elemental embodiment

2012 red boots

This day seven years ago, I got on a flight from Singapore to Sydney to take up my PhD scholarship at the University of New South Wales College of Fine Arts, now called UNSW Art & Design.

I was not to know then, as I snapped this photo of my favourite Doc Martens boots with my trusty old iPad, sitting at the boarding gate in Changi Airport, that I was embarking on the most fulfilling and happiest years of my life. And I had no idea that I would finally find the companionship and love that I had searched for unsuccessfully all my life. Continue reading

étude in Z

 

 

In 2015, I created and presented Sonata in Z, from which emerged my now signature concept, “Clement Space“, first installed as its own entity in 2017 at The BIG Anxiety Festival, Sydney, Australia. Thereafter, Clement Space has been installed in different sites and situations, its enduring and developing presence attests to the universal need for respite, especially in frenetic, chaotic cityscapes.

Since then, I’ve been conscious about finding my own pockets of Clement Space too. Most of them are small studies in the state of clemency and grace, little spontaneous moments that bring sparks of Autistic Joy, or miniature physical podlets of rest and restoration found and taken in the midst of fluttering, swirling and trundling through the day – not as large as a sonata, they are tiny études amidst daunting and domineering Wagnerian Symphonic Pulverisations. That chuckling shadow of Artaud does add liberal doses of vim and spice to my struggle with Wagner, but Clement Space – inspired by my beloved Lucy Like-a-Charm – is my antidote.

While helping mother locate a lost DC adaptor plug, digging around her drawers, I found some forgotten treasures that belonged to my late father, which mother kindly let me have.

A kidney shaped stainless steel tray containing various surgical and dental tools, and a minuscule pill-box sized leather case with two Chinese name seals inside.

There is a wealth of history behind each of these, but today is not the day to spin long stories. I am happy inside this mental clement space, this suspended moment in time and place, just from having found these objects which reach back into time, connecting me to the individual journeys that each item undertook while in my father’s possession. He is gone now, but a part of him – known and mysteriously unknown – is embedded within. And they are now mine, from Dr. Leong to Dr. Leong, captured inside this moment that I now call, “Étude in Z”.

face value

Clement resolution has been reached, after a hurried decrescendo from the screeching fortissimo so loudly blatant it still seems incredible that a cadence has been arrived at.

Nevertheless, clemency is clemency, and I generally take people and things at face value – which is different from trusting anyone, because trust is reserved for only those who have earned it, while face value is to allow myself and others to continue along on our journeys together or separately.

In case you’re wondering, I am waffling about the bizarre drama mentioned in my previous post – perfidy – in which I ranted on about a shockingly impudent contract that an arts company had asked me to sign in exchange for a piddly sum of money.

Well, the folks behind this theatrical farce have backed down, signed the contract I drafted and my first cheque has been cashed. I must give credit where credit is due. It takes a level of sincerity – that is, earnestly desiring to achieve whatever it was they set out to achieve and not allow any hiccups to hinder the attainment of original intent – to openly do an about turn, a very sharp and quick one too, I might add. And just like that, we have mended the contractual fence and are going ahead with the project. We both agree on one objective, and this is the important factor: the work we are doing together has value and adds to our separate and common vision. That is enough for me.

I appreciate promptness, efficiency, straight forward communication, no mincing around, no faffing and no cheesy platitudes. They offered none – although they did feebly try to say they had no idea, and those shockingly exploitative terms were a hand-me-down from previous administration – but they didn’t persist with this because I do suspect they know how ridiculous it sounds, no matter which way one looks at it.

Anyway… Usual social niceties do not impress me. Decisive action does. Either I am in, or I am out. I’m not here to make new friends. (I have enough friends, more than I can decently attend to, and I already feel quite terrible to be neglecting them because I just have not enough spoons left for being sociable.) I’m here to do work, and I want it to be good work, as good as I possibly can produce, and I expect the same from the people I am working alongside.

So… let’s do this thing now, then! Tally ho!

a clement Christmas

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Clemency is hard to find. Clement Space is an ongoing quest. As is the Endeavour of Empathy.

Looking back, contemplating crashing fortissimo and lifting appoggiatura, soul crushing depletion and spiritual strengthening… Artaud and Wagner, humour, beauty, gritty determined ‘dogliness’… Lucy has once again carried me through yet another year with her gentle, wordless steadfastness of spirit and embodied grace.

It’s Christmas Eve. I recall with gratitude and fondness, the most precious Christmas gift from our sojourn in Paddington, Sydney. It was 2013, a quiet Christmas Eve, early morning when the summer air was still cool and crisp. Those roses, tossed out by someone, still fresh and beaming with a brilliance I’ve never yet seen nor witnessed again in a bunch of flowers. Put into my hands with a gruff greeting, from our friend Michael, an eccentric old man who lives in a rickety van. We met when Lucy and I were out walking, Lucy chose to say hello to this elegantly dressed solitary figure, smoking and reading the newspapers on the park bench just by our grass patch we call “dog patch”. I miss Paddo. I miss our neighbourhood, our friends, and I think of them often. Especially Michael. I hope he is well. One can never be sure. Michael comes and goes. Nobody knows where and when. I don’t know if I’ll ever see him again. He was choking back tears when we last said goodbye, too proud for a hug, we did not even make eye contact. But I hope he knew how much we would miss him.

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This Christmas Eve, Lucy and I are ‘home’ with mum, my baby sister and brother-in-law, their two little furry children, and our helper Nula. Lucy has over-eaten again, too many treats and a giant lamb bone from her aunt who thinks she is too thin. (Though I keep reiterating that Lucy is a Greyhound, they are naturally lean.) We are waiting for Christmas Eve dinner – yet another private gastronomic feast by my amazing brother-in-law. The over-fed Canine Angel is asleep in bed, next to me. I can hear her rhythmic breathing, and she opens her sleepy eyes occasionally to check on me.

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I reflect on Christmases long past, and I realise how peaceful it is now. Without any more pomp and ceremony, no more need to dodge snide remarks and undercurrents of bitchery or witchery, no competition for whose gift is the most expensive or who has achieved the most success in the year. Those are now distant memories, and juxtaposed with our recent ones, they stand as reminders of how much goodness has come along since I walked away from all that mire.

We had our pre-Christmas dinner with extended family and friends last week. It was a very merry one, noisy and overloading but not at all emotionally or mentally exhausting. A pleasant, happy, kind of overload. And, of course, the food is always delicious – how could it not be, with a top professional chef and two F&B professionals in the party?

This year, I slogged away all week to finish my handmade gifts to mum, baby sis, Mini-B and Tiny-T. A welcome restfulness of spirit and blessedness of mind – taking time away from a surfeit of advocacy work, campaigning and proposals – just to touch, feel, and flow with the patterns and variations so clement to the senses. ‘Making’ is a beautiful activity for me, calming and restoring. I’ve named my jewellery line “LaLaLouBelle” – after Lucy and my childhood nickname for baby sis. Every piece is made up of vintage and antique components, collected through my early years of avid travelling or handed down to me from mum and granny. Each one a narrative of love and filled with meaningful history.

Oh, yes, and Little Mini wee-wee-ed on Lucy’s bed yesterday, so I’ll have to buy Lucy a new bed. Mini is a spunky little (fat) button, with a penchant for Lucy’s bedding.

We’re all set! I’ve put up a miniature tree, with tiny lights and trimmings. Our presents are all ready for the ritual tonight. – we open ours on Christmas Eve.

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A peaceful and clement Christmas Eve wish to all from Lucy and me!

only an expert

The Autism Grand Circus Industry has grown out of proportion. Tiresome and tiring, depending on where one happens to be standing. Everyone claims expertise – from the Autism Mom who has written a few books based on their observation of their own child/children and now goes around giving talks and dishing out sage advice about autism, to the learned non-autistic professional with many degrees in Autism, everyone is an expert dealing with the Autism Problem. Everyone, that is, except the Actual Autistic person. Autistic people are mysteriously ignored and sidelined in the Autism industry. A phenomenon so strange that it is almost eerie.

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Can magic mushrooms cure autism?

Talking about bone-chilling, I recently found this in a webpage of a business specialising in “treating” autism. The alarm bells rang loudly when I saw “Chelation” and “CD Water”. Then I did some research on the various “Dr” people named in this letter, and found them all to be promoting expensive dubious ministrations aimed at “shedding”, “recovering” and “overcoming”. Some of these involve injecting the autistic child with unregulated substances, others focus on dietary interventions, all couched in complex-sounding pseudoscientific terminology. Is your blood curdling yet?

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An autistic friend of mine has been valiantly trying to educate parents about snake oil sales pitches, dodgy programmes and harmful approaches to fixing the autism problem. Very brave person indeed, because he was variously derided and chided, treated like a foolish child, instead of someone worthy of respect. I often wonder, do these same parents even have the mindfulness to ponder this: If you treat autistic adults this way now, what kind of world are you preparing for your autistic child to grow up into? Is this how you’d want others to treat your autistic child when they become autistic adults? Or are you gambling all you’ve got on the great “cure” casino floor, thinking it’s going to be fine, your child will be rid of autism by the time they become adults, and hence they will not have to face this kind of demeaning and crushing ableism?

I honestly find it difficult to fathom what goes on in these parents’ minds – there, I admit it, I lack Neuronormative Theory of Mind! It is excruciatingly difficult to be thusly illogical and unthinking. Yet, I am told I should empathise a little more, “slow down” and allow others to catch up. My doctor says it’s good for my heart – you know, that strange squishy squashy rhythmically driven organ responsible for pushing blood around the body? Yes, that one.

Perhaps 2019 will be a year of “slowing down”, but in a different way: that is, finding Clement Space inside gentle things, wondrous connections and conversations with the material universe. I love my autistic world, it is a pulchritudinous eco-system, but the crass, grating vibrations of the normative realm is at odds with autistic tranquility. Too many experts. So little space for Beauty.

activism, advocacy vs clement space

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Yawning angel

This Autistic Bunny is not mired in meaningless repetition from “having autism”. This Autistic Bunny is mired in frustrating, seemingly futile repetition due to the utter lack of empathy and/or regard of the non-autistic world. Especially the ones who congregate around the money-spinning, job producing, status boosting Autism Bandwagon. Armed only with the medical model and little to no understanding of lived-experience, they declare themselves ‘experts’ and sell their ‘expertise’ in myriad ways to desperate ignorant non-autistic parents, students in institutes of higher learning who start off wanting to do good and make a difference, peers in academia who know nothing so just readily accept the viewpoints of these ‘experts’, and politicians in positions of governmental power.

What kind of ‘Autism Crisis’ is this? Not created by autistic persons for sure. But autistics are trying their best to clear the flotsam and jetsam that is being tossed around in seamless repetition by the non-autistic world. How do we even move forward one step at a time, when each step is a perilous risk?

To be clear, I say this again. I am not an Autism Activist. I advocate, somewhat passionately and vigorously, only because there is so much rubble strewn across each and every pathway that I need to clear the rubbish before I am able to venture forth. One just cannot safely and smoothly walk along paths that are chockfull of hazardous waste. I am no expert in bomb disposal, and I’d much rather have safe spaces to live in so I can focus on creating my art and doing meaningful workshops to help people, but what else can I do if the way forward is a minefield? Each day, I feel I am neglecting the very Being that is keeping me alive, giving me sustenance in a way no human creature ever can. I long to retreat into that space of clemency where I can commune with my Lucy in our soul enriching elemental empathic way. Yet, I have to sally forth into that awful domain of autism advocacy, speaking the truth where nobody dares or wants to, and all just to ask for basic respect and true inclusion.

I do worry about being blown up someday by one of the mines I am trying to clear. I do this for myself, for other autistics, and mostly to benefit the next generation. 

What kind of world do you hope for your autistic, neurodivergent and/or disabled child to live in, what kind of tomorrow? Today is not good enough. We need to work on a safer, gentler Neurocosmopolitan world.

…. yes… But what am I doing to and for the Pulchritude that lies in my bed so steadfastly preferring life-giving energy to this tired autistic soul? I owe her a debt I am never going to be able to fully repay. My Lucy Like-a-Charm.

troll and roll

 

 

 

Social media is an amazing thing, really. Dissemination of information – false and true and somewhere in between – quicker than you can say your own name. It’s a great space for many people with disabilities to connect, sans the traditional barriers. Yet, it’s also a grand circus for explosive and nasty battles where humans exhibit their common human DNA, regardless of superficial differences. Continue reading

clemency & space

 

This morning, I travelled across my little island home from the central region where I live, to the western coast, to the Yale-NUS College library to set up my miniature Clement Space in the City (revised, 2018) installation. It is an impressive campus, not for its size, as it is a small one, but for its compact superficial beauty. There is a sense of crafted tranquility in its manicured greenery, right in the middle of smart modern buildings. Meandering around clean, crisp corridors, trying to find my destination, I wonder about the lack of clear signposts. Is it a deliberate exercise in subtle exclusion, a quiet ‘hint’ to outsiders that we are not exactly warmly welcomed into this carefully constructed environment for the elite? I do not really know, but I did have the thought that Lucy would’ve loved a nice run around the green grass patches, though she’d probably create bald muddy holes in the wake of her greyhound strides. Then another thought following this one was, “Is this beauty something to merely behold, or can we actually use it, run around in it, hug the trees, roll in the manicured grass, laugh, flap, stim and lie on it?” Continue reading

inside clement space

Dogs are amazing creatures. I never wish to anthropomorphise them, because they are more beautiful than human beings in my eyes, so why make them into inferior entities by ‘humanising’ them? No. There they are, inside clement space, the way anyone should be when enveloped in tranquility and equilibrium – around them there may be a hundred thousand different things clashing, crashing, turning, pivoting, whirling and reverberating, yet, there, inside their little cocoons of grace, they lay quietly resting. Renewing. Refreshing. Replenishing.

Lucy Like-a-Charm and her two ‘cousins’ Bizcuit and Tiny. Blessedness.