Saturday, 4 October 2008


Title: Typing as Prophecy
Book: Preoccupations: Things Artists Do Anyway
Date: 2008
Publishers: ni ren laiyan PROJECTS and Studio Bibliothèque
Author: Michael Lee Hong Hwee
City: Singapore


There is a version of my curriculum vitae that I store secretly and update gingerly: the one that includes future accomplishments.

Updating it gives me guilty pleasure. It serves much like a list of new-year resolutions with very specific accolades (even some fictitious ones) I aim to pursue, while humouring me with my silliness, vanity and far-fetched ambitions: To show in every biennale conceivable! Nice. To have Phaidon ring me up about publishing my own monograph. Oooh, baby! To clinch a Nobel Prize. Errr… why not?! To be cited in lectures, papers, books and films on subjects ranging from art to literature, astronomy to natural history, psychology to philosophy. Coolest! To have a film, museum, award, foundation, fashion line, product, trademark, child, all named after me… Yes! YEs! YES!

With every update naturally come disappointments, as I select and delete unfulfilled wishes.

When I am faced with multiple deadlines of ‘proper work’, editing this particular CV becomes an especially obsessive and intense affair, which sometimes leads to illness.

Yet on mornings when I can’t seem to get up from my bed, this CV pops up from the back of my mind to nudge me to wake up!

Its magic? Out of, say, ten items I express in the wish list, one or two actually materialise, sometimes in their originally desired manner, but mostly in an oblique, i.e., even more interesting, form.

Tracing the origin of my quietly competitive nature will involve returning to an incident when I was five years old. I was brought, along with my elder brother, by our grandmother to visit a neighbour. On my neighbour’s study table was a typewriter – an object of much novelty for us kids then. My brother spotted it first and, without delay, began fiddling with it gleefully, hitting its keys like a juvenile drummer, while I waited for my turn impatiently but silently. Suddenly, it was time to go. I dashed to the typewriter, hit a few keys, probably formed a word or two, and was screamed at to go now!

While retaining my reserved disposition, working on my secret CV addresses at least three related regrets from this incident: not being fast enough to spot and run to the typewriter, not having my turn at it, and not expressly stating my wish, impatience and right.

The fear of regret is what this CV knows tacitly – and well.

Related Links:
Editorial Preface
Editorial Introduction
Facebook announcement
Facebook photo archive
RTHK Radio 3 Interview with Cornelia Erdmann

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