Thursday, 28 February 2013

A List of All The Foreign Currency On My Table At This Very Moment


Today I sorted all my coins because I wanted to bring all my Singaporean small change to a cash deposit machine to change it into ACTUAL MONEY I CAN USE. I have always been notoriously bad with using up my small change before I leave a country. Last year during one of the times I had to go through a customs checkpoint, I hastily put all my excess foreign currency in an old sock because there were just so many coins left over, and at the customs they made me take the offending coin-filled sock out of my bag and asked me to empty it into a tray so they could examine its metallic contents closely. Sad to say they had the rare treat of sifting through hundreds and hundreds of dirty coins stuffed into a big old dirty sock. "Why did you put your coins in your socks? When filled like this, it looks like it could be used as a weapon!" They told me balefully. "I'm sorry", I apologised, gathering up the handfuls of coins and stuffing them back into my ever-expanding sock, "but, its just that I had so many coins to take with me suddenly!"

I believe I actually left most of my excess and incredibly heavy Euro coins in the G-box in London, but the main reason why I wanted to tabulate all my coins was because I was curious as to which country all my euro coins came from. They could conceivably come from any european country that had bought into the Euro (with the exception of the UK), and I have always found it fascinating to imagine all these coins travelling within Europe in people's pockets and dashboards, just like when one is speeding on the autobahn and sees all these EU car plates on big trucks and the cars of all the other travellers - and sees that they have come from somewhere far away in continental Europe! When I go back I plan to tabulate my big bag of Euros to see where they were originally minted. If I could, it would have been interesting if one could have done a control experiment to map the circulation and movement of Euro coins within Europe, although since the euro was actually first introduced over 10 years ago, I'll bet its pretty scattered by now...

A couple interesting coins from Debbie's random pile of foreign small change were: (1) a "Nuevo Peso" from Mexico; (2) a New Pence from the UK in 1971; (3) a 10 grozny coin from Poland, one of the tiniest coins in my collection; (4) and a mysterious minimalist Swiss Franc. More details on these after the table...

No.ValueTypeOriginYearWhere Did Debbie Pick It Up?
11.00EuroGermany2003Paris, France
21.00EuroItaly2002Paris, France
30.50EuroFrance2001Paris, France
42.00EuroNetherlands2000Paris, France
50.20EuroGermany2002Paris, France
60.02EuroSpain2007Paris, France
70.10EuroGermany2002Paris, France
85.00GroszyPoland1993Krakow, Poland
92.00GroszyPoland2008Krakow, Poland
101.00GroszyPoland2007Krakow, Poland
1110.00GroszyPoland2008Krakow, Poland
125.00RappenSwitzerland1983Unknown. Perhaps from Lukas?
135.00YenJapan1975Unknown. No leads.
14500.00RupiahIndonesia2008Jakarta, Indonesia
15200.00RupiahIndonesia2008Jakarta, Indonesia
16100.00RupiahIndonesia1999Jakarta, Indonesia
175.00HKDHong Kong1998Hong Kong
185.00HKDHong Kong1998Hong Kong
195.00HKDHong Kong1993Hong Kong
202.00HKDHong Kong1993Hong Kong
210.50HKDHong Kong1997Hong Kong
220.50HKDHong Kong1998Hong Kong
230.20HKDHong Kong1998Hong Kong
240.20HKDHong Kong1997Hong Kong
250.20HKDHong Kong1997Hong Kong
260.10USDUSA2012Chicago, USA
270.01USDUSA2000Chicago, USA
280.01USDUSA1983Chicago, USA
290.01USDUSA1994Chicago, USA
300.01USDUSA1992Chicago, USA
310.01USDUSA1994Chicago, USA
320.05USDUSA1998Chicago, USA
330.20RinggitMalaysia2007Johor Bahru, Malaysia
340.10RinggitMalaysia2012Johor Bahru, Malaysia
350.10RinggitMalaysia2002Johor Bahru, Malaysia
360.10RinggitMalaysia2004Johor Bahru, Malaysia
370.01RinggitMalaysia1991Johor Bahru, Malaysia
380.01RinggitMalaysia2005Johor Bahru, Malaysia
390.01RinggitMalaysia2004Johor Bahru, Malaysia
48500.00WonSouth Korea1994Seoul, South Korea
49500.00WonSouth Korea1984Seoul, South Korea
50500.00WonSouth Korea1984Seoul, South Korea
51500.00WonSouth Korea2011Seoul, South Korea
52100.00WonSouth Korea2011Seoul, South Korea
53100.00WonSouth Korea2007Seoul, South Korea
54100.00WonSouth Korea2004Seoul, South Korea
55100.00WonSouth Korea1996Seoul, South Korea
56100.00WonSouth Korea2010Seoul, South Korea
57100.00WonSouth Korea2008Seoul, South Korea
58100.00WonSouth Korea2002Seoul, South Korea
59100.00WonSouth Korea1998Seoul, South Korea
60100.00WonSouth Korea2006Seoul, South Korea
61100.00WonSouth Korea2008Seoul, South Korea
62100.00WonSouth Korea2007Seoul, South Korea
63100.00WonSouth Korea2010Seoul, South Korea
64100.00WonSouth Korea2010Seoul, South Korea
65100.00WonSouth Korea2002Seoul, South Korea
66100.00WonSouth Korea1996Seoul, South Korea
67100.00WonSouth Korea2006Seoul, South Korea
68100.00WonSouth Korea2001Seoul, South Korea
6910.00WonSouth Korea1991Seoul, South Korea
7010.00WonSouth Korea2007Seoul, South Korea
7150.00WonSouth Korea1997Seoul, South Korea
721.00PoundUK2005London, UK
731.00PoundUK2006London, UK
740.50PoundUK2003London, UK
750.20PoundUK1982London, UK
760.20PoundUK2007London, UK
770.20PoundUK1988London, UK
780.20PoundUK1982London, UK
790.20PoundUK1989London, UK
800.20PoundUK1983London, UK
810.20PoundUK2001London, UK
820.20PoundUK2009London, UK
830.20PoundUK2010London, UK
840.20PoundUK2008London, UK
850.20PoundUK2009London, UK
860.05PoundUK1992London, UK
870.10PoundUK1992London, UK
880.02PoundUK1971London, UK
890.02PoundUK1996London, UK
900.02PoundUK2005London, UK
910.02PoundUK1998London, UK
920.01PoundUK2007London, UK
930.01PoundUK2008London, UK
940.01PoundUK2000London, UK
950.01PoundUK2001London, UK
960.01PoundUK2000London, UK
970.01PoundUK2006London, UK
980.01PoundUK2012London, UK


Mexico's "Nuevo Peso" - amongst all my 1 peso coins, one coin from 1992 had a N in front of it. Apparently the Nuevo Peso was mainly created during a period of hyperinflation in 1993 when the Mexican Peso had to be stripped of 3 zeros from its value. The internet indicates the period of use was 1993-1996, after which they made the rest of the non-Nuevo pesos that were minted after that date look more or less the same, so as not to confuse anyone. Interesting that despite the fact that I only spent a short time in Mexico (of about 3 weeks), one of the coins that I came into contact with was a Nuevo Peso coin, which has led now to me reading up about Mexico's hyperinflation and also the other uses of the coin in the other countries. It was apparently briefly legal tender in 19th century Siam, where it was flooded with foreign traders and was thus exchanged at the rate of 3 pesos to 1 thai baht. Unsurprisingly, it also had some history of being used in the US. I am more surprised about the asian connection because I was convinced that most of Asia did not accept Mexican pesos as legal tender - to the point that it was impossible for me to find any money changers in Singapore to change my *ahem* large accumulations of Mexican Pesos back into a currency I could actually use outside of Mexico. The same was experienced by friends in Indonesia...


UK's "NEW PENCE" - When I first picked this up to look at it, I couldn't believe it. How could I have not noticed the circulation of a "NEW PENCE" coin all this while! But apparently in February 1971, when 2p coins were first introduced, they were labeled NEW in order to prevent confusion and to alert everyone to the fact that they were, well, NEW! However, after over ten years of issuing "NEW" pences willynilly, this changed after 1982 (1983 onwards) and they were stamped TWO PENCE instead. The internet understandably is agog with people like me having NEVER ever realising there was a NEW PENCE despite probably having handled a fair amount of pences in my time - but there's no need to run all the way to the Antiques Roadshow over most of these NEW PENCE coins; they will be worth just facevalue (ie: 2p) unless they're one of the rare misprints which date back to 1983 in specific, when a batch of 2p coins were still mistakenly stamped as NEW pences.


Poland's "GROZNY" - The grozny is a subdivision of the złoty, a currency whose name I still cannot adequately pronounce to this day. On a holiday to Krakow some years ago, I was horrified to be unable to adequately pronounce it to any polish people or shopowners I met. I would say it repeatedly and no one would have a clue what I was saying, or that I was even talking about money, or trying to ask them "EKCUZ ME, HOW MANY ZLOTY?". Anyway, this 10 grozny is a tenth of a złoty, and is probably one of the smallest and thinnest coin in the collection. I find it interesting that for some currencies, sometimes coins of this denomination are usually smaller in size than coins of smaller value than itself. For example, an American dime is smaller than a 5 cents coin. Another thing is that although Poland was supposed to slowly adopt the Euro, I quickly found out that although it was accepted in some shops, only "high-end" shops wanted to accept the Euro on credit cards, but everything else, like your affordable hole-in-the-wall cabbage and chicken soup places and sleepy small shops would only take złoty.


Switzerland's RAPPEN - I don't know why I have it. I have the vaguest impression that perhaps it had been given to me by a Swiss-german friend, but the intricacies of German-german, austrian-german, swiss-german are things that I still don't fully understand to this day. It is truly, a very minimal Swiss Franc though, and quite mysterious with as few words as possible, just a big beautiful number 5 on one side. Mysterious....

Monday, 25 February 2013

Adventures in Hong Kong: Chinese Surveyors, Basement Food Courts, Mongkok Police Station, and Kowloon Walled City Park

Recently TEAM FIRE visited Hong Kong, a foggy grey city that for the most part, of which many parts smelled a lot like fried fish and stinky tofu shops, and other parts looked like they came out of some part of Grand Theft Auto (like the very generic sounding "harbour city"). It was generally a leisurely exploration, in which we mostly meandered around parts of Tsim Sha Tsui, occassionally wandered up to Mong Kok, crossed the waters on the train or ferry to eat lots of egg tarts near Central/Soho. Here are a couple of the highlights:

Chinese Surveyor Markings


This being the first chinese country I have ever gone to, I am delighted to report that construction workers / land surveyors / civil engineers in HK sometimes actually use chinese characters in their markings on the ground! Here is one exemplary example that seems to be saying "400 BAMBOO", spotted near the waterfront along Tsim Sha Tsui.

All Shopping Malls Have Food Courts in their Basement Floor


Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade

It was near lunch time when we encountered the "400 BAMBOO" marking above along Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade, but we were already starving, and there were bleak prospects for finding cheap roadside food places in that area. Not far from that point, I saw what appeared to be a mall-type departmental store in the distance. Despite never having been to any buildings from that chain, I felt compelled to make a beeline for it. And I was gratified that my hunch had been correct - that here in HK they also had the convention of installing a food court at the lowest basement level (much to G's amazement). I realised that this is something so predictable in Singapore that I instinctively expect every shopping mall and multistorey department store to have a food court at either at the very top roof level or the bottom basement floor (or sometimes even on both!). Can anyone explain why this convention is as such?

Unfortunately, we could not find any vegetarian options at the aforementioned food court. The only "vegetarian" dish there was not really vegetarian either. This was to be the running theme throughout our food adventures through Hong Kong. To be affixed with the puzzled stares of random food sellers and waiters scratching their heads in confusion and muttering in chinese, "WHAT??? YOU DON'T WANT MEAT OR FISH? HOW ABOUT THIS LITTLE MICROSCOPIC PRAWN ON TOP OF THIS VEGETABLE? OR THIS FISHCAKE??? I MEAN, THAT'S NOT MEAT, RIGHT??!"


Speaking of vegetarian options, for any vegetarians or vegans visiting HK, I'd recommend Kung Tak Lam Shanghai Vegetarian Cuisine (功德林上海素食) at located at the 7th floor of 1881 Heritage (1 Peking Road, Tsim Sha Tsui). Even people who eat anything and everything will find this restaurant very fascinating; its menu has hundreds of items, and we went back twice and ordered completely different things but everything we tried there was really exciting and exceptional. I think a lot of the best vegetarian restaurants are like a lot like food/flavour labs; forced by necessity to innovate in order to compete with the maddening hordes of meat dishes (especially in Asia where seafood and the use of ground prawn paste as an seasoning ingredient is virtually ubiquitous). Above is a picture of their classic Cold Shanghainese Noodle with seven sauces from Kung Tak Lam.

Mong Kok Police Station



According to the Guinness Book of Records, Mongkok (旺角) is apparently the most densely populated place in the world. Just north of the Tsim Sha Tsui area, this was certainly the most crowded area we saw in Hong Kong. The one thing in my mind was: WHY IS EVERYONE ON THE STREETS INSTEAD OF BEING AT WORK? Were a lot of these people standing around Mongkok also tourists like we were? (There sure were a lot of PRC tourists) I mean, population density could refer to towerblocks with more cramped dwellings than usual, like perhaps due to buildings housing "cage people", but the roads themselves were indeed crazy.


Of course, for all you aficionados of Category III Anthony Wong type films, a trip to Mongkok would not be complete with a souvenir photo outside the Mongkok Police Station...

Kowloon Walled City Park


We visited the site of the Kowloon Walled City (九龍寨城), which was completely demolished by 1994 and replaced by some sort of a landscaped park. From documentaries I had watched in the past, the idea of a "vertical urban village" built out of super-dense city of interwoven high-rise tenements that had developed without real foundations and without centralised authority was of mythic proportions.


List of things you can't do at the Kowloon Walled City Park

Sad to say the park that has replaced it was not in its best condition when we visited it, thus making it feel slightly like the Kowloon Walled City's demolition was all for naught; like an administrative exercise that had cleaned it up but left it with a gaping, unoccupied hole.


This is a picture that I had taken on the way to the park - a mossy stone with the words "Kowloon Walled City", with a huge crack over the word "city". I wondered if this crack over the word city was intentional, so I set about looking for other pictures of this particular stone plaque to see if it had been cracked in other photos.

Stone Plaque - Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons (2006)

Stone plaque of "Kowloon Walled City"

Stone Plaque - Image Credit: asianfiercetiger (2011)

I didn't actually find any other pictures of that particular stone I had seen, but whilst searching on Wikipedia and Flickr I did find a picture of a different stone plaque with a crack over the exact same word - right over the word 城 ("city")! The above pictures are of the main stone plaque by the South Gate. I like how it hasn't been moved in all this time although in all possibility these fragments might not have been cemented down to the ground.

Because of this, I think the cracks on both stone plaques are very much intentional: maybe a bit like how when chinese graves are exhumed, the gravestones must be broken into pieces so as to symbolise that whatever the stone once stood for is no longer there... A symbolic memorial for a broken city.

Here is the first of a great four-part documentary on the Kowloon Walled City:

Patterns: A 3d sandbox world building game


Everytime I have a spare moment to do… well… nothing, it seems I end up going to Second Life. I suppose I've played SL for roughly 6 years now, on and off. [See also: and] I guess its a kind of pointless, aimless wandering game. Which suits me fine. I don't know how other people use it, but if I didn't have an interest in building/3d modelling or programming or virtual spaces, I don't think I would have stuck with casually playing this game so long.



For some reason, despite having a fairly nice little gander about, I kept having intermittent problems rezzing up normally, and instead of looking like a white statue as I had planned, I looked more like a moire pattern. I also kept losing my connection whilst repeatedly trying to TP to the Kowloon parcel I had once visited a long time ago. During the downtime, I saw a small advert on the SL startup screen about a new game also produced by Linden Labs…

Screen Shot 2013-02-24 at 7.15.26 PM.png

Screen Shot 2013-02-24 at 7.22.33 PM.png

A few minutes later (and US$ 9.95 poorer), I had bought an activation key and was up and running with PATTERNS. Visually, it reminds me of Minecraft-meets-Flatland's aesthetic. I'm sure detractors will complain that the gameplay does have a semblance to Minecraft in the "mining" process, but the rest of the game's objective is quite different.

Screen Shot 2013-02-24 at 10.11.02 PM.png

Despite looking very "simple", the pieces rely on a realistic physics and fluid/particle system. And as you build simple bridges or structures or even bombs, you have to find the right kind of material that will not collapse on itself depending on what you are trying to build with it. And unlike Minecraft, there are no Zombies or Creepers about to come to eat you when the sun sets. Its just a big happy sandbox for discovering materials, exploring floating islands by slowly building bridges to cross over to them, and building more and more complex 3d polyhedras out of triangles and squares.

Basically, its like Minecraft minus all the parts of Minecraft's gameplay that annoyed me (i.e.: being eaten suddenly) - multiplied by a mathematics/geometry puzzle. Because oh yes, trust me, you're going to have to figure out how to quickly fit a tetrahedron with a goddamned square pyramid to form a flat plane in order to get to the other island. And then you'll probably want to make more Patterns in the library within the game to order to automate your building process…

Screen Shot 2013-02-24 at 10.11.41 PM.png

The game is blest with amazing environmental light - Linden has really got WindLight down pat, because the environmental light is absolutely gorgeous and brilliant for what seems on first sight to be such a simple game that is entirely built of squares and triangles. In Patterns, the sun and the moon will rise and set in quick succession; you can see the rays of light come into the structures whilst you're inside mining for materials.

Screen Shot 2013-02-25 at 4.31.28 AM.png

You can download Patterns here. This is an early launch called Genesis Release (public alpha) and its available on the site or via Steam for US$ 9.95. More info on building is on the Build Patterns Wiki.

ADDENDUM - More about Building BOMBS

Contact Bomb

Brimstone Bomb

The simplest bomb consists of 1 Brimstone cube + 1 Brimstone square pyramid + 1 Starene square pyramid. It will explode when you touch it on the second time. You can stand on it and the explosion itself will not hurt you, but it may throw you off the thing you are standing on and you might shatter into pieces. Its a quick way of harvesting Unbreakable materials.

Rocket Bomb

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The Rocket Bomb consists of 2 Brimstone cubes + 1 tall Rubble square pyramid. The rocket will fly once constructed, for the length of approximately 60 squares and then explode. From experience sometimes it explodes even sooner than you would expect if you are hoping to arc it into the air and have it come down again. If you have shot it in too wide an arc it will almost always certain explode in mid-air, so be warned. Once I bombed the Floating islands in Barren Plains so much that... THE MOUNTAINS OF BRIMSTONE, STARENE AND CLAY COMPLETELY FELL OFF. THEY STOPPED FLOATING! Which brings me to the question: WHY DO THE FLOATING ISLANDS FLOAT? WHAT KEEPS THEM THERE???

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Tuesday, 19 February 2013

The Singapore Psychogeographical Society: 2013 Update #1

Bumper update time! Since returning to Singapore, things have been terribly hectic and the Singapore Psychogeographical Society has been involved in a number of going-ons -- (1) exhibiting and speaking at Art Stage with The Substation's booth (25 Jan - 27 Jan 2013); (2) exhibiting at Gillman Barracks' Engaging Perspectives (25 Jan - 31 March 2013); (3) our essay on Psychogeoforensics was been published in a new journal launched by Lasalle (To be launched on 22 Feb 2013); (4) "Ethnographic Fragments from Singapore" has also been nominated for the Sovereign Asian Art Prize 2012/2013 and we went up to Hong Kong to see the work (5 Feb 2013).

"Fragments and Traces", Art Stage 2013 (23 Jan 2013 - 27 Jan 2013)

We were honoured to show two recent works at The Substation's first ever booth at Art Stage last month - "Ethnographic Fragments from Central Singapore", and "A Collection of Postdated Memories from Paris".

The project "Ethnographic Fragments from Central Singapore" had been first shown at The Substation as part of "Drive", a mobile experimental film festival curated by Kent Chan in June 2012, and subsequently "public exchanges" of fragments occurred in July 2012 at The Substation Random Room whilst Jeong Heewoo and me were working there during The Substation-Seoul Art Space_MULLAE Project 2012. In August 2012, another exchange was held at the Independent Archive and Resource Centre (curated by Mike Chang).

"A Collection of Postdated Memories from Paris" had been first developed during a 3-month residency with the Dena Foundation in Paris. It was first shown at Immanence at "Primavera", a show curated by Valentine Meyer, 16 November 2012. Primavera featured the artists at the Dena Foundation Residency in 2012 -- Elio Germani (IT), Hafiz Osman (SG), Bado (IT), Matteo (IT). [See also: Primavera Documentation Video]


The Substation Booth at Art Stage 2013


The first time that this particular print has been exhibited in Singapore.


Paris Fragment which thankfully arrived in Singapore in one piece. Many thanks to the Dena Foundation for helping with the unexpectedly huge postage costs, and to Elio Germani who helped me pack and bring it to the post office in my absence.


3 Fragments from Singapore - "Bay Pavement Fragment", "Sungei Road Fragment V", and "Henry, or all that is left of Fat Frog"




Thanks to all the friends who came down to support us!

Engaging Perspectives at Gillman Barracks


The Singapore Psychogeographical Society showed two works at Gillman Barracks at "Engaging Perspectives: New Art from Singapore" - an exhibition of nine Singapore contemporary artists and collectives, all born in the 1980s and working in Singapore. The artists featured in the show were Ang Song Nian, Black Baroque Committee, Mike Chang, The Singapore Psychogeographical Society, Nah Yong En, Bruce Quek, Frayn Yong, Jasper Yu and Zhao Renhui. The exhibition was organized by the (soon-to-be-opening in later part of 2013) Centre for Contemporary Art (CCA) Singapore, and curated by Eugene Tan. The show is ongoing until 31 March 2013.

We were also featured on Culturepush (Thanks guys!), and an image of the work was posted on and cafa art info.

"Spotspotting" at Block 1


This was the first time Spotspotting has been presented in a physical space - forming a wall of 616 surveyor and civil engineering marks collected in cities such as Singapore, UK (London, Bournemouth), France (Paris), South Korea (Seoul), Germany (Berlin, Frankfurt, Kassel), Indonesia (Jakarta), and Cyprus (Paphos, Nicosia). [For more images, see the Spotspotting Flickr Set]



"Ethnographic Fragments from Singapore" at Block 39


All the physical fragments collected and exchanged in 2012 are exhibited at Block 39 - with the exception of 3 fragments which were removed for display at Art Stage. You can also read descriptions and notes from the fragment exchanges.





Psychogeoforensics: Land ISSUE (Lasalle College of the Arts)


An article by the Singapore Psychogeographical Society will be in ISSUE, a new art journal by the Lasalle College of the Arts. There will be a launch on Feb 22 at Lasalle. You can read more at artinfo or on the Lasalle website

Sovereign Asian Art Prize 2012/2013


The Singapore Psychogeographical Society was nominated by Charles Merewether for the 2012/2013 Sovereign Asian Art Prize, and has made it as one of three Singaporean finalists along with Boo Sze Yang and Zhao Renhui. The work is being exhibited in Hong Kong at the Rotunda of Exchange Square. It was actually my first trip to Hong Kong (basically the first other chinese speaking country I have ever travelled to in my life!) so there will be more to say on that in a later post...


The Singapore Psychogeographical Society's "Ethnographic Fragments from Singapore"


Boo Sze Yang's "Fashion Mall, Las Vegas, USA"


Zhao Renhui's "Expedition #43"

The entire process of bringing the work to HK was also a rather expensive lesson in shipping and freighting large framed works, as I had not known that a framed work in excess of 1.9m would incur significantly more shipping costs than a framed work of 1.2m. Bringing the work to HK would not have been possible without my dad's assistance whilst I was away in London. Thanks Dad!

In general I found it somewhat strange to see my work hung in the middle of Hong Kong's CBD, in the middle of the busy financial district. I know the marriage between arts and its commercial patrons is inevitable but for me an uneasy one as the commercial value of art and the critical strength (cultural value?) remain as two separate things which expect to be correlated (although that is not always the case...).

A video commentary for the purpose of the auction of the work can also be seen here.
(With... er... interesting musical accompaniment?)

Lot 24 -- "Ethnographic Fragments from Singapore"