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Every year we speak to a diverse range of people in an effort to develop and promote our local creative discourse. For 2018, we sat down with 21 creatives of various disciplines to learn about their practice and asked each of them to fill up a blank page in a notebook. For 2019, we gathered perspectives on our zine and art book culture, along with the possibilities of self-publishing today.


Photo Credit: SGABF

SGABF: Hi Diva. Can you start by telling us more about your work?

DIVAAGAR (D): In the beginning, I did illustrations to the point of futility. I found the medium itself to be quite flat and not really experiential for me. I moved on to installation and performance as a means to immerse and engage with people. There is also great joy in working with other people on art direction and exhibition design. For me, it has been a great experience finding out how best to flesh out their works spatially in exhibitions.

SGABF: What are your thoughts on having to tear down or give away your works given the nature and scale of your practice? Is reflecting upon your physical works someday something you’ve thought about?

D: Between the birth and afterlife of the work, there’s something called the floor plan. I plan everything I do to the exact measurement. The process can take a month or six, depending on how big the work becomes or is expected to be.

Life can be difficult and things don’t always go your way. So, very often the works deviate from the plans. I’ve been thinking of having a digitised format of these works for myself. One of the things in mind was to adapt those works into a 3D model. I’m not exactly sure what that would do or how that would make me see the work in itself but it’s a good way to reflect on the difficulties of making.

I’m okay with my works being temporary. Instagram stories are very helpful in the documentation process. Things are framed in a certain way when you plan them out. You also end up having a tunnel vision as you’re making a work. With a tool like that on social media, it’s nice to see the ways people frame your work with their perspective.


Photo Credit: Courtesy of Artist


SGABF: It’s safe to say then that tangibility of the work is secondary to you?

D: Yes. I’m not here to build monuments. I do think it’s very much due to the times instead of a focus to build temporary things. Exhibitions no longer have to be full of viewable objects.

I’ve worked with a lot of unconventional art spaces, and a lot of them don’t necessarily last. There’s something romantically fleeting to have something exist for some time. It served its purpose and now it’s going away.



Photo Credit: Courtesy of Artist

SGABF: Your works mostly deal with personal conflict, societal pressure and identity. Your exhibition, The Soul Lounge, which was held at soft/WALL/studs last year, came with five other events that took on various forms of presentation – Opening: F.U.B.U, Boderline (An Ode To Self Care), Don’t Wish Me Well, Mad and Rise. Was that a way of presenting different facets of your practice and work?

D: That was the second iteration. The first one was mostly parties, film screenings and programmes that catered to those crowds of people. At soft/WALL/studs, I worked very closely with Kin Chui. He was very supportive, and a very strong ally.

For the second iteration, I really wanted to expand the space and incorporate a pluralistic approach as to how I would have done things from before. I worked with soft/WALL/studs to curate the film programme and put up a spoken word performance by Norah Lea, Atiq Lukman and Zeha.

Beyond the opening party which was mostly facilitated by myself, those events were also a way to draw other individuals’ experiences into this framework of queer brown solidarity. The entire project had its successes and failures. Despite it being a space for queer brown people, most of the time we saw a majority of straight Chinese audience. How does it feel to still be a minority in a space that was created for you? I guess there wasn’t enough draw or deterrence in terms of attracting the right people to the space either.

SGABF: What do you mean by ‘deterrence’?

In order to create a safe space, there also has to be an element of exclusion. I think that a lot of safe spaces exist as temporal entities because they get co-opted into larger audiences that were not meant for. There’s failure in that but at the same time there is also success in the way people found affinities and friendships through the experiences, feelings and struggles of one another.

SGABF: What do you think is still lacking within Singapore’s artistic landscape in terms of shows, programmes and festivals?

D: I’ve always believed that not everything is provided for you but there’s always the opportunity to make something happen beyond each of these platforms. I guess there’s also a sense of inner sensibility to these larger platforms, where you see people who are already familiar within the scene and thus are able to engage easier and more directly. For others, it can be an alienating experience especially when they feel that they have to understand art books and design on a very specific level to engage with the activities. The fact is, they don’t but I think that the format of a fair can distance these groups of people. It’s tricky, I think, because you wouldn’t want to dumb down the content either.

To rectify that, there is the possibility of expanding out of the fair and looking into various aspects of art book making. It doesn’t have necessarily to be enclosed in one space. Venue matters, too. In the context of Singapore Art Book Fair, people who are not familiar with art don’t really visit Gillman Barracks. There are definitely things we can do to bring people in, and get them to be interested in art books and self-publishing.

Photo Credit: SGABF

SGABF: What is the value of zines, art books and self-published materials to you?

D: Previously, I was more focused on the idea of intimacy. With zines and self-published books, there is a real sense of tactility. It’s not a very confrontational sense of intimacy as compared to stepping into an exhibition where everything is set up and you find yourself in the face of everything. There’s a kind of autonomy when you flip and read books. With limited edition materials, you’re probably only going to get 50 people reading the book. There’s ownership in that too.

Personally, I haven’t really done much making of zines or art books except for collaborative projects, which have allowed me to break away from my main practice. I contributed to a zine, which was submitted to the Zine Library last year. It was called Romantic Engines, and was created by Toh Bee Suan who goes by ALMOSTASTHMA, as well as Lee Wan Xiang.


Image Credit: ALMOSTASTHMA

The zine was created a couple of months before the open call. It was a fun process and a good break from identity politics which can be exhausting sometimes. It gave me the opportunity to employ humour into a project. For me, humour is always intermingled with my practice but never fully fleshed out. I think zines are a great way to exercise elements beyond my main practice.

SGABF: It’s interesting that you brought up the exhausting nature of identity politics. Zines were once actively used as objects of counter culture. They have evolved greatly throughout generations to include creations based purely on the desire to express an artistic practice. Do you think this aspect of zines is still relevant today?

D: I mean, things like counter culture eventually become part of our wider culture after some time, right? Zines are no exception, and they are very big in queer subcultures too. Similarly, if queerness is becoming more accepted as part of the general culture, so will their zines and art.

Zines were produced cheaply to be distributed within circles to promote radical ideas. Even though everything has become digital, and content is easily consumed, there is still power in printed material and small circulation because some ideas are still unsafe to put up publicly. There’s still a necessity for these aspects of zines.
At the same time, we can’t be purists about zines. If people want to make them beyond the purpose of counter culture, let them. There’s also meaning in these creations.

SGABF: Many artists who are exploring the option of self-publishing often have to find creative ways around specific limitations of production costs and distribution. In your experience so far, what has encouraged or kept you from turning to making zines?

D: I think that’s exactly the advantage of making zines, especially with distribution. I’m with the school of thought that zines don’t necessarily have to take on high production value. They don’t have to be as sophisticated as photography books, for example.

I’m also drawn to the rawness of handmade zines. Having worked with friends, I’ve realised that it made more sense to scan and combine all the elements in one entire zine. There’s also the option of putting them in a PDF where you don’t incur any printing cost. You have a free publication for distribution and it can be emailed to certain people. That way, we return to the history of zines – distributing them to selective circles and sharing our art with people that it’s made for.


Photo Credit: Courtesy of Artist

SGABF: Apart from self-publishing, what other forms of presentation can you think of that would serve as a means of archival and documentation of your works?

D: I was recently inspired to make instructable installations, where you have a floor plan and list of materials to demonstrate the purpose and concept of a work. It’s good for realised and unfulfilled projects in reviving certain elements. Can each installation take on different formats? What other spaces would suit this project better? Such materials may serve as a guide to set up multiple potentials. 



I haven’t thought about how this guide would manifest but I know that it would be a good way to explain certain projects that are unclear in terms of presentation. What are the considerations behind the setup, and how does that add to the experience for the viewer? Going through the whole format and instructions for all of this could be a great way to tackle these questions.

SGABF: Finally, can you recommend up to three zines and/or art books that you have read or collected?

D: What The Hell Are You Doing?: The Essential David Shrigley,
Trigger: Gender as a Tool and a Weapon
by The New Museum, Virtue & Virility by Lee Chang Ming

Divaagar is a visual artist whose practice explores the relationships between desires and spaces through installation, space-making and performance. He works at the intersections of bodies, identities and environments, proposing alternative economies and ecologies through engaging with localities, methods of display and re-routing gazes.

Recent exhibitions include Not the norm: On Conjugal Blisses and Misses, Goodman Arts Centre (Singapore), Between a rock and a hard place, Untitled Space (Shanghai) and The Soul Lounge, soft/WALL/studs (Singapore).