Controversial Video Art Installation

What is a video installation?

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No! It’s a contemporary art form that combines video technology with installation art, making use of all aspects of the surrounding environment (space) to affect the audience.

David Wojnarowicz’s A Fire in my Belly (1986–1987) –

Screened at the National Portrait Gallery, a Smithsonian museum in Washington, it was withdrawn after the president of the Catholic league described it as anti-Christian hate speech. The 13-minute video, featuring images of ants crawling over Christ on the crucifix, is about death, social inequality, faith and desire. It attracted controversy not only over its use of religious iconography but also because the art world was angered when the museum pulled the exhibit – accusing it of stifling artistic freedom. The artist made the artwork in a time during the AIDS crisis of the late 1980s to early 1990s. According to the museum, the artist himself was diagnosed with HIV and was the artwork was probably a reaction to that. Personally, I think that the casual use of religious icons in artworks can be quite powerful, though it would most definitely anger religious folk. I imagine that there would be two schools of thought in Singapore: 1. Outrage from the religious community. 2. “Aiya this artist purposely do this to attract attention one.”

Bill Viola’s Anthem (1983); or Nope. Nope. Nooooooope. –

Body parts being picked at. Ew. Cannot.
Whether this piece if good or bad, it is definitely going to be difficult to stomach. I didn’t manage to sit through it because I don’t enjoy watching gruesome images. I couldn’t find where exactly it was screened, though I imagine that it was probably at a museum. The artwork has to be presented as cinema: screening has to take place in an isolated dark room with seating for the audience as opposed to an open “walk through” gallery. It is played on a scheduled basis, not on a loop. It seems that it was the artist’s intention for this to be viewed from start to end and not experienced in an installation space. This artist focuses on the theme of life and death, and their relationship, not only in Anthem but throughout his works. Anthem is supposed to be an evocation of “our deepest primal fears, darkness, and the separation of body and spirit.” For me, it is communicated quite clearly, at least for the parts that I watched. I respect that it dared to show graphic content. Personally, I would have approached the matter entirely more subtle. This makes me think that it comes off as a very emotive piece in contrast to the way I would have approached it.

On the topic of controversy, I’m going to do something controversial and talk about a video installation that isn’t necessarily controversial but one that I want to talk about to contrast with the rest which makes a clear argument for being controversial. Is it even necessary to make controversial works? (Ooo controversial)

Apichatpong’s Primitive (2009) – 

Primitive is a multi-screen video installation displayed within a gallery – 7 videos with different durations and eight projections (two being the same video, titled Primitive, in sync). The artist re-imagines the history of Nabua, Thailand, as an elusive science fiction ghost story rooted in Thai folklore.

According to the artist, “Primitive is a reincarnation of presence (and absence). It’s also a reincarnation of cinema as a means of transportation as it was in the time of the early cinema innovator Georges Méliès: the “motion picture” carries us from our own world. Primitive is a meditation on those voyages in fabulous vehicles that bring about the transformation of people and of light”

The artist’s works tend to make use of the supernatural or the surreal to create artworks that dreamlike and tend to be difficult to explain in words – the experience is communication.

Nabua was a place of violence and oppression from the 60s to the 80s when the Thai army occupied the place in order to curb those who were accused of being communists. What makes this work of art controversial could be that it was made in a time of political turmoil in Thailand.

The video installation was exhibited in Germany and UK, but I could not find if it was exhibited in Thailand. If it was then that would definitely be cause for controversy but perhaps it was in not exhibiting it in Thailand which makes it controversial – controversy in the absence of it.


The nature of controversy these days seems to border on the line between controversy for controversy’s sake or for purposely artistic expression. When thinking about controversy in art, I thought about how these artworks take some form of current affairs and their own opinions to create. I don’t think it has to be controversial as long as the message is powerful, or if the experience leaves a lasting impression.

4D II Project 2 – Soundscape

Artist Statement

Whilst trying to create a sound for what resembled the experience of Omnipresence Sans Omnipotence, the artist realised that he was not achieving anything close. It would always feel like something was missing; something that could not be expressed. As a result, what came out was a sonic portrait of attempting to perceive something that was unperceivable, i.e. Omnipresence Sans Omnipotence.

The ordinary world makes sense to us. It may not always be explainable, but it makes sense. Some questions beget more questions, ad infinitum. That was the case with Omnipresence Sans Omnipotence.

This sonic portrait is about the descent down the rabbit hole, getting some idea, but mostly getting more questions and eventually, being overwhelmed by the experience.


I wanted to create a sound for something that could not be seen. Somehow, my mind wandered into Omnipresence, specifically, Omnipresence Sans Omnipotence.

I researched on all the given sound designers and decided to reference Chong Li-Chuan who made The Bowing Plant’s Dream. I thought about Bani Haykal’s work as it seemed like a relevant style, but for the life of me, I just could not understand his art.

I recorded all the sounds used in the submitted work. I knew that I wanted to use musical instruments to create a variety of sounds of different quality so that I could experiment on them in Audition. Apart from that, I seized the opportunity with the H4 zoom to record what I could from my surroundings before I had to return it.

Up to this point, I only had a vague idea of what Omnipresence was to me. I was hoping that through listening to the different sound qualities that I had recorded, I would form a better understanding of what I wanted. However, I still formed no impression of the idea. I then told myself, “Just make a rough cut. Maybe then it’ll make sense.”

It didn’t. Perhaps it might convey the idea of Omnipresence to someone, but I could not convince myself.

After taking a break and returning, I listened to it again and it dawned on me that it sounded like someone attempting to perceive something unperceivable. From there, I aligned the sonic portrait to fit the new idea.

Sound Design: Your first ideas are shit.

What is a sonic portrait even?

After thinking about it for a bit while feeling sick over the Recess Week…in Phuket. I came up with a simple idea about happiness. Sure, I didn’t feel as much for this, but time was tight and there was a part of me that wanted to take a completely different approach and idea as compared to Project 1. I thought about the last time I was happy and was immediately pointed to the zoo trip for Foundation Drawing on the Monday of Recess Week. Sometime after lunch, while I was 80% done with my submissions, I felt a rumble in my tummy, a churning of the belly; a desperate need for release.

I thought about the last time I was happy and was immediately pointed to the zoo trip for Foundation Drawing on the Monday of Recess Week. Sometime after lunch, while I was 80% done with my submissions, I felt a rumble in my tummy, a churning of the belly; a desperate need for release. 😐

Knowing that it was just about after lunchtime, the restrooms near the food court would be crowded. Thinking I was the very smartboi, I went in the other direction, to where more animal enclosures were, believing that I would find another toilet.

Then another rumble, and another churning, and this time: a sharp pain. Quick as a bunny with nothing on it (no clothes, no fur or anything) I sped back to the food court, passing by tranquil sun bears and the lazing Orang Utans – and my classmates, painting.

(This story has gone on for quite awhile, hasn’t it?)

So there I was, rushing to the restroom, knowing that I might break at any moment- knowing that I would face the most dreaded Singaporean thing: a queue.

Upon entering the restroom, I saw kids and adults walking about or doing their business. Let’s not go into detail about that. The point is: all the cubicles were occupied – except for one. “Don’t get your hopes up,” I told myself. “It’s going to be clogged or…have ‘murals’.”

Hesitantly okay no that’s not true, I barged in. AND IT WAS CLEAN! And there was toilet paper.

That is true happiness.

TL;DR I needed to poop and there so happened to be one empty cubicle that was both clean and had toilet paper, in the zoo, just after lunch.


So that was how I came up with the initial idea– and also my fallback idea.

Now, after vomiting out this idea/concept, I thought of a new idea, albeit just the idea. I want to explore the sounds of omnipresence sans omnipotence. I expect that it will be near impossible to depict the sounds experienced, literally. As such, I might attempt to take a metaphorical approach.

For now, I imagine immense pain, which makes me think of the ringing in the ear (tinnitus or something like that). Just a place to start for now.

Alter Ego – Post-submission;

or how I’m a slow thinker and require some time before I can properly reply.

After all my submissions were done and I had some time to think, I managed to answer the question of what aspect of the film I made was anti-kitsch.

I think that it was the face that I was trying to use visuals that were nothing fancy to tell the story. I made no use of bokeh shots, no use of camera movement, no use of actors. There was no use music and no use of video transitions. I did, however, make use of the fast colour corrector to desaturate my visuals. It was a conscious decision to desaturate by quite a bit as opposed to completely grey-scaling the footage. I think that in this case, it made sense and doesn’t compromise on my anti-kitsch approach. To make use of colours would be to send a strong visual message and by dulling the colours, there is new beauty to experience. That, to me, is the heart of anti-kitsch.

4D II Project 1 – Alter Ego

  1. This is an epilogue of the story of friendship between Scrawny Boy and Overweight Boy told by a narrator, though it is more about Scrawny Boy now. It is a sort of down-to-earth “ever after” for Scrawny Boy who realises that since the first best friend he had made, he has never kept his friends for long. The scrawny boy is the narrator and he contemplates his decisions and accepts that this is how it is for him and even though it will ultimately make him irrelevant, unknown and lonely, he would choose this over taking up the weight of other people. What we see in the visuals as the story is being told is not Scrawny Boy’s face, he does not wish for lasting impression on himself. Instead, he films the locations where he had memories with friends as he contemplates. Are they just locations now? Do they even have meaning to other people?

    (155 words)

  2. I started out coming up what character in Sabina that I wanted to focus on. Since this project is not about identifying who the alter ego is, for me, I made this a challenge to make something more serious.It is debatable whether process is art. Maybe not to others, but to the artist, myself specifically, it is just as important as the outcome. I filmed at locations where I had spent time with friends who are now mostly strangers to me. I had some prior references of artists including Werner Herzog, Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise and Win Wenders’ Paris, Texas. I wanted to create an effective monologue like in Paris, Texas while having the visuals of Linklater’s Before Sunrise where there are wide shots of locations, significant to the characters, in the epilogue. I have also been trying to condition myself to work without a storyboard, just like Herzog, especially for individual work to train myself to find beauty and opportunity in the process.

    Naturally, there are challenges in trying to achieve these things but we have to be creative or make compromises and that is the fun in filmmaking. While filming, it rained. Some locations had changed over time. I had no tripod, so I filmed without one. I wanted it to look like Scrawny Boy was going filming it anyway. I just tried to use all of these things to my advantage and if I couldn’t, I made do. I had many shots to work with as a result. Because of that, I had a lot of shots to go through. I don’t enjoy having to hear my voice and if I had a choice I wouldn’t do it, but it made sense for me to do it, so I did it.

    (295 words)

  3. There is no storyboard, but I did have a list of locations I wanted to go to.
    Playground/basketball court near the primary schoolOld House Blk 222
    The basketball court near Ojas’ house
    The LAN shop at Elias mall
    The bus ride to Yishun (?) KIV
    The benches in Singapore Poly
    The ADM basement
    Swing at the park
    Bridge near the canal
    Path from VivoCity to Sentosa
    Marina Bay Sands/ArtScience Museum area
    Something with my family/ah kong
  4. Password: sabina

Alter Ego – Epilogue

Because there is a proper way of submitting the assignment, I will just stream of consciousness this process of sorts over here instead.

I had the joy of not having a friend to perform the role Sabina for me so I decided that I should be my own alter ego. The result was a blend between two of us. Coincidentally, this made the story I wrote from week one of class, relevant. Below is the entire story I had to read out in all its unedited glory.

“Once upon a time there was a short and scrawny boy studying in primary school. He had no friends, was not particularly good in his studies and was, overall, a forgettable person. One day, he received a letter from the school; an invitation to join the school choir. Now, while he was quiet and introverted, he also had very little going on in his life. He thought to himself, “why not?”

The choir practice room was filled with a sea of girls and one loud, overweight boy. Overweight Boy was comfortably talking to the other choir members when he saw Scrawny Boy sitting down in a corner of the music room. His eyes lit up in surprise, realising that the quiet kid from his class would consider joining the school choir, a form of performance art no less. Overweight Boy made his way across the room and with a smile, said, “Hi,” Caught off-guard by Overweight Boy’s approach, Scrawny Boy was at a loss for words. Scrawny Boy thought of many things. He thought of ways to escape this confrontation. He thought he might cry. He thought of how silly he looked to everyone else in the room. With great effort, he managed to mouth the words, “Hi.”

This might seem like an insignificant incident to most, but this is precisely how Scrawny Boy and Overweight Boy became best friends.”

(through the rest of primary school)

The starting point of my film sort of carries on from the end of this story; a sort of down-to-earth “ever after”.

The film is titled, “Epilogue” and will be in the official post.

Alter Ego – Editing

I had wide shots, medium shots, close-ups, flat shots, and angled shots.

I had the words. Now I needed the sentence. I made two rough cuts, all of which I dislike at this point.

In the first cut, it was intended to be done with a monologue by “Sabina” talking about choosing lightness and the loneliness and other things that come with it.

In the “frontal cut”, it would be more from the perspective of “Sabina” just coming to the realisation and understanding that this is, fundamentally, her. She will never change, but maybe she wonders what it would be like if she had chosen otherwise.

Some shots were not great. I like the first one better because the emotions come out better. I am hesitant to desaturate the colours to manipulate the emotions, making it more dramatic than it ought to be, which is actually meant to be more contemplative. Still, I will do it because aren’t we all here to try. Anyway, having colours could be distracting and conflicting to the story.

I wrote the lines while looking at the edit so that I could fit the words to compliment the visuals. I used Paris, Texas as a point of reference in terms of delivery of the lines. I did not want to give off the exact same emotions as the movie. This is, after all, an entirely different story.

An amazing piece of monologue from Paris, Texas

What came out was a deeply boring video that will put you off within the first few seconds. Still, this piece of work is for me, mostly.

I felt that the delivery of the lines were too lifeless, but I didn’t want to go too much in the opposite direction. What I needed was to go up by about 20%, or change the lines.

I gave in eventually and watched the film adaptation of book – 3 hours of my time. It did not really help me in coming up with lines but it did give me a small understanding of the feelings of Sabina.

Ultimately, I made it more of a mesh between the two of us. I felt that there were enough parallels in character that infusing her thoughts with mine would make sense.

Geez. I’m embarrassed to post these up. Most people have nice process visuals and all I have is failure. I must have re-recorded the lines at least 10 times. More tweaking to audio and lines needs to be done, but I think I am set on the visuals. I chose not to completely desaturate the footage because I think that black and white is almost stylistic already. What I want to achieve is the footage being dull but having interesting composition. Likewise, there is good and bad in choosing lightness or weight.


Alter Ego – The Purpose of Art

Having not actually filmed much and also adopting the Werner Herzog philosophy of having a broad idea of what I wanted to shoot and going to the locations to let the shots present themselves, in place of having a storyboard, I took quite a number of shots.

Coincidences always happen if you keep your mind open, while storyboards remain the instruments of cowards who do not trust in their own imagination and who are slaves of a matrix. If you get used to planning your shots based on aesthetics, you are never far from kitsch.

Werner Herzog


Coincidentally, Sabina is against kitsch too. (More on that in the previous post)

I used the movie “Before Sunrise” as a point of reference for this film; opting not to be influenced by the movie adaptation of The Unbearable Lightness of Being.

The history/memories of characters throughout the film: Before Sunrise
These places have significance to the characters. Do they have any effect on anyone else without context?
These places have significance to the characters. Do they have any effect on anyone else without context?

Before Sunrise is one of those films that had a profound impact on me as a teen. I still go back to it to learn about filmmaking. One of the many moments that I remembered from the film was the ending where we see wide shots of places where the two protagonists had been throughout the night. Because we’ve been through the journey with them, there is a feeling of, perhaps, nostalgia. I can’t quite pinpoint the feeling with words. Maybe it is the feeling that these places have a magical hold on us. They are just places to everyone else, but these places are memories to us. Yes. That is what I am trying to achieve; or at least just a fraction of.

The difference is I am jumping straight to the epilogue and expecting the audience to fill in the blanks themselves. This will either show my confidence or failure as a storyteller.

After my research, I had to come with a story for what would be shown in the 1 minute of film. Keeping in line with the character not having friends, I went out on my own on Chinese New Year to film the places I used to hang out with friends. The story is an epilogue. Imagine a person having gone through so many relationships and now has no one. This person is reflecting on his decisions.

I made my way to Pasir Ris and started with the nearest place, Coral Secondary School.img_5600-1

And found that they had already slapped a new name on top of the body and essence that was my school.

This was where my CCA was held most of the time.
Just a small part of it left

But I digress.

I walked the route from school that I normally took to get to the basketball court below a friend’s house.

I would have liked to film in the canal where we would foolishly play but the water level made that impossible
The basketball court and house
Occasionally we’d go to the playground just up ahead

Next I went over to Loyang point and Street 21 where my primary school was, and still is, located.

This one basketball court in a church that we’d just casually walk in
My favourite mini mart, now a 7-11
My favourite mini mart, now a 7-11
Still mostly the same
Still mostly the same
Another one of those basketball courts and playgrounds.

After all that I walked back to the MRT station and ended off the day’s shoot with the area near my house.

An important swing
An important swing (of friendship)
"Hallucinations" playing, the construction workers, and the sky without a star
“Hallucinations” playing, the construction workers, and the sky without a star.

The next day, I went to more crowded places for variety before heading back to school.

Places we used to go to think about impossible things
Places we used to go to think about impossible things
Spaces that no longer belong to just us
Spaces that no longer belong to just us
Places that are just places now
Places that are just places now
A coffee table
A hawker centre table
The basement green table?

The feel I was going for was somber and I know that it will turn out coming off as some prick with a stick up his butt- BUT I wanted to try taking something seriously for once. I always talk about how philosophy seems pointless because there is no answer. That is because I can never bring myself to make a stand. I am trying to make a stand and because I am, I have to question myself endlessly.

With that in mind I ask myself, “Who do I make art for?”

A lot of times I don’t want to answer the question because an answer might define me and I am supposed to be “light”.

The next couple of shots are pick up shots that I hold no feelings or memories of, but I took them anyway because they evoked an emotion that I wanted to convey.

screen-shot-2017-02-04-at-9-29-10-pm  screen-shot-2017-02-04-at-9-29-26-pm

What is the purpose of my art?

To entertain? To express? To communicate?

Alter Ego – Sabina

from The Unbearable Lightness of Being; or some character (not even the main character) from this one book that you may or may not have heard of.

Before working on the inspiration file, I did some research on the character as I wanted to go beyond face value. Since this is really for my own use, I’ll dump it out here.

It starts out with my deciding if it was the main character TOMAS, or Sabina that I felt more affinity towards. I started with Tomas because protagonists get more “screen time”

Tomas or Sabina



Tomas: Womanising | Lightness or weight of being | I, too, struggle with the lightness and weight of life.


His character experiences the temporary sweet lightness of being when Tereza leaves him to return to Prague. Thereafter, he experiences the unbearable lightness of being that comes with his compassion for Tereza


Tomas reminisces about lightness and weight after a night of sex with someone else


Ideas: Sex vs. Shared Sleep | Eternal return (An interesting concept)

The heavier the burden, the closer our lives come to the earth, the more real and truthful they become.

As free as you are insignificant


We make decisions at each point in our lives but we can never know what the other outcomes could have been. We can never know if we chose correctly. (To me, a very important epiphany)

So what?


I am standing at the window of his flat and looking across the courtyard at the opposite walls, not knowing what to do.

From here I started to research on Sabina and found that-

Betrayal is Sabina’s way of fighting kitsch – a word that keeps popping up in Sabina’s story


Why does Sabina’s relationships always end in “betrayal”; i.e. leaving good people for uncertain and empty loneliness and freedom (Lightness).

Why is she drawn to “betrayal”?

Why am I drawn to “betrayal” and, by extension, lightness? (The main thing that connects us)

Beauty is a world betrayed

Sabina was searching for new beauty; to break away from kitsch


On the surface, an intelligible lie; underneath, the unintelligible truth

Repetition gives things “weight”

Nothing more magnificent than going off into the unknown

Es Muss Sein – It Must Be. (A song lyric that talks about things that are fundamentally the character or maybe even intrinsic nature)

The only way you can sufficiently guard your heart is if you live a life in which you have nothing to lose. (Trying to see how Sabina sees)
Take lovers, use them for what they are good for, let yourself be used, but remember to return to your solitude, always. I don’t know where this idea came from, that we need another person. Throw that idea out the window.


In death, you can only hope to become nothing. This is the ultimate beauty. There are times when I feel so empty, I am sure death has come for me. I imagine that is very much how death will feel. (Source)



Sabina: Confidence | Choosing a “light” life results in her irrelevance in the world | While not confident, it is uncanny how the both of us always find ourselves feeling both alone and irrelevant. It is a choice we consciously make.


Lightness of being | Too much lightness | I feel affinity towards her view on the lightness of being and also bear the unbearable lightness of being. Nothing matters: a dual-edged sword.


Does not hold anything dear to her; with the exception of her bowler hat


Sabina holds that the ideal of one-voice-no-individuals is actually much worse than any violent or imperfect totalitarian reality.


She likes to be humiliated sexually by men (?) Backstory stuff

Sexual promiscuity = lightness

Commitment = weight


Of everything in the Inspiration file brief, I found the sentence starters to be the most useful in giving my alter ego, form.

I firmly believe that meaning has no place in what my idea of life is.

I would like to run away to America. / I would like to know what would have happened if I had chosen differently (weight over lightness)

I love being truly free.

I hate the kitsch of the world; the unoriginal and aesthetic ideology imposed on us

I have no problem with nudity

I know that my choice to betray (to break off into the unknown) will leave me irrelevant and unknown. This makes me uneasy.

BUT, that doesn’t mean that the pursuit of lightness is any less unbearable

I chose to focus on the lightness that Sabina has chosen. I feel affinity towards her views on kitsch and several ideas too. With the limited time that I have I want to focus on one thing only. Cramping in too many ideas into a one minute film is just too tall a task for me. Who knows, maybe our fight against kitsch will come through the film itself. That is the challenge.

Alter Ego – Beginning

Over the course of the 2nd week, we came up with a list of people we felt an affinity towards and while it was challenging, it was quite insightful.

5 Fictional

  1. Archie from Archie’s Final Project
  2. Johnny from Naked (Mike Leigh)
  3. Sabina from The Unbearable Lightness of Being
  4. Bojack Horseman
  5. Steven Universe

5 Public

  1. David Foster Wallace
  2. Rene Magritte
  3. Kenny Omega
  4. Albert Camus
  5. Bo Burnham

5 Known people

  1. Tan Cheng Swee
  2. Josiah at sixteen
  3. Daryl Teo
  4. Ragu
  5. Kai YiAfter coming up with the list, we narrowed down the list to 2 per set. We then elaborated on each characters’ traits.

2 Fictional: Human/Mythical Qualities | Dilemma | Why affinity

Bojack: Self-destructive, self-loathing, bitter | Searching for happiness instead of being content | I tend to believe that attaining a certain things will make me happy instead of being content. At the same time, being content is hard because then I lack things to strive for and that goes against my own “purpose” which is to be striving for acclaim for my stories.

Sabina: Confidence | Choosing a “light” life results in her irrelevance in the world | While not confident, it is uncanny how the both of us always find ourselves feeling both alone and irrelevant even though not necessarily being physically alone.

2 Public: Human/Mythical Qualities | Dilemma | Why affinity

Bo Burnham: Intelligent comedian | Struggling with cashing in on his “artform” as entertainment to live comfortably while other people actually have to work hard to earn a living | He holds a cynical view of the world that I relate to.

Camus: Philosopher | Absurdity – Physical Suicide, Philosophical Suicide, Recognition | I have spent quite a bit of time trying to find the answer to the absurd question “Is there a meaning to life?”

2 Known: Human/Mythical Qualities | Dilemma | Why affinity

Ah Kong: Creative with what he has, makes lemonade with lemons or in his case, sculptures with coconuts | Naiveté | We are both very shy but we enjoy telling stories, in our own ways.

Me at 16: Mind open, soul overwhelmed | Where do I go from here? | Echoes of these thoughts still plague me. Anything is possible and it is entirely on me to make decisions. There is no right or wrong, only what is meaningful and I am still trying to figure out what is meaningful.


In class, we wrote letters from the perspective of our alter ego. I chose my Ah Kong because it was the one I was most confident with in being able to get the nuances correct.

Josh I have some old cds I want to put some music in my phone. Can you help me? When you get back this weekend if you have time no rush.

Also I want to transfer the photos from my Samsung to the iphone. Can that be done? Can you help me?

I want to photocopy some old photos to put in my iphone. Can you help me?

Many thanks for your hard work kong kong.

However, I was not satisfied with this level of comfort. Because of this, I opted to work on another character instead: Sabina from The Unbearable Lightness of Being.