SPOKEN artists conversation stories, Rauschenberg, Ansel Adams, Wegman

(the latest information about the SPOKEN project can be found here)

This posts consists of rough drafts, sketches, notes and copied fragments. It is being rewritten elsewhere and the final draft will appear in materials related to SPOKEN.

Helium and Debbie Ding in the Old Airport Road Hawker Center There was a discussion about a 3D gamemaking software and sugarcane juice. Years later I gave her a rock I foundon a street near Bukit Merah. Scribd and Skype Like most inert gases, I use Scribd as a public notebook, often posting things like very rough drafts, mangled translations and half-finished stories. Something found its way in front of Paul Pereira quite a few years ago, and we had an online exchange so brief that I forgot about it.  As SPOKEN took shape, I saw Paul's artworks; he is a friend of Eugene's. Helium and Doctor Captain I'm afraid I can't think of anything particular re conversations we've had. You suggested Doctor Captain for my exhibition title based on me telling you about two influences - Beefheart and Dr. Seuss, and also you still call me Dr. 7 based on my anecdote about someone asking for someone by that name at the place where I worked having mis-read or mis-typed my initials D.R. Helium With the Japanese Marilyn Monroe guy Gallery NW house was a charming concrete box between Waseda and Takadanobaba. Endo-san gave me my first solo show and around that time Yasumasa Morimura had a solo show there as well. We met on a cold but sunny Spring day. He was bundled up. That is all I remember of that. Thirty years later we met at Ikkan International where the following conversation took place. Helium in a Hackathon 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. D.R Helium and David Black I was a very young bundle of gas myself and David Black was a newborn.The one syllable words I used were answered with sounds from a moth, a brain and lungs that were still surprised to be using oxygen. Helium and the Drummer of Personal Effects It was a Friday and I had spent the day visiting relatives at Kodak, before drifting down the Gennessee River to Scorgies to check out the Hi-Techs and Paper Faces show. When Helium Met Mo K She was sleeping on a couch. The Time When Helium Bleached His Hair Yes I was in a band in New York in the Eighties. Someone had to stay in the apartment with the gear all of the time because it would get stolen. Junkies in the stairwells and all that. I never rehearsed but went on stage and performed sometimes. Andres did art for our posters and stage backdrops. Oh, it was fun but not long after I went to Tokyo the band members stated dying. He Was in the Air, the Domain of Gases I was just another fresh whiff of gas in Manhattan, but one lucky to have immediately landed a job. I worked in a place called Young Filmmakers/Video Arts, in the scheduling department. One day Dub came running in, bursting with excitement, "Man you gotta see this. There's a naked guy hanging out over 11th Street! "What do you mean, 'hanging out over 11th Street?'" "Hooks! The guy is naked and he's got big fishhooks in his body! he's hanging from a pole and they put him out over the street!
Helium meets Lily Su
I was floating in Black Operations, an office run by the youngest woman CEO on Wall Street.Twenty-somethings, all dressed like professionals, walked through me. Computers, chalkboards, hippety hop music and, on the windowsill, a human embryo in a bar of soap.
The windowsill was probably about a hundred years old; dark aged wood and a window of thick glass, the kind that are never easy to move up and down.
9. Text as art: National Columbarium of Singapore The Columbarium project allowed for a mixture of fact and fiction.The histories of destroyed Singaporean buildings and landmarks were combined with those of fictitious ones. 8. Text as art: Office Orchitect (2011 Singapore Biennale) involved extensive research in several areas to create a biography for a fictional architect named K.S. Wong. Wong brushed shoulders with Corbusier and was one of the co-winners of the competition to build The Palace of the Soviets. Although he enjoyed a rich and dynamic life abroad, his return to Singapore was dismal; he served coffee in his sister's kopitiam as the Japanese colonized Singapore... 4. Tiong Bahru. Thanks to ML, I was able to live in Tiong Bahru, an experience which led to two books. Again, when I am reunited with my hard disc, I will post extracts from an article that was written for Singapore Architect. The piece focused upon ML's 2011 Singapore Biennale piece and our "hearty breakfasts" at Tony's, where amidst the smells of kaya toast and mee pok, he held court and/or we brainstormed, argued, laughed, scribbled and planned. 3. Because of Michael Lee, my paintings/conceptual works have been shown in the National Museum of Singapore, the Esplanade and a will-always-remain secret underground art space.

The following was written years ago.

Helium Meets Rauschenberg (Black AllStars/Nice Italian Jobs)

The late Eighties, New York City, a warm autumn Sunday afternoon. I’m walking in front of of the Tower Records on Lafayette. A large black car, like a limousine, at the curb with a U-haul trailer behind it.  I walk by. The door opens and Mike Wallace gets out, very tan and with a paper cup in hand. Smiling, like the skipper of a new yacht.

I pass by and then suddenly realize I need to get some blank video tapes at Tower. I spin around to see Mike doing a kind of awkward jig; stretching his legs, rolling his shoulders and swiveling his arms. Except it isn’t Mike Wallace. It’s Robert Rauschenberg, now almost directly in front of me.

” Hello Mr. Rauschenberg”. He smiles and says ‘hello’ right back. A conversation starts, the highlight of which involves a terrible pun about “popping over to Japan”.

I am soon back on my way,  an opening party invite in hand.

Quite late, I went to the opening, someplace uptown. The place was empty but for Rauschenberg and the woman who seemed to run the gallery. They spoke in quiet businesslike voices.  I circled a few of the brightly painted crushed wire sculptures,  left before I was noticed.

Helium and Vincent Leow in Sculpture Square

As you may know, SPOKEN's curatorial approach was simple: we are showing works by artists that Eugene and I have spoken to.. essays and short stories about the conversations or various word exchanges will be part of the project.
SO...I think my strongest memory of speaking to you was at Sculpture Square,probably 2002 or 2003. I was new to Singapore. I cannot remember what event it was. I do remember we were standing outside and you pointed to the wall and mentioned something about history. For some reason I think you said that where the wall was used to be a hill...but that seems incorrect to me know and I think I am confusing that with something else...sounds like a place I know in Bukit Merah...
Either that same time or another time I mentioned that I am always documenting my hair cuts and you said something about a friend of yours or someone who lived near you...?
Also, we probably chatted (at least) when I was staying on Emerald Hill rd and you had the gallery down the street. PKW, openings here and there...always smiling and some chatting, but the strongest memory was how friendly and informative you were at Sculpture Square...
You don't have to comment on the above.But , at the moment, something like the above is what I will likely write. Something short. However, if you remember any other times we have spoken, kindly let me know...

Helium Meets Christophe Charles

Second...there is a text dimension to this project. I am writing about conversations that I have had with the artists. SO, if you remember any conversations we have had, please tell m... this is a very unstructured idea, so anything is fine...and I will, of course send the final copy to you for your approval....
Our first time to speak was, I think at my  Galerie Lunami show in Higashi Ginza, 1988?
You commented upon the music of Kazuto Shimizu which was in a video I made called Whirled....about Nona inside of her mother...
We also have talked about Sadato, SPP (where Barae "slept" with you, some conversations at your place in Nezu....you came to our house in Hihashi Nakano when Chihiro and I were married..a dinner party, you with a dancer....you came to Singapore in 2005?  I am sure I am missing some things....do jot down anything that comes into your head..I am sure I have annoyed you often, for example....have we met with Shima ever? I think that is another factor in how we met...We have never seen each other in Paris, have we? I remember you told me about Muji's occasional support of the arts and you mentioned a Hong Kong dance theatre group whose name I cannot remember at the moment...
Helium, Godwin Koay, Mel Araneta and 3how
Voice of pieces chirashi
As you may know, SPOKEN's curatorial approach was simple: we are showing works by artists that Eugene and I have spoken to... essays and short stories about the conversations or various word exchanges will be part of the project.
SO...I think what I will write about is the first time we met at the 3how performance at LASALLE... I think it was LASALLE...the black box theatre? Part of the Lit Up Festival...?
I think you had found one of my goofy noninformative slips of paper that somehow "advertised" that show. You got it at the Post Museum....
So that it is basically...With the kind of "promotion" that I do, I know I will become connected with only a very few people...but those people will "get it", whatever that means....I am happy to have met you and the way we met was, and is, very important to me. Thank you for reacting to that goofy piece of paper..
You don't have to comment on the above.But ,at the moment, something like the above is what I will likely write. Something short. However, if you remember any other times we have spoken, kindly let me know... OH..maybe you can describe what you found at the Post Museum?

I’m huffing and puffing and carrying a large ironing board.

I still have tons of things to do. One is to print out 60 copies of the show sequence. After that I have to attach cardboard fins to the ironing board and wrap it all with aluminum foil. I need to make jaws out of paper plates or something. Where’s Susan’s classroom? I zip around the third floor. Finally I find the right room.

Inside is a curvy, beautiful Chinese woman. She’s naked. She’s surrounded by people.  She smiles at me.

“Wow,” I think, “I really should get some sleep.”

The shocked students in Susan’s nude drawing class watch me retreat. Stepping backwards into the hall, I  knock down  an impeccably dressed student. I apologize by asking where the printer is.

He stares at the ironing board as he gets up. My wild eyes meet his. The hair clipper falls from my overloaded bag. The big ball of aluminum foil drops and rolls right in front of his fancy red Italian shoes.

“You’re an artist or something?”

“Yep. An artist or something.”

He steps towards a door and waves a plastic card near a space-agey thing. The doors slide open, revealing an open space that’s half Star Trek, half cubicle farm. The student has to dash off, but he introduces me to Ginette. Ginette is what they call “a fixture on the underground music scene.” She’s just come from the airport after “my little show in Paris.” She’s helpful and cheerful. She is attractive. Very attractive. She takes my thumbdrive and inserts it into her laptop.

Yes, I know what you are thinking and I was thinking it too, but Ginette is a Singaporean superstar and I’m just a guy carrying an ironing board. Twenty minutes from now I’ll be onstage, reading a sad story about hairless Chihuahuas. But yes, if I had time and we’d had a few drinks, I would certainly ask Ginette if I could insert my thumbdrive into her laptop again.

Anyhoo, the printer’s near a magnificent window and I calm myself by taking in the sprawling, dynamic, culturally diverse yada yada yada Singaporean nightscape before me. I finish, pick up my ironing board and profusely thank Ginette. I put my thumbdrive back in my pants and fly  downstairs.

Amith and Mel met each other for the first time about ten minutes ago. I introduced them just before I bumped into the naked woman. Amith plays acoustic guitar and Mel plays the nose flute and some kind of electronic thingy he made from an ice cream container. They will play music while I read. I pass them the freshly printed show sequence. I say we’ll do a quick runthrough when I “come back in a minute.” I run off to finally make the shark from the ironing board.

I reach backstage and suddenly ten people ask me twenty, thirty questions. All at once. I ignore them. “Will you be a shark?” I say to Luke. Luke is a tall, thin Indian guy, dressed in black.  Against the dark stage, he will be nearly invisible  and it will seem as though the aluminum foil shark is magically and ferociously  pursuing Joe the diver. As Joe is singing and being attacked, I will loudly proclaim that, “Joe the diver does not exist!”

Luke adjusts his glasses worriedly. “Me, a shark? How, sir, shall this effect be realized?”

“You see this ironing board? It’ll be wrapped in foil and it’ll have fins. I need to make some teeth.  Anyway…you just hold the ironing board and jump around like you’re a bloodthirsty wolf of the sea!”

Luke looks like he wants to write this down. “Bloodthirsty wolf of the sea…Understood. When, sir, shall this jumping occur?”

“Just wait for the diver to start singing. Then, count to ten and start stalking. Stalk him like, like, like he’s a chicken, a chicken dinner! Yeah, he’s a chicken dinner and and you’re a wildly hungry jumping starving sea wolf! Ignore my screaming and DO NOT attack me!”

I walk backstage and answer hundreds of questions while using the last bit of happy face Scotch tape and some Band-Aids to attach the fins to the ironing board. Amith’s gonna kill me because the tape and Band-Aids are going to leave gooey marks on the ironing board for sure. In the corner of the backstreets of my mind I am in a yoga postion, crosslegged, chanting a long soothing mantra: Luke will be invisible and the ironing board shark WILL  float menacingly and magically  towards Joe as he sings his Air Supply song. The invisible little yoga guy in my head can already see panties and bras being thrown onstage. The yoga guy can hear five hundred people in the audience screaming “Wow!” and “Magnifico!”

Thato, one of the poet/performers from the Serengeti, patiently taps me on the shoulder and asks for  his cue. Thato will perform his poem called “I’m Coming.” Mel will accompany him with the nose flute. Andrew is another talented guest performer. He will slowly gyrate his hips and, in his  sexiest, deepest Barry White voice, will read about the Armenian Church and pie dough. I cannot find Andrew. My Lady Gaga ringtone starts blaring from the bag with the foil. I finally find it: Ben. He’ll be here in ten minutes. I’m on in five.

The clippers are missing. I tell the musicians to forget about the hair performance art. Savinder pushes me and I nervously join Amith and Mel onstage.

It was great. The music was incredible. As I ranted about not being able to see Joe the diver, the audience saw Joe walk onstage with his flippers and air tank, sounding like Darth Vader on his honeymoon. Then Luke the shark appeared. Joe tried to run but his mask was fogged and he plowed into Mel. Luke chased Joe semi-invisibly. His glasses fell off and he got lost in the stage curtain. Amith later said he was laughing so hard that he was in tears. Joe couldn’t sing at first because using the oxygen tank on land made his throat dry. I couldn’t hear anything. I was calmly reading to the four remaining members of the audience, expressing my frustration that it is impossible for the reader to accurately visualize the events which take place in a writer’s head.

Poem by Stephen Black on Softblow

For Arleen Schloss 

"The world is a collage"

This is a poempaintingwordperformancepiece.

All of the following words describe scenes. All of these scenes contain signs. The signs may not obvious, but they are there. In some cases, there may be a large number of signs, in which case, all are to be included. The colors of the signs, the numbers on the signs and the text and language of the signs are to be emotionally and chaotically combined on one huge imaginary and ever-present canvas, a painting dedicated to Arlene Schloss. 

The signs exist in the following situations:

Nurses talking near hospitals before they begin work on autumn days when the moon is full, mailmen who drink canned coffee by themselves, retirement age janitors at the Louvre looking over new tools, miners in dangerous elevators, mechanics with legs sticking out from underneath cars with oily radios pouring out 20 year old music in the background, people with hangovers standing near open graves, hippos that go into the ocean, gardeners driving to buy trees with roots wrapped in burlap, people leaving yellow cabs in a hurry at night, an urban area full of people flying kites, parades in cold weather, parades in hot weather, soccer games, baseball games, mushroom hunters, tennis games, weavers of silk carpets, football practice, smugglers who do so to feed their children, archery ranges, barbecues for groups of people ranging from three to three thousand, streets being paved for the first time, clothes being hung to dry, hunters who do not drink when they are hunting, the tallest building in Manila, fishermen who drink but stay on shore, fireman, trappers who do so with respect, amusement park employees who have lost their keys, children who sleep in tents in their backyards, photographers stranded in Mozambique, moviemakers who sleep well, people who use handphones during meetings and housepainters who do a good job.

Places where elephants are, shelves full of books about ferns, silver airplanes that seem like paralyzed flying birds, the happiest person in Uganda, red weather balloons, magazines launched in the '70s, instructions for assembling tents, Vietnamese tour guides, the cost breakdown for a satellite dish to be installed in Yugoslavia, ugly public sculptures, the Vatican, Domino Pizza, Mecca, the Holy Land, toothpaste factories, a place where a picnic table was accidentally burned, a barnyard, a waterfall, flocks of thin white birds, grey lines of highways, the only stuffed armadillo to be found in South Africa, lakes holding sailboats, a Paris metro ticket, canoes on rivers, the oceans slapping big ships, the most loved Swedish politician, the most elegant shoe store in Mumbai, fog eating a city, organic apple orchards, alphabets, Christmas tree farms, strip mined landscapes, desserts full of unwanted testing, an environmentally friendly golf course, a fireworks display watched by an Amish family in a bus station between Chicago and Kansas City, bonfires, the diets of djs, traffic accidents as a result of animals crossing highways, unemployed male prostitutes in Taipei, railroads used by bikers, places that serve take out prata, housing subdivisions, the Empire State Building, the Pyramids, the shopping list of newlyweds in Bowling Green, Ohio, the first Chinese cookbook in Peru, the Tokyo Dome, a kindergarten in Bonn, the most depressing high school in Teaneck New Jersey, the harbor of Rio de Janiero during an eclipse, the Great Wall of China being discused by mathematicians, Red Squarebeing discussed by visiting Irish tourists, Kmarts in Canada, driving schools, elephant orphanages, missile testing ranges, forest fires, a Gutamelan dentist's office, power plants in Minsk, black boxes of intergalactic spacecraft, Kyoto florists located within the train station, the insects which live in the main Xian post office, the humidity within the Sydney Opera House, the deli on the corner, New Orleans classical musicians, Microsoft paper useage files, cloud seeding programs, glider competitions in Norway, ancient light houses, beaches where there are no beach towels, umbrellas on Avenue A, Coney Island, the dreams of a Singaporean civil servant, a painting of the the Great Lakes hanging in a Green Bay bar, the video collection to be found on a typical North Sea oil rig, the Rocky Mountains, the garage of the grandson of Dali's least favorite barber, the Amazon, the Urals, the Andes, the Great Rock, Mt. Fuji, the Pyrennees, Ireland, India, Idaho, Inokashira, Iran, Iraq, Iowa, people on horses, goats in trees, the Statue of Liberty, every bridge in the world, every phone line in the world, every bit of dust on Broome Street, every modem, every email ever written in Spanish and the oceans. 

  W.I.P. W Wegman SPP Polaroid William Wegman has had a strong influence upon me. His work is Pop, it is personal and it is usually bursting with idea. is just as more of a Pop artist than Warhol, yet William Wegman”s work is personal. Performance art with pets. The first time I was really hit over the head with by a piece of contemporary art was in a little bookstore in the basement of the Ikebukuro subway station. A small paperback book contained a collection of photographs of Wegman”s work. One showed a simple and small collection of kitchen utensils, One or two were obviously spoons and one or two were clearly forks. The functional part of the other utensils was not included in the composition. The piece was entitled something like ‘Two or Three Forks and Three or Four Spoons’. Something like that. What struck me was that relationship to the title and the piece itself: conceptual art first and photographic art second. The other image in the book which struck me was a self-portrait of Wegman holding two books. Simple and striking, one eye was clearly focused on one book and the other eye was intent upon the other. This was well before Photoshop, of course. The simplicity of the black and white photograph made the image powerful, made it True. I’ve met William Wegman, met him on the street in Manhattan. Probably a few dozen other people can say that as his dogs need to go outside every now and then and he is approachable. What is unique about our meeting was that he kindly invited me to witness a shoot going on in his loft, a shoot going on with Polaroid camera that produced images that were 20 x 24 inches long. Was the camera impressive? Certainly. So was the fact that there was a TV crew from Japan there who was documenting the production of a book that retold the story of Cinderella- but with costumed Weimaraner dogs portraying the characters. The feeling was 10% Andy Warhol’s factory, 80% canine Holiday on Ice, 10% friend’s living room. But the camera was what commanded my attention. I was living in Tokyo at the time, and ran into WW during a stay in NYC. Earlier that year I had held an exhibition at the Polaroid Gallery in Tokyo. It had gone reasonably well. Just before I left Tokyo I had begun an investigation into the possibility of using the 20 x 24 inch Polaroid camera. About a week later I received a reply. There were only three of the cameras in the world. One was in Osaka and that one was being overhauled. Another was in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the home of Polaroid. The other one was being used somewhere was all my contact could tell me.

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