Current Projects (as of September 2015)


BEACH ROAD 360 VR short film produced with Hiverlab

BALI WAVE GHOST  novel set in Bali…98% finished

TOWARDS A NEW CINEMATOGRAPHY notes on the revolution…

TO EAT TIONG BAHRU … another nearly finished book; the sequel to I Ate Tiong Bahru

… as well as various art projects, including the “Foreigner kway”, the follow up to the “thumb kway”.

 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

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 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
IATB in virtual gallery
Cheers, Eugene! Cheers, George!

Ebooks: Born to Click (1 of 3)


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.
-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.

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 for parts 2 and 3 of this post, as well as information on art, books and ebooks


Bali! Vegan Oreo Cheesecake! Sayuri! A book!

In Ubud there is a restaurant called The Seeds of Life. It is is a very, very positive place. The food is vegan and organic and very, very good. The tea list… well, I used to live in a tea selling district in Hong Kong, and in Japan and am now writing this from Singapore. Never have I seen a more informative and thorough description of teas; all of which were humbling, flavorful and stimulating.
Anyway, “my Sayuri” an I met Sayuri, who runs Seeds of Life with her partner, Ben Richards.Great people…
OK… As this blog features books and I am now concluding my own book about Bali, it seemed like a good idea to mention Sayuri and her book. I emailed her requesting a recipe and the following is her reply…
“Oreo” Cream Cheesecake

Even though I’d been far away from commercial “oreo” cookies, I still remember its perfect combination of bitter biscuit and rich creamy filling. One day, I was in need to manifest it. We all need its luxury in our life! Cheesecake is awesome and life is good 😉

Yields 8-9 inch/21-23cm size cake
Blender, food processor and 8-9 inch/21-23cm bottom-removal cake mold needed

“Oreo” crust and topping:
1 1/2 cups cacao nibs
1/2 cup finely ground coconut sugar or any natural powder sugar; if unavailable, use 1 cup chopped dates
1/4 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons coconut oil, melted of solid

White cream cheesecake filling:
2 1/4 cups cashew nuts, soaked
1 cup water
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons honey or liquid sweetener of your choice
4 tablespoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon lecithin; if unavailable, it is ok to omit
1/2 cup coconut oil, melted of solid
1/2 cup (4.4 oz. by weight/120g) melted cacao butter

For the “oreo” crust, in the food processor, grind cacao nibs, coconut sugar and salt into fine powder. (If you are using dates, ground cacao nibs and salt into powder first, and then add dates to process evenly.)
Add coconut oil and process evenly.
Press half of the mixture into a lightly greased pan and set aside in the fridge. (keep the rest of the half “oreo” crust in the room temperature.)
For the white cream cheesecake filling, blend all ingredients except for lecithin, coconut oil and cacao butter until smooth.
Add lecithin, coconut oil and cacao butter and blend evenly.
Pour onto the “oreo” crust and place in the freezer to set for 30 minutes.
Take the cake out of freezer, cover the cake surface with the remaining “oreo” crumble, and then refrigerate for 4-6 hours or until set.

cover of vegan cookbook

Sayuri’s Food for Yogis and Everyone (cover of book) (English) (Japanese)

Unlocking With Ears: John Zorn

John has a zillion styles…Google him.

Little Bittern with Marc Ribot

John Zorn with Book of Angels

Freda D!

I once spent a very pleasant  afternoon drinking instant coffee with Deee Lite before their first album came out. Today was kinda the same feeling…perfume though, instead of music. And kopi C kosong in a plastic bag  instead of instant. Look out for Freda D!

Freda D framed by two pieces of wood

Freda D

Art to me is an anecdote of the spirit, and the only means of making concrete the purpose of its varied quickness and stillness.

Mark Rothko




Checkpoint, by The Unseen Guest: notes about their second album

Well… if you know about 3how, then you know about me and Amith and the various projects we’ve worked on, including live concerts, theatre, musicals and The Riverwalk Session.

But, before 3how, Amith was part of the  team that recorded two albums under the name of The Unseen Guest. I was fortunate to be around at the time the CDs were being made and had a hand in the layout of the artwork. The second album features photos I took in Myanmar, including the cover.

Here is an excellent interview, with Amith and Declan, The Unseen Guest.

The following text is something I wrote for Schott ,the record company that released the two Unseen Guest albums.. It is a tad bit commercial, but I hope its sincerity can be felt. The Unseen Guest really did produce some very very very good music. Google them. On Youtube you will see videos produced by fans, which says it all.

Checkpoint, like the first album of The Unseen Guest, beautifully weaves two influences into a seamless whole. The instrumentation combines bluesy melodies (check out the harmonica work of Curtis King on Miracle Mile) with elements from pop, folk, rock and free jazz. To describe the album as a combination of the best of eastern and western musical styles would not be an exaggeration. The album closes with an excellent rendition of Leonard Cohen’s Everybody Knows, which is familiar yet new, with a beautiful string arrangement.

It is only on a second listening that the listener realizes that some of the album’s sounds are distinctively Indian – percussion instruments like the dholaks on Ancient Greek, and the gan-jra on the Whitest Lie. The tablas pop nicely, the sax is rich and one can feel the dusty roads of India in Declan’s voice. The listener receives a continual variety of pleasant surprises through-out!

“Imagine a jailhouse where you’re always free…”

At times world weary, at times full of joy, Checkpoint is a traveller’s diary, full of dualities and memories recorded on the spur of the moment. Not the cliches of East and West, but the stuff of novels and good movies: wanderlust versus security, love versus cynicism; the wildness of Saturday night and the regrets of Sunday morning.

Checkpoint is an apt title for the Unseen Guest’s second album. With it, Declan and Amith acknowledge the successful musical territory of their first album – but  keep moving forward. A solid collection of eleven songs, Checkpoint combines the best of two (or more) worlds. The Unseen Guest have produced yet another beautiful dusty snapshot of life on the road, one you can sing and dance to!

Color photo of musicians on stage

Amith Narayan, Declan Murray, Silvestro Studdu Mascali and Stefano Schiavocampo: The Unseen Guest in Europe, 2007

Checkpoint on cdbaby

The Unseen Guest on Facebook

Norm Black VR exhibition notes

Here is the take-away of this post: if you plan on sharing a phone display VR project with people in the same physical space, make sure you have the appropriate number of  viewers and phones that have been tested and have enough battery power.

That’s pretty simple, right? Any professional  would agree with that. However, the situation described  can exist only with economic support. How many of us can afford to have ten, maybe more, mobile phones loaded and viewers? The rest of this post describes my experiences in a “no budget” VR sharing situation and includes observations that will interest anyone doing VR screening events without a big budget; people like artists, galleries, independent filmmakers and nonprofit organisations.

Background: Once Beach Road was live on Google Play, the opportunity to do an exhibition presented itself. Although there was no budget and no gear, I decided to do it. I thought that I could borrow/get cardboard viewers from hiverlab and would be able to find a few Android phones with a 4.1 OS. Also, I suggested, via Facebook and other means, that if anyone could download Beach Road before coming that it would be great, helping us to show more people with less waiting.

Results: We got by by the skin of our teeth. The night of the opening, about 100 people came and probably 70 people saw Beach Road. Eugene Soh, The Dude, was one of those who had successfully downloaded  and he kindly shared his phone. Ender (CEO of hiverlab) guided many people through their first VR experience. Due to lack of phones and battery power, not everyone saw Beach Road. Hopefully they enjoyed the kuehs, the beer, the prints on display and the music of Amith Narayan and Justin Bannister (kind of a 3how thing) and, at times,  Lee Wen.

Side note: Jean Marks Norihiko Nagai, CEO of Start 360 flew in from Japan to see Norm Black. He brought with him an Oculus and a collection of 360 Japanese projects he had curated. Fantastic, though I have to say the Oculus he brought with him reminded me of TV displays from the last century! The little dots! Aargh! Luckily he was able to see Beach Road on a Sony Xperia. 4K 360 video, beautifully displayed. Yes! Based on Jean Marks’s experiences, it is presently quite troublesome to watch  Google Play 360 videos in Japan. After much testing, the most reliable phones seem to be Sony’s Xperia Z1f and Z Ultra. (From an email from Jean Marks: I think devices using CPU SnapDragon800 or later can play the movie.)

Related to Jean Mark’s notes about the difficulty of finding a device to play Beach Road properly, I should add that, in general VR is still very unknown in Singapore. FWIW, the government of Singapore does its best to keep the IT infrastructure solid and the country has one of the highest GDPs in Asia.

At the time of this writing (September 2015) most people that I met had very little knowledge or experience with 360 VR. Plus, it was no simple matter to find a phone that could play, let alone headsets. I am very positive about the future of 360VR, but, more than ever, I am skeptical about 2016 being a boom year for VR. In this country at least, there must be a huge number of phones to be bought and desirable content produced.

Note 1: Although I am experienced in gamemaking, this post reflects my interest in VR storytelling. And, yes, I know that they are not automatically mutually exclusive.

Note 2. Perhaps if the Beach Road app were on iTunes, things would have been easier. However, at least twice, Beach Road has not been allowed into iTunes, with no reason given. At present, Google Play says that “four people” have reviewed Beach Road, though only three are displayed; all reviews have given Beach Road five stars.

Note 3. In the future, rentable, inexpensive phones may make public displays easier. Here is a video I just discovered, one by J. David Sundstrom

VR graphics for game engine project

a virtual gallery built by Eugene Soh and curated by Stephen Black.

Cultural identity

Edible sculptures by Stephen Black. Traditional Chinese ang ku kueh shaped like a thumbprint

Oculus Virtual reality experience

Bruce Quek and Jean Marks Norihiko Nagai doing the Oculus thing…

guitarist, keyboard player and harmonica player

Amith Narayan on guitar, Justin Bannister on keyboards. This is something like 3how. Lee Wen on harmonica.

Postmodern comedy and social commentary

Artwork from the Foreign Love Club crew on display

A typical conversation (perhaps) about VR, circa 2015

A typical conversation about 360VR, circa 2015


Certainly there have been discussions among the VR community similar to the one which follows. The starting point of the chat was Beach Road, a VR film co-produced by Stephen Black and hiverlab. We present our exchange simply as a record of the present time, when VR, especially VR storytelling, is still an alluring frontier. Aint nobody jaded yet!

The following is an edited and slightly modified version of a Facebook chat that took place in late August, 2015.


Hi Stephen. I have seen the video a couple of times and showed it to some people too. I already have an opinion on it but I am now waiting for the postman to deliver a Cardboard. Can I give you some feedback now? Would you like to ask me questions?


Alexandre.. the floor is yours…


Right… OK, I might have another insight once I have my Cardboard headset…


Wait! So… you have only seen it how?


On the cell phone…


Oh! Oh no!

An analogy I came up with…

Watching VR on a cell phone is like using a thimble to drink champagne.


Hahaha maybe.




… but it’s still champagne



I didn’t say it was the best analogy, or the most accurate

but you know what I mean.


Haha. I think I do.


Total visual immersion (or something close to it) cannot be compared to VERY non-total immersion. Does that make sense? What I mean is that moving a phone around in front of you is extremely different than HMD viewing experience.


… although on the cell phone you can have some of it for sure, as you have to spin around to get the 360 view


…that 360 is not what you see with a HMD.


Yeah, I know.


…and audio?


Audio was good.


Please tell me you used earphones.


My speakers are really good;  the best on the market


OK…smile emoticon…and it sounded OK?


It did, loud and clear.


Glad to hear that.

No pun intended.

OK, a little pun intended.


But sadly, the full immersion review will take a while…


So you watch all of the VR stuff on your phone?


Yes, all on my phone, because I don’t have an HMD at the moment. A member of a group I administer on FB has kindly sent me a cardboard. But it hasn’t arrived from the US yet. Maybe it will be here in another 2 or 3 weeks.HMDs are extremely expensive in my country


You are really committed…


I know, right… People really expect me to have all the HMDs available in the market.  Hahaha… and experience it all day, like a no life boy. Ha ha. Playing games and watching films in VR


No life boy!

Ha ha… good one


All I know about VR comes from what I read.


As you know, much better than I, most of the VR now is gaming, porn or “tourism”. Personally,  I am hoping to find a sweet spot between storytelling/narrative, art  and gaming. Beach Road was /is very very simple. 


Storytelling is growing big!



Beach Road was a great learning experience…

I hope the audience for storytelling grows…



It will.


So much potential.


Arrest that man!)


How are you connected with hiverlab, the VR company? I am not really aware of them…


I met the director by chance and we seemed to click.

His name is Ender.


Is he a local?


Interesting question!

I am an American who has lived in Asia most of my adult life.

I have lived in Singapore since 2002.

Ender was born and raised in China and has lived here for 6 years…



I see. I was wondering about this because I thought you were hired, temporarily I guess, to make the storytelling possible. Which I think you did really well! I wasn’t sure how you were involved; I thought that perhaps you only worked on developing the app itself.


No. When I first met Ender I told him I was I was ecstatically waiting for a chance to work with 360 VR and explained my experiences as a producer, artists, writer, director and cameraman. I said I could put together an extremely efficient shooting schedule and that I would do everything I could to make post production as smooth as possible. Also, FWIW, I am the actor in Beach Road. Ender said yes and the shooting was nearly flawless. One scene we couldn’t use because a file became corrupted. I selected the music and Ender edited it to what you now hear.

Basically, Ender was able to focus on creating those wonderful subtleties that add so much to a project. Once he had a basic edit, he showed it to me. I suggested only a minor change or two and then wrote the script to fit. I did the voice over. It was an extremely smooth production. I wrote a five post series on my blog about this.


I really liked the way the script interacted with the scenes. It makes sense to me now that you wrote the script after there was some editing…


Well, honestly, we had no choice. This is really is a new way of telling stories;making films. The lessons I’ve learned from traditional scriptwriting couldn’t really be used here.

For example, I was very concerned about the issue of scene length…

No closeups of a quarter second duration, for example. How could I write a script with one actor in scenes of unknown length?  We really wanted to go into the editing room and discover the optimal length for each scene; we wanted to allow enough time for the viewer to look around.


I gave it to some students to interact with , and because they’re learning English, I wanted to see if they’d be able to hear you and react accordingly. It worked. Even with me, during my first experience, I was naturally looking around when you said to do it… haha; although that was just the script.


Because I have lived in Asia so long, I really try to communicate with simple words… I mean that in a good way.


Precisely, I think some scenes were a bit too short, not giving the chance to explore what was going on completely. And pausing shouldn’t be an option I suppose. But people would watch again to see if they catch the details.


Yes! That was really what I was wondering about: repeat viewings!

Not just with my project, but with VR stories in general… I think that, because of the 5 minute duration “sweetspot”, (that is the result of the HDM comfort/eyestrain factor), that a great VR story is one that can deliver a great experience when viewed many times. A great game can be played again and again; the easter eggs, clues etc. aren’t always obvious the first time you play them.VR stories can learn from those techniques.


As an English teacher, I always think of the linguistic aspects. That’s why I asked if the director was a local. It must be challenging to use simple words, although I know it can work.

Well, I’m definitely watching it again haha but with my Cardboard! Let’s see if I get the details!

I think you’ve chosen a very atmospheric soundtrack for it. It was calm and enjoyable.It suits the story and the scenes. And the way you told it too, it was clear, well paced and interesting. Of course the scenes and the 360 experience are distractions, which makes you want to see it again to get the whole story right.


Thank you for your insights Alexandre.Bani Haykal and Chen YiQi really created a nice piece of music for us.

I am fully aware that the beauty of seeing 4K in 360 overpowers first time viewers. I think it will be a quite a while before people can really judge the story and the craft/art. For now it is mindblowing to see 4K video! And, you can look all around! That’s why I say that looking at a 360 VR production on a cell phone is like using a thimble to drink champagne. It works, but it is far from ideal.

Seriously, VR is so new that directors and scriptwriters are all inexperienced; we all need to develop a sense of timing…AND…this seems silly to say…but…CHAIRS!

If I know that my work is going to be seen by users who are seated in gamer’s chairs that can spin around easily, then that is one thing…

But, if people are sitting in a normal chair, I have to be realistic..

In that case, then there probably will not very much be happening at the back…


Precisely! A lot of lessons to be learned..


Yep! Nothing like a first experience to provide some insights. Alexandre, this has been great. This is kind of funny… I don’t have a mobile phone nor a HMD and you, at this point,  can only experience VR with a cell phone. I really think this situation is great. But I am also excited about the future…




Alright, here in Singapore it is the afternoon and I should get back to other things. Take care and good night!



Yes, it is 5:30 AM here and I should go to bed!


Alexandre Calil Sicchieri Silva, aka Xan

Combining a passionate and committed interest in VR/AR with over ten years of English teaching experience, Xan is currently consulting and planning educational VR/AR projects. He also administers a group and two VR-related  pages on Facebook.

Stephen Black is a writer, artist and producer. Along with hiverlab, he produced Beach Road, the first VR storytelling project in Singapore.


Norm Black: Before

Norm Black is the name of my exhibition at Mettlework Art Space, from September 3-6, 2015. I will be showing a VR short film created with Hiverlab, a virtual gallery created with Eugene Soh and involving 40 artists and writers, a conceptual piece with kuehs and black and white prints of Tiong Bahru. I will do a reading. 3how will play, at least once Finally, there will be appropriated photographs of the bottoms and sides of anchored ships

Please note: Norm Black is also my dad’s name. He sells books. I always thought his name would be a great name for a book, band or exhibition.


OK, first an explanation of what ‘s going on. Norm Black is being put together very quickly as I soon hope to return to an almost hermit-like existence while I complete a novel called Bali Wave Ghost. I have been planning to start writing on September 10.

Less than two weeks ago, Beach Road went online. It soon became apparent that many small screenings would need to be arranged, as opposed to renting a theatre or art space. A VR movie is meant to be viewed with a viewer, also called a HMD. Which means many HMDs have to be bought OR many Android phones have to be found so that they can fit into the Cardboard viewers which Hiverlab has.

Moving the story along, I put out a call, looking for spaces. Boom! Dennis Tan,  who is very familiar with Mettlework and Bruce Quek from Mettlework both responded. So that’s how it started.

The work to be shown/what’s happening:

Beach Road VR movie (5 minutes)

SPOKEN Virtual Gallery

3how Sept. 3, maybe another night or two. 3how on FB

Depth images

Taste, Trial and Error (kueh: edible sculptures/conceptual art)thumb kways

Dissolving Tiong Bahru (experimental black and white prints)

Words were the first VR: a reading by Stephen Black Sunday, 7pm -9pm

Plus a surprise or two…

Exhibition Hours:

Thursday, September 3  7pm-11pm

Friday 10 am- 3pm

Saturday 10am-11pm

Sunday 10am-11pm

Location: 50 Lorong 17. Closest station: Aljunied


Stephen Black: bookmerah %at & gmail





Stephen Black exhibition at Mettle Works Art Space

September 3, 4, 5 and 6… at Mettlework

What’s in store:

Beach Road, a pioneering VR movie will be shown. Beach Road is a co-production between hiverlab and Stephen Black.

SPOKEN will be projected live.

Taste, Trial and Error: the kuehs are back!

Tiong Bahru prints: black and white lens based artworks. Details soon to follow.

Depth: appropriated artworks, back in the spotlight.

Words Were the First VR:  talk and reading by Stephen Black.

Music! 3how?

Details and times to be posted soon.


Independent Archive Reference Materials : Pamphlet from Performance Art Laboratory 2014 in Hong Kong, organised by CCCD


Pamphlet for performance art event in Hong Kong

Front and back cover of brochure for the 2014 Performance Art Laboratory in Hong Kong, organised by the CCCD.

This post is a bit of an experiment. As you may know, the Independent Archive has an impressive collection of materials on performance art, especially that of the Southeast Asian region.

With this, and subsequent posts, it is hoped connections of all types will be made. The selection of materials posted will be varied, to exemplify the diversity found within the Independent Archives.

Do feel free to comment or to suggest genres, specific performances, individuals or regions.

Eventually these posts may appear on the Independent Archive website itself.

Thank you for your interest.


Chinese and Western performance artists

inside of pamphlet of Performance Art Laboratory in Hong Kong, organized by CCDC

Performance Art Laboratory 2014, presented by Centre for Community Cultural Development. May 13 and 14 2014.

Producer: Mok Chiu Yu

Curator: Chan Sammu

Coordinator: Liu Nanxi

Designer: To Yeuk

Helpers: Lam Foon Hiu, Wong Yuk Ming and Guo Feng


Featured artists:

Boris Nielsony and Art Service Association

Chan Sammu

Chumpun Apisuk

Lo Lok Him

Mok Chiu

Marilyn Arsem

Tomas Ruller

To Yeuk

Ting Liping

Yim Monique

Au Lai Tak

Chen Yiling

Dominic Thorpe

Jeremy Hiah

Kwan Ero

MARU Yuenjie

Moon Yumi

Qiao Shengxu and in here

Tanaka Toshi …and Google led me to this link as well, one about Shinichi Arai.

Tse Wai Kee

Wang Mingfeng

Yoyo Yogasmana and this

Au Yeung Tung

Cheng Man Chai

Choi Ger

Fang Fang

Li Xiaoming

Richard Martel

Urich Lau

Xiang Xishi

Yu Wing Kei




Beach Road: on Google Play (1)

a man watching using a VR headset

A VR experience in a coffee shop

This is the first of a five part series about introducing Beach Road to the public.

Well, Beach Road is  online!

Unlike a video artwork or a movie, there was no public event. I actually did not know we went live until the day after it happened. Ender and I were both busy, but had agreed to meet to hear Lionel Chiok’s talk about VR. Lionel is a Singaporean who has been studying and working with new technologies in England. He was back in town to share his thoughts and experiences. I prepared a press release and Ender had made preparations to show Beach Road on his phone with the Hiverlab headset. It was only when we met that Ender realized he hadn’t told me about Beach Road being on  Google Play. So, the press release was lacking information on how to access the movie!

The first person I saw wearing the headset and watching Beach Road was a young woman from India, a design student at LASALLE. I can only say she looked enthralled.(v.also enthral “to hold in mental or moral bondage,”1570s, from en- (1) “make, put in” + thrall1610s. !!!) Once she took off the headset, she just beamed for a while. And then she asked if she could work for me! I directed her to Ender.

That was just over a week ago. Since then, I have seen that same expression  on the faces of the twenty or so people who have seen Beach Road. I do not delude myself; the technology is what is enthralling them. I think it will only be in about a year or so that I will get true reactions to the film itself, when the shockingly beautiful novelty of 360 VR has worn off. For now, I can only enjoy the ride and be thankful for the enthusiasm that is being shown, as exemplified by reviews like this one, on Ground Zero.