Dash @ Five Arts Centre, 22 September 2017

With beads of sweat covering his forehead roughly two-thirds into his 55-minutes performance, Ho Rui An’s voice starts to quiver. Despite taking sips of water throughout his narration, sitting in front of a projector screen underneath bright lights, is obviously an onerous act. Signs of physical toll provide the finishing touch to a coruscating account that started with a car crash, then zooming past topics such as the rich foreigner, moving at speed, horizon scanning, the Kobayashi Maru, scenario planning, Centre for Strategic Futures, the Black Swan, shamanistic symbols, Marina Bay Sands, economic development, sentiment analysis, luck & trauma, weak signals, then settling back to the dashcam video recording one sitting behind a car’s dashboard.

“Horizon Scanners”, talk by Ho Rui An where a number of topics are also covered in ‘Dash’ [video from Asia Contemporary Art Week (ACAW) YouTube channel]

Donned in black with a wireless headset, Rui An adopts the presentation format pioneered by Silicon Valley, manifesting too its casual/repressive capitalist mode that is central to his performance. Pairing crisp robotic delivery with a stream-of-consciousness narrative, any sense of the inconsonant is pacified by the presentation format.  “His writing is elliptical”, writes Tshiung Han See in a review; I understood every word that Rui An uttered, which perhaps included corporate and economics jargon. The artist’s reference of Shell Oil’s scenario planners as futurist poets is equal parts funny and poignant, as I can testify to the irrepressible efforts corporations take to forecast the future with increasing accuracy.

Snapshot of performance [picture taken from criticsrepublic.com]

Where to look, when we are moving so fast? The world crashes and burns, and our first instinct is to race ahead and look back only when we can see it in the rear-view mirror. Wealth gap perpetuates, nation-states become useless, and unknown quantities are assigned a monetary value. We voluntarily subscribe ourselves to internet protocols, and subject ourselves to be a statistical probability in a commercial transaction. Rui An’s work recalls Futurismo, where contemporary expression extends then subverts its medium. Some clunky graphics aside, ‘Dash’ is a phenomenal show, its entire production itself manifesting one of the key point it espouses – “No longer can one make a clear distinction between signal and noise.” Keep running, there is no end...

Lecture titled "Hunting Black Swans & Taming Black Elephants" by Peter Ho (Senior Advisor, Centre for Strategic Futures). Peter Ho, Black Swans & Elephants, and the Risk Assessment and Horizon Scanning (RAHS) Programme Office, are topics covered in Ho Rui An's 'Dash' [video from Institute of Policy Studies Singapore YouTube channel]