SingaPlural 2015 (99 Beach Road) and Existential Authenticity

Primary by Brandon Tan? SingaPlural 2015, 99 Beach Road, SingaporePrimary by Brandon Tan?

Pleased to be in town this time for SingaPlural 2015 (99 Beach Road, facebook), part of the Singapore Design Week 2015.

Salad Dressing's "Royal Stinker". SingaPlural 2015, 99 Beach Road, SingaporeSalad Dressing‘s Royal Stinker

Incandescence by Desinere x Tinge. lamps, SingaPlural 2015, 99 Beach Road, SingaporeIncandescence by Desinere x Tinge

In the courtyard, a playground of Heveatech wooden furniture by the Little Thoughts Group product design collective (facebook), constructed in collaboration with Samko Timber, and inspired by local places and heritage structures and a good dose of nostalgia. Ponggo by Alvin Sitoh, The Last Tiger by Andrew Loh, Icons of Sembawang by Chan Wai Lim, PlayStool by Jane Tang, Tempinis Forest by Lee Chang Tat, Open Play by Leonard Bahroocha Tan:

My Hood, SingaPlural 2015, 99 Beach Road, Singapore The Last Tiger by Andrew Loh, SingaPlural 2015, 99 Beach Road, Singapore Chan Wai Lim's rocking animals (Icons of Sembawang). SingaPlural 2015, 99 Beach Road, Singapore You could take a lovely bike from Coast Cycles (facebook) for a spin as well… Coast Cycles, SingaPlural 2015, 99 Beach Road, Singapore

…while watching out for an army of giant ants! Big Feast by Joyce Loo. SingaPlural 2015, 99 Beach Road, Singapore Big Feast by Joyce Loo. SingaPlural 2015, 99 Beach Road, SingaporeBig Feast by Joyce Loo

We were slightly antsy about being ushered into the Airbnb hut by chirpy girls, thinking of the hard-sell of time-share resorts and the like. But what fun! 3D image projection of, we were assured, real Airbnb rental sites around the world!

Airbnb Hut, SingaPlural 2015, 99 Beach Road, Singapore

Airbnb Hut, SingaPlural 2015, 99 Beach Road, Singapore Airbnb Hut, SingaPlural 2015, 99 Beach Road, Singapore

Airbnb Hut, SingaPlural 2015, 99 Beach Road, Singapore Airbnb Hut, SingaPlural 2015, 99 Beach Road, Singapore

A lot of the other installations were pure interactive enjoyment as well, even if many of us didn’t bother with the intended message of the exhibit (sorry!):

Dream A Little by RSP Architects, SingaPlural 2015, 99 Beach Road, Singapore Dream A Little by RSP Architects, SingaPlural 2015, 99 Beach Road, SingaporeDream A Little by RSP Architects

Heads in Cages by Josephy Louis Tan. SingaPlural 2015, 99 Beach Road, SingaporeHeads in Cages by Joseph Louis Tan

Scent Mapping Singapore by Allsense. SingaPlural 2015, 99 Beach Road, Singapore Scent Mapping Singapore by Allsense. SingaPlural 2015, 99 Beach Road, Singapore Scent Mapping Singapore by Allsense. SingaPlural 2015, 99 Beach Road, SingaporeFor someone who with mild prosopagnosia and who therefore tells people apart by their smell (not something to admit to anyone!), the potential of Scent Mapping Singapore by Allsense (facebook) was beyond exciting. However, by the time we got there, most of the scents didn’t quite do their descriptors (eg. Balestier Bak Kut Teh, East Coast Chilli Crab, Paranakan [sic] Pulut Hitam, Dempsey Durian Stall, Satay By The Bay, Kampong Glam Pandan Cake, Boat Quay Tiger Beer, Vanda Miss Joaquim Orchid) justice. If only they did! I’d love to have a whole scent library!

Scent Mapping Singapore by Allsense. SingaPlural 2015, 99 Beach Road, SingaporeOn the other table, the commercial blends were doing very well indeed! Ion Orchard White Tea, Tangs Gingerlily, Mount Elizabeth Clover & Aloe, Capitol “X”. More stable perhaps?

Let The Papers Sing To You by Roots. SingaPlural 2015, 99 Beach Road, Singapore Let The Papers Sing To You by Roots (Jonathan Yuen) and Victor Low. SingaPlural 2015, 99 Beach Road, SingaporeLet The Papers Sing To You by Roots (Jonathan Yuen) and Victor Low featured infrared sensors hidden within the frame of the table and recordings of fingers being pulled across papers of different textures.

You Have to Know Me to Love Me by Ezzam Rahman. SingaPlural 2015, 99 Beach Road, SingaporeYou Have to Know Me to Love Me by Ezzam Rahman

The Marriage by Miun x Lamitak. SingaPlural 2015, 99 Beach Road, Singapore The Marriage by Miun x Lamitak. SingaPlural 2015, 99 Beach Road, Singapore The Marriage by Miun x Lamitak. SingaPlural 2015, 99 Beach Road, SingaporeThe Marriage by Miun (facebook) x Lamitak. Amazingly imagined plants and flowers made from laminates.

Many of the white-box explanations next to each exhibit contained phrases like “offers an open conversation”, “this is an exploration”,  “…is a subjective affair” or asked whimsical questions of inanimate objects.

Was this the result of innate emptiness? Was this avoidance of any moral or philosophical stance a symptom of the hegemonic tyranny of existentialist thinking? asked someone.

(Then there was pointing out that this was a “design” event, and then there was pointing out by way of response that the line between “design” and “art” had been crossed when those exhibition blurbs were written, and then there were further attempts to define differences between “design” and “art”.)

But even existentialists are quite adamant about what constitutes their angsty equivalent of The Good Life. On the way home today, N and I discussed existential authenticity. Not persuaded by any of these – they seem a desperate struggle for meaning and a reason why they shouldn’t just kill themselves. But for what it’s worth, briefly:

Søren Kierkegaard problem: the media and the church, mass culture, creates the loss of significance of the individual. Society no longer forms its own opinions but relies on opinions constructed by the media. Religion too has become a tradition that passively accepted by individuals, without authentic thought.

solution: face reality, form one’s own opinions about existence, make an active choice to surrender to something that goes beyond comprehension, a leap of faith into the religious.

Friedrich Nietzsche problem: lack of questioning by the individual, herding animal morality, Christian morality = slave morality

solution: transcend limits of conventional morality to overcome oneself, revaluation of all values, decide for oneself what is good and evil, stand alone and avoid religiously constructed principles

Martin Heidegger problem: daesin has fallen away from its authentic potentiality and fallen into the world, “they” (das man) have relieved us of the “burden” of making our own choices, we live in a critically unexamined way, levelling, averageness

solution: authenticity is not about being isolated from others, but finding a different way of relating to others such that one is not lost to the “they”

Jean-Paul Sartre problem: bad faith (self-deception) is when an individual defines himself through social categorization of his formal identity, morality is a tool of the bourgeoise to control the masses, bad faith is when being-for-itself is replaced with others’ freedom

solution: authenticity is realising that the role we are playing is a lie, good faith is living within the portrait one paints of oneself and overturning set roles

Albert Camus problem: its philosophical suicide when we accept religion to relieve us of the anxiety of not having any guarantee of justice etc, life is repetitive and we live in futility and will soon be forgotten

solution: honestly confront the Absurd, live without appeal, keep life’s questions open, gain enchantment with life

not installation art, SingaPlural 2015, 99 Beach Roadfake blurb: This work draws the viewer to consider the utter futility of existential thinkers in identifying the anxiety caused by the absence of what is essential for authentic life, yet refusing to acknowledge the only One who can provide what is necessary for this life and the life to come.

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Murders, Projector Rooms, Craft Beers, Biblical Interpretation

On the 4th floor of Golden Mile Tower along Beach Road, a made-up hotel room, a two-way mirror looking down onto a bathroom containing a bloodstained toilet bowl and a dustbin full of blood-soaked toilet paper, a wardrobe with louvered doors and a power socket through which you too had a ceiling view of the same hotel room with a half-unpacked suitcase, hand-cuffs, a knife. Vertical Submarine’s newest installation: John Martin, The Butcher and The Surgeon. All of us escape room veterans immediately started attempting to open doors and look into drawers and the mini-fridge and the kettle, and were duly disappointed.

“What are you trying to convey?”

“Oh, it’s up to each person to interpret.”

“…” We didn’t think it was abstract enough to be a visual Rorschach, and felt it might have been a bit of an artistic cop-out.

Outside the door to the exhibit, music could be heard coming from the floor above. I ascended the spiral staircase to investigate: The Projector, Golden Mile Tower The Projector, Golden Mile Tower The Projector, Golden Mile Tower

The ah-pek Golden Theatre’s two halls upstairs had been leased by The Projector, an indie venture showing a range of films, mostly, it seemed, of the cult or independent or Criterion Collection variety. Bookmarked! The Projector, Golden Mile Tower The Projector, Golden Mile Tower The Projector, Golden Mile Tower

Another exciting range of choice of the hoppy variety, few parallel streets away, on Tyrwhitt Road. Druggists (facebook), named for its previous occupiers – the Singapore Chinese Druggists Association, offered 23 craft beers on tap in 250ml or 500ml quaffing quantities. Druggists Craft Beer Bar, 119 Tyrwhitt Road Druggists Craft Beer Bar, 119 Tyrwhitt Road Druggists Craft Beer Bar, 119 Tyrwhitt Road Druggists Craft Beer Bar, 119 Tyrwhitt Road Druggists Craft Beer Bar, 119 Tyrwhitt Road Amused by the consistent use of beer taps to dispense both drinking water and water for hand hygiene.

Druggists Craft Beer Bar, 119 Tyrwhitt Road Mikkeller American Dream Pilsner. Druggists Craft Beer Bar, 119 Tyrwhitt Road Mikkeller SpontanMandarin Fruit Lambic. Druggists Craft Beer Bar, 119 Tyrwhitt Road The sight of Mikkeller beers made me ache a little for Copenhagen. Had an American Dream (mmm, canned lychee on shaved ice on a hot summer’s day, crisp, pop-py), and then a lambic SpontanMandarin (sour strawberry, puckertastic) as digestif. That blackboard menu is such a tease: De Molen, Thornbridge, Magic Rock, To Øl, etc waiting to be tasted.

Ah, the famed subjectivity of taste. But most of the time, careful inquiry reveals that the spectrum of perception of the taste of the food/drink itself isn’t terribly wide, rather it is the description of its taste, or taste preferences that are the main variables in food or drink reviews.

In quite a similar way, where postmodernism has done humanity a great disservice is its confused assumption that just because one cannot understand things perfectly, no interpretation is valid. To diss an unequivocal interpretation of a text as a “privileged reading”, alleging that it suits the purposes of that interpreter, while boasting of one’s own authenticity in acknowledging one’s postmodern condition and admitting “the indistinguishable fictionality of all interpretive models”, seems, to me, a whole lot of academic pretension. Afterall, in teaching that very theory, one would have had intended to convey one message, that would not have been open to a plethora of interpretations.

I’d done a training session for the youth group leaders that morning, emphasising the need to be sure of the trustworthiness of the Bible interpretation in the Christian life. The Bible isn’t open to the dip-and-pick sort of reading; neither is the suggestion that “everyone has their own interpretation of Scripture” valid. It is a collection of truths written by one God through various human authors through the ages, to convey exactly what God wants us to know.

Hence:

11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. (Ephesians 4:11-16)