Sunday, October 03, 2010

Gay and Working Class Arts

GASPP: a Gay Anthology of Singapore Poetry and Prose will have its pre-launch in KL, Malaysia, on 17 October, and its official launch at a popular gay club in Singapore on 29 October. Details here, and the dishy cover. I have a poem in it.

Editors Ng Yisheng, Dominic Chua, Irene Ho and Jasmine Seah provide this book synopsis:

GASPP is Singapore’s first anthology of writers who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and otherwise queer. It’s the combined work of 35 authors, translators and editors, who’ve contributed poetry, short fiction, memoirs, essays and experimental writing in English, Mandarin and Malay.
Between these covers, you’ll meet a loving couple struck by HIV, a lesbian lawyer confronted by her past, a voyeur in a New York library, an alarmed government censor, and a bomoh with a magic formula that keeps gay men faithful.
Romantic, sensual, hysterical and bizarre, these works are a testament to the range of voices that constitute queer literature in Singapore today. Featured writers include Johann S. Lee, Ovidia Yu, Alfian Sa’at, Cyril Wong, Ng Yi-Sheng and Adrianna Tan.

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Yesterday afternoon GH and I watched The Pitmen Painters, Manhattan Theatre Club's first offering of the season, at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre. The play, about a group of miners turned artists, was delightful in its first act, but the second gave it substance and complexity. Oliver Kilbourn (played very convincingly by Christopher Connel) had to decide if he would accept a stipend from rich collector Helen Sutherland (natural Phillippa Wilson) to paint. The decision raised issues about patronage, artistic integrity, community, and class.

When Oliver was painted as a miner by Robert Lyon (Ian Kelly), the academic who taught the miners to paint, the play took a leaf from Pygmalion. Commenting on his erstwhile master's sketch, Oliver pointed out that the drawing had no individuality, that Lyon had always seen the miners-painters as a group, as a class instead. But how far was that judgment barbed by the natural resentment that comes from being invented by someone else? The play offered no definite answers.

It ended with the miners celebrating the nationalization of the mines after World War II. It seemed to them that utopia was in sight, when the means of production (and representation) would be owned in common, and everyone could lead fulfilling and creative lives. But that was not to be. The ending was an ironic elegy to lost dreams. The play was written by Billy Eliot author Lee Hall, and directed by Max Roberts.

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