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Another Word for Silence

Jun 28, 2015
2:30 pm – 5:30 pm

Para Site is excited to announce Another Word for Silence, an afternoon of talks and panel discussions in preparation for A Luxury We Cannot Afford, an exhibition opening at Para Site on September 18, 2015. The programme features art critic Lee Weng Choy, artist Cheo Chai-Hiang, playwright Tan Tarn How, poet Ng Yi-Sheng and writer Isa Kamari, all members of the research committee for A Luxury We Cannot Afford. The silence referred to in the title is the illusion maintained by Singaporean mainstream society that ignores various pitches and frequencies outside of the official, Sino-centric and heterosexual noise.

For the first talk, The Myth of the Lazy Native, writer and Singapore Cultural Medallion winner Isa Kamari will speak on the alternate historical narrative portrayed by the Malay Muslims in Singapore. Isa will also expand on the works by sociologist Syed Hussein Alatas (1927- 2007), such as The Myth of The Lazy Native (1977) and Thomas Stamford Raffles: Schemer or Reformer? (1972), which formed a critical precursor to Isa’s own writing as well as to the field of post-colonial anti-imperialist literature.

In the second session, writer and gay rights activist Ng Yi-Sheng will explore a contradiction within the contemporary LGBT culture: that of being heard and being deliberately ignored. Ng will look at the history of LGBT culture in Singapore from the 1960s to the present day. He will also expand on why the increasing democratization and growing awareness of LGBT culture in Singapore still does not translate to favourable political changes.

The day’s programme will end with a panel discussion with Cheo Chai-Hiang, Isa Kamari, Lee Weng Choy, Ng Yi-Sheng and Tan Tarn How. Looking at the strategies and negotiations that occurred under the Singaporean government, this panel will speak of the struggles of contemporary art and sustaining a healthy art ecology within a heavily institutionalized environment.


2:30 – 3:15 pm: The Myth Of the Lazy Native, Isa Kamari

3:15 – 4:00 pm: Background Vocals: Queerness and Singaporean Mainstream Culture, Ng Yi-Sheng

4:00 – 5:30pm: Another Word for Silence Panel Discussion, Cheo Chai-Hiang, Isa Kamari, Lee Weng Choy, Ng Yi-Sheng and Tan Tarn How. Moderated by Qinyi Lim, Curator of A Luxury We Cannot Afford.


The sessions will be conducted in English.



Para Site fully supports the democratic aspirations of the people of Hong Kong. 

Para Site is financially supported by the Springboard Grant under the Arts Capacity Development Funding Scheme of the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.

The content of this activity does not reflect the views of the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.

About the panelists

Cheo Chai-Hiang (b. 1946) is an artist, lecturer, writer and independent curator based in Singapore and Malaysia. He is one of Singapore’s pioneering contemporary artists, and his instruction pieces from the early 1970s are generally regarded as the first conceptual art works in the country. His practice since then has consistently sought to question the forms and processes of art-making.


Isa Kamari is a writer based in Singapore. He has written nine novels in Malay of which seven have been translated into English: One Earth (Satu Bumi), Intercession (Tawassul), Nadra (Atas Nama Cinta), Rawa(Rawa), A Song of the Wind (Memeluk Gerhana), 1819 (Duka Tuan Bertakhta) and The Tower (Menara). He has also published two collections of poems, Sumur Usia and Munajat Sukma, a collection of short stories, Sketsa Minda, and a collection of theatre scripts, Pintu. Isa was conferred the S.E.A. Write Award (Southeast Asian Writers Award) in 2006, the Cultural Medallion in 2007, and the Anugerah Tun Seri Lanang in 2009.


Lee Weng Choy is president of the Singapore Section of the International Association of Art Critics (AICA). Formerly artistic co-director of The Substation arts center in Singapore, he has lectured at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, the Sotheby’s Institute of Art, Singapore, and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. His essays have appeared in journals including Afterall, FOCAS, and Positions: East Asia Cultures Critiques, and in anthologies including Theory in Contemporary Art since 1985Contemporary Art in Asia, and Modern and Contemporary Southeast Asian Art: a Critical Anthology.


Ng Yi-Sheng is a poet, playwright, journalist and gay rights activist based in Singapore. His first poetry collection, last boy, won the 2008 Singapore Literature Prize. He has also published a non-fiction novel titled SQ21: Singapore Queers in the 21st Century, which was a bestseller in Singapore, and a novelisation of the movie Eating Air.


Tan Tarn How is a playwright and Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS), Singapore. His work as a playwright examines the socio-political environment and machinations of the Singapore state, and he is best known for capturing the zeitgeist with the incisiveness of a political analyst. Tan’s award-winning plays have been staged in Singapore and Hong Kong. Prior to his appointment at IPS, Tan held positions at The Straits Times, Singapore’s main local newspaper, from 1987–1996 and 1999–2005. Tan has also been a teacher and television scriptwriter, as well as the part-time Associate Artistic Director of the drama company TheatreWorks, where he had been leading workshops for budding playwrights.