Crossing the English Channel / French Girolles



P&O Ferry


I’ve taken the Eurostar quite a few times but tickets were really costly this time of year, so I decided to try to take the bus instead on my most recent trip to Paris. I got a National Express ticket, but the actual bus I took to and from France was devoid of any of the usual National Express livery. Instead we were in a strangely bright coloured bus with a drawing of a coconut tree on it. It was otherwise very fine and clean and lovely on the inside, except that on my outward journey there seemed to be someone onboard who was transporting a lot of potatoes or yams along with them, so it seemed a bit… um… earthy?

Eurotunnel Route – View Larger Map

The journey from London to Paris is very straightforward without any passport checks – only spot checks. We went via the Eurotunnel and there was no need to disembark from the bus at all. But the journey from Paris to London is more complicated as entering the UK requires one to go through a number of checkpoints. There is a checkpoint in France where you get off the bus and go through two posts (French Border Exit and UK Border Entry) with only your passport in hand. Following that, when you get to the Calais-Dover ferry crossing, you will be required to disembark from your vehicle for the full 1.5 hours of the ferry ride. Finally, our bus was picked out for an additional passport check at Dover; we were all asked to disembark with all luggage (handcarry and stowed luggage). They did a cursory check of people’s nationalities and waved almost all of us along without much checking, but they took aside two people for questioning. To be honest it seemed like it had been some sort of pre-planned “sting” operation targeting some individuals which the authorities in Kent must already have known would be on this bus (it is after all the cheapest route and also involves a seemingly less stringently monitored border crossing compared to the planes or intercity trains). Consequently this entire episode caused an immense delay to our journey as our bus was delayed to the point that we met with London’s peak hour london traffic all the way back to Victoria… Grr!

The lady bus driver on both my journeys was quite a character: she was quite old but still wore her hair in two blonde pigtails and wore ridiculously bright red blush on her cheeks despite being desperately pale. She also used the talking sat-nav for the ENTIRE EIGHT HOUR BUS JOURNEY FROM LONDON-PARIS, and on the way back from Paris to London. All whilst listening to ABBA. 8 HOURS OF A VERY-POLITELY-LOW-VOLUME PLAYBACK OF SEE THAT GIRL! WATCH THAT SCENE! DIGGING THE DANCING QUEEEEEEEEN! It was so soft and timid, you could not complain. She was a sweetheart. But some of the passengers were quite rude to her because of the delays which were out of her control.

In conclusion: I cannot in good faith recommend the eurolines bus as a means to getting from London to Paris the next time around. It is simply fraught with too many unpredictable factors and the land journey is really very very long and tiring, and on top of that prone to more delays. However, if you are on a severe budget and willing to lower your expectations, then it will be the lowest budget method of getting to and from Paris from London. Eurostar is usually in the £70 range and upwards, and a flight to Charles de Gaulle might be around £60+. A Friday Night bus on Eurolines/National Express booked only one week in advance will cost just £35. Apparently if you book well in advance it might be as low as £9… but who manages to do that?


Girolles / Chanterelles

Whilst visiting Paris, I brought back home a small bag of Golden Chanterelles, aka Girolles (if you’re in France) or Pfifferlinge (if you’re in Germany). They seem to be much more common on the continent and I don’t see them around very often in shops in London unless I’ve gone to the wild mushroom corner of some farmer’s market. They are quite delightful (although not cheap) and I find that these chanterelles have a lot more texture to them and a more ‘meaty’ taste – perhaps in some ways a little bit similar to an oyster mushroom, but very yellow and much more dense and intense in flavour.

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One morning I made a simple dish of girolle accompanied by couscous with raisins. FOR BREAKFAST! Because breakfast can be epic too. The chanterelles were cooked in a pan with some butter, onion and spinach, a splash of rice dream and a few shavings of parmigiano. This was really fast to prepare. It was kind of madeup but I think I like making up recipes as I go along. Couscous was also really simpler to prepare than I recalled; it is similar to the technique of preparing bulgur wheat, you just boil the same amount of water per ml for each gram of couscous, season the water with salt or a stock cube, and then throw the couscous in the boiling water. Take off the heat and cover with a cloth or a plate for 5 minutes. After which the couscous is done and you can fluff it with a fork. I’ve often seen couscous paired with sultanas or currents so I threw some on top…

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Growing Mushrooms, Moss and Lavender – Part I

Growing Mushrooms


I’m currently trying to grow Oyster Mushrooms. I bought a small quantity of oyster mushroom spawn on ebay recently – the substrate used appears to be millet. After that, I boiled a bog roll (white, no inks, no fragrance) in a pot of water and then when the bog roll had cooled down, I scattered some mushroom spawn on it and inbetween its layers. To be honest I’m not sure if I’m doing it the right way, but we’ll check back on these babies in a week’s time. Right now they are hiding underneath a box in our rather warm room…

I have wondered about this but I do not think the mushroom spores pose any direct risk to humans – or do they? I mean, we are not going to have an outbreak of mushrooms everywhere in this room, right? Surely it can’t be that easy to cultivate mushrooms. I mean, if it were so simple to have an outbreak of mushroom then wouldn’t everyone with a slightly damp and dark house have mushrooms growing right out of everything, and wouldn’t then people capitalise on that and eat home-cultivated mushrooms all day long?

Growing Moss

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Another thing I’ve been doing is attempting to grow Moss. MOSS! It is very plentiful on the walls and pavements of West Bank. One day I went out and scraped a container’s worth of moss from one of the front walls of our house, after which I broke the moss down into little bits and mixed it down with some Sainsbury’s Basics Yoghurt and leftover beer. The yoghurt and beer serve as food for the moss bits, I was actually going to do a comparison of which works better (beer or yoghurt) but I realised that the yoghurt actually acts as a glue, hence the prevalence of people using buttermilk or yoghurt as without this ingredient it will not stick to surfaces. So I just mixed in some yoghurt with all of the moss. I applied this strange smelling moss sludge to the balconey. It hasn’t turned mouldy yet which is great, but it probably will take a few weeks to reconstitute together…

Growing Lavender

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Finally, this is a picture of Georges II the Lavender Plant, who has grown from a cutting from a pot of Lavender I bought in Paris last year. Last year around this time, George the human brought a small cutting back from my pot in Paris and stuck this bit of lavender into a pot of soil. Unexpectedly, the clipping of lavender now known as Georges II did not die from the trauma of being suddenly cut and rudely stuffed in a pocket and carried to London, but actually has continued to grow and thrive to this day. I hope that Georges II will have many more happy years on the West Bank Balcony….


The plant formerly known as Georges I (RIP 2012, due to overzealous watering on my part)

See also: A Mini Tour-de-Paris for a Pot of Lavender

Tilemill – Conditional Label Placement, Pseudo 3D Building Effects, and Polygon Patterns

Tilemill is an excellent tool for map design and development, which really provides ease of use through CartoCSS. For me, I think it is very accessible for designers/artists who might not have a clue about arc/gis but just want to design a map decently. Today I’m finalising the maps for my Paris Postdated project so I sat down to figure out a few things…

Conditional Label Placements

Microsoft Excel

I read a guide suggesting this method, which works. The funny thing is that I have not gotten it to properly “not overlap” in the past, and by setting it to “text-allow-overlap:false;” this usually results in NO LABELS at all. And in the end, sometimes I just want ONE or TWO labels to be done in another direction.


Solution: Created a new column called dir, and when dir = 1 it will be aligned to NW instead of NE.

Pseudo 3D Effects


Pseudo 3D effects can be gotten for buildings as well. If my data had building heights (which sadly it does not) then I could multiply my height value by the actual height of the building! In other words, instead of this:

#building { building-height:5; }

you could actually have this (where “height” is the field in for your building height):

#building { building-height:[height]*5; }

Basically, values drawn onto the maps can be derived directly from attributes in one’s data source. So there is some room to be inventive in how you map out the values. Seems to work for a number of fields such as marker-width and marker-height and building-height. Probably works for directions/orientation of labels if your data has that…

Polygon Patterns

Another way in which to add texture to the maps is overlaying a pattern file over polygons. You can make your own, or alternatively Subtle Patterns has a whole bunch of useful patterns which are very suitable for overlaying onto your maps.

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There is a list of Compositing Operations (comp-op) available, including plus, minus, color-dodge, color-burn, invert, etc. You can use this to composite the pattern layer over the original colours selected, so the colours can be still fine-tuned live, along the way….

Map {

In addition to that, there is also polygon-gamma (which you can set to around 0.5-1 and which will help make polygons sit together more seamlessly) and polygon-pattern-alignment, which can be local or global. Local means its just for that polygon, global mean its aligned to the overall metatile instead of each of the individual polygons. Here is an example of Singapore with some patterns…

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Well that was bit tiny. Also, these are only very simple, design-related operations. I’m having more difficulties figuring out how to use PostgreSQL and PostGIS to clean up some stuff, but I thought I’d at least document the easy parts first!…

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.


Maps without Buildings (2011-Present)


Ellipsis (2013, London)


Lichen Mountain (2011, Cornwall)


Le Petit Arbre (2012, Paris)


Gepenstermauer (2011, Berlin)


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 “”, 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 –



More Photo Documentation of, the exhibition.

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


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


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

On the Rights of Rocks to Stay or to Go


Yesterday, a strange incident occurred here in Stamford Hill. It was somewhere after midnight when there was suddenly a loud shattering of glass in the room. No one was hurt, but the whole room was covered in small glass fragments, even in the bookshelves. We had been facing the other wall when it happened. We looked at the lightbulbs to see if they had blown, but in the end discovered the source of all the broken glass was a gaping hole in the window. Somebody or something had broken the window with some projectile. We could not ascertain if it had been a rock or a pellet gun or something more sinister, so we called the police to let them know – just in case it had been a serial incident in the area.


After we had called the police, we discovered a small half-rock on the sofa. By half-rock I mean a rock that looked like it had been shattered into two by a hammer. Unfortunately, as people who have been following my blog or my work will know, I collect rocks (and half-rocks in particular). This is probably the first time that I’ve discovered any downside to being a rock collector, and that would be: Not being sure if the rock on the sofa is the projectile that someone just used to break the window – or just another a rock from your rock collection?…

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Example: Thames River half-rocks from my rock collection

So when Hackney police called back (and came by to file the report), we told them about the rock but with the caveat that that one of us was a rock collector and could not tell for sure if it was our rock or the offending projectile. This did, however, prompt me to take out my bag full of Thames rocks and Paris rocks and I examined all of them. Based on its appearance, it seemed like it could conceivably be one of my rocks… but what would it be doing in the sofa that we frequently dusted off and rearranged? It was a far leap from G’s mantlepiece. And the angle was all wrong for it to have come from the hole in the window…

“You can go ahead and touch the rock,” the policeman said when he came around, “we can’t take fingerprints on rocks or test for minerals or fibers, or that sort of thing.” Good thing to know next time you need to commit a crime with a rock… They ain’t gonna to be able to do much forensics with it after all…

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Later that night, after we had picked up most of the glass off the carpet, I decided to pick up and read The Book of Books which I picked up at dOCUMENTA(13). The book itself is ridiculously huge (23 x 6.1 x 28 cm) and heavy (2.5kg), so I have been deliberating on whether to take the book back to Singapore in my check-in luggage.

Since I can’t take an infinite amount of things in my luggage, I’ve taken the precautions of mailing back parcels of the large and heavy items I had accumulated over the last few months. Recently, I also shipped back a number of very heavy slabs of pavement rocks from Paris – rocks that technically had no value except that they were pavement rocks that I had collected by hand and exhibited in a show. People have been asking me whether I would bring the rocks back to Singapore – and I did think for a very long time about whether I should remove them from their country of origin. But there was no conceivable way that I could leave them there where I had found them, where no one would know their significance to me; how could I ever justify throwing them out? So, I was compelled to take them with me, no matter what. But 20kg of rocks is very expensive to ship from France to Singapore. Firstly, without the help of Elio I would never have been able to even shift them to the post office as they were too heavy for me to carry on my own; and secondly, as it was to be expected, it was enormously expensive to ship them back to Singapore: the resultant shipping for 20kg of rocks cost a few hundred Euros… and on top of that, they are still somewhere lost in transit as we speak… I suppose 20kg of rocks in a cardboard wrapping would look pretty suspicious…


The weight of these items – which prevents them from being physically transported in a convenient or casual fashion – also gives them certain import. For example, after all these travels about Europe, I know for a certainty now that any single piece of luggage exceeding 28kg is physically impossible for me to lift – or so much as feebly drag along the ground, no matter how much I desire it. The truth of the matter is that it is physically impossible for me to lift any piece of luggage that is heavier than 28kg. If I had found a rock that was 28kg heavy, there would be absolutely no question of asking if I would carry the rock home with me because it would not be physically possible to do so in the first place.

I read Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev’s opening essay to The Book of Books with much interest because it involves a story about another abortive attempt to move a very big rock. She writes about one of the few projects that was publicly announced but eventually did not come to fulfillment at dOCUMENTA(13) – the proposal by Argentinian artists Guillermo Faivovich and Nicholas Goldberg to bring El Chaco, the second largest meteorite in the world, from its original resting place north of Argentina, to a temporary location in Kassel that would have been not far from Walter De Maria’s Vertical Earth Kilometre (a metal rod of 5cm diameter that appears as a flat circular disc when viewed from the top but which goes 1km deep into the ground).

Apparently Argentine law prohibits the removal of any of the meteorite fragments from the Chaco province, but had made a turn-around and approved the move of El Chaco specifically for the purposes of documents, with the provincial government citing it as a chance to spread awareness of the impoverished area of Chaco and its meteorites. However, there was opposition to the move from the aboriginal Moqoit natives for whom the El Chaco is a sacred monument, backed by scientists, some of whom have written passionately on the issue.


Image from

As quoted in many articles, one of the most outspoken of letters is from a social anthropologist Alejandro López who wrote: “We firmly believe that this project implies a deeply colonialist attitude, wherein the artists’ desire is to link themselves with the wealth and valuables of the Chaco. Instead of this “transfer” of the meteorite as a sort of “cosmic curiosity,” it would be preferable for those who have the money and prestige to seek to promote the value of the meteorite within its place of origin.”

Searching for other articles on El Chaco, I have to admit that I found it somewhat maddening that most if not all of the news reports follow in the same tone as the letter above, condemning the artists’ intentions as “colonial” or upholding some manner of “deeply colonial attitudes” towards the ways in which “cultural objects” are to be handled.

An AFP report has the headline: “An unlikely alliance between the native Moqoit people and leading Argentine scientists has thwarted plans to ship the world’s second largest meteorite to Germany as a prestigious art exhibit.”

Thwarted! As if the artists were an evil and cruel money-grubbing force trying to steal the rock from the poor poor natives! No doubt, it remains indefensible that the artists failed to consult the Moqoit before submitting the proposal, and that past attempts by colonialists to steal their meteorites (because it was made of metal) have left “serious cultural damage” and left the Moqoit with a legacy of “suspicion and insecurity” towards anyone who should make advances on their rock.

But to chalk every subsequent proposal to move El Chaco down to an act of colonialism is surely just as much subjugating the Moquoi natives and forcing them to keep playing the role of “victim” — trapped within the old colonised-vs-colonialist mindset!

To cry “colonialist” is like falling into the trap of the “anti-colonial” stance; it perpetuates the old narratives of imperialism, colonialism, conquest, oppression, emancipation, etc; it expects that the stories should play out as power struggles between the oppressed and the oppressor; it expects that everyone in the world still has identities fixed by cultural or geographical origins; it expects that artists should make works which then have to be explained from their country of origin or socio-economic background or upbringing. And that is just so… boring.

Carolyn Christov-Bakagiev: “And what if we asked ourselves, beyond this irresolvable contradiction, what it was to see things from the position of the meteorite? It had travelled through vertiginous space before landing on Earth and settling. Would it have wished to go on this further journey? Does it have any rights, and if so, how can they be exercised? Can it asked to be buried again, as some of the Moqoit argue, or would it have enjoyed a short trip to an art exhibition, rather than a science or world’s fair? (…) What is this displaced position, generated by the perception of a simultaneous being in different spaces, where the collapse of time and distance provokes a new sense of what it means to be always in one place, and not in another place?”

“Primavera” – Vernissage on 16 Nov 2012

Thank you to all who came down to our Vernissage on 16 Nov 2012. The exhibition is still open until 1 Dec at Immanence (21 Av du Maine) so if you are in Paris please do come down to visit while its there!

Here are some photos from opening night.


Before the opening: Hafiz, Debbie, Valentine, and Elio!






We were honoured to receive a visit by the Singapore Ambassador to France, Tan York Chor.




A few people from National Arts Council in Singapore also flew in specially to support our show!







Some of our friends also living at the Recollets also came by!
















And thanks to George South for helping to take these excellent photos.

“Primavera” – Works by artists at the Dena Foundation Paris Residency 2012-2013

Elio Germani - Postcar (Work-in-progress) (2012)

Elio Germani – Postcar (Work-in-progress) (2012)

Hafiz Osman - Dessiner moi KOTA Paris (2012)

Hafiz Osman – Dessiner moi KOTA Paris (2012)

Debbie Ding - Extracts from A Record of Postdated Memories (2012)

Debbie Ding – Extracts from A Record of Postdated Memories (2012)

Les artistes de la Dena Foundation présentent leurs projets effectués pendant la résidence 2012-2013. Avec le soutien du National Arts Council of Singapour.

Primavera évoque bien sûr le printemps, et aussi les (re)-commencements. Qu’est-ce qu’être un artiste qui recommence ailleurs ? Comment habiter un espace où je ne fais que passer sans tomber dans la standardisation ? Comment intégrer le lieu d’accueil et créer mon propre chemin à l’intérieur d’une forêt de signes étrangers ? Comment manipuler l’iconographie pour sortir de mon propre folklore ? Comment Paris me met en mouvement ? Comment procéder à l’élagage, au transcodage, à la traduction ?

“Exposition dans le cadre de la programmation culturelle hors-les-murs à l’occasion de l’exposition Retour à l’intime, la collection Giuliana et Tommaso Setari à la Maison Rouge (réseau Tram) – 20/10/2012- 13/01/2013”