Estate Frequencies

How do we see a city? From skyway, bus, car, train, or taxi? On foot? How do we consider the smaller units of the city? Parks, neighbourhoods, malls and markets? Are they experienced as discrete units or do we think about the intertwining aspects of they way we ambulate, the way we commute beyond the quotidian? 

Estate Frequencies is a brand new project that I’ve written and voiced (at least for this first season) that offers a through line to experience neighbourhoods in a city, connecting history, culture, art and people together in the form of an audio walking tour encompassing narration, interviews and poems that can be experienced in person or remotely. 

The first neighbourhood that’s being featured is Tiong Bahru, Singapore’s oldest housing estate. One might say that it is almost inevitable given the compact size of the estate, its pre-war beginnings and the many visible layers of ‘storying’ that are part of its landscape; from its much-photographed architectural style to the iconic market and its penchant for being part of social media backgrounds. 

But Estate Frequencies is also after the invisible, i.e. the people who make up Tiong Bahru. They represent, in many ways, a sounding board for the estate, one that reverberates at a different frequency from the ubiquity of the community centre as a kind of faux nexus for communal life. 

Estate Frequencies: Tiong Bahru is a three-episode series that encourages the listener to walk the street in real-time, adding a spatial dimension to the narration and soundscape. The latter, composed by Saturn Sound Studios, takes in the diegetic sounds of the neighbourhood and intersperses it with specially composed soundtracks for the poems. Poetry also offers a different way of seeing the estate, one that isn’t marshalled by the immutable aegis of government agencies and the throes of late-stage capitalism. They offer a space to imagine and wonder, even as we wander the streets and backlanes of Tiong Bahru. 

To listen, visit 

Tempo(rary) at the Singapore Festival 2020 (Yangon, Myanmar)

At the beginning of February, a handful of artists from Singapore and Myanmar (along with honorary Singaporean collaborator Nicola Anthony) came together under the curation of Marie Pierre-Mol of Intersections Gallery to showcase work around the idea of time. This was part of a larger event organised by the Singapore Tourist Board (STB) as part of their efforts to raise an awareness of various aspects of Singapore, from food, culture, and art to retail as well as to partner with local restaurants and artists as a way of forging bonds between Singapore and Myanmar.

The view from the top of Chin Tsong Palace

The event was held at the Chin Tsong Palace, a sprawling complex that was built by Lim Chin Tsong, said to have been Myanmar’s richest man at one point. The building was finished but never occupied and in the 1960s it was commandeered by drug smugglers. The Palace had a network of tunnels and secret rooms under it, and one of the tunnels was said to have led to the river. Much history, many feels.

The Chin Tsong Palace at night

Tempo(rary) is a collaboration with Burmese artist Maung Day. It consists of a dialogue in poems and photographs. Over the course of a month, I sent a poem to Maung Day and he responded with a poem or a photo. And then he sent a photo to me, and I responded in kind. We created ten pairs of work from this exchange, each one accompanied by a metronome set to a different tempo.

The photograph is from Maung Day, the poem is from me. All the poems were translated to Burmese as well. Text layout by Nicole Soh.

Part of the work in the exhibition space

Ticking at a range of tempos, the metronomes are a sonic reflection of the varying speeds of two very different cities.

Time in the city is a function of progress and growth. It is invisible; fleeting and always in scarcity.

We are always running out of time. Time is never on our hands. We need more time, we say, this commodity that can never be bought or bartered. 

We are made by time, its invisible, inevitable ticking, keeping tempo to the rhythms and reasons of our lives. Time soothes and serenades, summons and silences.

The crowds weren’t what we were led to expect, partly due to the prohibitive ticket prices. The food was also probably priced beyond the reach of the average local. But hey, at least the art was free!

Following the exhibition, I received the incredible news that Tempo(rary) has been selected to be part of the 12th Yangon Photo Festival. The work will be exhibited at the Rosewood Hotel from 19 Feb to 21 March. Do check it out if you happen to be in Yangon!

Green is the Colour of my Heart (restaged)

We’re back! This Saturday at the Arts House Play Den, for just one night. But got two show lah, 6.30pm and 9pm – to cater for those who wanna eat dinner before, those who wanna eat dinner after and those who have to catch a flight.

photo edited by Chill Sessions Records, original photo by ArtScience Museum 

After .gif, Wu Jun Han and I played to a capacity crowd at the ArtScience Museum for the first run of Green is the Colour of my Heart, we felt bad that people actually came (albeit, late) for the show and had to be turned away! So we decided to stage it again, with the generous venue support of the Arts House. 

I would like to say that the second time round, we’re definitely more comfortable and confident with our material, plus, it’s a different space, so it allows for some variety in staging. Some people liked the show so much they are coming back again! That’s truly moving, and I’m thankful that poetry still has a place in my peoples’ hearts.

Tickets are available here:
Use discount code: GREENHEART for a 20% discount. 

I’ll also be selling Vital Possessions, which contains several poems from the show as well as Auguries of Modern Innocence, which will be performed together with a kickass soundtrack by .gif. as well as visuals from the amazing artists who illustrated the poem. 

There is no place like this

The new Singapore Tourism Board video (above) is all about hip people in pretty places. The average tourist will never see any of these people. And if they do go to these locations they certainly will not get these perspectives.

The feel is gritty, the soundtrack grooves to the refrain ‘this is the place’ and builds an anticipation to be blown away by the unseen. The sparse spoken word voice-over hints at a country of edgy, defiant possibilities.

The reality is that these human possibilities are colorfully engineered constructs of ideals. The entire video is a freeze frame homage to the mise en scene of social media. It’s guaranteed to get a lot of likes. And hopefully some package tours.

Yes, we have to sell Singapore. And perhaps it is true, Orchard Road is no longer current and the theme park has lost its thrill. But there are other things to feature beyond this slick selection of experiential moments that seem to comprise the passion of this country.

Passion also means suffering, and that word is indeed apt, as there are whole swathes of people who will never be cool enough for this country.

There is no place like this
with flattened ideas, hearts and hills
There is no place for those
who deny the whitewashed will

This is the place
where passion is a mod-sin word
raised up to be worshipped
by an undercut, lit shook herd

But passion is also suffering
stateless, disoriented
frustrated from raids
on dreams disappeared
A wish to have a full meal,
lights on at night
make good on impossible loans
no rats gnawing at toes

To love who you want to love

But this is a place
where you cannot love freely
So when people visit
what is it they really see?

They won’t hear about one people,
one nation, they don’t care for our songs
of celebration, they only see success
stories, buildings that clip the clouds,
shops full of bright baubles
trains that wear no frown

They don’t see the offerings
swept up by workers
with no minimum wage
behind maximum fences

When race is not about the finish line
but the colour of our skin,
all of the Others
are washed away by the spin
When the boxes that keep us apart
help to keep our nation smart
When the leaders that we need
are voted least likely to succeed

This is the place
with world-class education and
bad grammar littered everywhere,
where schools are processions of paperwork
real learning is after school tuition-care

This is where we live
amongst a splendour of trees
but insist on double-bagging
styro-foamed plastic wrapped packaging

This is where creativity becomes a hashtag
and then a graded course in five sessions
with a complimentary tote bag

This is the place
where gambling is never as bad
as honest questioning
Where we’re encouraged to spend
without worry, but the interest
on our lives grows daily

This is the place where we roll dice, leave on the red lights
patrol with swagger, check IDs to prevent terror.
where we claim to be secure, claim to endure,
but will not stop to ask if people are ok;
we’re messaging the monsters in our heads

Where backstreets are abandoned trolleys and non-existent homeless,
where graffiti is state-sanctioned, toe the line wholeness
where nostalgia is best sold with one story-line
where we’re told what to do, and do what we’re told
time after time
and any other way out needs a license
and any other opinion means silence

Where impossibilities lead to endless possibilities
and then censorship and then fewer possibilities,
until all that’s left is a national education lesson on harmony

Where who you were will not be who you will become,
not unless your name is Meritocracy

This is where compassion should be made compulsory,
but all we get is a country we love to hate, and passion
becomes just another word for never being sorry

The Poet of Unlove


I am a poet of unlove


I wear shades on blind dates,

I would hate to see what you really look like.

When you say let’s talk about love, I expound

on the reproductive habits of reptiles.

I quote stats and not the stars in your eyes.

I am into the shape of your assets, financial,

not physical.

Continue reading “The Poet of Unlove”