Representation is always difficult, and nowhere more so than on maps.
In constructing a map for a project, I spent – what I initially thought was – an inordinate amount of time on it. But I realised otherwise upon producing the final copy.
What I learnt about what took me so long was the exact thing holding me back from completing the task: Wanting to be perfect. I wanted to be as exact as possible so as to do justice to the geography.
At some point, it dawned on me that for the purpose of what I wanted to achieve, accuracy was still important – but faithfulness was not.
All I needed was an approximate model for people to get from Point A to Point B. Here, I had to strike a balance between what I wanted ideally and what people really needed.
If map-making is a metaphor for sharing one’s wisdom about finding one’s way in the world, then this route stands out: art, like life, entails having to be comfortable with making choices and accepting sacrifices.
Nevertheless, these trade-offs cannot be made unthinkingly; for example, there will be situations in which accuracy and faithfulness are equally important, and approximations will not suffice.
Also, while there is much value in putting in the hours to learn the intricacies and nuances of any craft, sometimes, it’s always better – and quicker – if you have a guide to show you the way.
I hope this map guides your path in the same way it will guide mine.
That feeling when all you need to buy is one – one – laundry net but you are stuck behind Man Who Feels The Need To Buy Everything In The Japan Home Store, in the only check-out queue manned by World’s Most Meticulous And Organised Cashier, who waits patiently for the same man to count out his cash to the cent ($107.90), while you have enough time to write and edit this post, including redundant and extraneous – tautological, perhaps – words, bearing in mind that the genesis of this sentiment took place some five – five – minutes ago…
…was how I felt this weekend when I popped into the shop for what I thought was a quick purchase, but which ended up taking 10 minutes.
The anthology is edited by Christine Chia, Joshua Ip and Cheryl Julia Lee and published by Math Paper Press.
Details of the anthology launch:
Date: Sun, 15 Jan 2017
Time: 6pm to 7pm
Venue: The Chamber at The Arts House (1 Old Parliament Lane, Singapore 179429)
What does the future of Singapore hold?
In 2015, the anthology A Luxury We Cannot Afford commemorated 50 years of man-made myth – 50 years of mysteries and ministries, Marxists and memorandums, the Merlion and The Man – and whether the 1969 assertion that “poetry is a luxury we cannot afford” still held true in the 2010s.
Instead of looking back, this companion volume to the first looks forward to everything SG51 and beyond. It is a collection of bold narratives of Singaporeans shaping their own future, a cornucopia of hyper-modern dreams of robots and aliens, yet also tales of muted despair at a future slipping out of touch with the past.
In the face of a fraught, uncertain future, there is no longer any need to debate whether poetry is an unaffordable luxury. In times like these, writers are the ones who must step up and reimagine possibility, speak out for hope and humanity, and inscribe the circumference of our soul. In 2017, poetry is…a luxury we must afford.