Controlled Controversy

From ChannelNewsAsia:

SINGAPORE: Controversy and art go hand-in-hand, said Information, Communications and the Arts Minister Lee Boon
Yang, who spoke to reporters at the opening of the Singapore Art Show on Thursday evening.

And he is optimistic that with one out of every three Singaporeans participating in at least one arts and cultural activity a year, this industry is set to develop further.

Sadly, I think it’s prety clear MICA’s message to artists in Singapore. Art has to make money as an “industry” to justify it’s existence here-no art for Art’s sake, we’re afraid. Also, note that the good Minister’s definition of “controversy” here actually implies the kind that occurs accidentally (context: removal of an art piece that was too similar to an already existing American one), not the kind that occurs deliberately in the hopes of sparking political malcontent or social movement.

I can’t decide if the good minister’s words count for irony or self-fulfilling prophecy.

In case you’re wondering why, his statement comes at a time when Singaporean homosexuals are indignant that their proposed screening of two movies with homosexual content was turned down by the MDA, as was an Art exhibition featuring kissing homosexuals (visit Yawning Bread for more information.

I’m beginning to think Singapore’s repressed Arts scene is a carefully calculated move by the government to give us international media coverage at regular intervls, just so the rest of the world knows we’re still around. Perhaps Martyn See is actually being paid to produce his banned-before-production works which are almost-certainly promised screenings in almost every international film festival in a perverse symbiotic relationship with our government. Maybe he’s just another Merlion (albert not white, and spewing stuff more disgusting than seawater), an artificial Singaporean fabrication made to promote Singapore overseas.

(My version of the Merlion originally had skinny, handcuffed arms but I decided to cut them out in case it was seditious-the STB, which owns the Merlion, has guidelines only for food or souvenirs products. I will be more than willing to take down this image, STB!!! ((what can I say, I’m not Martyn)))


For some strange reason I can’t fanthom, though, the government didn’t ban Happy Endings, a play ostensibly about young Singaporean (forbidden and illegal) love set in a JC, nor the upcoming Hitting (On) Women, another play about lesbians. I’ve also seen a play dealing with paedophilic/homosexual content which touched on religious issues, which totally blew my mind (that they were allowed). I guess MICA either trusts the play-going audience to be mature and understanding or believes that plays aren’t quite as powerful as cinema in polluting the minds of our citizens.

Or that they’ll never hit the heartland because of their high entry prices.

(I know 15 wasn’t by Martyn, but it’s the one that I think set off the trend of banned-famous)

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