Thursday, August 31, 2006

Volunteering For Gormley On The Last Winter's Day

The Official Last Day Of Winter.


I started the day early. I had volunteered to help pack up the thousands of terra cotta figures in Antony Gormley's "Asian Field" installation for the Biennale. So WC and I turned up at the godown which was where the exhibition was held. The setting was gorgeous- the Opera House on the opposite bank, the Harbour Bridge spanning both ends. The sun was shining, the sea was blue. It was even warm.

We signed in, were quickly briefed on packing procedures and each given a pair of latex gloves to don for the job. We got going quickly, perched on a packing crate, packing the figures by colour. By the second crate, I realised it was back-breaking work, bent over the crate, reaching out for the figures, trying to ensure I haven't gotten the colours mixed up. There were about 5 people packing the crates, most worked in silence, the radio played classical and retro music, depending on who was fiddling with the stations. There were thousands of little people, considering it was already the 4th day of packing, it didn't seem like much was packed away. The installation looked just like how I remembered it when I came for the Biennale 6 weeks ago.

By the end of our 3-hour shift, we made a little dent in the "Asian Field", and had aching backs. We were also given $10 lunch money, that I didn't expect cos we were volunteers. But it was nice of them. And then the packing supervisor anxiously asked if we were coming back again, and pleaded with us to come back to help pack again "There is never too many volunteers". Looking at how much they have got, I have to agree with her. We told her that when our schedule permits, we will be back again.

Maybe next Thursday - my first free morning of the week and when my back doesn't hurt anymore.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Couple Of Tidbits

A couple of interesting happenings this past week.

1. Received an email from Tate Modern, shortlisting me for an interview in early September. Also mentioned they can offer 2 days a week and could I find another organisation to get the rest of my work experience for my internship requirements. But it would be purrrrrfect, 2 days a week at Tate, the other 3 days at work in Brighton! And if Tate can continue to use me for 15 weeks, I would have fulfilled the draconian 240 hours of free labour. We shall see, fingers crossed.

Started working out the cost of train commute. Almost had a heart attack, it worked out to be about S$3,000 for the 15 weeks, just taking the train 2 times a week. Enough to pay for 2 return air tickets from Singapore to London. Searching further, there is the possibility of cheaper tickets, but would possibly have to buy online in advance. I guess the savings on the apartment rental here is going to be paying for train tickets. The cost of living in London is so incredibly steep. Just as well I'm now very adept at cooking tasty meals that can translate into convenient packed lunches as well.

2. Whilst cleaning out my Murphy bed (that space which is between the bed proper and the fake cupboard door hiding the bed when it is stored away) today, I dislodged a black bra! It must have been wedged under the old volume of White Pages which I finally decided to discard. It took me a split second to conclude that it WASN'T mine. It still had the perfume of its owner lingering under the fur balls which had coated the garment. That must have been one drunken night for the last (male) tenant and his visitor. And a hurried exit at that...

I must start clearing out stuff in the apartment. The possibility of having to give it up in November is starting to look real.

Friday, August 18, 2006

That Big Wire-mesh Ball

Every other hip and happening restaurant or boutique I see in Paddington and Oxford Street, seem to have the same lamp I have in my apartment back home. The big, silver wire-mesh ball, lit up by many little bulbs, creating a kind of fairy light effect. It never fails to remind me of my apartment at home whenever I see one of those lamps. It's funny but I always stop and stare for a split second whenever I see one of these and it reminds me a little of home... I miss the convenience of its location, the hawker centre with many tasty morsels to offer, the mall across the road with the multi-plex cinema, the little gym, the lap pool where I spent many happy days getting fit and tanned.

It's interesting what something like a light fixture can conjure up.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Hail and Rain

This evening, it hailed the size of mothballs.

The first few pebbles of hail rained down as I was waiting for the bus, having decided it was a better idea to wait 15 minutes for the bus than to walk in the drizzle for the same amount of time. When I realised it was hailing, I decided to hop into the next bus and get off at Oxford Street opposite the college. In the 3 minutes the bus took to get to my destination, the drizzle had become a heavy downpour, with hail coming down steadily with the rain. The bus deposited me conveniently along a row of shops, I took shelter as best as I could. And waited. Surely the rain and hail would stop - in due course. I had 1.5 hours till my lecture so I had time to wait the inclement weather out.

I edged nearer to the shops, away from the kerb, rain water started to gush like a stream by the side of the kerb. After 10 minutes of plastering myself to the shop windows, a car that had veered close to the kerb and at speed, splashed me. Good thing I had my lilac waterproof coat and my new high boots on, they kept me relatively dry. The gay baker from the fancy custom-made cake shop came out of his shop, gorgeous baking smells wafted out as he opened his door. He smiled at me and kindly advised that I should try to stand further inside so as to avoid getting splashed again. His kindness didn't extend to an offer of shelter inside his shop unfortunately.

So I moved 2 doors down and spotted the recessed side entrance of The Fringe Bar, which didn't appear to be in use. Sanctuary at last. I huddled in the alcove for another 20 minutes, patiently waiting for a chance to get across the road and walk the 200 metres to college without being completely drenched and catching a cold, just after having recovered from bronchitis (with just a night cough lingering). My patience paid off, and I quickly nipped across the road as the downpour turned into a light drizzle. It was a pretty interesting 30 minute experience, just standing and observing the sudden changes that Mother Nature throws up every once in a while.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Mould Making

Today I finally got my hands really dirty in the studio for the first time. I had gone in at 10.30 am to learn to make a mould from the studio techician/supervisor, Grant before my 2 pm lecture. As I was a greenhorn at Ceramics, Grant had to teach show me step-by-step how to do that.

The first epiphany I had in the studio was to see everything in negative space rather than positive space. For the uninitiated, think of a jelly mould. The physical mould itself is a positive space. The space inside the mould where you would pour your jelly mixture into, forms a negative space. When the jelly is set and you plop it out, it is a positive space. Making a mould is pretty much thinking in negative space. Took me 15 minutes before the concept sank in and then I started to see how the form was going to take shape.

Mould making takes a longer time than I thought. Mixing the plaster powder with water to the right consistency was not easy. Of course no one used the weighing scales although the formula was pasted on the wall. Grant taught me using the time-tested "through experience" method of using "the eye". And the hand too, feeling the mixture, shaking your hand through it to "agitate" it and finally lifting your fingers up to see the consistency of the trickle. Plaster powder is bad for the lungs, and we were supposed to wear a mask. However, OH&S guidelines were conveniently ignored, but I think I would bring in a handkerchief or a scarf the next time, considering that I only managed to make one mould in the 3 hours I was in the studio, I would be spending a lot more time breathing in plaster powder. (I had to throw away one batch of the plaster because I waited too long and it started to set and I couldn't use it.)

I rolled out clay using the slab roller, an ancient-looking machine which looked like it belonged in a 19th Century barn. The sheet of clay was then cut to size and used to form a frame for the mould. Bits of clay were stuck at crucial fault lines to ensure that the plaster wouldn't leak out when it's poured in. Finally when one is happy with the reinforcements, the plaster mixture is then slowly tipped in, making sure there isn't (too many) air bubbles introduced.

Now the finished mould is sitting there drying out. I have not opened it up yet to see if it's successful, I think I would leave the honour to Grant next week. In the meantime, I think I will be spending Saturday in the studio attempting to make the second mould all by myself - unsupervised.

Friday, August 04, 2006

If The Boot Fits

11 degrees Celsius. The coldest day in 10 years. Started raining from the minute I woke up. It felt like one of those days where the best thing to do was to crawl back under the covers. No such luck though, I had class. Not only that, I had to make my way to the national art gallery for the class, and after that, trek to another gallery 10 minutes away by foot.

On the brighter side was my plan to make a pit stop to the mall enroute to the art gallery and try to find myself a pair of dark brown, suede boots. All the shoe shops were on sale, probably trying to get rid of winter boots as the cold winter months slowly, oh so slowly, trudge by...

I do quick inspections of several shoe shops, nothing catches my eye. The thing was, I already have in mind the exact brown suede boots I wanted. So a quick glance round the shelves would suffice. I didn't have to deliberate over choices. After 6 shops or so, I spotted this pair of extremely soft suede boots in the exact shade of dark brown that I was looking for. Bingo. A quick price check showed that it was on 50% discount, the price was reasonable, I tried them on, they feel comfortable. So I went to the cashier to pay for them.
To my pleasant surprise, there was a FURTHER 50% off that discounted price. I handed over a pittance and stopped to debate if I should get another pair of shoes but looking at the huge boot box that I would have to lug around to the galleries, I walked out into the rain pleased with my bounty. I will have to make a return trip to the shop soon.

Postscript: I walked through a departmental store after purchasing my boots, they were advertising "Summer 06", with new arrivals of swimwear and bikini displayed prominently. I almost cried. (So near yet so far - see earlier post on my pending Two Winters In a Year)

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Coughing Myself Awake

My symptoms:-

a. thick green mucus tinged with blood, especially in the mornings;
b. dry cough especially in the evenings;
c. mild chest pains, heaviness in the chest;
d. shortness of breath/I make a funny sound when I exhale; and
e. fatigue.

The Prognosis:-

Bronchitis. Will last at least 10 days. Dry cough will become a wet cough which may last up to a month, if it stretches longer it becomes CHRONIC bronchitis. (NB: When I was 15, I had chronic bronchitis, my cough lasted 2 months)


Drink lots of fluid, get lots of rest, antibiotics are useless as bronchitis are usually caused by viral infections (according to the various websites I have been reading). I have only been prescribed antibiotics, the doc said I didn't need a cough mixture when I specifically asked. Coughing is supposed to be a mechanism that is supposed to help with expelling the mucus. In my case, the coughing doesn't do much except cause more chest pains, shortness of breath and tickling in the throat. It still sounds mostly like a dry cough except when I hack up my guts and produce the globs of mustard coloured, blood-tinged phelgm.

This morning, I woke myself up coughing at 7 plus. I lay there in bed, trying to will myself to stop coughing, so that I can get a bit more shut-eye before the alarm goes off. It was futile, my body was racked with the dry coughing fit. It only stopped after I got up and went to the loo to muster all the "qi" in my body to hack up the thick, green blob which really made me feel like I was heaving up my guts.

All I want is for this to be over, it's day 6 now. My chest hurts, I'm tired, my brain has been working at half speed or less this week, my eyes are puffy and I don't have the internal strength (literally) to keep hacking up those globs. And I would like not to cough myself awake in the mornings. There must be other more pleasant ways of waking up.