The Making of StrangeLah

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I was at the Clean & Green Hackathon over bits of the weekend, organised by NEA and run by the good guys from Newton Circus. Since this is Singapore, I figured that most of the people attending it would gravitate towards making fairly predictable, conventional mobile app or social media / community sites or data visualisation, or to just go about gamifying everything. And… this is exactly what happened there, it was all like LET’S GAMIFY RECYCLING! or LET’S GAMIFY FREECYCLING! or how about LET’S GAMIFY CYCLING! etc etc. I’m sure we’ve all heard that one before.

Whilst I love seeing the energy and passion that people have for building things at hackathons (and that’s the reason I go to them), I feel like sometimes a lot of this energy is not always directed efficiently into making new things and trying hard to think of new ideas. At any rate, I could also have made a version of App-o-tron for generating random ideas for a green app and then we could have given this list to people for them to work on. I noticed that phrases such as “green technologies” and “sustainability” and “we want to leverage on NFC” were practically overused, and to be honest even if the app can be described as “smart” and “scalable”, in the end it probably also contributes to the current saturation of unnecessary information. I mean, do we really need an app for everything? Do we need yet another social media app to share more things with each other all the time? Do we really want to read all the tweets automatically generated from our electrical appliances and power switches and storm drains? But then again, I know I am hardly one to talk about having practical objectives. In any case, I had already decided that my goal was not to build an app but simply to see which was the most interesting dataset provided, and to set about finding an unusual use for it.

I noticed NEA had provided a dataset of feedback on food hygiene which had not previously been released. It could not be not confirmed whether any or all these entries had been previously substantiated or not, and precise location data had been removed the entries – which was probably for the better, because no one wants to create a mass food hygiene panic (which is actually probably the state you will be in, after you read all the entries one by one, whether or not they are true). The litany of horrors go on and on and on, almost 10,000 entries of terrifying food-related atrocities. It is hard to tell whether they are all true, or merely one-off accidental food contamination incidents. Let’s face it but when in the face of random rage and being called on to be witnesses, Singaporeans sometimes lose objectivity, or the ability to describe something adequately. Sometimes the feedback entry was a compendium of a list of possible places where they might have contracted food poisoning, which isn’t very useful data either. For this dataset of user-submitted feedback, here was really no way of finding out how reliable the reportage truly was.

However, I still like this idea of these reports being significant points of data which might, as a whole, still point to something about each area. A high incidence of reports could mean that those places had a lot of food places and thus a lot of people eating there in general, or it could also mean that more people were having unhappy or unpleasant times there.

One of NEA’s feedback categories was a category titled “Strange taste”. It seemed that a number of people had described their food as strange possibly because of this somewhat suggestive category title. But, strange is not very specific. It could mean many things. There was no way I could find out who had been the person who lodged the feedback, so I would never be able to know precisely how strange it was, or in what manner.

Another dataset from Cleanlah included a set of cleanliness complaints with images. These were even more curious, because looking at these pictures was looking into an abyss of uncanny-ness. It was not always clear what we were supposed to be looking at. Amongst some of the obvious pictures of litter and dead rats were some ordinary pictures of normal, everyday scenes. But what was wrong with it? Were we supposed to search for the one thing that was amiss in the picture? Why had these photos been submitted? Did the person really mean to submit this picture of an empty corner? Why is that middle-aged man standing alone in a field? It was all a mystery!

So I wondered, what if we only looked for the strange, mysterious complaints?

So I began by stripping out all the fields except ones with vague words such as “strange”, “weird” and “funny”. After cleaning up the data and adding “Singapore” to the end of the street names, I opened a blank spreadsheet in Google Docs, and then imported my excel file to the Google Spreadsheet.

To Geocode it on your own (simplest method): set up Geo for Google Docs by going to Tools > Script Editor, paste mapbox.js into code.gs, rename code project as Geo, and then refresh your spreadsheet – you should see Geo appear as an option next to Tools. Now you can select the fields with the addresses you want to geocode. It will generate three new columns – geo_latitude, geo_longitude, and geo_accuracy. The last field (geo_accuracy) seems to describes whether its a primary/secondary/tertiary/trunk road or public building/retail/residential/house/mall/station.

Since this was to be a fixed set of data, I converted it to an xml (for my ease of use) and with my very limited vegetable powers of php, this is what I came up with:

<?php
  $doc = new DOMDocument();
  $doc->load( 'csv/strangefood.xml' );

$entries = $doc->getElementsByTagName( “row” );
$totalentries = $doc->getElementsByTagName(‘row’)->length;
$randtotalentries = rand(1, $totalentries);
$randcamera = rand(0, 359);

$Dates = $doc->getElementsByTagName( “date” );
$Date = $Dates->item($randtotalentries)->nodeValue;

$Titles = $doc->getElementsByTagName( “description” );
$Title = $Titles->item($randtotalentries)->nodeValue;

$Lats = $doc->getElementsByTagName( “lat” );
$Lat = $Lats->item($randtotalentries)->nodeValue;

$Lons = $doc->getElementsByTagName( “lon” );
$Lon = $Lons->item($randtotalentries)->nodeValue;

echo “<img src=http://maps.googleapis.com/maps/api/streetview?size=640×480&location=$Lat,$Lon&fov=90&heading=$randcamera&pitch=10&sensor=false>”;
echo “<div id=’strangelabel’>Date: $Date ($Lon, $Lat) <br /> <div id=’strangedescription’>$Title</div></div>”;
?>

Why a google street view image? Because I think it compounds the uncanny, uneasy feeling by showing you a quotidian, everyday Singapore street scene. You’re imbued with the knowledge that somewhere close to that location, you know someone has eaten something very, very strange – but you don’t know what, you just know it was strange enough for them to want to tell someone else about it.

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Visit StrangeLah

 

Ghost Trap: Markov Text Generator

This post is overdue, as I have been meaning to type this out since the previous month! I had been asked to design a Mouse Trap and a Ghost Trap as an “entrance exam” for a postgraduate programme I had been applying to (and if you must know, that endeavour was successful!!!), and I thought it would be good to record the process of making the Ghost Trap in particular, for it has proven to be a very useful tool in other projects (and for playing around with words…)

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A Mouse Trap

The Mouse Trap I designed was cute but quite normal by most standards; I won’t pretend to be a product designer, but the Ghost Trap was clearly meant to be the more exciting exercise of the two. Firstly, I don’t believe in ghosts, having not seen one, and there was no reason to try to imagine ghosts in the supernatural sense if there wasn’t anything there to begin with, so I felt it was more appropriate to contemplate the idea of a ghost trap vis-a-vis digital presence. Secondly, another thing to note is that I am more of a “hobby” programmer than a serious programmer, so whatever solution it was also had to be realistically possible to execute over one weekend (which had been the time I had to develop this). I didn’t have the luxury of time to invent something fantastically complicated.

So, the simpliest idea was to generate the ghost of myself. As those of you who follow this blog will know, I write a lot here, and this basically sounds like Debbie speaking in real life, obviously because I wrote it). Another thing I do is use foursquare and flickr a lot. For people following my updates and reading all of the gratuitous amount of information and digital flotsam that I generate each and every day, this might constitute all of what some people might ever see or hear of Debbie. My digital footprint could be, in some ways, the only surviving evidence of Debbie. So what if Debbie wasn’t there but something else continued generating and posting what I would probably say on my blog, and posting location information about Debbie? Would people believe in the ghost of Debbie?

The first thing I wanted to do was to fake Debbie’s location. I tried compiling some stats from my currently active flickr and foursquare account:

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My current flickr account started in October 2007
As of 17 March 2013, I have uploaded 37843 items to it.
It is 1995 days from the start date to the end date, end date included
Or 5 years, 5 months, 17 days including the end date.
All photos taken with my smartphone have been uploaded to flickr with geodata.
I have developed a habit of uploading every single digital photograph I have ever taken as soon as possible without editing. I also take photographs of notes, receipts, places I want to remember, but I file these as Private only.
Out of these 37843 photos, 24063 have geodata.
I have taken an average of 12.0616541353 geotagged images every day between 1 October 2007 and 17 March 2013

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My current foursquare account was started on 9 October 2010.
From and including: Saturday, October 9, 2010
To and including: Sunday, March 17, 2013
It is 891 days from the start date to the end date, end date included
Or 2 years, 5 months, 9 days including the end date
As of 17 March 2013, I have made 1,115 Check-ins.
Most check-ins were only made when I wanted to find other tips and users in the area.
I have made an Average of 1.25140291807 Check-ins every day between 9 October 2007 and 17 March 2013

After looking at the sheer number of records, it looked like it would take too long to extract and process all the location data of Debbies (to produce a decent result), I thought it would be better to just generate a text which sounded like it had been written by me. This could be more quickly accomplished by what I thought would be a much simpler method: a markov text generator.

A Markov text generator is something that uses a markov chain to generate the next word in a sentence. The choice of the next word only depends on the current last word, and not on the entire sentence of all the words before that, and so in that sense it does not have memory (“markov property”) despite often seeming to be smarter or more complex than it actually is.

It was not hard to find simple applications of it in action, as many spammers have used markov text generators to generate realistic looking paragraphs which are actually gibberish but then make it through spam filters. In fact, I first came into contact with the term while trying to figure out why I was receiving these realistic looking paragraphs of pure gibberish which were spam except in many cases there were no advertising links, thus rendering the spam pointless.

I found a simple example in python that I could read the code for (something that i could completely understand how it worked) and apply to my own text. The idea is that all the text is broken up and recorded as 3 word groups. For every A-B-C set of words, it checks: for each A-B, what is a possible C? After all the sets of A-B and possible Cs are recorded (if C occurs many times, then it will be repeated in the list of possible Cs for that A-B set, thus increasing the probability we will see that C returned after A-B. And of course, with location data, the same procedure could be applied to determine what would be a likely C Location for any particular A-B set of locations.

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Next I generated a big text file of all the text in my blog. This was to be the base material for the debbietext to be generated.

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I ran the markov python script on the file and generated many fragments and snippets. I went on to tweak the script a bit along the way.

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From these snippets, I picked out a few I liked and compiled it into a full text with the punctuation cleaned up. For the interest of not making this blog any more of a piece of meta-writing than it already is, here is a generated text in image form.

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I used this markov generated text as the text for the newest Map without Buildings I have drawn, which is currently showing at Theo.do.lites (Lasalle ICA Gallery 1) as I had been working on that drawing at the time that I had been putting this together. So, what do you think? Does it sound like the ghost of debbie speaking?


To top this off, I wrote most of this blog post last night before falling asleep, and then at night I had a dream about visiting an old friend’s house, browsing through his bookshelf, and picking up a 2nd hand copy of Jerome Rothenberg’s The Lorca Variations. From there, I discovered that the copy of Lorca Variations was the exact copy of the book which I thought I had sold off some years ago. Even stranger still, I had been using the book as a diary, and some of my teenage diary entries had been scrawled inbetween the spaces of the pages! I had forgotten that I had used the book to write my personal diary notes, so I was shocked I had sold the book off without realising or remembering this! My friend had bought the book from a 2nd hand book dealer without realising what was inside the book – because he only collected books and did not read any of them.

I woke up soon after that dream, and upon waking I went to google the description of “The Lorca Variations”, because I honestly could not recall what was in the book, except my general impression that the book had been really tedious and boring to me (sorry! but really not my cup of tea!) at the time I had read it for an English Literature module at NUS. I still remember it had been assigned to us by Dr Gwee Li Sui for the introductory EN2101 module, and I had tossed the book aside after that module and never looked at it since (except to try to hawk it off online to other unsuspecting literature students, but I can’t even recall if I managed to sell it in the end…)

The blurb for “The Lorca Variations” on google books goes:

Having recently returned to translating Lorca, Rothenberg began to appropriate and rearrange items of Lorca’s vocabulary and to compose a series of poems of his own that ‘both are & aren’t mine, both are & aren’t Lorca.’ As an original work, The Lorca Variations are, as he describes them, ‘a way of coming full circle into a discovery that began with Lorca & for which he has stood with certain others as a guide & constant fellow-traveler.’

I can’t believe my subconscious has reintroduced to me a book which I had completely forgot I had ever read. And at a time when I am working on a project like this.

DIY Wine-making with Lifepatch and Camera Hacking at L’Observatoire

On Saturday, we visited Isabelle’s fantastic little space/studio, “L’Observatoire”, near Turf club road. Set in a somewhat bucolic part of town – lush greenery, horse stables, and wide open spaces – Isabelle’s space was full of plants and specimens and some really awesome microscopes for observation. We marveled at strange little wiggly green blobs inside the cells of plants and stained sample specimens from mice and other creatures – the output from a set of optical microscopes, magnified onto a wall with a projector. It seemed a fitting setting for our friend Andreas Siagian of Lifepatch to conduct a little workshop on the process of DIY wine-making, along with other friends from Indonesia who were also visiting Singapore.

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We began with a bunch of bananas. This was because bananas were the only fruit we happened to have there, and the store-bought fruit juices in Singapore almost always have strange additions to them. Naturally one could have tried using any manner of juice product as the base, but it seemed nice to start with the pure fruit. Here, Andreas explains to us the process before he begins…

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We were using a packet of inoculated yeast (extracted from Soursop) which had been specially prepared by Lifepatch.

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Boiled water was allowed to cool slightly and then added to a blender with all of the cut fruit. Some of the boiled water was used to rinse the containers that were to be used later as well.

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The fruit mixture was strained and the larger pulp removed.

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The packet of yeast was added to water, and then later added to the fruit.

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A hole was drilled into the bottle’s cap, and tubing was inserted so it would be virtually airtight.

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At this point, a little sugar can be added as well to make it sweeter.

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The yeast eats the sugar, and turns it into alcohol and carbon dioxide. This is evidenced by the bubbling that will happen in the cup of water below, issuing forth from the tubing. When the bubbling has stopped, it means the yeast has finished its job. If there is excess sugar left, this makes the wine sweeter, which is why the addition of sugar can help result in a sweeter wine at the end, because there is excess sugar left after the yeast has done its course…

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After the fruit-wine-mixture was prepared, what could we do? Well next Isabelle suggested we could dissect some pens. And so we did! We dissected the pens. The pens were empty, because the children use a lot of pens. We dissected them pens good, and squeezed the dried ink sponges to see if there was any more ink in them. We squeezed them until there was nothing else to squeeze.

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After the pens were dissected, Isabelle took out a box of old cameras which she had been reserving for a “Tinkering Sundays” class she was conducting on 5 May 2013 for kids.

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It was discovered there and then that if you give a bunch of artists/diy builders?/hackers?/programmers? some disposable cameras to take apart, they will be occupied for hours. If not days. Perhaps even weeks. They will be gluing bits of the camera lens to their smartphones permanently. I still have mine partially attached to my phone. You might have to pry them out of the work room with an electrified stick. It is truly that engrossing.

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NEED A SUGGESTION FOR HOW TO CREATE HOURS OF ENDLESS FUN FOR THAT SPECIAL GEEK IN YOUR LIFE?
GIVE THEM AN UNWANTED OLD DISPOSABLE CAMERA, A PAIR OF PLIERS, AND WATCH THEM GO AT IT!

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HAVE YOU EVER WANTED TO TAKE MACRO INSTRAGRAMS OF EVERYTHING IN YOUR LIFE?
WHY NOW YOU CAN, WITH AN OLD DISPOSABLE CAMERA LENS!

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Mushroom which Isabelle picked up – with suspected beetle infestation.

[Note: Yuta’s horrifying mushroom beetle story comes to mind, he told us a story about how he had bought a beautiful ornamental hard bracket mushroom which looked a lot like this. One day it suddenly changed colour, so he suspected something was happening inside the mushroom, so he put it in the microwave, a few small beetles fell out of a small hole in the mushroom. I know, I’m obsessed with this story and you’ve probably all heard it from me too many times, but I still can’t get over it. I can’t decide which is more horrifying – the accidental death of the beetles? yuta’s decision to microwave the mushroom?? the idea that there might be lots of beetles secretly living inside these inert-looking mushrooms??? the secret life of beetles inside fungi, of which i know so little about????]

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Dead Bee from my kitchen.

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Dead spider from my table.

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Dead wooly aphid. Yeah I brought all these insects as a present for Isabelle.
Other people bring gifts of fruits and wine when they visit friends, I bring dead insects.

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The surface of some seed pods.

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Basically I could go on and on and on…
Thanks to Isabelle (and her family) for hosting us at her wonderful wonderful space and spending the afternoon with us, and thanks to Andreas for conducting the little workshop! It was great to have other friends from Indonesia over (Ade, Coki, Monica) and to see Luis and Anne-marie there as well! Good times…

The Simulacra of Cobain the Cactus

Today I decided to do one pomodoro of Second Life building. I decided I would try to build a replica of Cobain the Cactus, a plant on my windowsill which G gave to me because it initially resembled a toy rabbit I had named Kobain. Unfortunately, G forgot that cactuses are not inert objects, so it continued to grow many new cactusey fingers, and now Cobain the Cactus does not look like Kobain the toy rabbit anymore.

This is a photo of Cobain the cactus – in Real Life:

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I cropped out the other bits so it was just the cactus. I prepared this as a 512 x 512 image for uploading to Second Life.

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Next I found some random 8-sided mesh/sculpted tree and retextured it with my cobain.png texture. You can find many free sculpted trees on SL Marketplace if you don’t have one to start with. If I had more time, I could probably have used Blender to bake the plant sculptie/mesh myself and then imported it into SL instead of repurposing some other plant mesh. I’m not building it in order to sell it, so the permissions don’t really matter to me at this point. Finally I created a brown pot for the bottom from a tube, added a circular disc textured with soil and linked them all together.

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And so by the end of one pomodoro, I had a copy of Cobain the cactus – in Second Life:

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“Theo.do.lites” (Institute of Contemporary Art Singapore Gallery 1, 17 April – 20 May 2013)

Thanks to everyone who came down to the exhibition on wednesday! And also, many thanks to Kent and Silke for all their hard work and careful thought in putting this show together, as well as to the other artists and everyone at the Institute of Contemporary Art Singapore for making it all come together. Here is a bit of a photo documentation of the show:


‘Theo.do.lites’ is an exhibition examining the project of modernity through artistic explorations of site-specific urban and rural realities in Asia and Europe, in the context of their conjoined yet deferred histories.

If studies in city cultures often exhibit a critical nostalgia for an urban formation from the earlier stages of heroic modernity, we witness today a shift, revealing a sense of loss towards the promise of a vibrant future once offered by these early prototypical modernist cities. Rather than occupying the forefront of global developments, these cities are instead fast becoming a part of history. The works from Europe turn its eyes away from urban spaces towards unoccupied landscapes, reflecting a sense of disillusionment or a quest for a new spirituality. At the same time, works from Asia convey a suspicion towards its rapid urbanization in recent years, skeptical towards an idea of modernity that was never its own.

With an emphasis on moving images without being limited to it, ‘Theo.do.lites’ reflects on these changes and presents the work of 14 contemporary artists from both continents and will offer a new appreciation of creative documentary aesthetics.

Curated by: Silke Schmickl and Kent Chan.

Exhibiting artists: Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Raqs Media Collective, Uriel Orlow, Alexander Schellow, Charles Lim, Romain Kronenberg & Benjamin Graindorge, Marylene Negro, Tan Pin Pin, Daniel Hui, Masayo Kajimura, Massimilian & Nina Breeder, and Debbie Ding.

The exhibition is supported by: National Arts Council, Singapore International Foundation, Institute of Contemporary Arts Singapore, LASALLE College of the Arts, Institut Français Singapour, Embassy of France in Singapore, Goethe Institut Singapur, German Embassy Singapore, Locale, and Lowave.


Opening Night (17 April 2013):

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Artist Talk (18 April 2013):

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Exhibition Catalogue:

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Setup:

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The team all together – the artists, curators, and ICAS – after everything was up and completed!

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More pictures coming soon.

Maps without Buildings (2011-2013)

Maps With/out Buildings is a hand-illustrated study of place, the map-making process and natural geogrpahical features as they are commonly represented in topographic maps. I have been working on an ongoing collection of “maps” of my dreams since around 2009. However, along the way I realized that all of my dreams had buildings in them, such that all the “dream maps” that I used to draw upon waking were technically more like dream building plans than maps of places. I wondered why it was that I didn’t have dreams without buildings in them. So I became interested in exploring the process of making maps which did not have urban features in them. By studying the landscapes I encounter in my travels, and by trying to visualise landscapes devoid of buildings, one day I hope to have dreams without buildings in them.

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Maps without Buildings (2011-Present)

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Ellipsis (2013, London)

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Lichen Mountain (2011, Cornwall)

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Le Petit Arbre (2012, Paris)

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Gepenstermauer (2011, Berlin)

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Lake of Dreams (2011, London)


The texts are integral to the pieces. One of the accompanying texts was generated by running the contents of this long-running blog through a markov text generator, automatically producing a text which sounds like Debbie. More on that in another post!…

The work is being shown at “Theo.do.lites”, an exhibition curated by Kent Chan and Silke Schmickl, at Institute of Contemporary Art Singapore (Lasalle ICAS Gallery 1). Featuring the works of Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Raqs Media Collective, Uriel Orlow, Alexander Schellow, Charles Lim, Romain Kronenberg & Benjamin Graindorge, Marylène Negro, Tan Pin Pin, Daniel Hui, Masayo Kajimura, Massimilian & Nina Breeder, and Debbie Ding. Show’s on from now until 12 May.


See also:

Photos from Opening Night –

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More Photo Documentation of Theo.do.lites, the exhibition.

Field Recording: Jatinegara Dangdut (December 2010, Jakarta)

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A few years ago, not far from Jatinegara Stasiun, I visited a spot close to the railway tracks that was full of javanese street dancers dancing to traditional gamelan music, night markets with trucks full of chickens, cabbage, leles (catfish), and dangdut played live on blown-out speakers to a haphazard crowd of people drinking warm beers, amidst older ladyboys, shy widows, and old men dancing on gravel in bare feet. Much of the audience of this musical medley sat on the railway tracks, often shaded from the street lights by the shadow of trees.

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Traditional Javanese Dance under a highway


Every so often, a piercing alarm bell would go off, and there would be a rumble and a vibration on the tracks, heralding the distant arrival of the trains. Perhaps it is a Singaporean response to be extremely cautious and very alarmed by the thought of sitting on a live railway track – in 2009 there had been a well-publicised case of a young Singaporean couple being gruesomely killed when they sat on the KTM railway tracks at night and had been unwittingly crushed by the train – so my instinct was to steer completely clear of the tracks once I realised that it was actually a live railway track with numerous trains passing every hour or so. But even as the alarm bells rang, the indonesian motorbikes and bajajs continued gaily rumbling over the tracks as if it were of no concern – until the very last perilous moment! When the kerapa api came blazing through the tracks. No accidents occured, and after the trains had gone, people would file back onto the tracks to listen to the street dangdut by dark. People were generally very friendly and came over to talk to us, probably curious also because we were the only visible “bules” or “japanese-looking people” who had wandered into this area, and they tried to get us to dance with them. I put my recorder in my pocket and this is the sound of the live music coming out of their blown speakers:

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Jalan Pissangang (Banana Street)


See also:

Documentations: Allah Akbar / In Excelsis Deo / Huat Ah Heng Ah – Other devotional recordings from Indonesia and Malaysia
Documentations: Newton Circus Getai (歌台) in Singapore

Field Recording: French Rap and Derbouka on Paris Metro (12 October 2012, Paris)

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This is another recording of street buskers in Paris. It seemed to me as if most of buskers on the streets and travelling through the metro system seemed to play typically “Parisian” music, or jewish or romanian sounding music. But one group that I saw on the Paris Metro whilst on Ligne 8, from Strasbourg St Denis to Concorde was slightly different – it was a rap and breakdancing group. Technically speaking, this was the musical equivalent of some unfeasibly loud youngsters getting on the train, blasting some music and wildly rapping and dancing along to it – except, that they were actually doing it for your listening pleasure! OLE OLE S’IL VOUS PLAIT! The tight-lipped commuters, women and men in dark coats and gloves sat dangerously still and quiet, staring straight ahead, whilst the group rapped and then beat enthusiastically on the derbouka, and one of them danced, somewhat dangerously, within an invisibly demarcated space on the train. Neither musical group nor trapped commuters seemed to know what to do with each other. As the train pulled into the metro station for Concorde, the group disembarked, and as the pneumatic doors whoosh open you can hear the strains of another more classical busking group just outside the cabin on the platform. And as the train pulled out of the station, one could see the two groups of buskers walking into each other on the same platform…

Field Recording: Mariachi band on autobus to Teotihuacan (2 June 2012, Mexico City)

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Last year I made a madcap trip to see Teotihuacan within ONE MORNING. I kept notes on my phone on how this was done. I got up at the crack of dawn, wormed my way to the Terminal Autobuses del Norte via the metro (its on Line 5), bought an autobus ticket for 35 pesos, and looked for the one bus with another tourist boarding it (signage quite poor there and somewhat confusing, abandon hope all ye non-spanish speakers who enter here…) Got on a bus that said PIRAMIDS with a picture of a pyramid on it. I was dropped off at Teotihuacan at around 7.30am, was allowed to enter despite most public signs saying that it is only open at 9am. After a significant amount of walking and puffing and even more walking, I reached the peak of Pyramid of the Moon at 8am. This skillful time maneuvering was made possible thanks to a tip from my old schoolmate Paul (who was also coincidentally in Mexico at the same time??) who told me they would let visitors in early. This helped me avoid the tourist crowds before they start coming in massive droves of buses – and I was one of the first to scale the peak of the piramids that morning.

Here’s a recording of a live mariachi band that forced its way onto the autobus from the terminal to Teotihuacan. There was also a jelly seller, and a knives seller on board. I didn’t really care for the jellies (??) or the knives (???), but the band was quite funny and IN YOUR FACE, and in an extremely cramped bus with most of the people going on their normal lives with far too many baskets and bags. When the band started up in that cramped space, on the faces of the people around me I could see the tensing up of the teeth-clenching muscles, eventually followed by stoic resignation. Basically, everyone was trapped as their captive audience, and the band fought hard to be heard over the roar of the engine. The quality is not so great because it was obviously recorded on a very noisy bus, but I’m still uploading it in case anyone ever wondered what a bus ride to Teotihuacan would sound like…


P6025010 Oh and this is me with a random overfriendly trinket seller in Teotihuacan.


The reason why I am suddenly digging up all these because yesterday I attended the Substation Conferences and did an audio recording for them, and while I was there, I realised that the moderator for the roundtable discussion was someone whom I had seen speaking at another forum (Hello Ai Lin, if you ever see this!). I wanted to see if I could find the recording I had made of that other forum, but could not find it, because I think the audio file is trapped on a hard drive that I broke while I was in Paris and which I left in a drawer in London….

Nevertheless I did find the physical notebooks with the notes on those talks, as well as a whole bunch of other audio files and half-written descriptions and notes of trips to various museums/galleries such as Museo Nacional de Antropología (Mexico City), National Museum of Korea (Seoul), and other things in Hong Kong, etc. I’ve started pushing some of these draft entries online, and ONE DAY I WILL COMPLETE ALL THE BACKDATED DOCUMENTATION! But for now I should really get back to proper work…


See also:
Other posts from Mexico –
Retroalimentacion (Facultad del Artes Gallery, UAEM)
Don Porfirio – El Senor de la Bestias
La Pulqueria (San Fellipe Tlamimilolpan)

New posts on Documentations –
Notes on the “The Cost and Value of Heritage in Singapore: The Belitung Shipwreck and Bukit Brown” (14 April 2012, Mochtar Riady Auditorium, Singapore Management University)
NUS Museum’s Prep Room

Field Recording: “Hava Nagila” (27 September 2012, Paris)

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Dug up a bunch of old recordings while looking for something else – here is a jolly recording of a large Jewish street band and women’s choir singing “Hava Nagila” just outside the Palais de Tokyo.


See also:

Other audio recordings from Paris –
Field Recording: Paris Gypsy Band on the Metro, 11 September 2012
Field Recording: Paris Musique Kiosk, 9 Sept 2012