Tag Archives: Singapore

red dot SAD (content update)

red dot SAD will ultimately be a printed book of about 300 pages. The contents reflect 15 years of a creative life, one based in Singapore. Besides fiction, rdS includes reports and essays about art, VR, AR, photography, video and food.The list below does not include the many photographs and images in rDS.

The current ebook version of red dot SAD is available on Amazon. Those who purchase the current version will receive the updated ebook versions free of charge. This is explained here, on Medium and here on this blog.

I Ate Carrot Cake This Morning

My life is built upon a foundation of grated carrots, walnuts and lemon glaze.

Smoke and Mirrors

Long live the homemade satay cart of Tiong Bahru! (a chapter from the bestselling i ate tiong bahru)

Haikus

Five-seven-five, all night long.

Contact With Lightning

Frisbee and shock on the lawn of Fort Canning.(a chapter from Contact With Shadow)

The Unseen Guest: Checkpoint (album review)

Li Cassidy-Peet

She taught singing.

The Aloha of God

Hawaii, Vietnam, Selma and orchids. Obama.

Correspondence

You can’t make this up.

Hummingbird vs. Helicopter

Most accurately: Hummingbird vs. Helicopter vs. Happy Crab

A Star is Born or Something

3how is rocknrollwritingperformanceart. We don’t explore anything. We laugh when it breaks.

A Story about the Armenian Alphabet, Vitamin Supplements and the Singapore National Library

All you need is love and Vitamin B.

Your Super Restaurant (Hugh Howey Must D’yer Maker)

Connecting the spicy dots between the Father of Amish Sci-fi, self-publishing and a guy who’s angry at Stephen Colbert.

I’m a Kway, You’re a Kway

A clueless American food artist and a legendary recipe for a 4000 year old auspicious Chinese pastry. What could go wrong?

How I Met Shigeru Miyamoto, the Man who created Mario and Donkey Kong

It was a dark and snowy night. Suddenly…

Notes on the Blue Flower

Mud, Concrete and Stars, Beauty and Hope(text written for an exhibition by Philipp Aldrup)

The Red Dot Museum

A museum full of award-winning design.

Mysticus fragrans: nutmeg

Charlotte Brontë reports on what really happened upon that fateful night at Fort Canning. A never before told story of Sir Raffles and Lady Sophia.

The Eye of Flesh

Rice seasonings:poetic and visionary. (a chapter from >Furikake)

Happy as Larry

A chicchetti (little savoury snacks) tour with Carla Bonollo. One of the pieces written for SPOKEN, the virtual art exhibition created by Eugene Soh and SB.(www.gallery.sg)

The Music of Will Sun

Medication and meditations for broken bones and hearts. (A chapter from Bali Wave Ghost)

red dot SAD (content update)Self-portrait as MPG

Do you think this is some kind of game?

Biff “Grayboox” Enum:Game Developer

Exclusive interview with the mastermind who behind the multi-platform megahit Powerfrog Troopers Revolution 6:the Croak Goes On.

Five Things I Learned on My First 360 “VR” shoot

Stephen Black :VR Startup in Singapore. Why?

Stephen Black :VR/AR Startup Plans

red dot SAD reinvents Amazon (kinda)

red dot SAD is a snapshot of Stephen Black’s creative life in Singapore, from 2002 to 2017. The nonfiction topics include art, AR, VR, gaming, 3how, photography and daily life in Singapore.

The red dot SAD book project:

1. Offers money for value: the 99 cent, 129 page book contains stories, images and essays, including an extract from i ate tiong bahru, a national bestseller in Singapore.

2. Continually adds content to create new versions that replace the existing version on Amazon.(Latest additions here.)

3. Sends, by email, the new versions to those who have purchased a previous edition.

The reasons for this trial are:

1. Crowdfunding-in-disguise. Directing a “fan base” of readers towards Amazon means they can immediately receive an ebook and join in the rdS experience. Even a small number of sales is beneficial. Although there is a less concentrated effort than a crowdfunding campaign, an equal or greater amount of funds can be generated over a longer period.

2. The crowdfunding-in-disguise idea can stimulate Amazon’s algorithms, further generating interest. Increased rankings and positive “list activity” can result.

3. Those who request updated versions likely will contribute some form of feedback

4. Ideally, a percentage of these readers will leave reviews, and share the book info with other readers.

minimal book covers

red dot SAD (Stories Art, Digitalia 2002-2017) book by Stephen Black

The Amazoncentric ideas I am experimenting with are not that different from those used in the serialization of novels. What is different is that a new ebook, with a considerable amount of new content, is being sent to those who purchased previous editions. In the world of physical art and books, limited editions hold value for collectors. This may prove to be also true for the “outdated” offline digital versions of rdS.

Related to this, I am now researching the possibilities that have just arisen from a partnership between Reedsy and Blurb. Reedsy’s book editor has been invaluable to me. If the workflow with Blurb is what I hope it is, the files of new versions can be easily replaced, This, in turn, means that older print versions will become limited editions.

Ultimately, I hope that the final version of red dot SAD, with a few hundred pages,either becomes a very successful self-published project, or is picked up by someone like as Phaidon or Steidl. The result of fifteen creative years in Singapore, I believe red dot SAD will be an interesting visual and written document. The book's journey is, and will be, an interesting one.

(The image used in the header of this post is a photograph of a sculpture called Manifold, by Gerald Leow.)

Hummingbird vs. Helicopter

The following is inspired by a piece by Gerald Leow on display as part of his solo exhibition at Chan+Hampe Contemporary until June 25.

On a material level, Manifold is simple: a dynamic, radiating metal sculpture made of copies of the same jagged line. These lines are like flattened appendages of a predatory insect, or sentences written in a spiky font. The pieces are colored asymmetrically; seven tones shifting between purple and orange. Manifold is bold, yet delicate-- an opening and a threat. Leow has been quoted as saying that he wanted to create works which are poetically violent. He has succeeded. Manifold is a beautiful but deadly tropical flower, 76 x 76 x 17cm.

The “edginess” of the sculpture is literal; the aggressive shapes on the edges of the lines form negative spaces which complete the piece. These edges are appropriated from the font and logo used by Judas Priest, a heavy metal band. Leow, who studied sociology, has a body of work based on the logo and the conceptual possibilities of heavy metal subculture. With Manifold, however, the link to heavy metal is not obvious, thankfully. Appropriation can be a one-trick pony; what is insightful and magical initially can later become an unrewarding burden for both artist and audience.

The exhibition’s title adds another dimension. I am Time Grown Old to Destroy the World refers to a comment Robert Oppenheimer made in 1945, when he witnessed the detonation of his brainchild, the first atomic bomb. The phrase is from the Mahabharata, specifically the Bhagavad Gita. A passage of 700 verses, the Gita documents the exchange between Prince Arujuna and Lord Krishna as they discuss war, duty and moral confusion.

contemporary sculpture in Singapore

Manifold from Leow's exhibition at Chan+Hori Contemporary Gallery in Singapore

Southeast Asian artwork made of mild steel, automotive paint and western pop culture. It is real.  It has universal significance. Manifold is an artwork worthy of its most serious sources of inspiration: the Mahabharata and the atomic bomb.

…………………………………………30……………………………………

I am elaborating upon this essay, including other projects of Gerald's as well as some of our collaborations and personal experiences. The result will be included in red dot SAD which is updated periodically.

Bubi and Conquest (part 3 of 3)

part one is here

A cat zipped from under one table to another. It had been outside.

”It isn’t any fun to be a poor kitty in a downpour.”

In the back of the prata place, on something like an altar, is an aquarium. A teaspoon of red tetras circle in the corner, and a bland piranha paces back and forth. The altar is covered with artificial grass. Pink cloth flowers are tied to the tree branches that are stacked around the aquarium. Like everything else here, everything’s big except a little naked doll standing in a circle of plastic roses.

“Bubi! How are you?”

I take two steps towards the aquarium and sit back down with the doll.

“Bubi, this is Mysteriouswomanpool. Mysteriouswomanpool, this is Bubi.”

She is obviously happy to see the doll and relieved that no one is watching. I lean Bubi against the clear plastic bag of buns that have black lips.

“I met Bubi years ago, when I lived in Minnesota. She used to go out with a classmate of mine, a Norwegian hockey player named Bjorn Free Vikingstad. In the summers we often enjoyed banana and ham pancakes.”

She laughs a big laugh and I laugh a bigger laugh. Together we laugh very very bigly.

I quit while I'm ahead. “Bubi must go back to Minnesota now. We can call her later, though.” I push my empty glass to the edge of the table, she does the same. Now, the place is empty. I count coins and put them on the table.”

“Three eighty boss.” He slides the coins onto his palm.

We walk out into the heavy rain, down the slope of Jalan Pahang. Our inkblot shadows float on a river of silver fingerprints. Despite our hopes, we’ll be back here in a few hours, when the sky will be blue and rich with the smell of freshly baked banana bread. The laundry shops will be busy, the tailors will be arriving and the trendy two story cafes will still be closed. The cracks and potholes will be dry. The people who work here will again wonder what is wrong with us; same clothes, same three plastic bags. Now, though, we cling together against the cold ocean of night, plodding through glistening nets full of streetlights, neon and stars. Flowing, flowing, everything’s flowing toward the Great Attractor.

She taps my elbow and I pull her closer. “Can we call Minnesota?” she says.

Touching JB: a relaxed description of a book and photo project set in Johor Bahru, Malaysia

so far, the best introduction to this project.... Touching JB is being crowdfunded... thanks for thinking of it... https://www.zingohub.com/#/en-GBL/c/touching-jb unrelated

Touching JB: intro to the new book by Stephen Black

Touching JB: I am very very hugely, remarkably, extremely mega-excited about this project. Adrenaline, research, romance, Johor Bahru and assam laksa. Onward!

Self-portrait as a Game

Hong Kong 1995: to pay the bills you work as a promo producer for Cartoon Network/Turner Classic Movies. At a wild party in a hair salon on a Sunday morning,  a beautiful Japanese woman says you should meet Seki, because, “he’s a genius.” You:
  1. Get Seki's contact info
  2. Thank her and misbehave
You show up at Seki’s. Your eyes immediately become glued to:
  1. Seki, a short, charming man with a moustache; part Mr. Magoo, part card shark
  2. The wireframe mode of a lens displayed on his laptop
  3. The postcards of rabbits on Seki's wall
The Handover of Hong Kong from Great Britain to China is over and you have become a freelancer. You get a job as a producer for CNN, a music program called Worldbeat. You  go to Singapore to cover the WOMAD Festival, with the help of a fantastic assistant and a great cameraman. As you get back onto the plane to return to Hong Kong, you think:
  1. I ‘m never coming back here again.
  2. What a fascinating multicultural, cosmopolitan first world country.  A truly desirable and charming place in which to reside!
You are now in Tokyo, to  set up and manage the six television channels operated by Fox, who have just set up operations in Japan.That contract ends and you write a movie script and search out ways to produce the film. Eventually you have to leave and re-enter the country for visa reasons. You go to:
  1. Shanghai
  2. Singapore
Singapore is where has Seki set up his $3.2  million  startup. The company has two divisions: one is doing something like Youtube; a platform for user-generated video content. (This is three years before Youtube.) The other division is creating a 3D/VR software for game development. The software is educational and entertaining and you have never seen anything like it. Seki asks you to join him, for a reasonable salary and a stake in the company. You:
  1. Join Seki
  2. Return to Tokyo to make a film
October 24, Singapore Science Center. Two years after joining Seki, the gamemaking software will premiere as part of the  three-month long Planet Games exhibition at the Singapore Science Center. You set up a small table with a large monitor and big CPU. Next to you is a large maze made out of plastic sheets;  something called AR Pacman. You and the AR Pacman team are the ony exhibitors in the Future section. Finally after more than ten years of hard work, Seki’s dream is a reality. The morning of the premiere, Seki:
  1. Dies from a heart attack
  2. Announces plans for the IPO
...to be continued....

Apophenia Near the Causeway

the following is being  rewritten and is very far from the most current version. the conversation I had with Alvin was great; this blog post is so-so...

Alvin Tan, photographed by Stephen Black at Art 52 Gallery, Johor Bahru, Malaysia

 

Our greatest challenge may be learning to bear incoherence.

“The officer pulled me into the search area. Went through my car, my wallet, my personal letters,” Alvin says without emotion. The incident took place about thirty years ago. ”A friend had handwritten the Chinese characters for ‘democracy’ on a flyer. The officer asked me about it and I said it was related to an artwork I had done.’

Don’t distribute this,’ he said, and he let me go.”

Tiananmen Square,1989: we had been talking about it. At the time, I was living in Tokyo and working at ABC News. All of our cameramen and sound guys were over in Beijing. One had hidden an 8mm video camera in a box and documented the demonstration. One afternoon during that time I was at home with our baby. On TV a student demonstrator was asked a question; her carefully pronounced answer made a reference to Abraham Lincoln. I was moved to tears.

Fragility, innocence and youth amidst an unplanned massive demonstration in the most influential historical area in Asian history.

During Tiananmen Alvin had been involved at The Artists Village(TAV), the first artists commune in Singapore. He made an installation in an unused chicken coop, entitled Personal Views, China’s Democracy and there was Blood. Tang Da Wu did a performance within the installation. Tang Da Wu founded TAV and is regarded as the founder of contemporary art in Singapore. At the time, the influence of TAV was felt throughout Southeast Asia. Even now, TAV members like Lee Wen, Amanda Heng , Zai Kuning, Koh Nguang How, Vincent Leow and others are exhibiting work in Singapore and internationally; their works usually reflect the activism and sense of social responsibility that were part of the TAV experience. Koh Nguang How is a documentary artist now; he was working in a museum at the time and visited TAV whenever he could. In preparation for my interview with Alvin, I sent Koh a Facebook message, asking if he had any questions. Koh’s attention to detail is impressive; he told me Alvin’s wife is from Taiwan and that Alvin did not speak Mandarin. Koh wanted to ask me if Alvin had any problems teaching in English.

Mandarin was the language being used at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts, where Alvin taught Western Art History, Aesthetics of Art and Psychology of Art.”Nanyang” is a Chinese phrase that translates as  “Southern Seas”, though it often refers to all of Southeast Asia. During the years that Alvin was teaching, Singapore was continuing to define itself. English became the language of instruction. Koh’s question highlights the complexities of language in Singapore, especially in regards to Chinese dialects. Mandarin is the one of the four official languages of Singapore and the official language of China. The word translates as “speech of officials”.

“No, I didn’t have any problems, as English was so widely spoken. My classes became so popular we kept adding more. Even students who only spoke Mandarin wanted to attend. I told them they could, but that they would still have to write a term paper, even if they wrote it in Mandarin. Students were very hungry to learn about art then.”

Alvin has studied in Oakland(California), San Francisco, Kuala Lumpur and Rome. In Rome he became involved with a community and an exhibition, that made the most of an abandoned building owned by the Vatican. Those experiences prepared him for the possibilities of TAV.

The Artists Village: in our conversation, silence often follow the phrase. Like the Impressionists in Paris, Andy Warhol in New York or Damien Hirst in London’s world of advertising, TAV is associated with a specific time and place. TAV is, perhaps, most noteworthy because it was a pioneering achievement. The internet, numerous art schools, globalization, the commodification of art and changes in government policy now make the Singaporean art world very different than it was in the Eighties.

“We should not encourage escapism” is a phrase I wrote down years ago,  upon viewing an exhibition about Singaporean art in the Sixties. It felt like the Singaporean art world then was lost. Alvin mentioned the West’s first art critic, Giorgio Vasari and his book, Lives of the Artists.

“A book about TAV is a good idea,” he says. I let the topic drift away. I could throw myself into creating a reading experience based upon the Artists Village, but I would not want to write a book about the Artists Village. A movie script, maybe, though where would the drama lie? Perhaps there were personal dramas at TAV: romances, scandals of some sort, infighting, egotism, probably betrayals: but if so, they are unrecorded, or at least not in the public sphere of knowledge.

An unimaginative movie script would follow a three act structure: Act One: Tang Da Wu revolutionizes and modernizes Singapore’s contemporary art scene by establishing TAV and attracting the island-nation’s youngest, best and brightest. Act Two: Utopia at the end of a coconut tree-lined kampung dirt road; Pure Art, but with weekly visits by the police. Act Three; Exile and Loss.

On our table is the catalogue of Alvin’s paintings, in which he wrote: I hope my paintings trigger an original sensation within the viewer; natural and freely formed without history or preconditioning.

And so it is with this writing; I hope to give you, the reader a sense of our conversation, a sense of the topics we touched upon. Alvin, TAV and the quiet street in Johor Bahru where we talked are all worthy of narrative writing. But I haven’t been inspired to write logically, just as Alvin is not inspired to paint realistic landscapes.

Perhaps I am like an Expressionistic painter, using sentences and ideas instead of brushstrokes and pigments. Hijikata’s widow told me that her husband, the co-founder of butoh, and the writer Mishima and had fistfights over differences in aesthetics. Now...eyes glued to “smart”phones, plastic souls bury themselves in low-level radiation screen displays. Facebook comments pass for heated debate.

Articles I want to read:

TK Sabapathy. “No way out” The Strait Times, Singapore Art & Entertainment May 20, 1993

Jennifer Tan. “Art that faces up to problems of the world” City Weekly, Singapore. May 13, 1993

“No Bed of Roses For Alvin” New Straits Times, Malaysia October 28,1987.

I learned the word “apophenia while researching the phenomenon of seeing faces in clouds, a concept I wanted to compare to the act of viewing Alvin’s paintings. I also discovered  molybdomany, shadow people, pareidolia, patternicity  and the work of Chonosuke Okamura , who won an Ig Noble Prize for his reports of finding tiny, tiny humans in ancient limestone. "There have been no changes in the bodies of mankind since the Silurian period,” Okamura wrote, ”except for a growth in stature from 3.5 mm to 1,700 mm." My word research also found this phrase; "a specific experience of an abnormal meaningfulness". Finally, this fact: a person withschizophrenia initially experiences delusion as revelation. If there are patterns in this text, I must find them, for discovering patterns where there seem to be none is a very good thing.  My life, my meeting with Alvin, the historical events that occurred within our lifetimes; there must be patterns.

Banksy. The Beatles. The kway teow I’ve just eaten, the breeze and the frangipanis above us, the patterns of the tiles below. This is a Sunday afternoon, March 12, 2017. I met Alvin a week ago; our lives share some of the same patterns. Visas, passports and turnarounds.

The last painting in Alvin’s catalogue, is called Late Arrival. I cannot judge his brushstrokes, nor if there is actually detail in the completely black areas. On the upper left of the painting, is a soft-edged raggedy flag-like shape of blue and blueish-white. Close to, and parallel with, the left edge of the painting is a warm brown horizontal shape like a tree branch or rifle. On the bottom right, a spike, the same tonality asthe brown on the left. Untitled Indigo is the name of first painting in the catalogue. It is a remaking of the yin yang symbol in soft fractions. A whirlpool. A map studied at twilight or dawn.

Related post: http://www.blacksteps.tv/amanda-heng- performance-art- in-context- a-singaporean-perspective-by- lee-wen/ The italicized sentence which begins this essay is from an article which appeared on the Psychology Today website on July 31, 2012. Being Amused by Apophenia, was written by  Bruce Poulsen Ph.D. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/reality-play/201207/being- amused-apophenia

Thank you very much Koh, and Eric/Art 52.

Coccoon by Alvin Tan and craftsmen from the Orang Asli community. Iskandar Puteri, Johor Malaysia  (2016) photo by Stephen Black

Stephen Black: VR startup in Singapore. Why?

An outline of reasons as to why Singapore is the place for Stephen Black's planned  VR startup.
  1. As Creative Director/Producer for the CDK, a CG-generated VR project for a Singapore-based joint venture, SB became very familiar with Singapore's working environment, including government policies and business practices. (The CDK is described more fully elsewhere on this blog.)
  2. As a long-term resident based in Singapore since 2002, and the author of a bestselling book about Singapore (i ate tiong bahru), SB has a familiarity with Singapore as well as a personal and professional network.
  3. The government of Singapore provides support for VR and VR-related startups. https://www.spring.gov.sg/Nurturing-Startups/SEEDS/Pages/spring-start-up-enterprise-development-scheme.aspx VR in Singapore
  4. As a teacher of VR-related educational software in the Singapore educational system, SB has experience "in the trenches", regarding the demands of institutions, schools, teachers and students. The Singapore Ministry of successfully tested the CDK and  presented the results at an international educational symposium.
  5. Singapore is a regional hub, with strong connections throughout Southeast Asia,India, China and Japan. This fact, combined with SB's living experiences in Japan, Hong Kong, Paris, New York and Bali create a strong  possibility for an active beta network that will be an influential force for global take-up.
    two male avatars in a very red gallery

    Stephen Black and Eugene Soh in the virtual lobby of gallery.sg, the location for the SPOKEN exhibition

    6. Safe and stable, Singapore has trustworthy legal and business infrastructures. 7. English: yes! Other languages? Yes, yes, yes and yes!
  6. 8.Singapore's multicultural population is also very smartphone savvy.

     

stephen black start up

Two hundred percent. Ten thousand percent. Whatever it takes.... I am finalizing a pitch deck now and calmly, but urgently, looking for a Unity/C# person who works hard and dreams harder. VR and more. NOW.