Wayne Wang-Jie Lim: "From where is a safe distance?"

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Wayne's 20 minute presentation for Maelstrom Slow Dance - DAI's 3 day graduation lectures marathon, June 2017

Hyperrestrained Order


Wayne W.J. Lim’s lecture-performance problematizes the “hyperrestrained order” he has identified and focused his research on. The term accommodates issues such as “a man’s duty in a patriarchal society,” and the government’s staged threats. Interspersing video and spoken text, Wayne screens propaganda videos that share the same broadcasting platform (television), including Singapore’s public service announcements promoting military service, and shaving commercials from Gillette. The language is similar in both. Wayne speaks about how the government’s staged threats and emergencies create an atmosphere of insecurity and hyper-defensiveness. The PA announcements about Singapore’s “total defense” system and the “five pillars of defense” is strong evidence of an overwhelming patriarchal capitalism. Wayne’s sensitive reading of this ideological manipulation through governmental propaganda raises the question of whether one’s home is not rather a fortress than a home. In the third video montage by Wayne, national displays of patriotic military manoeuvres overlap with Wayne’s critical reading of any political system that claims to be “clean, effective and efficient.”

Gabi Ngcobo began with an anecdote about how this morning she was scanning an article headlined “cancer is not a disease it is a business” and that made her interested in the question Wayne asked: “From where is a safe distance?” Thinking through “this body of a nation through our own bodies is something to think about though this idea of self-care  […] and how we navigate borders.” For Ngcobo, this question changes as you navigate from one space to another but also through time. “It ranges between Zimbabwean to Nigerian. If you understand it through the physical body, the idea of discipline - to be safe from disease and the bodies we understand as carrying diseases” it becomes “a question of safety”. Ngcobo mentioned the work by Turkish artist Banu Cennetoğlu in documenta 14 now where “the uncountable safe space is a scary space. Safe space is generated by fears given to one.”

For Ray Brassier, the question seemed to be about how the desire for safe distance creates the threat that it is trying to stave off. Brassier found this theoretical proposition compelling. Wayne’s lecture performance made him think about the “relationship between individuals and theoretical account.” Wondering at first whether Wayne had made the first video himself, he remarked that it seemed like satire, and had he done it, it would have been redundant. There is no “subversive potential in being able to recognize absurdity [...] The time for that kind of ideological exposure has lapsed. What’s interesting is how you think, given your theoretical interests, how does art relate to these kind of mechanisms? Capitalism is what allows this reactionary nationalism, interminable demand for security […] fed by capitalism and the mechanisms of control.” As for the third video by Wayne, Brassier concluded by saying that the “articulation between the theoretical and practical components was very interesting but it is very difficult to find the right way of producing art without relapsing into the register of ideological exposure which now does nothing.”

Bassam el Baroni thought Wayne found an excellent formulation of how to put this material together and complimented Wayne on the high level of his theorization and the great work. One of the things that caught his attention was “the kind of strange categorization of all the types of defenses - what is psychological defense?” He speculated that “the suggestion of the psychological register making the connection to a cohesive society of different cultures has to defend itself by imagining itself as a culture that is somehow together”, coming down to a question of leadership. El Baroni suggested looking into the notion of civil society as a model for thinking, and post cold-war society and its relationship to capitalism. He was interested in the idea of leadership and the connection between the “military notion of leadership and corporate notion of leadership”. El Baroni remarked that this is a fascinating trajectory to explore. For him, the most interesting aspect of the last video was the “close proximity of the military with the audience and the absolute abolishment of distance. That’s really where the title question came in and served the role of bringing to the fore the question.”

Rachel O’Reilly connected Wayne’s journey at DAI to today’s lecture performance. As she saw it, both included safe distances of performance expectations in Wayne’s experience at DAI. “In retrospect we can understand your reticence to perform”. O’Reilly recalled how they had tried to carry out “exercises about how not to write about Singapore, but it didn’t work.” Keeping in mind Spivak’s aesthetic subject as a split civil subject, O’Reilly encouraged Wayne by saying that she was glad he made the final (third) video. “The analysis you produced gives you other performance and videographic options to create more performative gestures through the body you’ve theorized in your thesis.”


About: Maelstrom Slow Dance