20 Questions for Jason Lim

Jason Lim graduated from London’s Central Saint Martins College of Arts and Design in 1992 before returning that year to his native Singapore where he has practiced ever since developing a dual career as a performance artist and a ceramist. In 2007, he won the Juror’s Price at the 4thWorld Ceramics Biennale in Korea and that same year presented “Just Dharma” and “Light Weight” at the Singapore Pavilion of the 50th Venice Biennale. In August, Lim will open “Tempus Fugit (Time Flies)” at Gajah Gallery, a review of his 20-year performing art practice, complete with text, documentation (photo and video), and ephemera (relics, catalogues, invites) and an in-depth presentation of selected performances that form three series: Duet with light, Duet with thread, and Last Drop. I talked to the artist:
Walk me through the Duet series?
Duet series is an ongoing series of performances where I work with only one material with time and space. It is a series of performances where site specificity and duration, or performance time, provides me the challenges of working with a chosen material; in the case of this exhibition Duet with Light and Duet with Thread. Most of the performances in this series are at least two hours long. This allows me time for a dialogue, exchange and exploration with the material. During this time, 'failures' are embraced and responded to spontaneously with improvisation. The series attempts to become one with the material and vice versa.
What about the Last Drop series?
It started when I had decided to discontinue the Foreign Talent series; I had pared down materials to the basic, essential life giving element, water. The series started off with a glass to hold water, giving water a form. The idea was to pour a drop of water from a full glass of water and catch the droplet with the same glass. An apparently impossible idea but I am interested more with executing the idea than to achieve the impossibility. With 'practice' during each performance, the idea starts to become a near possibility. This series works with the binaries of fullness/emptiness, still/motion, life/death. Through time, this series evolved to become more complicated with additions of more materials and other actions that accentuate other binaries of fragility/balance, silence/sound and etc...
Has time flown over the last 20 years?
Yes, especially when I look at what I had done and where I had been… all these places, people I met, and the memories...
What do you remember of those earlier years?
Those are years of finding my ways and trying to create a language for my own work. They are frustrating years. I felt quite alone in those struggles.
Performance artists have had a difficult time in Singapore. What has been the biggest restriction in your eyes?
The biggest restriction is in the close-mindedness of individuals. As long as they behave like sheep just following orders and taking orders, they do not create spaces for the development of this art form.
Have things improved?
The doors have widened a little bit and the ground for artists to use as platforms has slightly firmed up. In a nutshell, yes things have improved, but there is a lot more room for improvement.
What do you consider the highlight of your career so far?
As a performance artist it’s having been invited as the guest artist of Black Market International, to tour with them during their 25th anniversary in Europe.
Performance or ceramics, which do you prefer?
It is not about preference. What cannot be expressed in performance may be expressed in ceramics and vice versa. I am not concerned with preference, but appropriateness of medium for expression of ideas. The ongoing series of Still/Life is culmination of both my performance and ceramic practices.
What’s the most indispensable item in your studio?
The test pieces and maquettes.
Where are you finding ideas for your work these days?
Everyday life is a great source of inspiration. I get inspired by intelligent discourses on one end and on the other by spending idle time watching people.
What’s your favorite place to see art?
Visiting friends who have eclectic collections of artwork and having dialogues about their collections.
What’s the last show that you saw?
No Country at Gillman Barracks.
What’s your favorite post-gallery watering hole or restaurant?
It is a local coffee shop where a few of us know it as 'the place of that famous night' at Queen Street.
Do you collect anything?
I collect performance art relics.
A favorite artist?
Boris Nieslony.
What’s the last artwork you purchased?
I tend to exchange artworks rather than simply buying them.
What work of art do you wish you owned?
Paradise by Boris Nieslony.
What would you do to get it?
Ask him.
What international art destination do you most want to visit?
Venice, Italy.