Intersection

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Intersection is a project that has been three years in the making. Often, ideas are birthed from an offhanded remark in the heady rush after  a successful show or exhibition. But it takes a certain doggedness to nurture that idea, coax it to life and rally the relevant forces to keep it blooming until it finds its perfect space to breathe and bloom. This exhibition and book was the result of never letting go of that idea. Nicola and I had this grand plan to create an artistic map of three neighbourhoods in Singapore, London and Yangon. The ensuing poems are artwork would resonate across themes common to all three cities. And through this process of intersecting various threads, we would hopefully find some nexus of meaning.

As a result, we’ve created 24 poems and 33 artworks. The exhibition opens on 10 January at Intersections Gallery, 34 Kandahar Street, and runs from 11 January – 12 February and 22 February- 5 March 2017.

There will be an artist talk on 17 January and I will be running a photowriting/walking workshop at the gallery on 11 February.

The book is a 60-page, limited edition risograph print of images from Nicola’s art together with my poems. Here’s what the cover looks like!

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Here’s a sneak peek of one of the poems, accompanied by Nicola’s art.

Crowned, Colony

We used to play at founding Singapore;
someone had to be the Temenggong, ceding
everything he could see, never pushing back.

The rest of us were British, asking obvious
questions about the trees; why gelam
bark was used for sails, why frangipani trees

always grew in the cemeteries. Not once did
we think these roads and schools and
rules encircled the kampung. We believed

in the glittering crown of the colony, so we
banished rogue tigers across the water,
stooped to serve an empire of khaki and tea.

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The Daily Haiku

I’ve been making a daily photohaiku on Instagram for the last month. It’s been quite the challenge, to find an image with enough ‘space’ to include a haiku, or to ensure the image isn’t compromised by the existence of text on it, as opposed to being a caption. This, I suppose, is an experiment to see how text becomes part of the image, and therefore part of the visual representation of what a haiku could be. Less ekphrasis, more espresso.

Here are a few of my favourites:

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On Image-Making

Painted Light 4

Always a camera on the table,
always memory carded in its side,

the lure to capture some unspoken
angle in ordered frames, as if these

dimensions can tell the whole story in
double exposures. Time blurs the sea;

Painted Light 2
what is beyond is never considered.
Slow down the blinking shutter

so everything illuminates in well-
composed lines, grid-eyed, pleasing.

Painted Light 3

The aperture ring opens to its full yawn,
the moment snaps, shutting out neutral

densities, displeasing shadows, higher
definitions pixelated against purpose.

That’s all it ever is, isn’t it – a room left
in light, dots on the page, a grain of truth.

Painted Light 1

And Spomenik is away!

 My sixth collection of poetry, Spomenik, was launched at the Arts House on Saturday, 12th March 2016. It was a milestone for me, as this is the first time my poems and photographs have been published together.

The poems and photographs are interwoven together in the book, and while one can read them individually, they are best seen as complementing each other. 

Spomenik is the Croatian word for monument, and I envisioned the art in this book to be a series of monuments that speak of my journey through the Balkans.

   
 I had a fantastic emcee and friend in the lovely Michelle Martin, who governed the session with aplomb and perfect timing, and I’m extremely grateful to the able team at Ethos Books, who decided to take a chance on this very left-field idea and bring it to completion. My thanks to Mr Ethos himself, Fong Hoe Fang, for first being convinced and subsequently Kah Gay, Suning and Adeleena for patiently shaping and crafting the work until my vision was realised.

Here’s a video from Six-six News, where I read one of my poems from Spomenik. Enjoy!

 Past the Gates of Socialism

 You can pick up a copy of Spomenik online, or at selected bookstores around Singapore. 

Litprom 2016

It was a busy weekend at Litprom, the Society for the Promotion of African, Asian and Latin American Literature. The 2016 edition of the festival, with the theme ‘New World Literature and the Global South,’ featured 12 authors from Asia, Africa and South America. Together with Amanda Lee Koe from Singapore, we joined a distinguished bevy of writers on a range of panels and discussions.

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Just before the festival, I had the chance to speak at the Metropolitan School Frankfurt to a very endearing and enthusiastic bunch of 9th and 10th Graders about the power and value of poetry. I think my rendition of Dog TV had them thinking about the possibilities of seeing the poetic through the mundane.

Then I had the great pleasure of hanging out with Dirk Huelstrunk, the grandfather of poetry slam in Frankfurt. A true pioneer of slam in the city, nowadays, he trucks in his own cadences, merging sound art through words and loops. The soundscape is emotive, charged with dissonance and urgency and we worked on two pieces, Camera Be and Well Done, which we performed as part of the closing act for the festival. I helmed the rest of the evening, doing favourites such as Made in China and O Holy Torrent as well as newer pieces such as Kenny G. The latter was accompanied with a mash up of Kenny G’s tunes, to much hilarity.

The festival was held over a rainy, windy weekend in Frankfurt. A buzzing business city at best, it empties out during weekends, and the weather seemed to follow, dropping to -5 degrees Celsius in the mornings.

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Sometimes, the best conversations were held over mealtimes. One memorable lunch I had was with Angolan author José Eduardo Agualusa and Brazilian fictionist Luiz Ruffato. We traded stories about ludicrous festival experiences, including one being stuck on a cruise boat floating down the Amazon for a whole week. The audience was a bunch of older women, constantly making ‘literary’ advances, like piranhas circling for the kill.

I had the chance to walk briefly around in the drizzle on the day after the festival, snapping a few photos, and deciding that monochrome best fit the mood of the city.

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The Postcard Project

February was a busy, busy month. But I had the good fortune of partnering with Objectifs to take part in the Postcard Project, an initiative by the National Library Board to pair photographers and writers together to create ten postcards with images of youth in action on one side and creative writing in the form of poetry or flash fiction on the back.

Over the course of three weeks, I worked with documentary photographer Deanna Ang. She taught the photographers the basics and brough them on a couple of field shoots while I helped to guide the writers (some of whom were also the photographers) as we carved small arcs of story into these fleeting moments framed by the lens. In the end, each writer produced four to five pieces of writing, but sadly just one photo and poem/prose piece will be chosen for each photographer/writer pairing.

Here’s a shot of the chosen images:DSCF0155

 

It’s a project that speaks a lot to me, as I see a lot of correlation between the composition of an image and a poem; the deliberation of a frame, the gluttonous act of observation, imagined moments with their plangent emotive thread, spilling out from what was and wasn’t captured by the eye.

Here’s an example featuring a quirky dialogue by Daniela Beltrani paired with a photograph by Chee Wei Teck.

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The postcards come out in March and will be distributed free island-wide, watch out for them!

Portfolio – 2014

 

It’s been a mixed bag of image making this year. Not too much travel, not too much photography work, but enough of everything to create a rather diverse 2014 portfolio. Among other things I photographed my first two lookbooks, travelled to Makassar, Indonesia and fell in love with the streets of Tokyo.

You can download the rest of the portfolio here: Marc Nair – 2014 Portfolio