Happy National Day, Singapore!

Singapore celebrates its 49th year of political independence from Great Britain this year. August 9 is Singapore’s National Day. It is also National Book Lovers Day in the United States. A good day, in other words, to give a shout-out to the Singapore Literature Festival to be held in New York City from October 10 – 12, 2014.

The festival, an independent and grassroots-led affair, has been raising funds through a Kickstarter campaign. The campaign will end in just five days. It reached its initial target of USD6000 easily within two weeks, thanks to the support of Singaporeans and book lovers. One of the corporate sponsors has pulled out, however, and so the campaign is trying to raise an additional USD6000 to cover venue rental and festival collaterals.

Singapore-based artist Boedi Widjaja has offered the festival one of his artworks. The work is from his 2013 series Drawing Cage. In his statement about the series, the artist writes:

This series emerged from the artist’s failed attempt to draw a portrait of 20th century American composer John Cage. Widjaja sought connections between himself and Cage: sound compositions, the latter’s Singaporean protege Margaret Leng Tan, his spirituality, before Widjaja finally found a link – stone tracings. Cage devoted the last decade of his life making stone tracings – inspired by his trip to temple-garden Ryoanji, Japan – that were guided by chance-based operations. Independently, Widjaja has been using stones in his practice, aleatoricism as method, and had travelled to Japan just before work on Drawing Cage started. The connection is idiosyncratic, almost (appropriately) random.

Drawing Cage became an even more intimate portrait of John Cage than when Widjaja was drawing his likeness. In this series, drawing is used to complicate time space, to compress dimensions, to make present the past and future.

The artist, son of Chinese diaspora, accessed photographs that he took when he travelled with his parents to his grandfather’s hometown in Xiamen, China. The photographs were embedded/layered digitally. Pigment was painted onto the archival print using Chinese brush – an instrument loaded with cultural and artistic symbolisms but devoid of them when wielded by the artist’s uninitiated body. Widjaja finished the work with marker tracings of stones sourced from the Yellow River.




You can purchase the beautiful work and support Singapore literature at the same time on the Singapore Literature Festival’s Kickstarter page. You can find out more about the festival on its website and get the most recent updates on its Facebook page and Twitter account.


About Jee Leong Koh

My book of poems Steep Tea (Carcanet) was named a Best Book of 2015 by UK's Financial Times, and a Finalist by Lambda Literary. I also wrote three other books of poems and a book of zuihitsu. My work has been shortlisted for the Singapore Literature Prize, and translated into Japanese, Chinese, Vietnamese, Russian and Latvian. Originally from Singapore, I live in New York City, where I edit the arts blog Singapore Poetry, and run the Second Saturdays Reading Series and the Singapore Literature Festival in NYC.

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