15.7.05

Egg-Hatching

As a country, I feel we have a general disdain for any work or trade that is "manual". Maybe our predominantly Chinese population has laid on us that mandarin preference for all things scholarly. Labour is reserved for the buffalos, which you'll be reincarnated as if you had been way too lazy in your past life. Add to this the colonial inhertiancei.e. the British civil service. Plus probably some "founding father's" enthusiastic reading of Plato's Republic. And voila! We have all the ingredients for the birth of the public service scholarship (go read Tym's excellent/personal take on this).

But what this disdain sometimes translates into is the lack of pride and passion in the things we do, make and create with our hands. Why create when you can just sit behind the desk and manage?

NestmanIf you'll lay the egg, I'll hatch it

Of course I am generalising. So does GR, a friend and hairstylist (his place is called Frontiers). He has seen too many apprentices come and go - and fail. For their lack of patience, dedication and - for want of a better word - fastidiousness. The ambition we have reserved in the area of wealth and comfort, we have taken away from the pursuit of a craft until it is an art. GR told of how, years ago, he had learnt how to use a pair of "double-headed" scissors (a scissors with 2 pairs of blades, simaese-twins scissors) from an 18 year-old Japanese hairstylist who had invented the scissors. If not for his family here, I think GR would have moved to Shanghai by now, where he set up Shanghai's first Toni & Guy ("the italian hair mafia" - that's what GR calls it) last year. There, he thinks he will have better luck finding colleagues/staff who will venture to imagine that what they do is an art.

But we place our values on our own misunderstood ideas of education and literacy, where the word and the craft, and the knowing and the learning, do not always meet. It is no wonder that in Singapore we give our artists an education divorced from scholarship, and our scholars an education divorced from all notions of art.

This way, we will continue to breed a nation of civil servants (like me) and managers. Though I fear we will soon run out of anything meaningful to manage.

3 comments:

wheyface said...

What about fear of failure? So much of the artist's life is about failing, learning, and going on. It's also far more comfortable to not take the risk of creating.
In fact, the above applies as much to the people who rule out art as a way of life as to the attitudes of young people at university. The majority of the latter want knowledge to be given to them like jam in a jar so that they can open the jar and spread the jam on bread as and when they need a snack.

ampulets said...

That's something I've been thinking about with my colleagues who are working on the art school project as well. An artist we met recently declared, "if everyone likes it, it is probably not art".

Er, I guess all definitive statements about art always have the ring of falsehood about them, but it is also true that in art, you can't please anyone. but you are right, the kids must get the hang of failing, learning and moving on. and to get there, they must first understand their own motivations and aims - are they in the arts school to please their parents, themselves, learn something, get out from mainstream school, show-off that they are different...

i really hope that when this school takes off, it will provide an environment that is not only the best for the arts, but for learning and growing up - kids who will value the homemade, the handmade, and the processes and attitudes informing all decisions and creative work.

The humanist IB ideals are tough to live up to, seeing how rotten humans are! But I think the folks working on the arts school project got their heart and head in the right places. (OK, better get back to work! hehe)

wheyface said...

I am not sure I understand what that artist means. But I grant that the statement is quoted out of context ...
For me, art is beauty and truth.

I recently spoke to a friend who is teaching in a famous boys' school. She said that her students are not interested in taking part in any competition unless they can come out first. I was stunned. Apparently, when the school announcements go, "We lost to . . . ", everybody in the assembly xian ji bua, to use a hokkien expression. These kids need to read "One Art", Elizabeth Bishop's villanelle about the art of losing. Well, that's one place to start...

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