my (artist) friends

My (Artist) Friends is a map of the social relationships between artists seen from the perspective of one person. Recalling the manner of Mark Lombardi's highly detailed maps, but instead filled with bits of trivia, this map is by no means meaningless as it represents attempts to chart the intricacies of interpersonal relations are often left unsaid or unnoticed. This project owes its name to a work titled My Artists by Tang Ling Nah, a Singapore-based artist. Tang had confounded the binary of the artist and the curator in that work by curating her friends as works of art in a show in which she was invited to participate in. In a similar vein, this project builds and extends that spirit of playful irreverence by illuminating relationships between artists, curators and other cultural workers both within and beyond the arts scene in Singapore.
A prototype of this project first appeared in the book Preoccupations: Things artists do anyway under the entry on "The Love of Many". It is reproduced here with the accompanying text and disclaimer:

The Love of Many

As an activity that has accompanied the development of human civilisation and the rise and fall of eras, gossiping probably precedes the earliest written texts. Gossiping appears immoral, and its partakers are likened to liars, murderers and so on. Many proverbs and adages that exist throughout the world attest to its harm. Yet this seemingly idle activity requires further analysis. What makes it a preferred way of communication is its mobility and secrecy. One can exchange a multitude of data – surveillance, analysis, opinions, thoughts, research, studies, explorations, interpretations, dissections... on subjects that often could not be openly disclosed without possible serious repercussions for the purveyor and at considerable costs for the consumer.

Gossip tends to be distributed within informal, cellular, loosely defined networks, which lend themselves well as windows onto relationships. Gossipers manage expectations within these networks by having an acute awareness of individual preferences and desires – in short, knowing what makes people tick. Thus, gossiping is the acme of the marriage of a host of disciplines from economics and psychology to sociology and anthropology.

There exists a difference between gossiping and gossiping well. Owing to its nature, the partaking of this act can be therapeutic, like that between the analyst and the analysand. Catharsis is often the sign of a very rewarding session, especially when certain suspicions that one harbours are confirmed. Due to the intimate nature of the gossiping exercise, it is extremely important to be selective of whom are involved and how much information is disclosed or exchanged at any one session, failing which one runs the risk of committing an embarrassing faux pas, or more seriously, appearing unprofessional and risking the condemnation of the masses.

In order to further underscore the practicalities of this mundane activity, I will highlight a true case study from my very own files that illuminates the relationships between some artists that you will find within the pages of this book. May this spur you, dear reader, to find the delicate nuances that tint your understanding of the human condition, as, in the words of Phillis McGinley, “Gossip isn’t scandal and it’s not merely malicious. It’s chatter about the human race by lovers of the same.”

Interactive concept map
dimensions variable
2008 - present

The presence of names in this diagram does not constitute the named persons’ sharing of information in this case study. Names have either been changed or withheld to protect the implicated and/or guilty. This example and the accompanying diagram are listed for educational purposes only and no responsibility will be borne for any events that may directly or indirectly arise from any readers participating in this activity or using the information from this diagram. Readers are advised to exercise due caution; use of the information or participation in this activity is AT YOUR OWN RISK.