Singapore Contemporary Young Artists

Playing With & For The Community

urban body speaks/ Esprit de corpse

Tan Shao Han
The Capital City of Singapore, Singapore

I used to walk a lot more in this city. I used to glean the secrets of these streets through the measured paces of my feet, and my heart used to wander as the mynah flies, taking wing through irregular interstice of back-alley and sky-line. I used to exult in my knowledge of the city’s heart, which astounded others for its apparent obscurity; I was no magister, this lore was simply there for the taking.

Streets and shopfronts fade, the dregs of estates feasted upon by highways and malls. Invisible architects and their unheard decrees centralise the proceedings of my movement and evolution, and forbid me from pursuing a path of orthogenesis. They will tame my unruly genes, and set me to work in this island of artifice.

These cyclopean gardeners destroy the weeds of my history, and they invoke the powers of this new approval-craving, attention-starved creative class to research and construct the story of my origins, to reify my being as a projection of their will to remember, and as an accessory to their will to create themselves.

I don’t want your shops. I don’t want your hotels. I don’t want your resorts. I don’t want your museums. I don’t want your trees, even. They are all tainted by your presence and your purpose, you cruel Heisenberg messenger, you. I don’t want you.

I just want my damn streets back. This isn’t just sentimental indulgence or idle fury drawn from an empty heart and an overfed gut.

I want my memories and my ability to make my own meaning from my life, but because we exist together in this realm of shared phenomena, over which you rule, I cannot remember myself without losing myself in delusion. And so I must retreat, until I am at last irrelevant when once I was irreverent.

You may never hear this. You may never read this. You may never understand these words, for these are simply the ravings of a puerile, insouciant man-child. Perhaps you think these words as harbouring emotions which must be somewhat significant (although lacking in reason); perhaps you think there is unhappiness that you must fix and solve.

You cannot understand when I tell you there is nothing you can do. (No, at least, we are equal in our defiance of each other’s will.)

There is always something, you protest. You cannot understand when I tell you the spleen is simply the spleen, and such functions as such. You cannot understand this humor, perhaps. This esprit de corpse. There is no meaning, only purpose, to this vitriol; there is only pain in this dance of entropy.

You, demiurge hive-being, you can never understand, for you have never walked these streets with your feet. You have always simply ruled them, bequeathed to you as the birthright of your mind.

Live long and prosper, my lords and ladies.


#6 in a series of written perspectives on how the urban and the body manifest in the other, in a running accompaniment to the visual art exhibition called, well, urban body. Nine artists will present visual provocations—in a bid to expose and make tangible the cityscapes of our formed selves.

A published compilation of both art and essay will be available at the exhibition.

urban body runs 2 august – 2 september 2012 at the Orange Thimble, in Tiong Bahru, Singapore’s first housing estate. For details and updates, check out the event page on facebook.

Copyright © 2012 Author. This article may be downloaded, reproduced, and distributed without permission as long as each copy includes this notice along with citation information (i.e., name of the site in which it originally appeared, date of publication, and author’s name). Permission must be obtained in order to reprint this article in a published work or in order to offer it for sale in any form.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


This entry was posted on August 3, 2012 by in Others and tagged , , .

Follow me on Twitter

Instagram @scya_contemporary

There was an error retrieving images from Instagram. An attempt will be remade in a few minutes.

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 50 other followers


%d bloggers like this: