by Ang Kia Yee

The last few days plus today have had me swept up in an energetic thrust of cleaning, tidying, reordering, reviving routines I’ve fallen off from. I’ve really enjoyed it too, vaccuuming and wiping the floor with my eco-friendly cleaning solution, trimming the part of my hair that has been a little thicker than its matching side, wiping down my desk, doing a few rounds of laundry (machine, handwash, different clothing groups, etc. etc.), tidying the mess of jewelry and coins I keep by my room door, even (for whatever mad reason) ironing some shirts. (I never, ever, Ever iron my clothing. I simply do not care enough. But now maybe I do, a little? Ironing was fun.)

I also managed to go running both yesterday and today, in the morning. I’ve not really spent time with the morning running crowd before, so it was a bit of a treat to people-watch and get a sense of them as I went round and round the track. A lot of funny habits have also slipped into my life over the past weeks, like applying sunblock… Again, I generally have not cared about this? But suddenly I feel attentive to my body, I want to be clean and healthy, I want to re-engage with this locus of expression.

I am thinking a lot about DPR Live, this Korean musician I discovered recently. I am not interested in his music, but I watched a few interviews and felt quite comforted by his personality. I felt I was looking at someone I could be or already am close to in spirit, even if I really don’t vibe with the commercial-ness and materialistic quality of his projects under DPR. The things he said in the interviews, about not being ashamed to make money as an artist, about his rather boring and work-oriented routine – they resonated with me. I feel we are similarly attached to our work, in a way that may isolate us from the world, or at least make our daily habits and social bubbles quite specific and contained.

It reminded me of this thread about Scorpio risings I read recently, which was fun and curious until I got to: “10h leo – aims to be recognized for their great capabilities and contributions to society, for their hard work and regal persona. but this alienates self from others in a different way, admiration and regard is not a substitute for connection and relationships”. I froze for a moment and laughed internally and loudly – somewhere at the centre of my small brain I heard a long “ha haha ha ha hahahahha ha” and perhaps on the surface I smiled. Astrology is not the be-all and end-all of anything, but when something hits you it hits you. I got slapped in the face.

I have been wondering about that for days. I don’t know what about it bothers me, because it’s also a kind of assumption, right, that it’s a binary, that there are no overlaps between regard and relationships, and that one needs such and such intensity and quantity of connection to be un-alienated. I guess I wonder about my own sense of alienation from the world and people at large, and whether, at this point of peace and acceptance, it really is such a bad thing anymore. For a while my alienation made me write strange and sad things, it made me make a friend and challenge of language through my bid to articulate as precisely and truly as I could. For a while it did make me feel far away and alone in my life. And then when I was alienated from my body and sense of immersion within life and its concepts, I felt like a sentient awareness that had been assigned to this avatar and timespace, this strange physical world I do not originate from. Sometimes I still feel this way, and I feel confused that I am this awareness and consciousness too, I find it strange that I wake up and I am still here in this state and space and time.

For the most part, though, my alienation has aided me in my life, in the specific way I have become and can contribute to the world. I knew this when I chose to go to Warwick, where I knew a degree of isolation and singularity was inevitable due to the demographics of the Singaporean community that went there, as well as the more business- and management-oriented nature of the university. I knew that I thrive when I feel unique and singular, even alone, in my work, especially when there is virtually no one to compete with but myself. I also knew that I would thrive when I am somewhat misunderstood or incomprehensible (which my Singaporean counterparts easily made me feel), when the work I do is beyond capture by another person, even if generously and truthfully.

It worked. I thrived. Though the loneliness did hurt me toward the end, the alienation was fruitful. It was a condition and space within which I grew rapidly, earnestly. For me, the most important thing is that alienation gives me space to stew my ideas, and especially without the influence of other people, works, and ongoing trends. (At least to a large extent la – I know that a totally sealed membrane is not possible in this world.) I’m too susceptible, so I have to have walls against the outside, to avoid producing something that’s a boring derivative or reproduction which offers nothing new. That kind of work might still be beautiful, moving and exciting to experience,,, but I’m not interested in making that kind of work in this brief time I have.

Re: Warwick, I think I was lucky to find a place that both alienated me and had a pool of wise, kind and genuinely interested professors, many of whom were extremely generous to me, whether by listening to me or offering feedback and advice. And to be frank, I still hold on to a lot of their compliments and suggestions now. In a way, they catalyzed a large part of my confidence. And I know (even if I may sound full of myself and ridiculous) that a lack of confidence is all that can hold me back now. It doesn’t mean that my work will be good if I become confident. That’s still something I need to be attentive and devoted toward. But it means that my forward thrust and movement as a person and maker, the continued development of my ideas and my presentation of them to others, etc… These things are limited by confidence first, then, of course, time, space and money second. I lead a lucky, privileged and happy life, so I will make good on it.

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Cycling back to DPR Live and the way he is inspiring me and making me think, I’ve been encountering a lot of good artistic energy and works of late. Because I am so rarely inspired by others’ work (which I think is my greatest problem – a lack of generosity & openness – and greatest strength – stubbornness and a clear sense of what I like and believe in), it has really felt like a blue moon event, and it has occurred not just once but twice in the past week or so.

The first has been Someone Else by John Hughes, an incredibly white- and cis-male-centric book (lol sigh) which experiments with form, voice and the act of writing in ways that really excite me and feel align with my own interests and intentions. Despite the very male and white line-up Hughes chose to ventriloquize, I have not felt so seen by and so intent on seeing a piece of writing since I read A Tale for the Time Being. This is not so much about the quality of writing (I’ve read quite a few good things this year!), but that sense of being known. Suddenly I discovered my ideas and desires in the mouth of another person, in the body of another text. A joyous sort of shock, and a sense of foolishness (egotistical hubristic nonsense) that I ever thought myself alone. I am coming to the end of the book now, very slowly. This one is an intellectual/spiritual immersion, more than an emotional immersion.

The second thing has been Spirit Advance Unit by Kim Oki. Such a gem of an album. I love the jazz, I love the speaking of text, the voice and spirit of it all. And it’s a good movement too, down the sequence of tracks. I am not a big jazz listener but this is really… really something special.

Okay. This really was such a wanky, self-centred post. I know this is my blog and all but I feel kind of embarrassed. If you read it all, uh… thank you! Ha. Why am I adopting this chatty voice now as if we’re talking to each other? I don’t know.