June 25, 2017

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Ipster Cafe

by Joshua Ip

AT THE “Singapore Perspectives” conference organised by the Institute of Policy Studies, 27-year-old lawyer-poet Amanda Chong accused the development of our arts infrastructure as (and here I begin to quote the Mothership article):

“… a branding exercise grounded in the desire to transform ourselves so we might be attractive to the world’, citing our beautiful galleries and museums as well as the government’s annual $700 million expenditure on the arts.

‘If we continue this trajectory of pursuing a global city built from the outside in while opening our doors wide to the world, we are ultimately closing the doors on ourselves… Singapore’s arts scene is important for our own sake. The arts should not just or even primarily be an instrument of the State to attract global talent.”

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In doing so, she drew the ire of Tommy Koh, but made a strong and strident argument for art for art’s sake. She made three points to back this up. I feel the need to further expand on the three points of her argument, as it seems inadequate to me. In the spirit of “Cabinet Battle” from Hamilton, I have crafted my retorts in a hip-hop beat:


1. The arts teaches us to be more mindful of dissenting views that exist, and enrich our understanding of the truth.

The arts assists the state to be more mindful of those
who must persist in making noise, who try to oppose;
it gathers them in easily-observable groups
so everywhere they feasibly go, Big Brother snoops.
Dissenting views enrich the few with faux independence,
so call a poetry reading and just take the attendance!


2. The arts helps us to see other members of our society as equals and as humans, not as objects to be dealt with.

The arts helps us to see other society members
as inspiration for our literary adventures;
Prostitutes or prisoners or even the Prime Minister
are equal opportunity protagonists in literature!
They won’t object to be subjected to our prolificity,
from nothing, we make something, we’re increasing productivity!
Human interest stories might be individually worthless;
we can monetise them if we just put the right word first!


3. The arts can contribute to the national conversation about our future in a meaningful way.

The arts can contribute to conversation.sg,
by making richer countries think that we are so edgy.
Unlike third world regimes that can be much more demanding
we never censor arts, we only pull back our funding!
If liberals want to gibber about freedom and passion
the free grants that we give will be our kneejerk reaction!

So what is wrong, Amanda Chong, with art not for art’s sake?
Observe the upward market curve that all of us partake.
We started with a junket to take part in this whole damn response
to marketing a market and its artificial Renaissance:
if foreign talent is inherently arts-obsessed,
why can’t our parent-state apparent fake its interest?
So Amanda, I contend there’s nought to contend with,
its fine to sell your soul but please just make it expensive!

P/S: (She plays the part of starving artist slightly too well:
please give her book a look at the attached URL.)



Joshua Ip is a poet and founder of Sing Lit Station, a literary non-profit that organises Singapore Poetry Writing Month, Manuscript Bootcamp, poetry.sg and other activities to promote writing in Singapore.


Featured image by Sean Chong.

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image of a cabinet with many drawers.

by Joshua Ip

MY FRIENDS, the time has come about –
My Cabinet needs clearing out.
My shelves are full, my drawers stacked,
I need to make space from the back
To fit the newer items in
I must throw old ones. Let’s begin.

A Cabinet needs protection, so
One cockroach trap on the inside, Teo!
One cockroach trap outside, Nng Henn,
My wallet tells you I’m Thar Man.
My business card holder is sLim,
My phone rings, “Yaa? Call me, brah, him.”
My pills are Gan, I ate today,
My passport is in order, K.
My address book, they Say, is Swee.
My ezlink card is – well, bo Lui.
I Heng my specs have low degrees.
I already Khaw-llected my house keys!

My water bottle is Vivacious,
My family pictures look Tanacious,
I struggle to recognize the rest –
She looks so Gracefu in that dress,
This label not so good, pan Chan,
I don’t know what that man Iswaran,
I Masa go, kifli one last look,
Oh! You can’t go Wong with a good book.

– Joshua Ip is a cheem poetry writer. His girlfriend says he should try to be less cheem, so liedat lor.


Featured image Filing cabinet by Flickr user mightymightymatzeCC BY-NC 2.0.

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A couple at the WP rally.
HALF DONE: Today's rally mark the half way through the campaigning period. One could only wonder why the PAP did not hold a rally today.

by Joshua Ip

I DON’T know about you, but I just feel very unhappy every day and I’ve been feeling this way since campaigning started. Maybe this is how real democracy is supposed to make you feel. Confused and discontented and hungry to know exactly why.

I don’t like rallies. I don’t like the crowds.
The scrum of getting there and bad 4G,
The speakers dialed to hard-rock concert-loud,
The multilingual scolding aimed at me,
Sometimes I feel I’ve gone back fifty years.
Campaigning has stood still since independence.
One big getai. The scripted jeers and cheers,
The empty seat nobody fails to reference,
The plot and characters both paper-thin,
You tell the good and bad guys by their color.
The audience knows each tune before they sing,
When everybody’s singing for their supper.

This is 2015! I would like graphs
And spreadsheets that someone can explain to me
Cogently, in well-formed paragraphs,
Not stadiums filled with shouters, bores and loonies.
We have the internet and all its ways –
Nobody reads a man by how he speaks
These days. I want to see their resumes
Laid out side by side in infographics
Their PSLE scores, L1R5,
CCA points, when they last made the news,
Their list of boy/girlfriends, husbands or wives
Since puberty, complete with top reviews,
Their horoscope, blood type, birth date and time,
Their height, their weight, IPPT award,
Their lifetime total parking ticket fines,
Even their kid’s PSLE records.
I also need day-by-day Power Rankings,
Bookie’s odds, the best Team of the Week,
Each speech subject to multiple fact-checkings
To catch them lying even as they speak.

Because I’m both excited and afraid
That I have a real choice and I must make it
And I don’t dare to cast it easily swayed
By demagogues who simply smile and fake it
But all the news reads like an animal farm
That feeds a public hungry for sound bytes
Too fast to jump at words, swiftly alarmed,
Analysis is either blue or white.
With too many opinions, few hard facts
Now all I am is stuck between diminished
Quotes which I can’t take out of context
And videos which I’m too lazy to finish.


– Joshua Ip is a cheem poetry writer. His girlfriend says he should try to be less cheem, so liedat lor.


Featured photo by Chong Yew Kong.

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