Freedom, Service and Hope
In his spoken word performance, Singaporian performance legend Wen Lee gives a touching account of some events from his rich and long career. He begins what would become one of his last performances in Europe, sitting alone in a chair in an empty space . With his cane in hand, dressed in dark colors except for a bright red scarf that hangs haphazardly from his narrow shoulders, a sleep mask half covering his eyes, he simply speaks to the audience in a low, hardly audible voice. Sometimes it seems as if he turns intentionally away from the microphone to enhance the effect. Or he simply doesn’t care about production value, as he his recalling his memories. More important issues are at stake. Wen Lee, one can’t help but interprete, stages his appearance in Aalborg as his own ghost, saying his good byes to this international artistic circuit that he lived on, that he loved and that loved him.
Black Market International
Lee Wen also performed with the legendary performance association Black Market International. A movie about the festival, including long excerpts from this exceptional group performance and statements from the performers can be seen here.
About the Artist
Lee Wen (Chinese: 李文; pinyin: Lǐ Wén, 1957–2019) was a multidisciplinary artist and one of Singapore’s most internationally recognised contemporary artists. Best known for his Yellow Man series, painting his own body with bright yellow poster paint, he expressed an exaggerated symbol of his ethnic identity as a citizen of Singapore.
Lee Wen’s performances and installations often expose and question the ideologies and value systems of individuals as well as social structures. His work attempts to combine Southeast Asian contexts with international currents in contemporary art.
Since 1999 Lee worked with Black Market International, an innovative performance art “group” comprising artists from various countries and cultural backgrounds. In 2003 Lee initiated, with the support of the Artists Village, “The Future of Imagination”, an international performance art event and “R.I.T.E.S.- Rooted In The Ephemeral Speak” (2009), a platform to support and develop performance art practices, discourse, infrastructure and audiences in Singapore. Lee initiated the Independent Archive in 2012 to develop documentation, research and resource sharing of ephemeral art manifestations in Singapore as well as internationally.
Fortunately, Lee’s website, Republic of Daydreams is still online, with lots of information on his thought, art and life.