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ON HAPPINESS

KENNY PNG & JEREMY FERNANDO

This book attempts to approach the notion of happinessand


specifically, the question of whether it is possible to be happythrough the apparently paradoxical statement, I am happy
because I should be happy! This is a treatment of the possibility
of happiness without a reliance on the usual subjective notions
of freedom, and choice. Hence, this is an attempt to think the
impossibleperhaps even defend the undefendableand posit
that happiness is a state of otherness; one that seizes you, and
perhaps even ceases you.
What is called into question is the logic that you can choose
to be happythe hinge on which the entire self-help genre
revolves. Not only is this an anthropocentric gestureas if the
self is the centre of her/his worldbut more than that, it is also
a totalitarian gesture: if there is a methodology to control ones
life, this also suggests that it is applicable regardless of situation;
and more than it, it is replicable, repeatable. And by extension,
all people are ultimately flattened into mere variations of the
same. Hence, what is at stake here is the singularity of the
person, of each person.

ON
HAPPI
NESS
kenny png
& jeremy
fernando

ON HAPPINESS

First Edition
kenny png & jeremy fernando 2010
The Boxes
kenny png 2010
Published by
publisher
Address / Website
Distributed by
company
Address / Contact / Website
Illustrations
kenny png
Cover and book design
michelle andrea wan
With the support of
company
National Library Board Singapore
Cataloguing in Publication Data
Png, Kenny, 19xx
The Boxes / by Kenny Png & Jeremy Fernando.
Singapore : Polymath & Crust, 2010.
p. cm.
ISBNxx : xxx-xxx-xx-xxxx-x (pbk.)
I.Title.
PRxxxx.xxx
Sxxx xxxx

OCNxxxxxxxxx

Printed in Singapore
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or
transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical,
including photocopying, or by any information storage and retrieval
system, without the written permission of the publisher.
No part of this play should be staged, by professionals or amateurs, or
used for recitation, lecturing, public reading, radio broadcasting, television, film, video or sound taping or in electronic media, without the
written permission of _______.

2 happiness in slavery
trent reznor 4 foreword.
or a letter to kenny john
lofthouse 10 happiness lim lee
ching 12 the boxes kenny png
34 on the heights of despair
e. m. cioran 38 on the winter
of my discontent; in four
and a half gestures jeremy
fernando 74 the voices of
marrakesh elias canetti 78
afterword peter van de kamp
84 ain't it fun gene o'connor &
peter laughtner 88 about the
contributors

slave screams he thinks he knows what he wants


slave screams thinks he has something to say

happi
ness in
slavery
trent
reznor

slave screams he hears but doesnt want to listen


slave screams hes being beat into submission
dont open your eyes you wont like what you see
the devils of truth steal the souls of the free
dont open your eyes take it from me
i have found
you can find
happiness is slavery
slave screams he spends his life learning conformity
slave screams he claims he has his own identity
slave screams hes going to cause the system to fall
slave screams but hes glad to be chained to that wall
dont open your eyes you wont like what you see
the blind have been blessed with security
dont open your eyes take it from me
i have found
you can find
happiness is slavery
i dont know what i am i dont know where ive been
human junk just words and so much skin
stick my hands thru the cage of this endless routine
just some flesh caught in this big broken machine

foreword. or a letter to kenny.

October 24th 1997 is the date Kenny Png has on his script as the date of

fore
word.
letter
kenny.
john
OR A

TO

lofthouse

the first presentation of The Boxes. Its interesting, that. My memories


are a little blurred but in fact my impression is that the first presentation was for an A-level examination in (I think) July 1997. Of course
we are dealing in absurd uncertainties already. Is my memory reliable?
What is a presentationor, er, wasnt it a performance? Some things
I do remember clearlylike scolding Kenny that there is no such thing
as a rehearsaleverything is a performance, including life. Why do I
remember? Because I was a teacher and teachers repeat endlessly. They
have to. They deal with people like Kenny in their hundreds, every day
of their lives.
I digress already. If I am trying to capture the process of what happened so many years ago(Kennys request to me)then lets see what
was really happening back in 1997 in VJC, in the TSD department, where
Kennys masterpiece was being hatched.
Well, me first. I (as teacher) was striving to hold together, inspire
as a team, liberate as artists, inculcate some sense of discipline in a ragged and motley bunch of teenagers. Around 70, I think. Alone. Actually, thats the high-falutin version. I was actually trying to get grade
As in Theatre Studies & Drama (TSD) for as many of em as possible.
This is not the least of a million paradoxical absurdities. Without grade
As, TSD wouldnt have survived in the grade-production-line which
passed as education in those days. And they needed not only grade As in
TSDwhich in the pantheon of noble A-levels was generally despised,
mocked, scorned or deridedbut in all other subjects. Anything less was

on happiness

foreword. or a letter to kenny.

failure. And so, the curiosity that had brought these kids to the subject

takable air of frustrated energy, defiance, confusion, and intelligence?

and which had become the passion that drove their every moment (to

Like screaming. Couldnt he just act or design or do movement?

the neglect of all other subjects, very often) was liable to prove their

Each student had to do what was called an individual skill. This in it-

downfall if someone (me) didnt insist on some sense of balance.

self always seemed absurd to me since theatre is the most communal of

As for the students, well they were a bunch of bright, determined

arts. But what happened far too often was that anyone with an ounce of

kids who had washed up on the shores of TSD because it offered some

creativity opted for the bizarrely-named dramatic sequence. This was

glimpse of creativity in a bleak and barren landscape. Waifs and strays,

a guarantee of endless time wasted, total frustration for all involved and,

often, they ranged from the frankly anarchic and rebellious via the lost

usually, tears and disaster before the candidatethey were simulta-

and confused to the clear-headed and ambitious. In fact most combined

neously examination candidates and performersopted at last for

all those features simultaneously. After all, they were only 17.

a safe skill like acting. Thats the cynical realist in me speaking. In

And finally, the course. A remarkable tribute to the far-sightedness

actual fact, I loved the way the kids would launch fearlessly into a crea-

of a supposedly-blinkered Singapore system, TSD appeared in 1988, a

tive act with no background, no knowledge, no developed skills. It was

spearhead of the rather quaint Humanities programme launched then.

a quest for liberation, freedomhappiness, if you like. It was what made

It combined the study of the history of theatre, the performance skills

me get up every day.

central to theatre, and the theory of theatreall worked on or written-

Anyway, Kenny opted for the dreaded dramatic sequenceas I

about in terms of performance. Not for TSD the laboured What makes

knew he would. Now he wants me to recall my memories of it. Kenny,

Oedipus Rex a tragedy but Choose 2 contrasting scenes from OR and

I have very fewmmmmbootsendless painted boxeslitter all over

show how you would stage them. I mention this as the ultimate absurd-

the placePearlyn and Ian almost in tearsendless rehearsals endlessly

ity which lurks behind Kennys script: the fantastically-creative course

stopping and starting. Kenny, give me a break! I was shepherding 70-plus

which produced (still does) much fine theatre, and a massive number of

students simultaneously through years one and two with sometimes 70-

creative artists, was itself bound by assessments. The creative thrived

plus pieces of theatre evolving at any one time. (The students did a group

because of the totalitarian grid imposed upon it. The proscriptions of the

piece as well as an individual one and churned out hundreds of essays a

syllabus inspired genuine artistic activity.

month too.) But here goes.

How did I feel then when Kenny appeared at my door with his ragged
and indecipherable bits of paper, mumbled ideas, and that quite unmis-

1. Kenny was as stimulatingly creative then as I am sure as he is now.

on happiness

Code forhe changed his mind or developed new ideas all the time.

foreword. or a letter to kenny.

I remember it with great affection. The examiner, the outside fas-

2. His scriptshis hand-writing was atrociouswere an indecipher-

cist agency, bless him (he was actually a gentle hippy really) loved it too.

able and tatty work in progress. I never had a clear view of what was

We often mentioned it in the years that followed. Its bold, innovative

what til the end. Code forit was chaotic.

however derivative it seems in retrospectand rooted in deep concern,

3. Any verbal interaction with Kenny was (and is?) liable to veer off into

with an intuitive feel for those paradoxes which make Singapore what

energetic, powerful side-alleys, often littered with non-sequiturs, or

it is. It represents the determination of the artist to control his own art

high-speed and unfinished sentences. Like talking to a machine-gun.

at leastconception, script, set and staging, sound track, performance,

Code forI had little idea what he was talking about. And often, nor

production and direction. Of course, whether he really was in control, or

did he, that much was clear.

whether it made Kenny and his performers happy, let alone convince me

4. Kenny was rebellious and anarchic and restless. Code forhis input

or the audience they were happyis easier to sort out in dry philosophy.

was inconsistent, often hidden or obscure, or even just, er absent.

I am never sure if art has any meaning anyway, especially performance

5. Kenny was a ruthless dictator of a director who terrorized his crew

art. What I can say with certainty is, it was a memorable experience.

and performers. Code foronce in the theatre space, it was clear he


knew what he wanted. And would get it at any cost.

Subjectively, that is.


I think.
If I remember alright.

The piece itself. Was fantastic. It speaks for itself. Read it. A remark-

In fact, let me put my cards on the table. The final result never wor-

able piece of original work, written and performed, by 17-18 year-olds for

ried me or, to be honest, really interested me. And I sense Kenny too is

a public examination. Unfortunately, we are at the core of the ultimate

not worried if the piece got an A or not. The process was all and thats

paradox. A dead script is far from that wonderful, live ephemeral mo-

what has stayed with Kenny and influenced his life choices. And that

ment, when one sits in the theatre with a wonderful, live group of human

continues to make me happy in retirement.

beings, who have come together at one unique moment in time. Who
gasp, open their eyes wide, laugh, cryor walk out. No-one walked out.
I think they were intrigued, bewildered, shocked, maybe. Some maybe
even a little worried, scared even, looking over their shoulders? This was
Singapore 1997 after all, and installation art had a heavy history.

At least, I think I am

11

The tart dream


envelopes
the gateway
shrouded from

happi
ness
lim lee
ching

plain sighting
Stretched by the
manners of
felicitous
web weave borne
down by the
weight of its
own making
Not daring
a smile it
yet contends
Holding up
pillars, walls

the
boxes
kenny
png

3939
2424
416416

the boxes

17

Dim lights. The stage has 16 boxes of different sizesall blacksuspended overhead. Stage is empty except for a character down centre-stage.
He has a black box for a head and he is wearing a neat and uniformly coloured suit, tie, and trousers. In his hands is another black box. He starts
moving as lights come up. He moves in a straight mechanical manner
turning at right angles towards the centre of the stage; in fact he is walking in squares around the centre of the stage to reach it. Once he reaches

pro
logue

the centre of the stage, he puts down the black box he is holding in the
centre of the stage. The centre of the stage is also the centre of a 3 metre by 3 metre invisible square which is mathematically. Once he puts
down the box, he starts moving back to his starting position via the exact
steps he came by. He will move off-stage after reaching the position. As
he moves off-stage, two characters in all-black with tight fitting boxes
around their bodiesand a shoe on their headsstart moving out of the
stage-wings, one from each side to totally opposite and reflective positions on the invisible square; in-line with the black box, and the centre of
the stage. The characters are bare-footed and each has a number on their
boxes: the character on the right has the number 2424, and the one on
the left has the number 3939. The two characters move in very straight
and sharp mechanical waysthey do not bend their knees, or move any
part of their bodies intentionally except for their feet. Once they reach
their positions, they give a cry and start a movement sequence. One
movement sequence consists of the two characters moving one round
around the square in an anti-clockwise direction. They exclaim happy!
with each step and give a mechanical smile every five steps. The char-

18

on happiness

acters faces are frozen into this smile whenever they are not moving.
Their movements are synchronised and follow the beat of the soundtrack, which is a cacophony of noise with a regular beat; the sound is
accompanied by flashing lights of green, blue, and orange, which stop
whenever each movement sequence is over, and re-start when the sequence begins againall of this to give a sense of confused lighting.

the boxes

21

They do a movement sequence.

2424

I am happy because I should be happy!

3939

I am happy because I should be happy!

both

We are happy because we should be happy!

10

15

They repeat a movement sequence.

Are you sure we are wearing our shoe the right

3939

way?

We are wearing our shoe the right way because

2424

it should be the way.

Well it might be better if we wear our

3939

shoe vertically on our heads.

No! Wear our shoe horizontally because it is

2424

the right way because it should be the way

We are wearing our shoe the right way because

20

both

it should be the way. We are happy because we


should be happy!

25

They repeat a movement sequence.

22

on happiness

3939

the boxes

Err isnt it rather meaningless to move in

this way. I have a feeling that even though we

3939

23

Like maybe some blue boxes for instance: we

might look better.

No! We will look like freaks. We wear boxes

have moved so much we are still not far from


where we started.
5

2424

Nonsense! We have come a long way from

2424

of this colour to look normal because it should

where we came because we move in this way

be the way; besides any other colour would

which is the right way because it should be the

make us look indecent.

way.

10

3939

but after coming such a long way in this way

both

We wear boxes of this colour to look normal


and decent because it should be the way. We

10

we dont seem to have gotten anywhere anyway.

No! We move in this way because it should

They repeat a movement sequence.

be the way and we have come a long way and

Oh, have you realised that we can move our

2424

we are happy because we should be happy.

15

both

are happy because we should be happy!

15

We move in this way because it should be the

3939

arms and knees too?

2424

Dont do that! It should not be the way.

3939

Why???

2424

Thats because we must have the discipline not

way. We are happy because we should be


happy!
20

20

They repeat a movement sequence.

Cant we wear something else besides this?

3939

to move our arms and knees so that we can


fulfil the greater purpose in life.


25

2424

Like??
25

3939

Which is?

24

on happiness

the boxes

2424

3939

What about this?

2424

No, there is no beat to it.

3939

Yes, but it makes you feel weirdas if you

being not able to move our arms and knees

for the rest of our lives.

Yes!!!

3939

25

both

really want to move to it.

We do not move our arms and knees even


starts moving on his toes, on the spot, going

though we can because it should be the way.

3939

We are happy because we should be happy!

around in circles.

10

10

They continue with another movement

2424

What are you doing? Stop! I dont think this

should be the way.

background music is abruptly broken off

Why? There is no beat to move to now anyway

and the lights also stop flashing. 2424 stops

besides, it feels real good.

Really?

sequence. However, half-way through, the

moving, and 3939 stops a few steps later.

15

3939

2424

3939

15

Why are we not moving?

2424

After some hesitation, 2424 starts to move like

Because there is no beat to move to.

3939
20

3939

2424


25

Cant we just move on without the beat?

too. Soon they get faster and faster, in total

contrast to the slow-moving tune.

20

3939

(Shaking his head) Wheeeeeeee !

2424

(Shaking his head) Wheeeeeeee !

No, it should not be the way.


Soothing music is piped in.
25

Suddenly the movement music comes back on.

26

on happiness

2424

3939

Oh no!
Oh no!
They immediately try to go back to their
synchronised movements but they are discordant.
Then 2424 loses his balance and falls on the

floor, whirring his feet.


10

15

3939

Now look what you have doneyou have

broken the order!!

2424

Its not my faultcan you help me please?

3939

No! This should not be the wayyou dont

deserve help.

Please help me.

2424

3939:

Never, you rebel! REBEL! REBEL! REBEL!

REBEL!
A third character exactly like them but with the

20

number 416416 appears from stage-right and


occupies 2424 s position.

25

416416

I am happy because I should be happy!

the boxes

3939

29

moves back to his original position on

stage-left.

3939

I am happy because I should be happy!

both

We are happy because we should be happy!


They start a movement sequence, ignoring 2424
who is still whirring his feet. However this
time as they are moving, the sound of crashing
boxes is heard loudly and the flashing lights are
disrupted regularly; with flashes of shadows on
the 16 suspended boxes. Then everything (sound
and lights) is turned off abruptly save the sound
of the characters going Happy! which ends
after four repetitions.
Curtain.

the boxes

31

THE BOXES was first presented at the LT AVA of the Victoria


Junior College, 20 Marine Vista, Singapore, on 24 October, 1997.
They play was directed by Kenny Png, who also scored the original
soundtrack.
The cast was as follows:
2424

: Kenny Png

3939

: Pearlyn Quan

416416 : Ian Choo

32

on happiness

33

35

OF

on the
heights
despair
e.m.
cioran

The passion for the absurd can grow only in a man who has exhausted
everything, yet is still capable of undergoing awesome transfigurations.

on the winter of my discontent; in four & a half gestures

on the
winter
of my dis
content;
happiness

4
jeremy
in

fernando

39

Merde
That was the sound from behind the door. Or at least that was what
weIremember. A judging sound, the sound of judgement: after all,
Kenny Png had to submit himself, be judged, before the law. Which is
not to say that was definitely what happened: after all, one can never be
definitive about such things, especially when they are based on memory. One has to then approachkeeping in mind the register that one is
called to such thingswith a certain amount of reasonable doubt.
One has to note here that this was a piece that was written for two
primary reasons: to be seen by peers; and also to be judged by a certain
examiner, by one who knew nothing of the persons involved in the piece,
nor the piece itself, one who was aptly termed an external examiner.
And here it is difficult to ignore the tropes of dissection and dismembering, as if an autopsy was to be performed, on not only the performance,
but the performers as well.
Here, if we allow ourselves to be sensitive, it is not difficult to hear
the register of K, of Kafka, and of The Trial, in particular where K is
brought before a power that he neither knowsand can never know
nor can see, but which clearly has effects on him. Hence, at best, all K
can do is to guess, to posit, what is required of him. It is this positing that
is captured in the statement of the priest in the cathedral when he says
to K, no you dont have to consider everything true, you just have to
consider it necessary.1 This is due to the fact that K is faced with a law
that he must approach, and which has power of judgment over him, but

Franz Kafka. (1998). The Trial. pp.223.

40

on happiness

on the winter of my discontent; in four & a half gestures

41

at the same time, is a law that is always hidden from him. And it is this

remain; it is of his own free will that he does. This opens the possibility

that the priest attempts to highlight to him through the famous parable

that it is the man who is free; unlike the doorkeeper who is captive to

of the Law:

his duty, is captive to the Law, as not only has he to wait for the man to
appear, but must also wait there till he decides to leave: in this sense, it

Before the Law stands a doorkeeper. A man from the country

is the executer of the Law who is most bound to it. As the priest explains

comes to this doorkeeper and requests admittance to the Law.

to K,

But the doorkeeper says that he cant grant him admittance now.
The man thinks it over and then asks if hell be allowed to enter

the man is in fact free: he can go wherever he wishes, the entrance

later. Its possible, says the doorkeeper, but not now.2

to the Law alone is denied to him, and this only by one person,
the doorkeeper. If he sits on the stool at the side of the door and

It is not that the manor Kis not allowed into the Law, not allowed

spends the rest of his life there, he does so of his own free will; the

to see what it is that is judging him, but that he is not allowed to at this

story mentions no element of force. The doorkeeper, on the other

very moment. As there is no time stipulation to but not now, it is not

hand, is bound to his post by his office; he is not permitted to go

that the doorkeeper is lying to him, but that the moment of admittance

elsewhere outside, but to all appearances he is not permitted to

is deferred, not necessarily eternally, but perhaps for just one moment

go inside either, even if he wishes to.4

longer than the life of the man. However, it is not as if the Law has no
effect on their lives: on the contrary the man from the country waits out-

Even as the doorkeeper is bound to the Law, it is not as if he knows

side the doorway till the end of his life, and Ks trial fully occupies his

what the Law is: one can assume that he hasnt been too far into the

daily existence. In other words both of them are completely consumed

LawIm only the lowest doorkeeper the mere sight of the third is

by the Law, by a force that they do notand cannotsee or comprehend,

more than even I can bear5 and moreover, it is the man who in the

by a force that they remain completely blind to.

darkness now sees a radiance that streams forth inextinguishably from

Even though the Law is a force that affects them, has an effect on

the door of the Law6; nothing is said of whether the doorkeeper sees this

them, it is not as though they are compelled to be before it: after all, the

light. This suggests that both the man and the doorkeeper, regardless of

man decides that he would prefer to wait. At no point is he forced to

whether they are there by choice or by duty, are affected by a power that

ibid. pp.215.

ibid. pp.216.

2
3

ibid. pp.221.

ibid. pp.215.
ibid. pp.216.

42

on happiness

on the winter of my discontent; in four & a half gestures

43

is beyond their comprehension; even the radiance that streams forth is

at best whether it is a correct understanding, which suggests that every

only seen at the end; only now does he see this light. And even though

misunderstanding is not only potentially a correct understanding; but

the man sees this light, this radiance emanating from within the door,

that it is impossible to distinguish between them in the first place. One

within the Law, he never knows what it means, or even what the light is.

might even posit that within every understanding lies a misunderstand-

The unknowability of the Law becomes even more curious if we take

ing. It is for this reason that even the executer of the Law remains blind

into account the fact that no one else could gain admittance here, be-

to it: all the doorkeeper is doing is carrying out the Law in that particular

cause this entrance was meant solely for you.7 This suggests that it is a

situation, the situation of the Law being solely for you; in other words,

personalized Law and this opens the register of the paradox that every

the only knowledge that the executer of the Law has is of its effects; the

lawthat the Law itselffaces: in order for something to be Law, it has

only time that the executer knows of the Law is at the very moment (s)

to have a certain universality, in that it is applicable to everyone with-

he is executing it.

out distinction or discrimination; however each application of the Law

But it is not as if our own K is unaware of this; of the absurdity of

is singular, unique, and situational. Hence, at best, the Law can only be

standing before a Law he is not privy tobeing judged by a judge undoing

knownif that term can even be used in the first placeat the very mo-

the very Law he is judging by, the very Law that allows him to judge in the

ment in which it is applied; to the man, to K, to you: the Law can only be

first place. After all, he is constantly reminding us that, I am happy, be-

glimpsed by the effects it has on one, but can never be known as such.

cause I should be happy! And at that point, I recall many in the audience

This is precisely why the priest tells K, you dont have to consider eve-

jumping to the conclusion that he must have been writing a commen-

rything as true, you just have to consider it as necessary. For it is not

tary on the state, on politics, on public policy. Of course there were all

so much that one cannot tell between what is true or not (which is the

completely missing the point: what was at stake was far more than mere

misunderstanding that K has in thinking that lies are made into a uni-

politics; what was at play was the very notion of happiness itself. And

versal system ) but more radically that each truthand by extension

more precisely, the absurdity of the relationality between happiness and

each lieis only provisional, situational, singular. It is the situationality

choice. Here perhaps it might be helpful to take a strange detourto tem-

of the Law, of each positing of the Law, that allows the commentators

porarily defer a direct approach to the relationalityand look through

[to] tell us: the correct understanding of a matter and misunderstand-

the lens of politics itself, in order to open a register between freedom and

ing the matter are not mutually exclusive. In fact, one can only guess

happiness.

ibid. pp.217.

ibid. pp.223.

ibid. pp.219.

46

on happiness

on the winter of my discontent; in four & a half gestures

47

In a Fascist state, the subject is denied all freedom; all power lies

In a democracy, the subject has to assume complete responsibility for

in the hand of the one absolute leaderin this sense, (s)he plays the

both her/his actions and also that of the state. The freedom of the subject

role of the (Absolute) Other, on which everything depends. The sub-

is closely related to the choice(s) that is presented to the subject; and in

ject is merely a part of the whole body (in the form of the state): this

fact, the point of ultimate freedom, expression of ones will and choice,

is the corporatisation of the state and its subjects. Hence, all action of

comes at the moment of election. At each election, the subject has three

the subject is a result of the Leader: this is why Adolf Eichmanns de-

options: elect a particular candidate or party, spoil the vote, or refuse to

fense in Jerusalem, when he claimed that he was innocent as he was

vote. But whichever option the subject chooses, (s)he has already agreed

merely following the orders of the Fhrer, is perversely correct. Ironi-

to accept the outcome of the election. This, for instance, makes all claims

cally, this absolute enslavement also ensures the absolute freedom

to Bushs illegal election moot the moment the results were officially an-

of the subject; for there is nothing that the subject can responsible

nounced; one can challenge them up to the point they are announced, but

for. (S)he is merely a cog in the entire body, and as such, the subject is

no longer after. More crucially, the subject has to take responsibility for

not responsible for anything, even her/him self. So even if the subject

the outcome. In effect, whether or not you elected that particular person/

is punished by the law for something in a Fascist state, it is not that

party, you are responsible for her/his/their actions. By extension, this

(s)he is guilty for doingor not doingsomething, for one can only be

means that whatever legislation is passed by those elected to officeno

guilty if one is responsible for it, but the fact that the Leader deems her/

matter how brutal or disagreeable they may beis effectively passed by

him so. The fact that the private and the public spheres are collapsed en-

the subject(s) on themselves.

sures the true freedom of the self; one is accountable only to the self and
not to any external force.

This ironic lack of freedom in democracy is due to the attempt at bridging the gap between the subject and the other; by attempting to know the

In a Totalitarian statethe Soviet Union under Stalin for instance

other too well. By having a direct hand in choosing ones own leaders,

the other takes the form of the Party. In this manner, once again there is

one is in effect having a stake in the leadership, whilst being governed by

no freedom for the subject as everything is determined by the Party; all

that same leadership. Hence, there is no longer a gap, a space, to complain

responsibility comes under, and is of, the Party. Hence, the subject can

about that same leadership; after all, you were the one who chose it.

always blame the Party for anything, even bad weather. Once again, a perverse form of freedom for the subject can be found in this situation.

And here we momentarily turn to Slavoj iekpotentially a strange


source when attempting to examine a notion like happinesswho con-

48

on happiness

on the winter of my discontent; in four & a half gestures

tends that happiness lies in the gap between the ability to choose, and the

too far away, not too close, This fragile balance was disturbedby

actual consequences of real choice. He asks:

what? By desire precisely. Desire was the force that compelled the

49

people to move onand end up in a system in which the great maWhen exactly can people be said to be happy? In a country like

jority are definitely less happy.10

Czechoslovakia in the late 1970s and 1980s, people were, in a way,


actually happy: three fundamental conditions of happiness were

And it is this absurd gap between absolute freedom of choice, and

fulfilled. Their material needs were basically satisfiednot too

the act of choosing, that K opens: for if we were only ever satisfied with

satisfied, since the excess of consumption can in itself generate

real choices, all commercialism, and advertising would fail. Even though

unhappiness. It is good to experience a brief shortage of some

shaving cream is essentially the same, we are only satisfied when we get

goods on the market from time to time (no coffee for a couple of

to choose between 20 variations; and this is what we want: sterilized,

days, then no beef, then no TV sets): these brief periods of shortage

safe, options, alternatives. But instead of complaining about the illusory

functioned as exceptions that reminded people that they should

nature of choice, what K does is to plunge head on into the illusion; and

be glad that these goods were generally availableif everything

here we awaken another spectre, that of the Beckettian I cannot choose,

is available all the time, people take this availability as an evident

but I must choose.

fact of life, and no longer appreciate their luck. So life went on in

This though, is a reconstitution of choice, of the act of choosing itself;

a regular and predictable way, without any great efforts or shocks;

for it is no longer a choice that is purely of the self, but rather a choosing

one was allowed to withdraw into ones private niche. A second

that is always already in relation with what is out there, with a certain

extremely important feature: there was the Other (the Party) to

throwness into a situation. In other wordsand here do we have much

blame for everything that went wrong, so that one did no feel re-

choice but to speak in words that are other to usthis is a choice that

ally responsibleif there was a temporary shortage of some goods,

is in response to the call from elsewhere, to a call from the other. Here,

even if stormy weather caused great damage, it was their fault.

perhaps it may be helpful to allow ourselves a momentary turn to Wern-

And last, but not least, there was an Other Place (the consumerist

er Hamacher, and his response to Peter Connor, where he meditates on

West) about which one was allowed to dream; and one could even

what a call entails, on what it means to be called:

visit it sometimesthis place was at just the right distance: not


Slavoj iek. (2003). The Puppet and the Dwarf: the Perverse Core of Christianity. pp.42.

10

The above paragraphs on Fascism, Totalitarianism and Democracy were inspired by a


conversation with iek on 8 August, 2004 in Saas Fee, Switzerland.

50

on happiness

on the winter of my discontent; in four & a half gestures

51

Why is the call thought of as something which, rather than taken,

that this communion is one that is without consumption, without sub-

taken down, or taken inbe it from a specific agent, subject, prin-

sumption; the other remains wholly other to ourself, even as we attempt

ciple, preferably a moral onewill be given? And if each call which

to momentarily get in touch.

issues is destined to make demands on the one who is called (but

Perhaps it is this touching that we have to examine, a touching that is

this is also questionable), is it already settled that I will hear,

clearly an actwe must after all attempt to touch somethingbut an act

that I will hear this call and hear it as one destined for me? Is it

that is also always already exterior to us, to ourselves, to all notions of the

not rather the case that the minimal condition to be able to hear

self. And here, as we are attempting to read, we must never forget that we

something as something lies in my comprehending it neither as

are reading a play, for even though we are free to read, we are always al-

destined for me nor as somehow oriented toward someone else?

ready governed by the laws of reading, and the rules that come with each

Because I would not need to hear it in the first place if the source

genre. As Jacques Derrida reminds us time and time again, even though

and destination of the call, of the call as call, were already certain

the reader has a right to see, and that it takes a certain skill to see,

and determined. Following the logic of calling up, of the call and

in that it is not a random, purely arbitrary act, (s)he is always already

along with that the logic of demand, of obligation, of law, no call

bound by a law of seeing. After all, you have the authority to tell your-

can reach its addressee simply as itself, and each hearing is con-

self these stories but you cannot gain access to the squares of that other

summated in the realm of the possibility not so much of hearing as

one. You are free but there are rules.12 In this way, reading, and seeing, is

being able to listen up by ceasing to hear. Hearing ceases. It listens

a negotiation between the reader and the text. One is free within a cer-

to a noise, a sound, a call; and so hearing always ceases hearing,

tain set of rulesafter all one is always already bound by grammarand

because it could not let itself be determined other than as hearing,

ones reading is an interjection, an interplay between the reader and the

to hearing any further. Hearing ceases. Always. Listen11

text within the rules laid out, the rules before which both the reader and
the text must stand; there is a law that assigns the right of inspection,

And as Hamacher teaches us, listening is the openness to the possibil-

you must observe these rules that in turn keep you under surveillance.13

ity of the other, of the potentiality of being in communicationin com-

In order to play the gamethe game of seeing, the game of readingyou

munionwith the other, an objectless other, an other that might be com-

have no choice but to remain within these limits, this frame, the frame-

pletely other to itself. It is this objectlessness of the other that ensures

work of these frames 14 And more than this, a text gives both you and

Werner Hamacher. Interventions. in Qui Parle: Journal of Literary Studies 1, no. 2, Spring 1987:
37-42. italics from source.

11

Jacques Derrida. (1998). Right of Inspection. pp.1.

12

ibid. pp.1.

13

ibid. pp.1.

14

54

on happiness

on the winter of my discontent; in four & a half gestures

itself (through its characters, through the outcome of its own narrative),

55

by the Law. It is only when something is illegitimate that the authority of a person is required in order to enact it. In other words, author-

a right to look, the simple right to look or to appropriate with the

ity is the very undoing of the Law itself. For instance, a death-sentence

gaze, but it denies you that right at the same time: by means of its

can only be pardoned by the authority of the sovereign. In doing so

very apparatus it retains that authority, keeping for itself the right

(s)he is going against the legal system which sentenced the person to

of inspection over whatever discourses you might like to put forth

death; the same legal system that upholds her/his very sovereignty. How-

or whatever yarns you might spin about it, and that in fact comes

ever, a foregrounding of the illegitimacy of the sovereign would not only

to mind before your eyes.

shatter the illusion, but also bring about the collapse of the entire system.

15

This is the lesson of The Emperors New Clothes: the shock and horror
It is in this way that every seeing reveals and conceals at the same

of the crowd was not in the fact that the little child pointed out that the

time; every seeing always already involves a certain inability to see, an

Emperor was naked (who didnt already know that), but in foregrounding

inability to know. In effect every reading is a positing, taking a position,

the absurdity of the situation (he is only the Emperor because everyone

making a choice, which comes with a moment of madness, of blindness.

deems him to be so; and they are subjects because he is Emperor). The

Otherwise, all one is doing is re-writing the text; otherwise, one might

child was told to be quiet precisely because what was highlighted was

as well not be reading at all. And here, once again, the spectre of Kafka

the fact that the people were making themselves subservient; they were

returns to us, whispering to us that one can never know the law which

subjected by their own act of subjugation, and moreover in the face of

one stands before.

absolute lack of evidence that the man standing in front of them was the

At this point, we might want to take yet another detour, and al-

Emperor. What was at stake though was not just the status of the Em-

ter the perspective of the thinking, and perhaps direct it onto K him-

peror himself, but the very empire itself; for if the illusory state of his

selfand here open the register of authorship. One can detect an echo

authority is exposed, then the entire kingdom comes crashing down. And

of the author that can be heard in authority; as if the writer of the sit-

hence, the child was silenced not to protect the Emperor from the shame

uation can play at being God; all-seeing, and in full-control. The trou-

of being naked, but more pertinently to protect the secret that his author-

ble with authority is that it is always already illegitimate. For if some-

ity rested on nothing: he was only Emperor because he was in a lineage

thing is legitimate, access to it would be open to everyonegoverned

that was recognized by his subjects; he was sovereign not because he was

ibid. pp.2.

15

56

on happiness

on the winter of my discontent; in four & a half gestures

57

a singular one, but because he was in a series of ones. In fact, if he was

gesture of acknowledging that the secret is a secret, that he is indeed Ra.

truly new and original, no one would recognize him, and he would not be

Perhaps this is the lesson of Andy Warhol. It was not so much the

sovereign, barring a war-like situation where a new Emperor enforced

reproduction itself that is the art, but the very gesture of recognizing

his authority over people, subjugated a new group. However, even in that

the objects to be reproduced. There is nothing to an old pair of shoes ly-

situation, he is only Emperor when his subjects finally recognize him.

ing around; it is van Goghs realization of the possibilities in those very

Hence, all authority is only as such due to the sovereign being a repro-

shoesthe singularity of the situationthat momentarily elevates it to

duction of all the sovereigns before her/him; and not the person as such.

the realm of art. In this sense, one can posit that both Warhol and van

However, the very source of that authority itself, the reason for a pact

Gogh were authors at that moment of recognition; through their respec-

between the Emperor and his subjects, remains a tautological premise

tive media, both of them create a singularity by arresting a particular

(he is Emperor because the people are subjects; they are subjects because

moment in time. And since it is a singular moment, it is in some sense

there is an Emperor), remains outside of reason, remains unknown; re-

always also an original gesture; one that has never happened before, and

mains a secret.

one that is also non-repeatable. In this manner, one can posit that the

In some way, the question that remains sounds paradoxical: if we

artistic gesture is the reification of time itself: the concretisation of a mo-

posit that it is important that the secret is protected, how is it a secret, if

ment through a medium, as if that moment was real; in other words, the

everyone already knows what the secret is?

authoring of a moment.

Here perhaps, we need to turn to the very notion of secrets them-

The irony though is that every gesture is always already a reproduced

selves. And to do so, let us momentarily draw upon an old tale. When Isis

gesture. After all, regardless of medium, one is capturing a moment, and

poisoned Ra, she promised him the antidote in exchange for his secret

more precisely, a moment that has passed. In this sense, all art is a recon-

name, which was the source of all his power. And he whispered into her

stitution of memory. This is not to say that every act of memory is art; or

heart, and she felt herself filled with all the knowledge and wisdom of

that every attempt to capture memory is art. Far from it.

Ra; all the power that came with his nameAmen-Ra. However, it was

Perhaps here one might consider the status of forgetting. In order to

not as if no one else knew it; in fact everyone knows that his name is Ra.

do so, we should momentarily stop and consider what it means to say I

What this shows is that secrets rarely lie in the content (after all, Amen

forgot. One can always posit that I forgot is a performative statement:

is merely an affirmation), but in knowing that something is secret, in the

anyone who has been through a school system has used this umpteen

60

on happiness

on the winter of my discontent; in four & a half gestures

61

times when faced with an assignment, and in particular when one has

precisely this impossibility of knowingthis unknowability that haunts

crossed the deadlinethis is of course something our friend K could have

all knowledgethat gives each situation the possibility of singularity.

done when accused of merde by his judge: posit a certain forgetting, a

Hence, singularity is always already external to the subject; it is the very

slip-of-mind in order to escape that particular sentence; this is of course

finitude of subjectivity.

something that he did not do; a strategist among us might even say that

This suggests that singularity, originalityor dare one say the artistic

this was something that K failed to do. What is more interesting though

gestureis found not in a completed, accomplished, work, but rather in

is to consider the possibility that I forgot is a constative statement: in

the potential forgetting in that work. In this sense, art is the foreground-

this case, for the statement to be true, there cannot be an object to it; the

ing of the possibility of forgetting. And since it is impossible to fore-

moment there is an object to I forgot, then strictly speaking one has

ground what one cannot know, this suggests that art is always already in

remembered what one has forgotten. Hence, the utterance I forgot is

its praxis, and more than that, it is always already only to come. This is

one in which there is no referent; at best the subject is uttering the very

an approach to art that acknowledges that part of art always lies outside

fact that (s)he has forgotten and nothing more. And if there is no refer-

the person; that can at best only be glimpsed momentarily. This is art in

ent to forgetting, this suggests that there is always already an element of

the precise sense of a craft at its highest level, where it consumes the

unknowabilityan unknowable elementin forgetting. In other words,

practitioner, and often in ways which are exterior to ones cognitive abil-

there is an element that lies beyond the cognition of the subject; that lies

ity. In this sense, art remains invisible to one; at best, it expresses itself

beyond the subject herself. The implication is, one cannot choose for-

through one.

getting, one cannot choose what one forgetsafter all, there is no object

If one can never be sure of the status of ones actwhether it is repro-

to forgetting. Hence, forgetting happens to one: it is something other to

duced through memory, or whether it is a new act due to a forgetting

the subject that then has an effect on her. And if this is so, there is then

every act is then both (n)either a first (n)or a reproduction. By extension,

absolutely no reason that each time one remembers something, each act

each time one performs an act, one is both neither a virgin and always al-

of memory, might not also bring with it the potentiality of forgetting. In

ready virginal. This is also a foregrounding of the illegitimacy of author-

other words, forgetting is not an antonym to memory, but rather is po-

ity; one cannot legitimately say whether something is art or not. In other

tentially part of memory itself. By extension, there is no possibility of

words, any judgement is based on nothing except the praxis of judging it-

knowing if each act of remembering recalls the same memory. And it is

self; where one cannot rely on a metaphysical comfort that one is correct

62

on happiness

on the winter of my discontent; in four & a half gestures

63

(or wrong) with any certainty. Hence, art lies in its praxis, in each attempt

yet another seguea back-track evenas if it was possible to do so, and

at making something, doing something, practicing ones craft; at best, all

re-enter the realm of the polis for a moment, and consider the instance of

that can be said is that art is a gesture towards the possibility of art. More

revolutions. Here, we return to Slavoj iekthis time calling on him as

than that, whether something ever reaches the realm of arta reproduc-

one of the thinkers of modern day revolutionswho never lets us forget:

tion that is not just a reproductionor remains just another reproductionnot that there is any logical difference between the twoalways

In a proper revolutionary breakthrough, the utopian future is nei-

already remains a secret from us, perhaps until it happens. And when

ther simply fully realized, present, nor simply evoked as a distant

it does, its reason might still remain unknown to us, which means that

promise that justifies present violence. It is rather as if, in a unique

all attempts to reproduce the gesture might only remain a reproduction.

suspension of temporality, in the short circuit between the present

In other words, art is nothing more than a gesture. And more than

and the future, we areas if by Gracefor a brief time allowed to

that, since art always already remains potentially exterior to the person,

act as if the utopian future were (not yet fully here, but) already

there are no artists; there is only the possibility of the gesture.

at hand, just there to be grabbed. Revolution is not experienced


as a present hardship we have to endure for the happiness and

One that is made in blindness to everything but the possibility of art

freedom of the future generations but as the present hardship

itself.

over which this future happiness and freedom already cast their

I am happy!in blindness to everything, but the possibility of hap-

shadow-in it, we already are free while fighting for freedom, we

piness itself.
Which is why, there always already had to be two of them; even as

already are happy while fighting for happiness, no matter how

they are walking around in circles, declaring their happinessfor hap-

difficult the circumstances. Revolution is not a Merleau-Pontyan

piness could not reside in just a single, total, being. As K is teaching us,

wager, an act suspended in the futur anterieur, to be legitimized

happiness is always already there; perhaps the only reason we are un-

or delegitimized by the long term outcome of the present acts; it

able to see it is because it is there, but just not yet. However, this is not a

is as it were its own ontological proof, an immediate index of its

nihilistic gesture, one aimed at nothingness, for that would be too sure,

own truth.16

too certain, too totalising, but rather a gesture of hope, a gesture of posAnd it is this as if that remains crucial to us: we must act as if we

sibility, potentiality. And here for a moment, it might be strange to make

This was in reference to the utopian ideal of the Leninist revolution and can be found in Slavoj
iek. A Plea for Leninist Intolerance in Critical Inquiry. Winter 2000.

16

www.uchicago.edu/research/jnl-crit-inq/v28/v28n2.iek.html (italics from source).

66

on happiness

on the winter of my discontent; in four & a half gestures

67

are able to do so. This suggests that each time we act, there is no way

it feels real goodall hell breaks loose. This of course does not mean

in which we will know whether it is a correct or wrong actin other

that one has to be forever separate from everyone else, from everything;

words, we will never have the comfort of certainty. Each time we act is its

but rather, even in a joining, a conjoining, one always already remains

own ontological proof, with no hope of reference or precedence: each

singular. In this very sense, the phrase when two become one has to be

act is singular, and irreducibly different from every other act. But at the

read ironically; and what else would be this gap, this distance, but that of

same time, we can only know that something is irreducibly different in

an ironic distance.

the presence of another; which suggests that each actand by extension,

Perhaps here, we might as well reverse all the way to the beginning;

each personto borrow Jean-Luc Nancys beautiful formulation, is al-

and start again. This is after all, one of the possible readings of a revolu-

ways already singular-plural.

tion; going round and round in circles. And listen to another register of

And if one is singular, but always already in relation to all others, this

merde; that of Ubu Roi. More preciselyif we can ever even use that

suggests that happiness cannot be vested in the self; despite all the claims

notion when speaking of Ubu Roiwe need to open our receptors to his

by self-help gurus, and television psychologists, one cannot will oneself

laughter, the great guffaw of the King, a King very much unlike the naked

to be happy. But as our friend K tells us over and over again, we can only

one we spoke of earlier. For this king is one that takes his kingshipand

be happy because we should be happy. All the self can do is listenand

himselfwith an absurd level of seriousness, so seriously that we have no

open oneself up to the possibility of being happy.

choice but to take him ironically, at a distance; otherwise we either have

Here, we might begin to posit that happiness lies in the dash between

absolutely no way of fathoming anything, or we understand nothing by

the singular and the plural; after all, if happiness is nothing but the open-

attempting to understand everything. Hence, what we have to do is to ap-

ness to the possibility of happiness, this suggests that it is both always

proach Ubu Roi at a distance, allow for the fact that he is kingwhatever

already there, and to come; all one can do is stand before it. But at the

that even begins to meanand take everything he says, and does, with

same time, as we have opened in the register of maintaining the gapthe

belief and un-belief at the same time. For there is no referentiality to the

proper distance as it werebetween choosing and real choice, we must

words of this king; all he is doing is saying, all he is doing is speaking: all

allow the dash to keep the singular and the plural apart. As K demonstrat-

he is doing is naming at the moment he names.

ed to us, the moment the two of them come togetherthe moment 3939

Isnt that though the nature of all names? Singular as there is only one

and 2424 do something because they want to, choose to do something as

thing, at one moment in time, that is being named; multiple as no name is

68

on happiness

on the winter of my discontent; in four & a half gestures

unique. Therefore a name both refers to one thing and everything other

Echoes

than that one; at exactly the same time. Each act of naming is a reifica-

Althusser, Louis. (1977). Lenin and Philosophy and Other Essays. (B. Brewster,

tion of a moment in time; authored, illegitimate, necessary. Hence each


time we name, we have no choice but to name as if we can. Of course,
we can choose to wallow in our discontent, and do absolutely nothing at
all, decrying the impossibility of knowing, and the impossibility of doing
anything. Either that or we can do it, in spite of the inability to do so, do it
whilst knowing that it is all merde; all the whilst echoing the belly laugh
of our king Ubu.
I am happy, because I should be happy!
What else is happiness but a name; or otherwise, a warm gun

69

Trans.). London: New Left Books.


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Kant to Celan. (Peter Fenves, Trans.). Stanford: Stanford University Press.
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la butte. (Kenneth McLeish, Trans.). London: Nick Hern Books.
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71

75

Here I am, trying to give an account of something, and as soon as I

THE
VOICESOF
MARRA
KESH
ELIAS
CANETTI

pause I realize that I have not yet said anything at all. A marvelously
luminous, viscid substance is left behind in me, defying words. Is it the
language I did not understand there, and that must now gradually find
its translation in me?

peter van de camp

79

I am happy, because I should be happy! exclaim the characters


in Pngs The Boxes with repetitive insistence. Toying with petitio

after
word
peter
van de
kamp

principii, the causality teeters on the circularity which is borne out by


the characters movements. All is vanity, in the various meanings of
the wordas are the shoes, and their positioning, on the characters
heads. This has the trappings of the theatre of the absurd, with a nod
to Beckett (and a wink at Magritte). The dramatis personae are puppets, their movements mechanical, their garb ridiculous. But Png does
not share Becketts gray [sic] abandon; for that, he is adamantly causal
and putative (because and should loom large in this short play). Unlike absurdist drama, The Boxes is invested with meaning. It pits the
human condition against human conditioning, offering an allegory of
lhomme moderne, literally boxed in by the fashion of the age.
And what is more fashionable than the dictate to be happy? It has
proven to be the greatest marketing ploy of modern society. Happiness
being what most people strive for most, it has become the prime motivator for consumerism. There is even a perfume called Happy (which
scores high in the engaging Perfumes, The A-Z Guide by Luca Turin and
Tania Sanchez). Hang on, I hear you say, hasnt it always been this
way? True, Aristotle observed in his Nichomachean Ethics that happiness is the highest aim of humanity. But that is a facile translation
which hides a fundamental difference: Aristotles eudaimonia translates
literally as well-spirited, in other words, being content. Contentment
requires self-control; happiness does not. The latter word is derived
from hap, meaning chance or fortune (good or bad) that falls to any

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on happiness

one; luck, lot (O.E.D.). To be happy means to be favoured by fate. A


desire to be happy, however putative, reeks of hybris: we were not born
to be happy. And all the produce, all prescribed behaviour that is supposed to warrant happiness, are but silly talismans.
Like any self-respecting dramatist, Png holds up a mirror. In it we
see ourselves decked out with talismanic straitjackets, the victims of
our fetishes, all caught in our compulsion to be favoured by fate. O
tempora, o mores!
Jeremy Fernando, in the accompanying article, puts paid to Sartres
pathetic paradox that we are compelled to be free. In a philosophically
mature essay, he lays bare the absurdity of the relationality between
happiness and choice. His perspective is panoramic, from Slavoj iek
describing the trappings of communist Czechoslovakia through Kafkas
The Trial, with the perforce elusive nature of the law, through the
spectre of the Beckettian I cannot choose, but I must choose. These he
contextualizes with Derrida topsy-turvying that we are free to see, but
there are rules, and with Hamachers solipsistic Other, only to arrive at
the belly laugh of Alfred Jarrys Ubu Roi.
Behind the curtains of Pngs play, nous (vo) is fumbling for a fit
response to the vacuous, infelicitous logos on display. That reply is
articulated by Fernando with deft circularity at the start and end of
his treatise: out of spirit comes a voice, and all it says is that one word
merde.

81

85

Ain't it fun when you're always on the run


Ain't it fun when your friends despise what you've become
Ain't it fun when you get so high that you, well you just can't come

ain't it
fun
gene
o'connOR
& PETER

LAUGHTNER

Ain't it fun when you know that you're gonna die young
It's such fun... such fun
Ain't it fun when you're taking care of number one
Ain't it fun when you feel like you just gotta get a gun
Ain't it fun when you j.j.j. just can't seem to find your tongue
Cause you stuck it to deep into something that really stung
It's such fun
Well somebody come up to me they spit right in my face
But I didn't even feel it, it was such a disgrace
I punched my fist right through the glass
But I didn't even feel it, it all happened so fast
It's such fun, such fun, such...
Ain't it fun when you tell her she's just a cunt
Ain't it fun when she splits and leaves you on the bum
Ain't it fun when you've broken up every band that you've ever begun
Ain't it fun when you know that you're gonna die young
It's such fun, such fun, such...
Having a real fun time, such fun, such fun

about the contributors

89

Jeremy Fernando is the Jean Baudrillard Fellow at the European

Graduate School, where he obtained his PhD in Media Philosophy. He


works in the intersections of literature, philosophy, and the media; and
is the author of Reflections on (T)error, Reading Blindly, and The Suicide

about
the
contri
butors

Bomber; and her gift of death. Exploring his thinking through different
forms has led him to film, music, and installation art; and his works
have been exhibited in Vienna, Seoul, Singapore, and Hong Kong. He
is the editor of the thematic magazine One Imperative, and a Research
Fellow at the Centre for Liberal Arts and Social Sciences, Nanyang
Technological University.

Kenny Png is a director, photographer, musician, and an award

winning television documentary maker. His works have been


showcased in major television channels such AXN, ANIMAX, MTV,
Channel News Asia, Discovery Asia, Disney Channel Asia, as well as
festivals including Sidewalk Cinema (Vienna), Sexpression (Hong
Kong), Operation Automaton (Singapore) and the Seoul FX Radio
Festival. In his spare time, he heads The Enigmatic Army: a creative
collective, comprising writers, musicians, film-makers, and artists
from Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaysia, and India.
What started as a keen interest in the arts & crafts that began as
a kid, Michelle Andrea Wan has since developed into an
obsession with producing immaculate works. Hailing from the BAs
of Visual Communications from the RMIT Melbourne, and English

90

on happiness

about the contributors

91

Literature from the NUS, she is now a graphic designer at a local

Kerry International Summer School of Living Irish Authors; director

renown agency. Her aesthetic philosophy is one of simplicity over

of Mangan Publishing; executive editor of the Mangan series; and

clutter. Her works include Fridays with Philip, a collection of rhetoric

advisory editor of the Irish Academic Press.

by Philip Lim; the book cover for Boom, by local playwright Jean Tay;
and a forthcoming book, Cooking for The President, featuring Peranakan recipes & memoirs by Wee Eng Hwa, daughter of former president Wee Kim Wee.
A tortured and confused product of the Oxford, London, and Edinburgh universities, John Lofthouse wandered the globe with
his faithful spouse teaching English until the sheer boredom of it all
drove him back to his second love, theatre. He then wandered the
globe again teaching theatre. His undistinguished career saw him
finally beached on the tiny islet of Singapore where he devotedly
laboured on the limited artistic aspirations of fellow-tortured souls
like Kenny Png, until finally finding calm and repose in the bosom of
SOTA, Singapores wonderful new School of the Arts. Whereupon,
still with his devoted wife, his first real love, he retired and lives in
Spain, sawing logs and hitting small white balls, his fourth real love,
and venturing to Uganda, his third great love.
Peter van de Kamp PhD is a poet, and Associate Professor of

English at the IT Tralee. He has published 18 booksbiographies,


anthologies, criticism, monographs, manuscript editions, translations, and original poetry. He is also the founder and director of the