reneetzj


Renée Ting is the founding director of the Singapore Art Book Fair.


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18 Jun 2021



The Periodic Table
Primo Levi

09 May – 18 Jun 2021

If it is true that there is no greater sorrow than to remember a happy time in a state of misery, it is just as true that calling up a moment of anguish in a tranquil mood, seated quietly at one’s desk, is a source of profound satisfaction.

/

During those days, when I was waiting courageously enough for death, I harbored a piercing desire for everything, for all imaginable human experiences, and I cursed my previous life, which it seemed to me I had profitted from little or badly, and I felt time running through my fingers, escaping from my body minute by minute, like a hemorrhage that can no longer be stanched.

/

Perfection belongs to narrated events, not to those we live.

/

Our ignorance allowed us to live, as you are in the mountains, and your rope is frayed and about to break, but you don't know it and feel safe.

/

We are not dissatisfied with our choices and with what life has given us, but when we meet we both have a curious and not unpleasant impression that a veil, a breath, a throw of the dice deflected us onto two divergent paths, which were not ours.

1 May 2021



Breakfast of Champions
Kurt Vonnegut

03 Apr – 30 Apr 2021

We are healthy only to the extent that our ideas are humane.

/

I couldn't help wondering if that was what God put me on Earth for — to find out how much a man could take without breaking.

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Of course it is exhausting, having to reason all the time in a universe which wasn't meant to be reasonable.

/

There is no order in the world around us, we must adapt ourselves to the requirements of chaos instead.

/

As I approached my fiftieth birthday, I had become more and more enraged and mystified by the idiot decisions made by my countrymen. And then I had come suddenly to pity them, for I understood how innocent and natural it was for them to behave so abominably, and with such abominable results: They were doing their best to live like people invented in story books. This was the reason Americans shot each other so often: It was a convenient literary device for ending short stories and books.

Why were so many Americans treated by their government as though their lives were as disposable as paper facial tissues? Because that was the way authors customarily treated bit-part players in their made-up tales.

And so on.

Once I understood what was making America such a dangerous, unhappy nation of people who had nothing to do with real life, I resolved to shun storytelling. I would write about life. Every person would be exactly as important as any other. All facts would also be given equal weightiness. Nothing would be left out. Let others bring order to chaos. I would bring chaos to order [...]

If all writers would do that, then perhaps citizens not in the literary trades will understand that there is no order in the world around us, that we must adapt ourselves to the requirements of chaos instead.

31 March 2021



When I dare to be powerful
Audre Lorde

25 Mar – 31 Mar 2021

To question or to speak as I believed could have meant pain, or death. But we all hurt in so many different ways, all the time, and pain will either change or end. Death, on the other hand, is the final silence.

/

My silences had not protected me. Your silence will not protect you. But for every real word spoken, for every attempt I had ever made to speak those truths for which I am still seeking, I had made contact with other women while we examined the words to fit a world in which we all believed, bridging our differences. And it was the concern and caring of all those women which gave me strength and enabled me to scrutinize the essentials of my living.

/

For each of us bears the face that hatred seeks, and we have each learned to be at home with cruelty because we have survived so much of it within our own lives.

/

We can practice being gentle with each other by being gentle with that piece of ourselves that is hardest to hold.

/

What are the particular details within each of our lives that can be scrutinized and altered to help bring about change? How do we redefine difference for all women? It is not our differences which separate women, but our reluctance to recognize those differences and to deal effectively with the distortions which have resulted from the ignoring and misnaming of those differences.

/

For within living structures defined by profit, by linear power, by institutional dehumanization, our feelings were not meant to survive. Kept around as unavoidable adjuncts or pleasant pastimes, feelings were expected to kneel to men. But women have survived. [...] And there are no new pains. We have felt them all already. We have hidden that fact in the same place where we have hidden our power. They surface in our dreams, and it is our dreams that point the way to freedom.

/

Another important way in which the erotic connection functions is the open and fearless underlining of my capacity for joy. In the way my body stretches to music and opens into response, hearkening to its deepest rhythms, so every level upon which I sense also opens to the erotically satisfying experience, whether it is dancing, building a bookcase, writing a poem, examining an idea.

That self-connection shared is a measure of the joy which I know myself to be capable of feeling, a reminder of my capacity for feeling. And that deep and irreplacable knowledge of my capacity for joy comes to demand from all my life that it be lived within the knowledge that such satisfaction is possible, and does not have to be called marriage, nor god, nor an afterlife.

This is one reason why the erotic is so feared, and so often relegated to the bedroom alone, when it is recognized at all. For once we begin to feel deeply all the aspects of our lives, we begin to demand from ourselves and from our life-pursuits that they feel in accordance with that joy which we know ourselves to be capable of. Our erotic knowledge empowers us, becomes a lens through which we evaluate those aspects honestly in terms of their relative meaning within our lives. And this is a grave responsibility, projected from within each of us, not to settle for the convenient, the shoddy, the conventionally expected, nor the merely safe.

/

The fear that we cannot grow beyond whatever distortions we may find within ourselves keeps us docile and loyal and obedient, externally defined, and leads us to accept many facets of our oppression as women.

27 March 2021



Seven Brief Lessons in Physics
Carlo Rovelli

22 Mar – 24 Mar 2021

We are perhaps the only species on Earth to be conscious of the inevitability of our individual mortality. I fear that soon we shall also have to become the only species that will knowingly watch the coming of its own collective demise, or at least the demise of its civilization.

22 March 2021



A History of the World in 10½ Chapters
Julian Barnes

3 Jan – 21 Mar 2021

There is no formal response to the painting’s main surge, just as there is no response to most human feelings. Not merely hope, but any burdensome yearning: ambition, hatred, love (especially love) – how rarely do our emotions meet the object they seem to deserve? How hopelessly we signal; how dark the sky; how big the waves. We are all lost at sea, washed between hope and despair, hailing something that may never come to rescue us. Catastrophe has become art; but this is no reducing process. It is freeing, enlarging, explaining. Catastrophe has become art: that is, after all, what it is for.

/

‘I love you.’ For start, we’d better put these words on a high shelf; in a square box behind glass which we have to break with our elbow; in the bank. We shouldn’t leave them lying around the house like a tube of vitamin C. If the words come too easily to hand, we’ll use them without thought; we won’t be able to resist. Oh, we say we won’t, but we will. We’ll get drunk, or lonely, or – likeliest of all – plain damn hopeful, and there are the words gone, used up, grubbied. We think we might be in love and we’re trying out the words to see if they’re appropriate? How can we know what we think till we hear what we say? Come off it; that won’t wash. These are grand words; we must make sure we deserve them. Listen to them again: ‘I love you’. Subject, verb, object: the unadorned, impregnable sentence. The subject is a short word, implying the self-effacement of the lover. The verb is longer but unambiguous, a demonstrative moment as the tongue flicks anxiously away from the palate to release the vowel. The object, like the subject, has no consonants, and is attained by pushing the lips forward as if for a kiss. ‘I love you’. How serious, how weighted, how freighted it sounds.

[...]

We must be precise with love, its language and its gestures. If it is to save us, we must look at it as clearly as we should learn to look at death.

/

Perhaps love is essential because it’s unnecessary.

/

‘It seems to me,’ I went on, ‘that Heaven’s a very good idea, it’s a perfect idea you could say, but not for us. Not given the way we are.’

‘So what’s it all for? Why do we have Heaven? Why do we have these dreams of Heaven?’

‘Perhaps because you need them,’ she suggested. ‘Because you can’t get by without the dream. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. It seems quite normal to me. Though I suppose if you knew about Heaven beforehand, you might not ask for it. [...] After awhile, getting what you want all the time is very close to not getting what you want all the time.’


The Freedom to Be Free
Hannah Arendt

11 Nov 2020 – 1 Jan 2021

‘The blessing of life as a whole, inherent in labor, can never be found in work and should not be mistaken for the inevitably brief spell of joy that follows accomplishment and attends achievement. The blessing of labor is that effort and gratification follow each other as closely as producing and consuming, so that happiness is a concomitant of the process itself. There is no lasting happiness and contentment for human beings outside the prescribed cycle of painful exhaustion and pleasurable regeneration. Whatever throws this cycle out of balance – misery where exhaustion is followed by wretchedness or, on the other hand, an entirely effortless life in which boredom takes the place of exhaustion and the mills of necessity, of consumption and digestion, grind an impotent human body mercilessly to death – ruins the elemental happiness that comes from being alive. An element of laboring is present in all human activities, even the highest, insofar as they are undertaken as ‘routine’ jobs by which we make our living and keep ourselves alive. Their very repetitiveness, which more often than not we feel to be a burden that exhausts us, is what provides that minimum of animal contentment for which the great and meaningful spells of joy that are rare and never last, can never substitute, and without which the longer lasting though equally rare spells of real grief and sorrow could hardly be borne.’

3 February 2021






7 December 2020

21 October 2020

There is a part
of the house that
still smells like
your perfume
like a shadow
I see
but can‘t hold.

17 October 2020

Just once I knew what life was for.
In Boston, quite suddenly, I understood;
walked there along the Charles River,
watched the lights copying themselves,
all neoned and strobe-hearted, opening
their mouths as wide as opera singers;
counted the stars, my little campaigners,
my scar daisies, and knew that I walked my love
on the night green side of it and cried
my heart to the eastbound cars and cried
my heart to the westbound cars and took
my truth across a small humped bridge
and hurried my truth, the charm of it, home
and hoarded these constants into morning
only to find them gone.

Just Once, Anne Sexton

23 September 2020



“I stopped trying to avoid despair. Then I even stopped trying to get through despair. And I just picked it up and carried it with me everywhere that I go, and just realized I had to make a place in my heart for despair and keep doing the work.

One way of looking at it is that carrying around a heavy weight is a burden in tranquil times. But in turbulent and stormy times, that heavy weight is an anchor and that big rock that you carry around can be what prevents you from getting swept away.”

17 September 2020




1 September 2020



What if I wait and you don’t show

31 August 2020



You know what they say, 26th time’s a charm.

25 August 2020



“What then kills love? Only this: Neglect. Not to see you when you stand before me. Not to think of you in the little things. Not to make the road wide for you, the table spread for you. To choose you out of habit not desire, to pass the flower seller without a thought. To leave the dishes unwashed, the bed unmade, to ignore you in the mornings, make use of you at night. To crave another while pecking your cheek. To say your name without hearing it, to assume it is mine to call.”

— Jeanette Winterson, Written on the Body

19 August 2020



Sorrow found me when I was young
Sorrow waited, sorrow won
Sorrow, they put me on the pill
It’s in my honey, it’s in my milk

13 August 2020