Robert Durst, Wearing Your Wireless Mike to the Loo, and Investigation by Media

In an event symptomatic of the power of the new mass media, information-gathering as part of HBO’s series on The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst appears to have dug up enough new evidence to suggest that Durst murdered his wife and a good friend, Susan Berman.

James McCormack via The New York Times

He was arrested last Saturday in New Orleans and charged with first-degree murder.

The two main pieces of evidence were:

  • a letter from Durst to Bergman in 1999, found by Berman’s stepson Sareb Kaufman, bearing what seemed to be the same handwriting and spelling errors as the anonymous letter sent to the police notifying them of a cadaver in Berman’s house in 2000; and
  • a recording of him whispering to himself when he went to the bathroom (loo) whilst still miked:”What a disaster. … I’m having difficulty with the question. What the hell did I do? Killed them all, of course.”

Entertainment impinging on reality, and reality as entertainment. Yet, more real than hyper-reality?

PS: at events, we’ve often had to stop speakers wandering off to the restroom with their wireless mikes still on, broadcasting their toilet work to the gathered audience. Criminal-with-something-to-hide or no, it’s embarrassing either way.

Welcome to Disneyland – Authenticity in Jingshan Park, Hou Hai, and the Hutongs, Beijing, China

London -> Harwich -> Hoek of Holland -> Amsterdam (Holland) -> Copenhagen (Denmark) -> Stockholm (Sweden) -> Riga (Latvia) -> Moscow (Russia) -> [Trans-siberian or Trans-mongolian Express] -> Ulaanbaatar (Mongolia) -> [Trans-mongolian Express] -> Beijing (China)

How do you like your disneyization? I love mine full-blown, all-encompassing, no-holds-barred, please.

So the hyperreal bronze sculptures along the pedestrianised shopping street full of international brands in Wangfujing, Beijing, China? Meh, ok.

bronze sculpture, Wangfujing, Beijing, China bronze sculpture, Wangfujing, Beijing, China

A little better: 景山公园 (Jingshan Park) that was just across from the Forbidden City and had been constructed from the excess earth excavated while building the moat around the palace.

景山公园 (Jingshan Park), Beijing, China
景山公园 (Jingshan Park), Beijing, ChinaIts Ming-dynasty pavilions (that is to say, the originals were constructed then but who knows how much original material remains) offered great resting spots for courting couples and retirees.

view of the Forbidden City from 景山公园 (Jingshan Park), Beijing, ChinaAnd right at the top of the mound, from the Wanchun Pavilion (Pavilion of Everlasting Spring), a great view of the Forbidden City complex.

景山公园 (Jingshan Park), Beijing, China
景山公园 (Jingshan Park), Beijing, ChinaBest of all was the opportunity to dress up in period costumes, and take selfies.

Oh but 后海 (Hou Hai)? Oh, hello!
后海 (Hou Hai), Beijing, China
后海 (Hou Hai), Beijing, China
后海 (Hou Hai), Beijing, China
后海 (Hou Hai), Beijing, China
All this landscaping was first conceived a few centuries ago (or at least during the Ming Dynasty, 1368 – 1644) to conform to the Chinese idea of a place of natural beauty, where leisurely strolls could be taken by the water, under the hanging branches of willow trees.

hutong, Beijing, China
It was surrounded by spruced up hutongs that had been cleared of their residents and renovated into a historically-themed amusement park for tourists, with its tropes of ancient tea houses with caged singing birds, oriental-tiled roofs,

rickshaws, hutong, Beijing, China
rickshaws, hutong, Beijing, Chinaand shop-owners and rickshaw rider cartel all appropriately-attired and performing their set-pieces.

rickshaws, hutong, Beijing, China
Yet, they were not playing at riding rickshaw, for that was their true occupation, and one that might not have arisen if this theme park had not existed. What delicious hyperreality in (in)authentic Old Beijing!

And then, there was just the period-insensitive merchandising: candied fruit on sticks, giant cotton candy puffs:
candied fruit seller, hutong, Beijing, China
cotton candy, Beijing, China

And not quite behind the scenes, but people you might want to ignore to maintain the illusion, the road-sweepers and cleaners:
road sweeper, hutong, Beijing, China
road sweeper, hutong, Beijing, China

One cannot google “hutongs” without coming upon loads of complaints about the loss of authenticity after the hutongs were demolished or sanitised of all grime, rats and vermin, falling tiles, pot holes.
sun setting over the Forbidden City, Beijing, China
Beijing, China
But first, what is this authenticity that we all seem to hold in high regard yet appear unable to accurately define?

景山公园 (Jingshan Park), Beijing, ChinaWould this scene be less authentic if you knew these people had been auditioned and given costumes to wear? What if they were really from a minority race, local tourists visiting from a village, but told to put on these outfits by their tour agency? And should they not even have gotten help from a tour agency to see the big city because that would make their experience inauthentic?

And second, why would the presence of “authenticity”, if it could be defined, be preferable for life and for society?

Keng Lye’s Resin Art at K+ Curatorial Space, Scotts Square, Singapore

Keng Lye's Resin Art at the K+ Gallery, Scotts SquareAs part of my ongoing attempt to familiarise myself with a very-much-changed Singapore, I wandered into the K+ Curatorial Space (facebook) in Scotts Square (6 Scotts Road, Singapore) before a dinner meet-up.

It made my afternoon. There, under glass boxes, were pieces of resin art that were at once playful and awe-inducing.

Keng Lye's Resin Art at the K+ Gallery, Scotts Square

Keng Lye's Resin Art at the K+ Gallery, Scotts Squareguppies and a goldfish? in takeaway plastic bags

Keng Lye's Resin Art at the K+ Gallery, Scotts Square Keng Lye's Resin Art at the K+ Gallery, Scotts Squarekoi in beautiful containers, Keng Lye's Resin Art at the K+ Gallery, Scotts Squarea fighting fish in a glass bowl, Keng Lye's Resin Art at the K+ Gallery, Scotts Squarea whole school of orange fish, improbably, in a cardboard box, Keng Lye's Resin Art at the K+ Gallery, Scotts Squarelittle fish in an old leaf, Keng Lye's Resin Art at the K+ Gallery, Scotts Squareprawns – just look at his ability to portray translucency, Keng Lye's Resin Art at the K+ Gallery, Scotts Square Keng Lye's Resin Art at the K+ Gallery, Scotts Square Keng Lye's Resin Art at the K+ Gallery, Scotts Squareoctopii in crockery, Keng Lye's Resin Art at the K+ Gallery, Scotts Square Keng Lye's Resin Art at the K+ Gallery, Scotts Squareand the terrapin, fashioned with the help of Keng Lye’s children’s empty Kinder Surprise eggs.

Keng Lye‘s skill at rendering almost accurate simulacra of fish and seafood (oh, sorry, water creatures) was amazing enough. But the immense patience required to paint each layer before pouring more resin on and waiting 8 hours for it to dry before repeating the process, to create a 3-D effect, was almost beyond belief.

My favourite pieces were the octopus in a kopi cup, the small fish in the pointy leaf, and the single terrapin in a bowl. The price of this last one was S$7,500.

See also the layered resin paintings of Riusuke Fukahori, whom a friend had challenged Keng Lye to imitate.

Later at dinner, I rave to friends about this. “Oh, can he sculpt me a bowl of ah balling anot? One ball half-bitten with the peanut flowing out?” And they say Singaporeans lack inspiration.

*all photos were taken with the permission, nay the encouragement, of the curators