time. It is a rare occasion when I get the opportunity to meet someone who is so dedicated to writing up the heritage of the area with stories from the street.

Donald Wyatt, resident of Tiong Bahru since 1942

“… I Ate Tiong Bahru, your exquisite ‘lyrical documentary’ on Tiong Bahru, gave me many hours of pure pleasure… I wish I’d read it before visiting the estate, and still in Singapore so I would be able to go there again. It’s in Paris that I read it, and followed all your descriptions and encounters, street by street, on my detailed map of Singapore… I loved your book.”

-M.Abreu, urban scientist

“ I Ate Tiong Bahru is a must-read for gourmets, architects, historians and just about anyone who wishes to learn more about this evolving neighborhood.”

-5 star review on Amazon

“.. reads like a travelogue, a personal story and a history book… a pleasure to read.”

- www.breviewer.com

To Eat Tiong Bahru will continue the excitement of I Ate Tiong Bahru.

About Stephen Black

An artist/writer/photographer/producer, Stephen Black has been based in Asia since 1984 and has lived in Singapore since 2002. His artworks and images have been shown,published and collected around the world and he has worked with Annie Liebovitz, Kazuo Ono, Michelin three-star chefs, CNN, Cartoon Network, Fox, Fuji TV and France 2. His other books include Obama Search Words, Furikake, Bali Wave Ghost and Contact With Shadow. A fictional biography that he co-wrote featured prominently in Michael Lee’s Office Orchitect installation which premiered at the 2011 Singapore Biennale and has since been shown regionally. The co-founder of 3how, a music/theatre performance ensemble, Stephen co-produced 3how: The Riverwalk Session, a spontaneous recording session by Amith Narayan, Curtis King, Bani Haykal and award-winning vocalist Wilson Goh.

Online at gallery.sg until February 2015 is SPOKEN, a project Stephen co-produced with Eugene Soh. A phenomenon of art, creative writing, social media and virtual reality, SPOKEN features contributions from Yasumasa Morimura, Stelarc, Sjon, Nhung Walsh, JUMPTHECUT, Lagos 2060, Buke and Gase, Vincent Leow, Irving Paul Pereira, Xu Xi and other dynamic creatives.

About To Eat Tiong Bahru

Like its predecessor, To Eat Tiong Bahru will skillfully merge anecdotes, historical research and loving explorations of food. The book will be a rojak of snapshots of daily life, snippets of information, essays, written portraits, short stories and food tips.

For example, the story of Singapore’s first rock and roll band, Ronnie and the Burns, will be revealed for the first time. The long vanished Chinese School is brought to life through interviews and research. Also included is Donald Wyatt’s breathtaking story on how his family outran the Japanese across Malaya to become one of the first families to live in Tiong Bahru. These and other factual essays contrast with lyrical short stories that include one about a Danish woman who fancies herself to be the Diane Arbus of Tiong Bahru, circa 1974. Other short stories feature a narcissist, the Monkey God, a very wealthy Indonesian and cats.

The money will be used for…

– A print run of 3000 books. The dimensions will be the same as IATB.

-Cover artwork. The cover will be more dynamic than the anonymous style used on IATB.

– Proofreading and fact checking.

-ebook creation

-Food for the writer. Three years of full-time, intensive self-funded research produced the material that is the basis for this book and its predecessor. Two months of writing is needed to complete TETB. This financial amount is extremely small by book industry standards. Both books have been a labor of love.

What happens after the goal is reached?

About 80% of To Eat Tiong Bahru is finished. Once the goal has been reached, proofreading will begin, then layout. Administrative things like getting an ISBN number and creating metadata will get done. The final 20% will be written. Publicity will begin. Local and international distribution channels will be secured.

Why I’d like you to consider funding this project

Your support  allows for another factual yet creative book about Tiong Bahru to be produced independently.

It wasn’t easy to produce I Ate Tiong Bahru . No government agency would support it; neither would any publishing company, I Ate Tiong Bahru is considered to be a cross-genre “difficult-to-sell book. It’s “arty” and “experimental”. Not a straightforward history book, nor is it a novel or a food book. It’s not really a guidebook. I was unknown as a writer and not affiliated with any recognized institutions.

Now in 2014, I know that some people like it. I Ate Tiong Bahru  enjoys very small but steady sales .In another year it may be a Singaporean bestseller. The book’s mix of styles and genres has been well received critically.

To Eat Tiong Bahru faces the same challenges as I Ate Tiong Bahru. Both required a huge investment of time and resources. Simply put, I need your help to get To Eat Tiong Bahru published. I promise the writing will be the best I can do and, this time, the cover will be colorful!

Rewards

$5  Postcard from Tiong Bahru from Stephen Black and a whole lot of thanks!

$10 A copy of To Eat Tiong Bahru, plus the postcard from Stephen Black.

$28 Your name acknowledged in the book as a supporter of To Eat Tiong Bahru, plus your copy signed by Stephen Black, and the postcard.

$38 A copy of I Ate Tiong Bahru plus a copy of To Eat Tiong Bahru, both signed, and the postcard

$58 Your name acknowledged in the book as a supporter of To Eat Tiong Bahru, plus a copy of I Ate Tiong Bahru and To Eat Tiong Bahru, both signed.And that postcard!

$80 A customized  Tiong Bahru tour of at least two hours, for one to five people

$108 A customized  Tiong Bahru tour of at least two hours, for one to five people, Your name acknowledged in the book as a supporter of To Eat Tiong Bahru, plus your copy signed by Stephen Black, and the postcard.

$300 for one of five signed  11 x 14 inch digital photographic prints. A set of all five images is available for $1000

“… a spontaneous, studied  and  ever eloquent eye.”

Xu Xi, 2007 Man Asian Literary Prize nominee, commenting upon the  hardcover  version  of Bus Stopping, Black’s photographic book about Singapore.

$800 You (or your friend) is featured in a short story or essay. Some ideas:  exploring Tiong Bahru together, a story or essay about your memories of Tiong Bahru, a dinner together that becomes an essay of the food and your associations with it;the possibilities are endless. And yes, you and a group of friends can purchase this reward together and all be featured in the writing. This reward would make an unusual and unforgettable gift or wedding present.

$1000 A customized  10 minute screenplay for an actor/actors or a  production company. Although the details will be discussed, basically Stephen Black will meet the actors (or whomever supports this reward) and  begin discussions so as write a screenplay that showcases the actor’s strong points and acting range. Although the location will be set in the interiors and exteriors of Tiong Bahru, the themes would be universal. (Note that Stephen Black has studied semi-privately with Robert McKee, considered to the foremost authority on Hollywood screenwriting. Black also starred in The Changi Murals by Boo Jun Feng and was the director of photography for Japanese legendary actress Kumiko Akiyoshi’s directorial debut. Finally, the desire here is to create a screenplay, though a theatrical script is also possible.)

Note: I would like to thank anyone who even considers supporting this book. And, if you do think To Eat Tiong Bahru is worth supporting with your hard-earned dollars, I am extremely grateful and honored. I will do my best to make it the best reading experience possible for both Singaporeans and an international audience. I cannot thank you enough…

SPOKEN Stephen Black’s Notes October 5, 2014

ello artwork

Screenshot from ello featuring a poem by Yesim Agaoglu and a vase being dropped

October 5, 2014

SPOKEN launched without a hitch. At least no one has written to us with a complaint. Ironically, Stelarc, the cyberartist, mentioned that his keyboard arrow keys did not allow him to enter into the gallery. Also, I am sure that some people were discouraged by the initial download/plug-in. Fortunately, those that attend the opening seemed to enjoy themselves and there a number of SPOKEN screenshots floating about on Facebook and elsewhere. Some of the images that I thought are particularly remarkable are here.

Publicity, networking and professionalism. I am very far from perfect, but I do realize that this is the digital age. The internet always wants you to start a project yesterday. At least twice this week I have had to interact with “brains” whose response time is from the era when people mailed letters. Opportunities were lost. And even if I am not perceiving things correctly, isn’t it at least proper form to acknowledge an important, time sensitive email?

Being positive, those within SPOKEN are beginning to understand that this isn’t just an exhibition with a creative writing component. SPOKEN is still defining itself…

SPOKEN is transgenerational.The first voice I heard in the gallery, during testing, was Eugene’s four year old nephew.My father, who is eighty, is one of the writers. SPOKEN is transnational. The participants are from Lagos, Hong Kong, Manhattan,Australia and other countries. FWIW, as I write this Eugene is in Rwanda.

While researching SPOKEN related topics, I discovered Creative Applications. Wow!I also found out about the Kikk Festival. Wow Again! It was especially nice to learn about the [Distortion Field]. SPOKEN may be cobbled together, but its spirit is in tune with the sleek hi-tech symposium that was [Distortion Field].I have highlighted the words and phrases below.

 

The event’s objective is to facilitate a productive ‘scenius’ that nurtures creative intersections, exchanges and networks between practitioners in art, media, performance, design and technology. To do this, the event aims to become an incubator for dialogue, feedback and response in diverse media working with internationally recognized practitioners from different fields. New technologies whether mechanical, biological, chemical or electronic are playing a major role in shaping contemporary digital art production. Unfortunately the discussion related to how this work is communicated often remains in the dark. Whereas “interactive” is commonly applied to “new” digital art production, is most cases these systems are simple, responsive or reactive. 「Distortion Field」 aims to reveal more complex feedback systems where the audience is an active participant and a contributor in both the experience and dissemination of work. Whereas we once thought of artistic practice mainly concerned with the production of objects, whether this be a piece of music, a painting or a sculpture, they are now increasingly seen as vehicles that deliver multitude of outputs in digital media. The 「Distortion Field」 describes the effect of audience’s participation upon artist’s intention, the opportunity for audience collaboration within new media creations, and the professional framing of artworks through curation and documentation.

-Filip Visnjic, Editor-inChief of CreativeApplications.Net

 

Igo Blado/Man Shed/Apel Hendrawan/Voice of Pieces/Happy Birthday Mom

Igo,

Hello…

I hope you are well.

Today I went to your gallery next to the Man Shed and  I left a   pile of papers for you. These papers may be artworks, they may be things you should throw away.

The papers may be part of a project called Voice of Pieces.

There is no rush, but if you could take a photo of one or more of those pieces, it would be great. Then, do what you want with them.. I know this kind of art is very different from people like Apel Hendrawan, but the collective spirit is similar…

This post is like being on a bike with a full tank of gas , clear weather and no map.

Onward!

 

Stephen Black

 

Policebird Stuff and more (David Severn writes…)

David Severn is one of the artists in SPOKEN. His paintings and illustrations have been a source of enjoyment to me  for many years. Now, he has surprised me with some writing…

A saluting policebird

A Policebird reporting for duty.

Guidelines for Officers, Constables, Sergeants etc entering certain establishments (from the Policebird Force Manual):

When entering an art gallery, be sure to scan the premises for hoodlums or splatterpillars which may cause some kind of bother e.g. breaking everything, punching each other, spilling beverages everywhere etc. These can sometimes be confused with guests or wanderers, but those will probably be holding a glass of blackcurrant cordial or a small piece of food, such as a cheese whatisit or a grape or olive with some cheese balanced on it, or alternatively secured with a cocktail stick. If all’s clear then check the artworks on display for any kind of infringement which may cause offence or misery to anybody and also anything too sharp or anything sticking out too much which is likely to snag a person’s coat or hat etc. Be mindful that some artworks are not easily discernible from ordinary rubbish which may have been left lying around. If in doubt, as a general rule, the artworks will be wildly priced, whereas the rubbish will not be priced (although this may vary from art gallery to art gallery).

Guidelines for Officers, Constables, Sergeants etc entering certain establishments (from the Policebird Force Manual):
Supplement:
Identifying artists and gallery owners:

At a one-birdman exhibition with a crowd of oglers and munchers, the artist can be easily identified as the one smiling or grimacing politely almost constantly, having red cheeks or a red whole of face and standing at forty-five degrees to a wall and unable to move. The artist bird person cannot be confused with the owner of the art gallery, who will dart quickly from corner to corner or will emit dust when patted firmly.

If I were you, I would grab a warm beverage and then click this:  garden jam: Kola Nut Hotel: Creepers Sleepers

SPOKEN Nhung Walsh’s book recommendations

If you know SPOKEN, you know that we like to post things rough and polish ‘em as time goes on. The following is straight from Nhung Walsh’s email…. stay tuned…
The first project:
Carla Gannis and Justin Petropoulos:

<legend> </legend> is

text, blacklines, a woodcut-like image

a collaborative project of poems and drawings based on text redactions of The Book of Earths, by Edna Kenton, a compendium of theories of the shape of the Earth, and its surrounding folklore.

While the project is rooted in analog works, specifically poems by Justin Petropoulos and ink drawings by Carla Gannis, it grows these texts and images into digital paintings, animations, projection mapped & 3D printed sculptures, as well as interactive works.

The project’s title, <legend> </legend>, is an empty html tag. The viewer/reader must complete the meaning themselves. The definition of the legend is determined by the movement within ones own cartographies.

The book can be accessed here:
You can alter the text, then the image will response to the text you created. After that you can publish it in their bookvia a tweeter feed.
About the artists:

Carla Gannis is an artist who lives and works in Brooklyn, New York. She received a BFA in painting from The University of North Carolina at Greensboro and an MFA in painting from Boston University. In the late 1990s she began incorporating net and digital technologies into her work.

Gannis is the recipient of several awards, including a 2005 New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA) Grant in Computer Arts, an Emerge 7 Fellowship from the Aljira Art Center, and a Chashama AREA Visual Arts Studio Award in New York, NY. She has exhibited in solo and group exhibitions both nationally and internationally.

Her solo exhibitions include “<legend>  </legend>” (in collaboration with Justin Petropoulos) at Transfer Gallery, Brooklyn, NY, “The Multiversal Hippozoonomadon & Prismenagerie” at Pablo’s Birthday Gallery, New York, NY; “The Non-Facial Recognition Project” at Edelman Gallery, New York NY; and “Jezebel” at The Boulder Museum of Art, Boulder, CO.

Features on Gannis’s work have appeared in NY Arts Magazine, Res Magazine, Animal, 11211, and Collezioni Edge, and her work has been reviewed in Hyperallergic, Art Critical, The New York Times, The LA Times, The Miami Herald, The Daily News, The Star Ledger, and The Village Voice.

Justin Petropoulos is the author of the poetry collection, Eminent Domain, selected by Anne Waldman for the “2010 Marsh Hawk Press Poetry Prize”.  His poems have appeared in American Letters & Commentary, Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review, Columbia Poetry Review, Crab Creek Review, Gulf Coast, Mandorla, Portland Review, and most recently in Spinning Jenny.  Petropoulos holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Indiana University.  He co-curated “Triptych Readings” from 2010 to 2011 and was a guest blogger for Bryant Park’s summer poetry reading series, “Word for Word”.  Currently Petropoulos is the site director of an after-school program for elementary age children and is an adjunct faculty member at New Jersey City University. He lives in Brooklyn, New York with his partner in crime, interdisciplinary artist Carla Gannis. Visit him on Twitter at @redactioneer or at Marsh Hawk Press.
The second book project is also a collaboration between my artist friend Huong Ngo and Or Zubalsky:

“I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me.”

On September 16, 2013, the Randolph County Board of Education in Central North Carolina banned

Black,white and grey text

A page from an interactive book artwork inspired by Ralph Ellison’s book “The Invisible Man”. Ellison’s book was banned by a school library after a student’s mother complained about the adult content in the book. One board member supported her complaint, stating that he “didn’t find any literary value” in Ellison’s account of African-American alienation in the United States in the early 20th century.

ban remained for a mere nine days until it was lifted by the North Carolina School Board under much fire by the public.

Over sixty years after the book‘s publication date, even after winning the National Book Award for fiction in 1953 and being named by the Library of Congress as one of the “Books That Shaped America,” this incident demonstrates the precarity that a work, even one that has been nationally recognized, faces in a cultural climate of a country that has not resolved its history of racial oppression.

In the novel, the main character struggles to do good in the world, but is thwarted by structures instituted to maintain the status quo. He eventually aligns himself with the invisible, those who tip-toe precariously at the periphery of our society. We are asking participants to read out loud and record as much or as little of the book as they want in a show of solidarity with the invisible. Through the voice, may we collectively enact a visibility.

Contribute

  • Click Contribute.
  • Choose a section of text that has not been recorded.
  • Record the text on an iphone, portable recorder, or straight into your computer.
  • Upload file.
Visitor can go in, read aloud the text that is available, upload their sound file to the project as said above in the “contribute” and listen to the piece they added.
About the artists via http://www.art-action.org:
Hương Ngô is an artist and educator, born in Hong Kong, and based in Paris, FR and Brooklyn, NY. Her work, often collaborative and performance-based, has been supported by the New Museum, Rhizome, LMCC, The Kitchen, EFA Project Space, iLAND, CulturePush, Eyebeam, Tate Modern, Vox Populi, The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, The Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, and the National Museum in Prague. She is a part of the collective Fantastic Futures, is a recent Whitney Independent Study Program Fellow, and earned her MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Or Zubalsky a programmer, artist, musician, and collaborator. He is a lover of sound, listening, collaboration, open source, questions, language, exchange, walking, and low technology. He is also a part of the collectives Fantastic Futures and Trade School, and music projects Juviley and The Youngest. 
And lastly, the third book project is something I have just learned about. This is from a Swedish poet and artist who visited my school (School of the Art Institute of Chicago) earlier this month:
Unusual book layout

Evolution is an online artwork-in-progress designed to emulate the texts and music of poet and artist Johannes Heldén, with the ultimate goal of passing “The Imitation Game Test” as proposed by Alan Turing in 1951. With Evolution we aim to examine and dissect the role of the author; when new poetry that resembles the work of the original author is created or presented through an algorithm, is it possible to make the distinction between “author” and “programmer”? And is it even relevant?

Swedish poet and artist Johannes Heldén’s work addresses nature, narrative, entropy and the future. He presented the Evolution project: This is from his website:
Evolution is an online artwork-in-progress designed to emulate the texts and music of poet and artist Johannes Heldén, with the ultimate goal of passing “The Imitation Game Test” as proposed by Alan Turing in 1951. With Evolution we aim to examine and dissect the role of the author; when new poetry that resembles the work of the original author is created or presented through an algorithm, is it possible to make the distinction between “author” and “programmer”? And is it even relevant? When the work of the algorithm is extrapolated to the point where the original author becomes redundant, how does  this affect copyright, legacy, future writings, etc ? The purpose of the work is not to deromanticize or deconstruct the role of the author, but is rather the ongoing exploration itself. Where will it take us, and perhaps more importantly, what will happen along the way? The release of Evolution will mark the end of Johannes Heldén writing poetry books. He has, in a sense, been replaced.
Johannes Heldén is an author, visual artist, musician. He is the author of eleven books, most recently Evolution and Terraforming(OEI); five digital works, most recently The Factory (Möllebyen Literature) and Evolution Digital (w/ H. Jonson, premiered at the Centre Pompidou, 2013); three music albums, most recently System (Irrlicht, 2013). Solo exhibitions include: the Media Archaelogy Lab in Boulder, Bonniers Konsthall in Stockholm, Gothenburg Museum of Art, Volt in Bergen, Norway, amongst others. Group exhibitions include Remediating the Social at Inspace, Edinburgh, Against Time at Bonniers Konsthall, NIMK, Amsterdam and Chercher le texte at Centre Pompidou. Grants and awards: the N. Katherine Hayles award, The Kalleberger Grant, Hawthornden amongst others.