Friday, February 26, 2016


Sat in at a Roundtable at the Singapore Art Museum themed 'Art and The Big Ideas of a Small Nation: PEACE'. This Roundtable is part of the 'Crescent Project: Art Embraces All for the exhibition, 5 Stars: Art Reflects on Peace, Justice, Equality, Democracy and Progress'. There're the five art pieces, each representing a national value. Then there're these Roundtables providing additional food for thought.

There were pre-formulated leading questions to help the four speakers along with their preferred points on the theme, weaving it to the Singapore context. While it was very nice to listen to what the speakers had to say, it was an ambitious panel, to say the least. The speakers, including one dialing in on Skype, had two hours to muse on a big topic of PEACE, and how art and concept of culture are intrinsically tied to national values.

Third of five in the series, this Roundtable was moderated by Kennie Ting (Group Director, Museums and Development, National Heritage Board). Speakers included Ambassador of Ireland to Singapore, HE Geoffrey Keating, author Catherine Lim, visual artist Boedi Widjaja, and Eirliani Abdul Rahman (Founder of YAKIN 'Youths, Adult survivors & Kin in Need' and campaigner against child sexual abuse). They shared their thoughts along the lines of "how the value of Peace affects and influences their experience, expectations, and visions of the individual, communities, and the state."

In the speakers' comments, there were messages of hope. Of religious harmony and co-existence (HE Geoffrey Keating), of political changes towards lessening the reins on freedom of speech and OB markers (obviously Catherine Lim's sphere); of exploring the inner struggles of defining where home is, even if it lies in a chaotic city marked by strife and ethnic unrest (Boedi Widjaja), and of the horror of child abuse and domestic violence that creates pain and hell in the social fabric (Eirliani Abdul Rahman).

Peace is a construct. It's Philosophy 101. In 1795, Immanuel Kant postulated an entire essay on 'Perpetual Peace'. I'm not altogether sure it's intended to be ironic. It sounds pretty satirical. It's an ideal that's apparently differently defined all over the world. An uneasy sort of Peace holds as long as military might is held in check. Strong community bonds can be easily torn asunder overnight by thoughtless words and actions. We know this peace in Singapore is not a permanent guarantee. We are witnesses to the changes happening now in many regions. Wishing for World Peace hasn't gone out of fashion.

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