Speak Cryptic and graffiti culture in Singapore

The Palais de Tokyo, yet again I’m talking about this place, I just can’t help it, I love it. Well, the Palais de Tokyo unveiled his latest exhibition Archipel Secret a couple of days ago. As we wait for the review, we interviewed one of the artists who contributed and invested the walls of the museum. His name is Farizwan Fajari, a.k.a as Speak Cryptic. He told us all about his life, musical tastes and his work.

Just as Edgar Saner Flores, Speak Cryptic is the result of “multiculturalism” and the ways of the “new” world. Fenomena, an installation commissioned by the Singapore Art Museum for the Singapore Biennale, showed the portraits of pop culture characters like David Bowie, the Che Guevara and Mario Bros among others. Doing so, Speak Cryptic choses his audience: everyone can relate at least to one of them. No matter where you come from, these symbols are universal and define human kind nowadays. If we all can recognize these people, what does this tells us about our society? The most important phenomenon of the 21-century is globalization and all that comes within. On the one hand it connects people all around the globe making communication easier; on the other it’s erasing cultural uniqueness. Fenomena wasn’t about praising Western symbols, quite the opposite, this installation showed us how we are being formatted. In a world where the Western model is becoming the norm, what’s the future for other cultures and how can we define ourselves? This is one of the most important inquiring’s in Wans work: identity.

Defining oneself is far from being easy in the present time, people like Wan and mostly whomever…we are all seeking to define us. But Speak Cryptic’s situation is particularly complicated. Wan comes from an island in the southeast of Asia called Singapore. For those who are not at ease in geography, Singapore is the second most important port in the world after Shanghai, the country is one of the four Asian dragons, a term making reference to “highly free and developed economies” such as Hong Kong, South Korea and Taiwan according to Ha-Joon Chang. Singapore is also known for his infrastructure, his high educational system and the strictness of their laws (Singapore is called by some, the Asian Switzerland). Nevertheless, the country is actually pretty young; they became independent in 1965, only 50 years ago! While the island has become an economic power over the years, they still have to struggle against some technical difficulties. And by technical I’m referring to the contrast between Western and Eastern worlds. For example, this year, two German graffiti artist where sentenced to two years of imprisonment and to “caning”. These medieval methods of punishment, alongside with the increase of economical power, give us a hint of the complexity of Singapore. Wan depicts this in his artwork, the ambiguous condition between heritage and modernity appears in each of his paitnings. In “Ka-Khé”, Speak Cryptic shows us the result of a world where technology is transforming us into some sort of robots, embracing each and every fashion or behaviour that society dictates. The word “ka-khé” means naughty or stubborn in Baweanese, a dialect spoken by the inhabitants of Bawean, which is an island located in the Java Sea, Wan’s mother comes from this peculiar portion of land. This way, not only Speak Cryptic makes us think about the world and what it has become, he shares with us a parcel of his history, of his inner self.

Through his graffiti and works of art, Speak Cryptic exposes himself freely. His anxieties, doubts, musical tastes and other come to the surface in every work of art that he creates. The implementation of black and white comes from the tradition of the “zines”, an abbreviation of fanzine, a sort of hand made magazines that was commonly used in the underground circles before the arrival of the Internet. Wan is very interested in the counterculture and all that surrounds it; he enjoys listening to groups like Fugazi and Meshuggah (rock and metal music). In his graffiti AGIT, Wan painted heads of people with different styles, some punks, rockers and even nerds appear in it, making this particular piece a portrait of the youth that lives in Singapore, the Asian equivalent of the “melting pot”. Moreover, the style of Wan is quite uncommon, using Chinese ink and a small brush to paint all over the walls, his technique has become his trademark attaining with this a degree of singularity

Speak Cryptic is a child of the globalized world, even though he denounces what Zizek defines as “totalitarian capitalism”, a new form of economical system where the democratic values of the French Revolution are forgotten and are substituted by the omnipresence of the State, he still is the result of this new current of thought. His latest work at the Palais de Tokyo, Present Condition is this quandary of identity. As I told it before, multiculturalism is what defines the better our present condition, for we cannot relate to just one nation or identity but to all of them. This is why Speak Cryptic’s work represents our generation; loosing our roots and parameters to obtain a pluralist perspective of the world.

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