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In Telok Ayer They Thrust – Megan Miao, Susie Wong, Zulkhairi Zulkiflee

November 21, 2018 Lifestyle No Comments Email Email

In a bid to add a little risqué to the festivities in the Central Business District (CBD), Telok Ayer Arts Club is now showing the works of three Singaporean artists in tell me how they kiss you, tell me how you kiss – a group artist showcase from now until 12 January 2019 that explores the tropes of pleasure and desire, the consumption of romance and the Malay masculinity.

“It’s 12pm at Telok Ayer, and workers pour out of the tall, grey buildings that line the CBD, only to mill languorously over a mandated hour of sustenance, long queues and smokes. All through their day: the façade of solitary tasks, routine efficiency, polite civility and mindless small talk – they all conceal the insatiable need for intimacy. Love and desire are the catalyst for insurrection in Rod Smith’s poem pour le CGT: We work too hard. / We’re too tired / To fall in love. / Therefore we must / Overthrow the government.”

What started as an outward-gazing observation from the confines of Telok Ayer Arts Club is now a reckoning force put on full display, as curator Kamiliah Bahdar brings together three homegrown artists—each of different practices, stripes and years to their names—in a group show designed to accost the CBD dweller and assimilate their everyday with themes of romance and intimacy, sexuality and sensuality, and the ever-consuming gaze.

Titled tell me how they kiss you, tell me how you kiss and taking place from 20 November 2018 to 12 January 2019, the exhibition will see artists Megan Miao, Susie Wong and Zulkhairi Zulkiflee transform the Arts Club into a den for exploration of the entangled relationships with both ourselves and others. The eight-week showcase will feature neverseen-before works that span the mediums of drawings on paper, ceramic sculptures and photography, as well as artist-led and live music events – that together crafts the cultural codes, the gaps, the dangers and the pitfalls of our desires.

Megan Miao (b. 1992) presents her new series, Compactible (2018), which comprises objects and charcoal drawings of erotic biomorphic forms meant to articulate and incite feelings of desire. This body of work draws inspiration from a DIY Sex Toy Workshop she conducted in 2016, which went beyond approaching sex toys as physiological instruments for inducing sexual pleasure, but also delved into the psychological need for intimacy and personal expressions of sensuality and desire. It is these notions that Megan distils into her uncoloured, vitrified and textured clay objects that curve subtly and snugly within the hand—embodying closeness and connection—and hopes to revisit in a new DIY Sex Toy Workshop which she will conduct as part of the showcase.

Where Megan’s work delves into the idealised intrasubjective relationship with pleasure and desire, Susie Wong (b. 1956) explores the inter-subjective notion of romance through the 1960s cult film, The World of Suzie Wong, that tells the tired tale of a struggling American artist and the beautiful Chinese prostitute who captured his heart. Convinced that a romantic relationship is imbued with power codes—who takes care of whom, who surrenders, who conquers and how love is performed— Susie repeats and circulates these tropes through various media, as if to devour her audience in the sentiment. In her four nebulous drawings, she draws a tight focus into the male lead: his eyes closed and mouth agape; marred with an expression that flirts between pain, torment, ecstasy and release; and the line “don’t leave me” in Malay, Mandarin and Cantonese beneath – a testament to the universality of romantic codes and the language of love.

In the photography of Zulkhairi Zulkiflee, he explores the masculinity of the working-class male Malay youth, and the neo-colonial gaze that essentialises it. Captured within a domestic setting, the Malay youth is accompanied by a frog-shaped ashtray and a book of poems by celebrated Indonesian poet Chairil Anwar. The frog references the Malay proverb “seperti katak di bawah tempurung” (like a frog underneath a coconut shell) used to describe a person who chooses to remain wilfully ignorant, while Anwar is famous for his poem Aku containing the line “Aku ini binatang jalang / Dari kumpulannya terbuang” (I am a solitary animal / Cut off from its herd). Where the former alludes to the perception of Singapore’s racialised underclass, the latter moulds in the mind the colonial construct of the male Malay body as a rogue, animalistic nature. The three digital photographs play with these layers of historically transmitted prejudices, that through our complicit gaze, are folded into the sculpted physique of his subject.

In response to the lyrical sensualism that underscores the show, the bar and culinary teams emerge from the drawing board once again with a limited-time Arts Clubs Specials menu that will be available throughout the duration of the show. A Whole Lot of Head (S$20++) is a cheeky take on the classic Ramos Gin Fizz that, only after a series of long, hard shakes, is heady with cream and frothy to a fault. From the kitchen, Glass Petals (S$10++) is a seethrough snack of peppery potato shards presented in a floral arrangement that’s tingly and subtle at once.

Special events planned throughout the show include a Viewing with the Artists on Saturday, 24 November; a DIY Sex Toy Workshop with Megan Miao in the afternoon of Saturday, 8 December, and an Artist Talk with Susie Wong on Tuesday, 8 January. Left-field music heads can also look forward to the final TAAC: LIVE! of the year on Tuesday, 11 December, where experimental music collective KAIZENXSOUNDLAB will fill the Arts Club with a hodgepodge of instruments, genres and soundscapes – from gamelan and Malay traditional percussion, to guitar and sound design.

SPECIAL EVENTS
tell me how they kiss you, tell me how you kiss: Viewing with the Artists

Date: Saturday, 24 November 2018

Time: 2.00pm – 4.00pm

Location: Telok Ayer Arts Club, 2 McCallum Street, Singapore 069043

RSVP: https://www.facebook.com/events/756121401391566/

Details: Artists Megan Miao, Susie Wong and Zulkhairi Zulkiflee will be present for a viewing that is open to all. Here’s a chance to hear from the artists themselves about their artworks, their practice, and their take on romance and intimacy, sexuality and sensuality, and the ever-consuming gaze.

tell me how they kiss you, tell me how you kiss: DIY Sex Toy Workshop with Megan Miao

Date: Saturday, 8 December

Time: 2.00pm – 4.00pm

Location: Telok Ayer Arts Club, 2 McCallum Street, Singapore 069043

Price: S$20 per pax

RSVP: Email contactus@telokayerartsclub.sg to register

Details: Led by artist Megan Miao, the DIY sex toy workshop will guide participants in designing their own individually specific and idealised objects for pleasure. Through the process, we will explore what it means to design for pleasure, the limits of what a sex toy can be, as well as stigmas around sex toys and play. The workshop is open-ended in nature, with each individual handcrafting their own object to satisfy their own definition of a sex toy. In doing so, we reach subjective conclusions about our own desires – be it sexual or sensual. There are no pre-requisites for signing up for the workshop, but it is recommended for individuals open to craft, drawing and dialogue with a cheeky sense of humour. $20 per pax includes all materials and a choice of coffee/tea and a pastry, or a cocktail from our Social Hours menu. Participants get to bring (only) their own toy home. Limited to 10 pax only.

tell me how they kiss you, tell me how you kiss: Artist Talk with Susie Wong

Date: Tuesday, 8 January 2019

Time: 8.00pm – 9.30pm

Location: Telok Ayer Arts Club, 2 McCallum Street, Singapore 069043

Details: Engage in an evening with artist Susie Wong, as she explores the intersubjective notion of romance through the 1960s cult film, The World of Suzie Wong, that tells the tired tale of a struggling American artist and the beautiful Chinese prostitute who captured his heart. Convinced that a romantic relationship is imbued with power codes—who takes care of whom, who surrenders, who conquers and how love is performed—Susie repeats and circulates these tropes through various media, as if to devour her audience in the sentiment.

TAAC: LIVE! with KAIZENXSOUNDLAB

Date: Tuesday, 11 December

Time: 9.00pm – 10.30pm

Location: Telok Ayer Arts Club, 2 McCallum Street, Singapore 069043

RSVP: https://www.facebook.com/events/322731054978738/

Details: KAIZENXSOUNDLAB is a collective of four musicians—Ridwan Ramli, Syafiq Halid, Alif Syazwan and Rosemainy—who come from different backgrounds and genres. ranging from gamelan and Malay traditional percussion, to guitar and sound design. Together, they explore and experiment with the capabilities of their various instruments, and blend them into one creation. KAIZENXSOUNDLAB came together as part of a oneyear residency programme with The Kaizen M.D., a performing arts collective that gathers young artists from various art disciplines with the aim of creating multidisciplinary works.

TAAC:LIVE! is a quarterly live music embodiment of the Arts Club’s spirit of inclusivity and bending the rules. With an inclination towards the left-field and the experimental, TAAC:LIVE! carves out a safe, intimate space for the contemplation of genres that are yet to be normalised, and performers who have yet to find a home – all done live on a Tuesday night in the CBD.

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