For Art's Sake

We RAT on John Clang

New York-based Singaporean photographer John Clang's Being Together project sees Singaporeans living away from home in a virtual reunion with their families in Singapore, done via projecting images via Skype, to create unique family portraits. Among the familes, of course, were his own, as seen in this one, Being Together (Ang Family). These and other series are part of his solo show Being Together: Family & Portraits at the National Museum Of Singapore. Photo: The artist
Being Together (Parents) by John Clang. Photo: The artist
Mr Clang’s portraits of Singapore families, one of which is Being Together (Lim Family), will be shown at the National Museum of Singapore as part of his solo exhibition. Photo: John Clang
Being Together (Kan Family) by John Clang. Photo: The artist
Being Together (Leong Family) by John Clang. Photo: The artist
Being Together (Lee Family) by John Clang. Photo: The artist
Being Together (Krishnan Family) by John Clang. Photo: The artist
Being Together (Tye Family) by John Clang. Photo: The artist
Fear Of Losing The Existence (12) by John Clang. Photo: The artist
Fear Of Losing The Existence (1) by John Clang. Photo: The artist
Fear Of Losing The Existence (14) by John Clang. Photo: John Clang
Erasure (1) by John Clang. Photo: The artist
Guilt (Mom) by John Clang. Photo: The artist
Published: 12:43 PM, February 4, 2013
Updated: 8:50 AM, February 5, 2013
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You know that John Clang profile story that came out in the newspaper a while back? Well, guess what, there’s more—and why waste such a long, fruitful, fun (and rather open) conversation with the dude when we could RAT it out with the New York-based photographer on the blog?

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Let's take off from something you mentioned in one of your works at the National Museum. You brought up a conversation with your parents who asked when you were planning to come back to Singapore and you said you can't. Why?

It’s basically out of selfish reasons. In my mind I know exactly that I should. I would like to, but I believe I should have a life of my own and pursue whatever I want to. A lot of the series (in the show) are partly inspired by the analects of Confucius where he says “If your parents are still around, you don’t leave them. But if you have to leave them, you must have a fixed destination.” So I can’t because I do not want to.

To, ahem, quote a U2 song, have you found what you're looking for in this "fixed destination" of yours?

Hmmm, I know exactly what I’m looking for. I like living in a place where I’m a total stranger. I’ve a fascination about being a stranger. When I was a little kid, seven or eight, I would spend quite a fair bit of time stalking people. At that time, my parents had to work and couldn’t really take care of me. So they put me up with different families. My mom worked in Emporium as a salesperson till 11pm. My dad worked was a hawker. He worked from 3 o’clock till next morning at five.

A lot of the time they couldn’t take care of me and my brother. So they put us with my aunts, my mother’s brother’s family… I’d only see my mom maybe twice a week, maybe around 11 plus, and on the weekend. So we stayed with relatives and I would always look out for my mom by the window.

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