Close to Culture, Close to Creativity, Spot on Asia.

Articles by j.n



Reflections on Scandinavia II

Posted on September 26, 2013

It is here that I reference my experience in Scandinavia, where I spent a summer moving through Sweden and Finland meeting curators, academics, policymakers, businessmen, artists, and mostly importantly, the Scandinavians. The Scandinavian model is internationally revered in its successful implementation of the social welfare system; a system that brings about virtuous cycles of trust in its communities apart from the nuts and bolts of the system that involves high taxes on citizen’s annual incomes to fund systems such as national education, healthcare systems, and strong maternity packages, to name a few. The nations share an entangled history of overlapping geographies and languages, travelling along tangents but ultimately carving out their own respective independence. It is precisely this acute combination of shared histories, geographies and cultural influences that allow for comparison and critique. Despite the many similarities, Sweden and Finland stand far apart in the state of their art markets at present day.

Paimio Sanatorium by Alvar Aalto

Paimio Sanatorium by Alvar Aalto


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Reflections on Scandinavia

Posted on August 21, 2013

Cultural production, cultural policy and the free market economy are largely intertwined, where some may view the partnership of production and policy as a more democratic process and others, freedom as what begins only after the basic right to the arts is established by the state. Before plunging into the discussion of the dynamic and praxis, let us begin by establishing the relationship between the 2 forces and how it has developed to give us what we have today.

Part 1 of this essay will examine the reasons for the existence of cultural policy; while part 2 explores the realization of these policies across the Scandinavian region, in particular Sweden and Finland.


The initial freedom of the free market

In his essay ‘Designing A Cultural Policy’, Professor of Communications and Media Studies Dr. Justin Lewis states,

“there are moments in the lives of the cultural industries when the free market may give birth to a dynamic range of cultural forms and expressions”.

These moments are exceptionally apparent in times such as the Industrial Revolution, where abundance in machinery, technology, and labor come together to provide a large range of goods and services that the community can tap into. As we look into the significance of such a time in the larger scheme, we come to realize that often, such moments are precisely those that signify the birth of an economy. An example that embodies this is the amalgamation of the 1960s baby boomers: technological advancement and growth coupled with general economic prosperity that engendered the pop culture and music movements in the global Northwest, in where we saw the birth of The Beatles and the likes. The large base of youths allowed for an experiment-friendly environment for art and cultural production; where novelty met curiosity, and curiosity met novelty, and the free market was as free as one could imagine. Under such circumstances, it may seem as though the free market forces are paired strongly with arts and cultural production to give rise to a wholly efficient society.


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Arts in Singapore visualized: A Study of Vernacular

Posted on July 17, 2013

The state of the arts and cultural policy in Singapore has always been an exceptional area of personal investment. Growing up in a nation that stands in between cultures, geographies and identities, art has always been the language for reconciliation. The immense respect and subscription we have toward the western canon is deeply embedded within the nation’s past and growth from a British colony to an independent first-world nation. While there is no mistake in the choice to follow what is simply chronological, there is a large dimension of this following that purely exists and it is this lapse that I do wish to discuss. This is where the role of the arts and cultural scene of a nation come into play, as the arts is at its core a mode of self expression and quest for self-identity.

Definition of VERNACULAR

a : using a language or dialect native to a region or country rather than a literary, cultured, or foreign language

b : of, relating to, or being a nonstandard language or dialect of a place, region, or country

c : of, relating to, or being the normal spoken form of a language

The study of the vernacular goes beyond the technical and transcends into areas where it inhabits the role of the signifier, serving as symptomatic of the various trends that exist, will emerge and of all the undercurrents that are foundational.


  1. National Arts Council
  2. Art Stage Singapore
  3. Arts Festival Review Committee Report
  4. Renaissance City Plan Committee

The aforementioned institutions are my primary sources of data collection. Annually, the institutions release official reports that may be directly accessed via their websites. These reports consolidate the past year’s initiatives, events, achievements, and includes a list of awards, grants and scholarships given out in the year. The reports also include a full budgeting statement for all annual expenses. Data collection was the primary mode of this study and is used to call to attention some of the trends that often go unnoticed. After a collating, processing, analysis and, finally, presentation, the results are as follows.


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Gal•li•vant/Gal•a•vant: Taking risks as an independent publisher

Posted on June 14, 2013

I’ve written on the zine, that which has emerged from the digital age engendering the shift toward the autonomous curation and publishing. To have the platform at our fingertips is to allow everyone and anyone to say, Yes, I want to and I can. Web zines encapsulate the essence of efficiency from financial to physical — there are practically no direct costs involved in putting up issues every week, month, year, or whenever you please. Social media platforms are married to one another such that publicity is a breeze upon clicking on that ‘upload’ button. A myriad of options pop up to ask if the next step would be to share the issue on every single engagement you are tied to on your mobile, laptop and every other 21st century gadget you have on you.

The ease and low barriers to entry serve as a double-edged sword, though. It is easy to start and adrenaline seems to always be on your side. But to follow through is the challenge, especially when the hype has died down and all you are left with are the raw intentions. I reckon that it is safe to generalise that we’ve all started up blogs or websites but subsequently swept under the rug. There simply isn’t much at stake to start and then stop a blog, publication or general site on the infinite world wide web.


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OF ZOOS and the zine scene in Singapore

Posted on May 4, 2013

Of zoos title

Kimburly Lim, Singapore

Editor, OF ZOOS Zine

The digital age has brought with it a myriad of changes and shifts to our perceptions and sensibilities, and has introduced an entirely fresh dimension to our lives — dimensions that have allowed us new modes of contemplation and new modes of functioning. The publishing world has not been spared, and undoubtedly recognizes the revolution with the introduction of ebooks and monopolies. Yet, the shift away from print has brought with it a new zine culture – where independents curate and publish their very own literary, art and mixed media publications. Today I speak to a good friend Kim, the founder of OF ZOOS, one of the first Singapore-based online zines that feature poetry, art and everything in between.

How was OF ZOOS conceived?

I think it started with a profound admiration for our peers. There was and is so much to admire in the people around us—our close friends with literary habits on the side, a distant acquaintance with closeted artistic skills, or anyone else that expresses a simple interest in all things creative. We thought: wouldn’t it be wonderful if there were a platform for our friends to showcase their lesser-known talents? That question extended to: what if this platform reached out beyond our circle of friends, and ‘found’ another just like us? Finally the question became: Who should do it; and can we do it? So we said, okay.

The rest was history—coming up with a name, a team, preliminary publicity through social media, and spending 10 hours watching Dreamweaver (a web development software) tutorial videos on YouTube to learn HTML and CSS.


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