Mish & Tam
- 13 August 2017 -
We managed to get some insights about their time in the studio, which we are reproducing below:
Isabelle: – You came to the studio at the end of June and have been working in the studio on the weekends since then, as well as some days during the week to accommodate young students’ visits. During that time, I was wondering if your idea of what you were going to do in the space evolved, or changed completely, or stayed exactly as you had planned.
Both: – Our idea of what we were going to do in the space was constantly evolving. We had the notion of taking inspiration from what we had seen and experienced in Jogjakarta as a starting point, but then it turned out that other explorations (in slime, especially) proved to be more intriguing to us. We were constantly thinking about different things we could do with the space, and those ideas often swung wildly from one to another – performance art one day, wall installations another, etc. Then other roadblocks also happened – for example, we both really wanted to cover the entire floor of the studio in multi-coloured slime, and were excited about that for a couple of weeks, until we finally did our arithmetic and found the cost to be way beyond our budget. It was nice that we had so much room to explore though.
I: – Did you keep a strict log of what you were doing or of which experiment you were undertaking, etc… ? Or did you just “play by ear” and become more intuitively connected to your medium through playing freely with it and making?
Tam: – Definitely played by ear. The only logs we have are the ones we stole off the roadside near the studio for our slime forest. Incidentally, I’ve got three different journals that I’ve started and then tried keeping updated in 2017 alone, and all lie unloved with pages pristine in some corner of my room. A+ for effort though.
Mish: – We were very much just playing freely and exploring the nature of the materials that we had. I think it’s not in our nature to keep logs or be structured about the way we worked… plus, being elbow deep in goop half the time made it difficult to document things!
I: – Can you elaborate on the balance between “knowing” and “learning through manipulating and making” in your artistic process.
Mish: – I guess to know means to understand something, whether it is a concept or the way a certain material behaves. I would say that one might come to know something after spending some time learning through manipulating and making. The more I make art, the less I’m certain that I know anything of consequence at all. I don’t know if the balance that you refer to exists in my artistic process. More and more I’m coming to think of art as some sort of expulsion of emotion, necessary if only to prevent some sort of internal self-combustion. I tend to work by gaining a lot of input from books and lived experience before coming up with an idea for a work that ties all of it together, so I would say that my process is heavy on the “knowing” and light on the “learning through manipulating and making”.
Tam: – For me, a lot of the appeal of the creative process comes from uncertainty. At least the first stage for me has to be a temporary disconnection from the cerebral (knowing and rationalising) – all that self-consciousness would pickle my work prematurely. I often start out with no fixed ideal in mind, letting the process take me where it will. And after a bit of time playing a concept might take root, which I then consciously develop further. The final work is many times more interesting to me this way – it’s fresh, and even when it’s not so good the process carried its own value of discovery – about the medium, about myself. I don’t know about knowing, to be honest. Is it necessary? I’m interested in chance and audience participation and experience. Where does knowledge come into play? Culturally? Tangentially? I have to think about it more, but intuitively I’d say it performs a function like salt. Relatedly, I must air that I could never see art as simply the application of knowledge or skills; I feel a knee-jerk disdain whenever I hear praise of how skillful or well-polished a work is, as if that’s all there is to it. Give me your raw and crude, just so long as it arrives breathing (though ideally also flips something on its head, confounds at least one person and offends another!)
I:– I understand it is the first time the two of you are working together as artists. Did you work collaboratively or more side-by-side? Did one of you take the lead depending on the project or was every decision a consensus? You might wish to elaborate on the collaborative process.
Both: – We started off each on our own experiments: Tam was interested in exploring slime as a medium, while Mish gravitated towards 2D works with pastel and markers. Some days we would take an interest in the other’s activity and join in the fun, while other days we would inhabit different areas of the studio doing our own thing. We ended up pursuing Tam’s idea further, but all in all we’d say that the whole process was very discursive and collaborative.
I: -Can you tell us more about each of your processes?
Tam: – Oh gosh I did rant a little on the previous question and answered this there already! Pls refer above, tq. It’s relevant to note that, as a new artist and this being my first residency, I feel it’s helped me to understand better how I work (especially since working alongside Mish has made me pay more attention to our individual quirks and tendencies), which has been really valuable.
Mish:– I tend to conceptualise a project and plan it out using sketches and software before dealing with the medium. It’s not often that I would sit and play around with media with no specific end goal in mind, so it has been quite a novel experience during this residency to do so. I often wish that I worked more like this, but it just doesn’t seem to come naturally to me.
I: – What are your plans now? Can you take your work further? Would you be ready to plan an exhibition? DO you feel you have generated enough work to apply to show your work anywhere more public?
Both: – We’re not ready to plan an exhibition at this point, but what was nice about the residency was its open-endedness and room for exploration – we managed to explore lots of possibilities but which we have yet to resolve. We feel we could definitely take the work further if we had more funds and time!
I: – Can you let us know the details of what you plan on showing for the Open Studio!
Both: – The thing to catch is our slime forest – a short performance-installation piece involving copious amounts of slime dribbling onto logs which we traumatised some of our new friends into salvaging with us from the Bukit Timah roadsides. (They never asked to visit us again at the studio thereafter. Art is lonely business.) We’ll also be showing some drawings and fragments from our slime explorations.