huat together

Friends, amps wish you all a year of love, contentment and giving - huat together!


Donald Judd and I at 23:12, 23/12/2015

I was reading about American artist Donald Judd in Apartamento. And it happened.

With all the hype about "craft" and "making", and the general ease with which we customise, create, mass produce and distribute with the digital media, there's so much noise to get distracted by and lost in.

Donald Judd with his objects in space, these cumbersome boxy things. And his ranches. The arid land. The angular boulder walls that do nothing but stand in space. 

Since I was a teenager I always made books. Picture books. Word books. There was the typewriter, water colour, and transfer type. The photocopy machine at times. Ring binders, thread and needle. Cloth and cardboard, glue and duct tape. Fancy paper and paper made fancy. 

The name Donald Judd sounded familiar. But really, I've never really seen his art before. He died in 1994. 

I wondered how it happened, that I stopped making books. The last was Kidnap Bob in 2005 perhaps. I got calculative. I started to think about why, who, and how. It got complex. 

Donald Judd left a whole lot of land, ranches and houses - and debt - to his children. The article in Apartamento was an interview with them, their memories growing up on these ranches, and what they were doing with the houses now.

J says that I just like to do and do, and not think. My revelation from Donald Judd is this: it's not about not thinking, it's about not calculating. It was more enjoyable just making the books. It's ok to just create.

So friends, that's what I want to share with you as the year draws to a close. Everything is really quite simple when you create with what you have, and not think too much about what you don't have. And most of the time, you have plenty. 


Thank you for the Good Sweat!

Photo by Edward Teo

Sometimes when I take a pause and look back 10 years back when we were just messing around making Tshirts under "ampulets supplies", I realise how time has flown by and how much older we've become - after J quit being an employee in 2006 to start his design studio under the "ampulets" name as well, plus "Neighbourgoods" in 2012.  It's important to not take things too seriously, I think. We need to just feel the ground we walk on, breathe, and keep mostly still. The important things in life never change. And they are never complex.

Anyway, read J's reflections on ampulets' third edition of Good Sweat under his studio's product label Neighbourgoods:


Rhythms and repetitions in Taipei 2015

Photo by J - Taipei night light

It's old news that some things in Taipei don't change...and neither does the itinerary of our visit every other year. [See http://ampulets.blogspot.sg/search/label/taiwan for past trips]

But as with every trip, we would always discover a few nice new spots in the city.  Here are some that we were at first loathe to share because we wanted them to ourselves, but hey, our friends and the city have been generous to us, so we can only be generous back!


Good Sweat again!

Good Sweat is a project that is always very close to our hearts because it allows us to work with folks we admire in a simple but meaningful way. And for J, it is right up his preachy alley. 

So while we thought hard about whether we should bring it back, when we finally decided to do it, we had an even harder time thinking about who to feature - there are just too many people whose work and person we love, and who embody the spirit of sweating the Good Sweat!

This year, we are real pleased these 5 individuals agreed to come on board:
  • Kenny Leck / BooksActually, J calls him his favourite Ah Beng bookseller whose tenacity and persistence can only be admired.
  • Theseus Chan / WORK, J's nickname for Theseus is the "Godfather of Singapore design". Theseus is a real gem, too cool for words!  
  • Tan Pin Pin, a dear friend and our all time favourite filmmaker who gave J his first "job"almost 10 years ago when he quit his "proper" job.
  • Edwin Low / Supermama, I don't know how he does the things he do. But when we first stumbled upon Supermama years ago when they had first opened at Seah Street, we didn't think such a store was possible in Singapore. 
  • Carrie Yeo / The Freshman. How many indie singers in mandarin do you know? How not to admire someone who pursues their dream everyday?

And of course, J cannot resist adding in one more phrase for the 6th hankie this year. 

This year, each Good Sweat hankie also comes with a calendar-poster that features all 12 phrases from 2010, 2012 and 2015.

As with 2012, we will be making a donation in the name of the project and from the sales to a charity. Most likely it will be to the same charity as 2012 - the Chen Su Lan Methodist Home for Children.

Each time it is always challenging finding companies in Singapore who will work with us in making these handkerchiefs. Partly because J is very particular about the quality of the work and people whom he feels he can trust. Secondly it is hard finding the right fabric. Thirdly, embroidery of the elaborate traditional/繁體 Chinese characters on thinner and finer fabric is more difficult to perfect...and more costly as a result. So we were real chuffed to find a young Singapore company Kamilinen to work with, using 100% linen from ethically sound sources. We like their youthful enthusiasm and attitude to doing good work.

So friends, check out our Neighbourhoods site for the latest www.neighbourgoods.sg; or like us on FB www.facebook.com/Neighbourgoods/ to not miss out anything.


Slow-boiled assassin

With culinary metaphors, it is hard to get lost.

If you are in a pressure cooker, you better find ways to get out fast. And if your head is on the chopping board, then buddy, I hope for your sake that the knife is swift and sharp. Being in a pickle, well, there's always sour aftertaste. And that hardboiled detective novel is all dark, cynical, tobacco-chewing, drugs, bullets and sex, minus the rock and roll. 

In this family of metaphors, the slow boil seems ambiguous. A slow boil suggests the pain of a long arduous torture (think mesapotamian torture method for your worst enemy!) but also a complete and thorough accomplishment.

A slow boil is how I think of Hou Hsiao Hsien's The Assassin Nie Yin Niang 刺客聶癮娘. Hou has spent years reading about the Tang dynasty and preparing for this film. And there is nothing in the film that is extraneous. He shows you enough for you to do the rest of the work, piecing both the narrative and characters together - it is still on a slow boil in my mind!

So in that spirit of precision and editing, all I have left to say is this:

Friends, go watch the film before it disappears from the big screen (it is a big-screen film!). It is also screening at The Projector, for those of you who want more of the indie vibe. And if you need any more convincing, there's Zhang Zhen and Shuqi in the movie, both good-looking but still not as stunning as the cinematography and art direction.


dancing, as I imagine it to be

J doing the robot move with Kidnap Bob

Among all the performing arts in Singapore, dance probably has the smallest audience. Yet in the last ten years or so, it grew to have the next highest level of participation, after playing an instrument or singing in a group. Folks young and old are signed up for classes in street dance, social dance, line dance, belly dance, folk dance, tap dance, classical indian dance, ballet, pole dance...and zumba.

We are made to move. Working the fields, walking to gather our food, running away from danger, and moving as a group and as in a ritual to symbolise our being part of one body. Play music to a baby and it [oops] he/she responds to that rhythm, even if in the slightest of movement - that curling at the corner of their lips. Toddlers dance freely. And when we are happy, our foot steps quicken with our heartbeat, not in haste, but in flight.

I imagine that when we learn how to dance, as in learning a sport, we turn the instinct into discipline. And hopefully,  instinct and discipline becomes one, a memory and a new language for making meaning.

And like a child learning a new language, I imagine that learning how to dance can be immensely liberating. It is one more way of being alive. The parallel I draw is a nice run in the nature reserve when your mind, body and the environment or space around you are in sync.

J never understands why I sometimes enjoy watching contemporary dance when I don't have any real knowledge of the form, its histories and tropes.

So friends, if you are like me, here are some ways you can enjoy contemporary dance:

1) At a simple aesthetic level, enjoy it for the physicality and beauty of the body, its movements, and the images formed on stage. I marvel.

2) Sometimes the movements, however abstract, are making patterns from which meaning emerges. Not only symbolically or representationally, but in their ebb and flow, their geometry and length, their lightness and weight, something is being constructed together with the lighting and staging. A pattern, a building, an idea, a statement, an emotion, a drama. I engage. As if solving a puzzle.

3) Sometimes the dance is just speaking simply. Like a hard slap across someone's face is a hard slap across someone's face. I cringe. Like someone slipping on a banana skin and slips on a banana skin. I smile. There's nothing to decode. Your body will respond to what it is seeing.

4) Sometimes with all the meditative movement and music before me, my body tells me it needs to sleep. I allow it to. I shut my eyes, drift into a random thought, pray I don't end up collapsing against my neighbour, and inevitably, wake to a new tableau on stage. I enjoy it like a dream.

And in the best of dance performances, all four happens.

If you are curious, ahem, my shameless plug here is go for Esplanade's da:ns festival 9-18 October! Let me know if you need specific recommendations...

Torobaka at the da:ns Festival, with Akram Khan and Israel Galvan loving and battling it out through dance! 

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