Gone are the days when we entered a bookstore, scoured desperately for a bookshelf titled “Singapore Literature” only to leave with the staff telling us, “Got the Social Studies book. You want?” These days, we can take a trip to local independent bookstores like Booktique Where Writers Shop and BooksActually, and satiate ourselves with the Cyril Wongs and Philip Jeyaretnams of our times. Flip through a book and you can find a musing on a neighbourhood in Ang Mo Kio or a poetic observation about an uncle selling teh-tarik. Singapore literature has irrefutably undergone a paradigm shift from cries of national identity to wonders of the sights and sounds of the streets, bringing with it a new, emerging breed of storytellers.
Spotlighting a pool of established local writers, The British Council has taken a leap with this shift, forming a literary platform for works that have captured the metropolis life. Entitled “Writing the City“, this platform currently features six writers from diverse backgrounds, each one adding a voice to the Singapore narrative. Their collection of works have been presented in the form of book trailers in collaboration with local media and multi-disciplinary artists, extending the ways in which one consumes stories.
We managed to speak with award-winning author of “The Goddess in the Living Room“, Latha, and visual anarchist, ClogTwo (a.k.a. Eman), to discuss about their achievements, struggles as artists and hopes for the local arts scene. In this second part of a two-part series, find out more about ClogTwo and how his name came about, his upcoming works, and the future of graffiti in Singapore.
On Writing the City
Popspoken: Firstly, congratulations on having your work presented as part of Writing the City! I thought your book trailer on Hassan Hasaa’ree Ali’s Homeostasis was gripping and refreshing! There was a lot of darkness and a progression towards an empty and almost sinister world.
Could you share with us more about your vision behind this trailer and how you went about creating the illustrations? Why did you (or possibly Hassan) decide on this particular snippet from the text?
ClogTwo: “Hassan’s novel is like a portal into another dimension, not another world, but an alternate dimension. In my vision, his story teleported me to a place where concrete blocks grew uncontrollably like the amazon forest. It was grey, cold, and lifeless. It was something about the advancement of the technological era that disrupts humanity’s behavior; the sense of sincerity was hard to find. I was working closely with System Sovereign, and we decided to take a particular snippet that has a juxtaposition of science and religion in its content, that made it relatable and intimidating.”
I found the concept of book trailers pretty unique because we usually come across visual depictions of books through full-length films. What is your take on visual book trailers? To what extent have they helped audiences understand more about the story?
“Telling a story with the aid of trailers is far more challenging than telling a novel with a duration of 90 minutes or more. The shorter the time frame, the lesser amount of content you can fit inside to deliver the message across to your audiences. And trailers are meant to excite you without the need of ending the story. It’s like a fable; every narration guides the audiences into the peak of the story and leaves them hanging, craving for the conclusion. But through Hassan’s alternate dimension, it’s plot flowers into unexpected truth.”
On being a multi-disciplinary artist
You identify as a visual anarchist. Any reason why?
“When you rebel against something, the first thing that comes to your mind is a negative perception of intention. But what if you look at the idea as a cup half full? An anarchist has strong foundation in what he believes in; his motive and agendas are grounded. He will fight for what he believes brings rights personally or as a community. Everything begins with an intention, followed by an idea and finally, the execution.”
Just curious.. how did the name ‘ClogTwo’ come about?
“It began in the year 2004, where I first landed my first graffiti piece in a sewage. It was wet, grimy, and quiet. It was a fail mission, I didn’t manage to finish the piece because my spray cans choked, and in graffiti we use the term “clog” to relate to choked spray cans. And “two” is a duplicate of oneself, for there is someone better than you and one should always stay humble.”
You’ve mentioned on your website that you were very much influenced by your parents from a very young age. That’s very heartening to hear because living in a place like Singapore, there’s a pressure on youngsters to do “practical” jobs as opposed to something that seems unconventional. What inspired you to turn your passion into a profession and how did you go about breaking that mould?
“My parents have always been supportive of me as a child, even to this day. Every child needs a little push in life, a little motivation that carries their passion further into a career. My parents carefully crafted the mould. They were painters, and they helped me in many projects when I was in primary school. The knowledge they had passed down into knowledge that I harvested and cultivated into a field of creativity for the people to accept and wonder. I never actually did all this for the name or wealth. I just wanted to create visuals into actual tangible objects from the depths of the mind.”
Your works have been featured both locally and internationally. You will also be having an upcoming exhibition ‘Of Prophecies and Agendas’ this December in collaboration with Inkten. What can audiences expect from it? How has your work evolved over the years from the time you first started illustrating professionally?
“Inkten and I have been collaborating for the past 5 years and our works have evolved and fused over the years. Our style has evolved from detailed drawings to calculative geometric works. And with the interest in social and human behaviours, the upcoming show, entitled “Of Prophecies & Agendas” is an exploration of our current human condition and its infrastructure. We have carefully chosen 3 other legendary new media artists such as Yellowmushmellow, The Supersystem and Im_Ran to collaborate with us.”
On Singapore’s graphic/media design scene
With all its restriction, would you say that graffiti art is a dying art? What would further its survival?
“Graffiti manifests from the idea of impermanence. There are certain places and areas that are unseen and restricted to the public eyes. And at times, you may see a piece of art magically planted in the streets when you’re sleeping. It other words, based on quantum physics, what you can’t see, doesn’t mean it’s not there. Graffiti may seem inactive in person, yet silently, they produce the most genuine existence of human life form in a grey city of robots.”
Watch ClogTwo‘s book trailer on “Homeostasis” here:
Of Prophecies and Agendas by ClogTwo and Inkten
When: 11 December 2015, 7pm
Where: Glitch Gallery Singapore, 188-8 Tanjong Katong Road
Find out more about ClogTwo here.
They are young, passionate, and have a lot to say. Meet author Latha and visual anarchist ClogTwo in a two-part series on “Writing the City” as it celebrates a blooming pool of local talent.