In Yogyakarta, where I am currently based, I find myself in a society that is very open; everybody knows everyone and I am part of the whole village, unlike in Vermont where I have lived for 30 years, where everybody was closed up and distanced from their neighbor. You have to make an appointment to borrow a cup of suger from your neighbor. In Singapore, although I’ve never lived in an HDB flat, everyone seems closed up in their cubicles. That is very interesting to me.
This morning, when I was at Ng Eng Teng’s former house, I was reminded of the last time I saw him. He was probably in his 60s; he was growing old. It’s interesting for me to return to Singapore after years of living abroad. Growing old, getting sick perhaps, and then dying are things that I think about these days.
I decided to move back to Asia to be connected to people and no longer be isolated as an artist. I’ve had a privileged life, and I’ve been very lucky, but now things have turned for me, and I’m excited about it.
Before I left the US, I was supplying a lot of artworks that were pictorial, illustrative and accessible; they were drawings of the human figure. I have been selling those very well.
In Yogyakarta, I have made a move to do something else: I started to do videos that lead to community projects, and sculptures that involve local artisans who help fabricate a large part of my work. For the first time, I can see how my work involves another person’s livelihood, that if I stopped working, this person will go hungry the next day. It’s the big change that I experienced in the last five years.
A situation where I just do my exhibition and sell artworks through a gallery, the making of my artworks is far-removed from the selling of my works. This is an interesting situation for me to explore and think about as I ponder where home really is.