On Saturday, 10 April, I trooped down to the Singapore Art Museum for a “live performance” by Tang Da Wu. Yes, the Tang Da Wu, the very first Singaporean performance artist, the guy in our Art ‘A’ Level Syllabus, the legend who did crazy things like stage a performance about the use of the tiger’s penis as an aphrodisiac in Traditional Chinese Medicine in a prostitution district in Chinatown. At 5.30 pm in the courtyard at SAM, I was surrounded by everyone from students to tourists to utterly non-artsy-looking civilians to a cross-section of the past 40 years of Singapore’s visual art scene: Han Sai Por, Chng Seok Tin, Amanda Heng, Donna Ong…
I won’t try to recap his performance in this blog post; you can view my photos on Facebook or you can read a very straightforward, informal, digestible account of it here (which I suggest you do before reading the following).
I would just like to say that I am feeling artistically satiated at the fact that I have finally witnessed one of Tang Da Wu’s performance art pieces. It was brilliantly insightful yet humorous; understandably egotistical yet humble. It was a daring critique of the Art Museum within its own walls, and yet it almost seemed like he had so casually thrown it together. The man folded up his own paintings and put them in the SAM lockers; he allowed the audience to handle authentic Tang Da Wu works, for goodness’s sake!
Whatever his thought processes may have been, it was heartening to stand amongst such a diverse crowd in which each person laughed as loudly as the next and all stood together in some strange spirit of relaxed awe. There was an inclusivity, a non-requirement of complex intellectual understanding; you just needed to be there to be a part of something. There was no grandeur, but it was an Occasion all the same. I don’t think I ever understood performance art better.