Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Melancholy of a Flowering Plant

In 2007, Zai Kuning composed a series of meditative and melancholic music for the film Wonderful Town, directed by Thai director Aditya Assarat. Together with Koichi Shimizu, who focused on digital sound layering, this is Zai’s first attempt at film sound design.

The film, which a ‘lingering, hushed air of apprehension’ (Kelly Vance, San Francisco International Film Festival) runs prominently throughout, has won 2008 Rotterdam International Film Festival Tiger Award and screened in many film festivals such as the Pusan Film Festival and LA Film Festival.

At the Rotterdam Film Festival, Zai and Koichi were invited to play for the opening.

The soundtrack was then recorded as the album: Melancholy of a Flowering Plant. (click for soundtrack)

Seeing further development in his compositions, Zai continues to explore the evocative music from acoustics to folk punk. He has most recently played in an art gallery, Loop-Line, in Tokyo.

Date: 12th July.2008.Saturday
Time: 5pm, 8pm
Venue: Singapore Management University (SMU)
Arts and Culture Centre (Basement of School of Economics)
Entry: $6 or Free Admission with Purchase of Album (at the door sales)

2nd Cycle

The second cycle sees a smaller drawing than the first, but a much more intricate design involving curves and the first pack of brown rice contributed by our friend, Tien.

Throughout the week, as visitors came with packs of rice, the rice amount has been raised close to 1000kg. To our surprise one day, Shiyun received a call from secondary three students from Jurong West Secondary School who wanted to be involved with the community. They decided to talk about this exhibition in their school and conduction a donation drive (of rice). The results will be known this Friday (11 July).

The highlight of the week was the performance by 50 women from H.O.M.E on Sunday afternoon (6th July). Bridget called on night before, saying that the women were rehearsing hard for their performance, which involved harvest dances. On Sunday afternoon, everyone was dressed to the occasion and even brought along props for their dances.

The hour-long performance was filled with enthusiasm from the women themselves, despite technical glitches with the sound system. Their performances may seem cliche to some, if one would look closer, some of the women actually had tears of joy in their eyes after the event.

The day was concluded by the usual ritual of rice clearing. This time, they used hands instead of any other tools.

Zai continues the third cycle of the work. The three-week long exhibition will end this Sunday, 13th July.

More pictures of the work-in-progress

Photo Credits: Vivian Lee, Lin Shiyun

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

A Bowl of Rice - Home

The first cycle of A Bowl of Rice was completed last Friday, 27 June.

"On Sunday, I went to a gallery to see an exhibition. The rice used was 250kg and had 9 pieces of gold in the center. At first, the drawing was small. The artist used a rice bowl to make the patterns. Then it (the drawing) grew bigger day by day and covered the floor. It looks like a carpet.

After I left, I heard that some workers came and cleaned. The rice was packed and poor people took them. I like this exhibition because it helps poor people. But I think the rice will be dirty because it is on the floor."

response to A Bowl of Rice by Yang Seo Yeon, 10 (below)

Indeed, 8 women from H.O.M.E came to assist us in the clearing of the rice. From there, the rice has been distributed to H.O.M.E and Catholic Welfare Service Centre.

H.O.M.E is an independent organization started by an incredible lady, Bridget, and houses 120 women who are migrant domestic workers. Most of them are either abused by their employers or forced to work illegally in shops and were caught by the police. All are awaiting police cases, which take 3 to 6 months, even up to a year.

As I spoke to Bridget, she expressed great enthusiasm to bring the women down to be part of A Bowl of Rice. One concern that she has is that these women have gone through traumatic periods, and positive activities are important to help them take their minds off their misfortune, not to mention recover their trust and confidence in people. The result is a very empowering session where the women cleared the rice, and Zai played drums.

Despite running the shelter for 4 years, Bridget still gets questioned by her friends. “Why are you not helping Singaporeans, but helping foreigners?” To that question, she smiles and responded “It’s almost like we are living in the dark ages... For Singaporeans, there are already organisations helping them, and they have their families with them. These migrant workers… they have nobody here and no where to go to.”

As we got to know more about H.O.M.E, Zai and I decided to pay the centre a visit. It confounded us that a humble three-storey house could shelter 120 women. All in all, it requires about SGD 40,000 to run H.O.M.E per month, not including the men’s shelter which is now under renovation. Despite the fact the Ministry of Manpower refers migrant workers to H.O.M.E for shelter, the organization does not get any governmental funding. Neither does the society at large know about the existence of this organization.

When we were at the centre, the ladies choir sang their hearts out to us and when we asked if they would like to perform in the gallery this coming Sunday (6 July) everybody shouted “Yes!” Bridget emphasised that having such an event gives them something to look forward to, and put aside their troubles for a brief moment. Right now, I believe some of them are already practicing their traditional harvest songs and dance in the centre.

Hence, we to appeal you and your friends to come to the exhibition with a humble rice contribution.
Sunday (6 July) , 2.30pm
Sculpture Square
along Waterloo Street/Middle Road (Map)

Your presence is not only to witness the second cycle of the artwork, but also lend your spiritual and, or, financial support, to all these ladies - strong women who took risks to travel around the world to support their own families, while taking care of ours.

Note: Zai is working in the gallery everyday to complete the drawing. After the 2nd drawing is cleared, he will continue working on the 3rd drawing till 13 July. Gallery opening hours are 11am-6pm

Video Credits: Vincent Yap, Zai Kuning
Photo Credits: Vivian Lee, Lin Shiyun