Posts from the “Work” Category

L’arme de larmy

N: I get a fan club

N: Lainie gets an army

Y: pls make military patches of this immediately

We were meant to plan dinner, but my former colleagues changed it into a call to arms amongst themselves to form Lainie’s Army — Larmy.

I flatly rejected it then because it made me feel awkward and weird. But then some other friends declared they were joining it too and I guess now it’s a thing and I’ve had time to adjust and now I have an army.

I already see how this could come in useful. We were talking about a sexist man and

P: Throw his carcass to the Larmy

Seven recruits today, seven million in a few tweets.

Ini macam

Everyone in the office loved the cover letter for a job application sent in. His prospects were looking quite good. Then we went through his previous work.

Pro-tip: For your job application, do not include a blatantly sexist article you recently wrote.

A good reminder that common sense can be uncommon.


I was told recently by a scoffing curator that a gender lens was a narrow and limited view, and not applicable in a show. More accurately, not applicable in his all-male show. Maybe he needed me to praise his show and all the other aspects before we could talk about communications over the fact.

I’d wait for him to realise that the limited view in this scenario is not seeing the gender lens (or rather, picking and choosing when it shall be allowed to be applied to your work), but I wouldn’t hold my breath. Sungguh menghampakan, which makes me annoyed with myself, because I should have learnt by now I generally should not assume the better of men in liberal arts circles.


Doing a huge cleanup of the house. How is it possible that I keep ridding myself of possessions and yet the house is full. Shifting my priorities from things I want to get rid of, to things I want to keep. A spring cleaning I could do with more than objects.

Horizon

I have been let go of Kakiseni, four years after I first joined this new administration.

My last day is Nov 30. I was asked to send in a proposal for freelancing (at a much lower rate). I don’t know if I’ll take it.

I think I’m handling this, but also, I think I just forgot there’s a gallery I wanted to visit today. I looked up at the time, and it was already too late.

I’m uncertain, but I’m not afraid.

#Otherfest the sequel

ahguo

Finally got my project manager! First meeting a few days ago:

  • Lainie: I want to turn the Kinta River into a gallery. Floating sculptures, art in water, under water, on water, of water.
  • Gan: *head in hands*
  • Lainie: and I want them to perform along the Kinta River
  • Gan: what is significant about this part of the river?
  • Lainie: oh, it’s where the Japanese spiked decapitated heads, and locals hid from them in the grass.
  • Gan: *head in hands*
  • Lainie: ah right. I hear it now.

Gan was in the Otherfest crew last year, and while I don’t wish to go into great details about the more spiritual encounters in the festival, suffice to say I did announce I would stay away from curating events in abandoned buildings that look haunted and have an air of desperation and anguish, no matter the historic significance of the space.

To be fair, the river bank is open air and very beautiful.

Public transport in Ipoh

I’m curating an art, food and history festival for Ipoh in October 2015. It will be called The Other Festival. Things have been changing in my hometown and since I cannot stop that, I will instead try to join the movement and shape it with a clear arts and culture direction. I’m not crazy enough to think I’m alone in this endeavour, nor so vain that I wish it were so either. I do think plenty is happening, but maybe without cohesion.

Ipoh is a living year-round Chinese Whispers festival. I’ve been encountering many pleasant surprises in the old town area since I (unofficially) announced my festival. Stakeholders and potential partners are demanding to meet — everyone interested/suggested was already in my list so far, except for one new establishment I’ve not heard of, but damn, news spreads faster than the possibility of festival logistics in Ipoh.

One thing that bugs me is public transport. It’s not great in Ipoh. However I complain in KL, I can still walk out in central locations and expect to be able to hail a cab, catch a bus to an LRT station, or use MyTeksi/Uber. During my most recent trip, I made it a point to reacquaint myself with public transport, and left my car behind. I have forgotten much. But chatty cabbies provide a host of (potentially very inaccurate) info to digest and mull over.

Calling a cab in Ipoh is different. In Ipoh, after you call a cab, chill for about 15 minutes (depending on how far away you stay from where taxi drivers generally hang out), and if a taxi still doesn’t show up, call again to check. Unlike in KL, even if they take down your phone number, you don’t get a confirmation call or any follow-up info. Sometimes they will call you back if they don’t have enough cabs around. Sometimes they will just wait and try again later.  Sometimes they don’t take your number at all, so you just chill and wait and see. If you have deadlines to meet, it is up to you to do the follow-up call. Follow-up calls are generally treated as confusing nuisances, and occasionally misunderstood as a new order for a taxi. Still, KL folk will do what KL folk will do. And Ipoh folk will…be Ipoh folk.

BK Radio Taxi is the default cab company I call in Ipoh, and they recently implemented a satellite system. It means you call the operator centre to book a cab, and you get an SMS informing you the cab is on the way about ten minutes after it has already picked you up. This is the start of good things for app-loving convenience-dependent lil ol’ me, but not for everyone else.

With the implementation of the satellite system, BK Radio recently had about 40 drivers leave their fleet, to join their rivals Ipoh Radio Cab. The main reason is high illiteracy rates amongst a segment of the local cabbie community: generally old, Chinese and unable to read, they could not understand the GPS system they were required to use, couldn’t read the addresses for where to pick up a client, were reliant on inaccurate GPS maps, and generally not able to work a smartphone. They found themselves booking less clients and earning much less, in a system that charges RM1 for every client they get through it. There was also some resentment about the fact that these RM1 charges are not capped by quantity at any maximum point, and not all passengers are willing to pay it. They also dislike having to call the passengers themselves to check for location verbally, because the cost of the call comes from their own pocket, and it requires some level of literacy to navigate the calling function within the app. It also requires them to admit to being illiterate with every phone call.

The illiterate cab drivers do, however, like being able to radio in to a person at the call centre, to get all the information they need. They like that they can get the broadcast with details, to see if they already know the pick-up spot and destination. Since they cannot read road signs, they rely on known landmarks or their extensive memory of road and area names to find locations. An app doesn’t do verbal communication (yet — although it could), and certainly doesn’t help if the GPS is inaccurate on top of it. The cabbie I spoke to stuck it out for a while, then decided he couldn’t cope with the apps.

About 40 cabs leaving your fleet in Ipoh can be quite significant — BK probably had the largest fleet of taxis before the 40 drivers left. Now it’s probably Ipoh Radio Cab. The difference in numbers shows most clearly at night in terms of availability (Ipoh Radio had more taxis on the road than BK), and in the daytime shows most clearly if you time how long it takes for a taxi to get to you. There are four main taxi companies in Ipoh. Two Chinese-owned, two Malay-owned. BK and Ipoh Radio are both Chinese-owned. It is presumed if you call a Chinese cab operator company, you will order for a cab in Cantonese. My Cantonese cracks under pressure.  The Chinese companies are also the bigger ones. One of the taxi drivers told me the larger Malay taxi company had only about 20-30 cars in its entire fleet.

Language does matter — there are pockets of Chinese-speaking citizens in Ipoh who speak a range of Chinese languages but barely any Malay. Calling a Chinese-cab company nearly always ensures you can communicate readily. Likewise Malay cab companies.

Now if you’re curating a festival, and conservatively estimating maybe about 60 taxis out on the roads at night, with a significant chunk mostly Chinese-speaking, you may start to worry too. I wasn’t out at midnight, this was 9pm, right after dinner. I have to say, this is going to weigh on my mind all the way till after the festival. I’m only hearing from cabbies so I’m sure there’s more to the story, but for now, aku stress.

Also, all the information I got from this was from taxi drivers, so who knows how accurate the stories were.

The Other Festival

As some of you may know, I am curating an arts, history and food festival in Ipoh for Kakiseni — It is called The Other Festival, and will be held next year. I am very pleased about some things, but these two are very, very dear to me: bringing arts to the people, and presenting my hometown to others. A part of me is deeply afraid and feeling very unprepared, but I don’t think I ever will be prepared, so here goes.

If you know me well, you’ll know I’m a silent worrier. I consider things like diversity (am I only talking to English-speaking Chinese people?), ownership (am I working with enough Ipoh people?), budget (what are the returns if my airy fairy dreams cost RM10,000?) and logistics (monsoon season). I also worry a lot about how the authorities respond to art.

Last week I sent a text message to Sharon Chin. All it said was “Buka Jalan 2015”. And she replied “Possible”, which is happy enough a response for me.

If you aren’t aware of its history, Buka Jalan was an international performance art festival in the national art gallery in 2011, and Sharon was one of the organisers. And let’s just say, both audience and authorities are not fully developed when it comes to performance art.

Performance art is not a forte of mine. I enjoy it a lot, as an audience member, and while I generally despise being occasionally roped in for the more direct participatory aspects, I endure it because I know I’m filling my memories with little presents to open at home, when I’m alone. Actually, I’m very, very, very shy and introverted and easily overwhelmed by attention, so I remember less if I’m required to participate directly. I got pulled onstage for the musical #mudkl, and that is also the section I remember the least of in the entire show. It’s like when tv characters describe how things were happening too fast in a hostile environment, and they have to be hypnotised to recollect the details.

Anyway.

Yesterday, I was at a lovely dinner party, and at some point we ended up talking about audiences, and how art may (not) work without cultural context. I believe that performance art that addresses/uses religious rituals to ask questions or send messages is always a disconcerting experience for the audience. Some Malaysians by reflex will go “Is this offensive or what?” or worse, “I see a glimmer of my religion and I am offended!” It’a also where “holier-than-thou” scorn is most relevant, for example: “I do this ritual differently, therefore you have betrayed your lack of understanding and unworthiness!” For an introvert, dealing with communal beliefs can be a tricky negotiation.

I have a tenuous grasp of religion, but from what I gather: religious rites are frequently communal. Even when performed in private, you can safely assume other devotees elsewhere are performing similar rites, based on certain shared beliefs and key values, for common end-goals.

If you don’t recognise them, religious rites can look quite strange. If you do, then in performance art, you’re seeing the familiar but probably in an alien setting. The point of performing these rites is a show of piety for god, and only that — not for others in what looks too close to entertainment. Either way, religious rites require a sense of belonging and community that does not seem to exist in performing arts events. The familiar becomes alien, the alien becomes grotesque, not everyone reacts well to it.

Art is tricky. Religious community is tricky. Performance art is tricky. Malaysian audiences are tricky. Not many artists are experienced in adequately addressing the type of discourse I have come to expect from performance art. But I still want Buka Jalan 2015 in The Other Festival, I still hope it happens. I’m just going into it with a lot of prayer (and preparation).

31 ÷ 2 + 7 = 22.5

Two minutes after asking my boss if she had sent me a real poster (because of the amount of misinformation in it), I remember this might have come from her friend’s company.

@flizzow

I was looking at Joe Flizzow’s username on Instagram (needed to tag him on a picture for work), and I had a “why is it his dad’s name” moment.

Alamak, nama bapak Joe bukan Flizzow ke?

 

Dear Diary, Bersih 3.0 really sucked.

So it’s June and I think it’s finally safe to talk about Bersih 3.0. My reluctance to address my attendance of the (supposed sit-in) demonstration had much to do with:

1) the politicisation of Bersih, which I am very tired of
and
2) the collective crazy of some participants.

I went to Bersih 3.0 for work, as a photographer. I was also supposed to be live-tweeting, but for whatever reasons (network flooded/rumoured mobile jammers), that did not work out at all. If I weren’t there for work, I would have been following updates of the rally from the safety of my home. Wearing my boxers. Eating Cheezels.

For Bersih 2.0, I had done my homework the night before. Gotten numbers of lawyers, bought my Good Morning towels, lil packets of salt, went with friends (and political tourists). Presumably had running shoes. When I was kettled in at Tung Shin Hospital, and tear-gassed, I had everything I needed to deal with it (and the relative comfort of knowing Kate, the Guardian journalist we were with, had witnessed the events).

For Bersih 3.0, my biggest preparation would have been an unplanned adventure the night before in Serdang, eating curry mee.

The next day, I took a train to KL Sentral to meet Kate, who was back in town to cover the Bersih rally again for Guardian. This time around, we were both sick as dogs and grumpy as hell about crowds, work obligations and the heat.

Malaysians, early for once.

I knew a huge crowd had already started gathering the night before — I had been in Dataran Merdeka, and somehow slipped behind the police barricades under some farce. Quite a few recognisable faces there, along with the Occupy Dataran crew (who soon had to pack up their stuff). Ahead of me, Pakatan supporters (mostly from PAS) were out in droves, flag waving, slogan-chanting. Felt much more like a political rally.

Malaysians love having the number 24 in their sial news. Rosmah's supposed RM24 million diamond ring, Liow Tiong Lai's RM24,000 license plate, or Teoh Beng Hock's death over alleged abuse of RM2,400. Pantang!

So I knew the official Bersih 3.0 would be hell crowded, and too political. Still, KL Sentral itself was alright. You could see the Bersih T-shirts speckled amongst the crowds, people taking group pictures. A few Lynas supporters. The train ride to Pasar Seni had two middle-aged men who made damn sure everyone else could hear their informed discussion on Bersih issues.

Central Market was so packed I couldn’t see who was onstage giving the speech. Nor could I hear anything being said. I asked around A LOT before I even figured out that it was Ambiga up front, surrounded by friends from the womens groups, possibly rallying the crowds.

Made our way to Masjid Jamek station, through the back of Pasar Seni where the police blockades were. The humidity was intense, and the crowd made it worse. There were some people sitting around here and there, but for the most part, I didn’t see many sitting down.

Polis, polis ‚ talked to some of them. Apparently the police force at Bersih had been given only half-rations from the night before, so they weren't in a great mood either, and prone to blaming protestors. Kate and I slipped through on the left.

Closer towards Masjid Jamek, where protestors were just milling about.

Kate and I were taking it easy at the sidewalks until an uproar started building up at the end of Masjid Jamek’s road. I knew then I had to get to work, so I forced my way to the middle of the road (and lost Kate). Years of partying in ridiculously packed nightclubs had given me the ability to elbow and boob my way through a crowd to *anyone*.

PAS Unit Amal guys started parting the crowd. I was in luck, it was Ambiga and Hishamuddin Rais. If I get pictures of them, I can go home, pop Panadols and have the day over and done with!

PAS Amal flers clearing the way for Ambiga, along with her bodyguards(?)

The first of one of the many times Ambiga would request rally participants be seated — I am still making my way towards her in this photo (before Nizar arrived)

Mostly lied my way past the PAS barricade (“Eh, I was inside just now, but got pushed out here” / “I’m with HER!” / “Angkat gambar, angkat gambar/ “I’ll leave right after”, etc), and made sure I was within a few feet of Ambiga.

All media persons out to get a good shot are vicious, merciless, and very rude. Kesian one of the womens’ NGO reps who got yelled at by a male photographer. “If you don’t want to be pushed, DON’T COME!”. It’s unfair, and I wanted to tell him off, but I was too light-headed by then to do anything but survive the heat and the pushing (my feet lifted off the ground a few times).

Another uproar — desposed Perak MB Nizar Jamaluddin had joined us, with his wife and young daughter.

Children — good for political mileage. Eating chocolates for energy.

Ambiga made her speech, I got my pictures. Of Ambiga, Hisham Rais, steering committee members Subramaniam and Andrew Khoo, and NGO people accompanying them. Nizar and family. I realised after the rally that Sze Ning was only a few feet away from me, but in the sea of people it would have been a minor miracle to see her. At this point, a man had been intentionally prodding and shoving my back — he was clearly out to antagonise and harass me, but stopped when I turned around just to observe more about him. Felt a bit uncomfortable that someone was out to make me lose my temper (he was standing near the PAS Amal guys, and had found a comfortable-ish spot where he didn’t need more space, but was reaching out just to push my shoulders).

They had wanted all of us to “duduk” while the speeches were being made, which would have been another minor miracle if possible, given how packed the crowd was where I had been. I have no talent for squatting, much less in that increasingly dizzying heat. I awkwardly hovered a lil bit, and photographed Nizar since I had somehow been turned around from Ambiga to face him.

PAS Amal guy making sure everyone is quiet for the speeches — most can't hear Ambiga anwyay

Then the best moment of Bersih happened: Ambiga declared the Bersih 3.0 rally a success and asked us to disperse.

“Yay, I can go home as soon as some of the crowd around me moves away!”

Of course, if that happened, Bersih 3.0 wouldn’t be the sensationalised political ammo for BN that it is today. Why didn’t someone just make Ambiga a huge “GO HOME” placard?

Then, an even bigger uproar than before.
“Dear god, today is never going to end”.

Kit Siang and Anwar joined the platform (I think it was a truck?) that Ambiga and Hisham Rais’ team were already on.

"Oh, fucking aces."

At one point, I had turned to the PAS Amal guy struggling to hold the line near me.

Lainie: I’m not being paid enough to work here.
PAS Amal dude: Saya volunteer.
Poor guy.

When Anwar’s political speech was done, and the truck pulled away, I resumed my business of trying to get out of there. My stomach was growling, and I could no longer tell if I was weak from the humidity (was already drenched in sweat by then), hunger or fever. Either way, I was in no condition to layan a crowd.

Part of the crowd that had dispersed. Many were just recuperating in the sparse shades found under the young trees between Pasar Seni and Masjid Jamek

Walked to Pasar Seni, trying to find Kate. Stumbled upon a huge gathering of people who had probably missed the order to disperse (I learnt later that though the likes of The Star tweeted the news, they were treated as malicious misinformation by gung-ho assholes*). The police trucks were there, and lines of officers.

*already very grumpy

I stood near the officers and took some photographs. They were clearly just posing as an intimidation tactic at the time, doing military-esque lineups, getting inspected, assuming battle stances. Protestors were starting to remove the barricades.

Barricades being removed. The ones who took the lead were middle-aged men, but everyone else followed suit soon enough. Like gotong-royong.

Police doing one of their many formations

Some guys with Occupy Dataran poster, beginning the sit-in protest in front of the cops.

Took some shots and left because I didn’t want anything to happen, and I certainly didn’t want to be around huge groups of people and police trucks after the dispersal order.

Police officers putting on gas masks and loading up tear gas guns— ie: time to go.

Central Market was all barricaded, so I had to take the pedestrian bridge. Trembled my whole way across, took quite a few breaks. I very nearly blacked out on my slow walk to the front of Pasar Seni. I was too tired to even pour water on my head, though the heat was quite nuts by then. I was hearing a faint buzzing. I think I only kept going out of sheer stubbornness and dislike for crowds.

At the bottom of the bridge, I stopped to catch my breath. Drink some water. Curse myself. A minute in, I hear the familiar booming sounds of tear gas canisters being launched. Then I see huge clouds in the middle of Pasar Seni, and people running towards me.

The charming sight of pillowy clouds of tear gas, yonder horizon. Fuck you too, BN.

I half-heartedly ran all of a few feet in front before the tear gas catches up with me. Aiyah, menyerah je, I can’t run faster than the air I breathe. I can handle tear gas (however awful), but it’d be worse if I pengsan here from being sick. Sat in front of Pasar Seni, got some salt from a nice old lady, felt the sting in my eyes and looked for an escape route. Train station closed. Babi.

Walked behind Pasar Seni train station (amidst shouts not to cause a stampede — at least some people were keeping their heads with them). Was very upset to see some protestors had brought babies and children with them. Are you fucking nuts? Do not attempt to hold a hostile government hostage with YOUR BABIES. Damn kesian.

Met some hipsters and friends. Some declared they were going to get their money’s worth by getting into Dataran Merdeka. Clearly with everyone’s mobile network down, information was very poorly distributed during the event (and even before). Still encountering people running away from tear gas, noses dripping, eyes bleary, coughing hard. Some were in good humour — apparently there was a change of wind direction where they came from, and the cops had tear gas backfire at them.

Saw a cab, left immediately. Ended up in a pub, cringing at the news as I watched footage RTM would play to death of protestors storming through police barricades and flipping over a cop car.

Hated all political parties a bit more — one for hijacking the event, another for handling it badly (though I knew both would happen). Sinuses impressively clear from the crowd dispersal gas.

Later on, cheered this website on: Dear Ambiga.

Went for a family dinner the next day and was asked by my aunt if I felt gungho about the tear gas. It’s not a surprising question, Bersih 3.0 is a badge of courage for some. At the very least, my own experience was marred by my fever and I should have known better than to attend, even for work.

Personally, I think wanting to get teargassed/arrested for a cause, or appreciating it, would make me an asshole. But feel free to differ in finding whatever values you do in being attacked.


• I have been seen in a Bersih 3.0 T-shirt. I purchased two — one for my mother, and another for myself. Consider this more about my loyalties for cheap T-shirts than Bersih. I wore a black T-shirt to Bersih 3.0.
• To be absolutely clear: I support Bersih’s 8 Demands. I appreciate the movement and the awareness its raised. But because I foresaw the political hijacking and lack of initiative/capacity to effectively limit it — I wasn’t there to support the rally, and if it wasn’t for work, I wouldn’t have been there at all.
• All photos © Lainie Yeoh 2012. Do not use without permission. Heaps more photographs available, contact my gmail account: lainieyeoh @ etc.