The Book As Object

“The book is dead” is a proclamation frequently heard today, almost to the point of banality. Since the conceptualisation of a hypothetical proto-hypertext device called Memex in 1945, there have countless commentaries on both sides of the bookish aisle defending the survival or predicting the inevitable demise of the physical book. On one hand, the…

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Luna and Saleh

A Review of Between Worlds The National Gallery Singapore’s exhibition Between Worlds brings together works by two key Southeast Asian artists: Raden Saleh (1811-1880) from Indonesia and Juan Luna (1857-1899) from the Philippines. It features more than 100 works from collections all over the world and, according to Director Eugene Tan, is “the most comprehensive…

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Nyi Ma Lay

Nyi Ma Lay, which means “my younger sister,” is the name of the short film directed by Chiang Wei Liang and presented at the 28th Singapore International Film Festival. The 20-minute clip is filmed entirely with one long shot, and starts with a domestic helper looking into the distance on a tall building. We soon realise…

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Myanmar

A Marriage of History and Modernity Through Four Cities. It was our first trip to Myanmar and we didn’t quite know what to expect. Much had been covered in the news about Myanmar’s recent liberalisation, Aung San Suu Kyi’s electoral victories and the Rohingya crisis, but beyond the media coverage, what is Myanmar really like?…

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Apprentice

At first glance, Boo Junfeng’s latest film Apprentice looks like an attempt to take the delicate subject of capital punishment by the neck in being one of the few (perhaps the only) films to explore this topic in Singapore. However, any expectation of a direct engagement is thwarted as we are presented instead with a film where clear…

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Splendour

Cemetery of Splendour, directed by Apichatpong Weerasethakul, brings us to a world where dreams and reality conflate. It is a world where a group of soldiers are plagued by a strange illness which causes them to suddenly and uncontrollably fall (quite literally and abruptly) asleep. They are housed in a hospital where Jen, an ageing…

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Checkers

Adapted from two short stories “At the Café Lovely” and “Draft Day” by Rattawut Lapcharoensap, How to Win At Checkers (Every Time) is a coming-of-age film that touches on sensitive issues in Thai society, including the military draft, violence in the south, drugs, sex trade, homosexuality, and religion. Yet, that is all the film manages…

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Panay

Opening the 26th Singapore International Film Festival was Panay, a film about the indigenous people living in the rural east coast of Taiwan. Panay is the name of the main character in the film and also refers to “paddy field” – both of which “grow” as the film progresses. Panay lives as a journalist in…

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Language

Language is unique, fascinating and mystifying all at the same time. In fact, it is so complex and sometimes so arbitrary that aliens observing us may wonder how an individual ever masters a language, and sometimes more than one. Yet, we all do it with amazing skill and speed through the early years of our…

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Colourless

A poetic portrayal of a lonely urbanite dealing with the secrets and hurts from his past, this book will resonate with many city dwellers not because the same events happened to us, but because of the common loneliness that all of us deal with. Carrying around questions from the past and hurts inflicted by people around us,…

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