Art Picks: Free e-books from Ethos, Objectifs' digital library, Heman Chong's ambient walks, and more

Ethos Books has put up six free e-books. PHOTOS: ETHOS BOOKS


The books come with some beautiful work from artists. PHOTOS: ETHOS BOOKS

If you want a diverse sampler of Singapore writing, check out homegrown publisher Ethos Books' website. The veteran indie publisher has put up six free e-books, slender but wide-ranging volumes featuring the works of eight writers.

If you are in the mood for verse, try Some Say, A Tapir, which contains three poetry cycles by Alfian Sa'at, Christine Chia and Yong Shu Hoong.

For two irreverent takes on the life of William Farquhar, Singapore's overshadowed First Resident, check out Joshua Ip's Farquhar, a snarkily contemporary free verse retelling his life in various voices; and Colin Goh's The Bonnie, Bonnie Banks Of Singapura, which the author self-deprecatingly describes as "satirical doggerel".

Goh was arguably the first writer to immortalise an alternative view of the Raffles-Farquhar myth in TalkingCock The Movie, so his pop culture cred is legit. Neil Humphreys - whose comic Raffles takedown, Why Our Great Leader Was Not So Great And Not Much Of A Leader, is part of this e-book series - actually played Raffles in Goh's movie.

Those inclined towards science fiction can opt for Gwee Li Sui's 2719, which imagines seven scenarios for Singapore over 700 years, or Desmond Kon's philosophical musings in Found Texts Of The AAI Anon Circa 3119 Eight Lyric Essays, told from the point of view of an artificial intelligence.

The books come with some beautiful work from artists, ranging from illustrations to photographs.

I have a minor quibble with some odd text layouts. Those who are not tech-savvy might also struggle with the plethora of formats offered in the zipped download.

But hey, free books.

WHERE: Ethos Books' website




A still from Kirsten Tan's short film Come. PHOTO: KIRSTEN TAN

Visual arts space Objectifs has built an online platform for its library of South-east Asian short films.

Film buffs can rent works by Singapore directors such as Boo Junfeng's 2009 Tanjong Rhu and Kirsten Tan's 2007 Come. Last year's Young Artist Award winner Tan Wei Keong's quirky and surreal collages of live action, stop-motion and hand-drawn animations are also available.

The collection includes works from regional film-makers like Indonesia's Makbul Mubarak and Thailand's Pimpaka Towira, and most of the works are not available elsewhere.

In conjunction with the library, Objectifs is organising a series of film club events which currently are held on video conferencing platform Zoom. To date, these events have featured Kirsten and Wei Keong talking about their works. Follow Objectifs on their social media channels for updates on upcoming events.


ADMISSION: US$1.50 for for 72-hour access to each short film



Heman Chong has shot 20 new videos for his Ambient Walking channel. PHOTO: HEMAN CHONG

"All art is documentation," says concept artist Heman Chong.

During the circuit breaker, the 43-year-old has shot 20 new videos for his Ambient Walking channel. The videos, lasting from 30 minutes to more than an hour each, are shot on his Osmo Pocket camera. They are point-of-view shots of environments, with only ambient noise as the soundtrack.

"I see them as historically important documents of our shared urban fabric during the Covid-19 crisis," Chong says.

It is surreal to see Changi Airport's Terminal 2, which closed on May 1, deserted and abnormally silent in his one-hour, 17-minute video.

But earlier videos, such as the library series and some of the mall walks, are strangely nostalgic and comforting, filled with people going about their daily routines. They are a reminder of a lost era.

And in the case of the Liang Court videos and those of Rochor Complex post-demolition, they are records of lost or soon to be lost buildings.

Chong plans his walks before each shoot: "Every single walk is a walk that has memories associated with it. Recording the walk is a way of externalising my memories."

He admits he is "learning on the go" as he has no training in film:"Some of the older walks are faster because I didn't quite know what I was doing then."

The videos might not be polished, but they are resonating with people. His daily channel views have been reaching about 1,000, " double of what it was in January".

Tune in for a soothing dose of nostalgia and escape during these uncertain times.




Twelve Wright sites are posting short video clips every week. PHOTO: TALIESINWI/INSTAGRAM

Tour some of architect Frank Lloyd Wright's creations on Instagram using the hashtag #wrightvirtualvisits. Twelve Wright sites are posting short video clips every week under this initiative by the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy, the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation and Unity Temple Restoration Foundation.

The quality of the virtual visits are a tad erratic, some with jerky camerawork and others with dodgy sound.

Fallingwater, indubitably the most famous building, gets an appallingly brief video. You do not even get to see the interior, just the external driveway approach and porch, although the exterior stone wall is a beautiful echo of the rugged hillside setting.

Taliesin offers a nice six-minute tour of Wright's studio, and you get to see more of the interior, complete with a Japanese print as well as quirky geometric windows and shutters tucked into odd corners of the high angled roof.

The same plywood floor lamp in the studio pops up in the Willey house living room. Dining rooms are the focus of the Westcott House and Taliesin West tours.

The Westcott House's dining room has a beautiful dining table incorporating then-new electric light fixtures which look like Japanese paper lanterns. Taliesin West's video is a mini-documentary of the newly restored dining room and even has clips of the restoration process.

Great architecture porn to spend an afternoon drooling over.



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