Lau Thiam Kok uses language to create imaginary landscapes; times and dates to unfold events, spaces, and places through his work. Commissioned as part of Plymouth Arts Centre’s Artists and Curators Residency Programme, Lau published his book DUST in June 08. 1000 copies were distributed across Plymouth: “This project aims to set the book free, to travel from place to place. Leave it at any corner of your city, on a park bench, at a coffee shop, at a hotel on vacation, on the seat of the bus that takes you home, or the bookshelf in your house - anywhere it can find a place and make that place become its canvas. Then join its online flickr group to watch and share.”
Here's our exclusive interview with this extraordinary artist - we have a few books of his poetry in our store, for the first 20 people who email us: email@example.com
Can you explain how your books link to your wider ideas on the subject and focus of poetry?
In fact my ideas about art, design, poetry, and graphics, influence each other. When I was little I wanted to be an artist, to draw and paint, but wasn’t allowed to by my family. Eventually I studied graphic design, advertising, and multimedia at university, and then became a designer, a web designer in particular. I have never forgotten my ambition, but rather I ‘blend in’ everything. I have also learned and realised during the process that I don’t want to paint and draw as a ‘painter’ anymore.
All philosophers, scientists, technologists, artists and even poets, work on the same methodology. First, they reduce the entire universe’s existence into single fragments. Afterwards, they start to rearrange, to recode, and to transform all the particles into our world again. By that, I can say, they can create nothing new, but they give us a life that we never lived nor realised before. We therefore are sublimated and enlightened by such newness and difference in this reality. Hence, we anoint them with the creative crown of origin, intellect, innovation, and sensation.
31/07/2003, 9.29 am
‘Poetic’ is the essential element in my searching for ideas. A piece of writing can be poetic but not a poem; a film or a book can be poetic but not poetry. Some poems are not naturally poetic but are structurally ‘poetry’. So my interest in poetry or any form of art is the poetic image in them. I collect stories, poems, writings, movie scripts or dialogues etc, as long as they are rhetorical. For example:
War is beautiful because it enriches a flowering meadow with the fiery orchids of machine guns. War is beautiful because it combines the gunfire, the cannonades, the cease-fire, the scents, the stench of putrefaction into a symphony... Poets and artists of Futurism... remember these principles of an aesthetics of war so that your struggle for a new literature and a new graphic art...may be illumined by them! Filippo T.E. Marinetti (1876-1944)
Beautiful things are rhetorical. Beauty can be a product of misery. Misery can be beauty. This is hypothetically poetic, an on-going process because many things, anything, can be poetic, it depends on the creative mind. As in Aristotle’s Poetics, my interest is to seek knowledge, explanation, and the code behind the basic human instinct.
Being interested in the flux of memory, the interaction of fiction and poetry, to what degree are the imaginary landscapes you create, with specific dates and times, a personal documentary?
My interest in poetry is philosophical. The technique I practise is a kind of reductionism. I generalise personal memory and experience, with or without other recourses, to achieve a universal structure, which can have something in common with others. So my work aims to be rooted in the receiver, the reader. However, each work is linked by dates and times with my memory, and I still could consider them as my personal documentary.
The definition of fiction derives from two aspects. Memory as fiction, for example:
One day you will find
Your life is a fiction
When you are old and
Become a grandpa or a grandma
Telling your grandchildren
The stories from your twenties
Which now you have and believe
But will become then and
You will doubt them.
When I am old, 01.03.2004, 12:35 am, Mon.
And as the Poetic Fiction:
All human beings
When I am old and
you are gone
I will think of you
in the fiction
of my memory.
I will return
and from afar
you will wait for me
Poetics, 27.05.2007, 8:55 pm, Sun.
Can you explain the relationship between DUST and its companion book, PLACE.
Dust is a philosophy of dying, whereas Place is a philosophy of living through my poetic writing. They go hand in hand. One looks at the past, the other looks to the future.With the lack of either, the aim of the poetic is incomplete.
Dust is a micro view in researching memory, Place is a macro view looking into memory. Dust is a reduction of memory, Place is a fiction/ creation/ generation of memory. Gaston Bachelard describes:
“History is not enough. We should have to know how the forest experiences its age; why, in the reign of the imagination, there are no young forests. I myself can only meditate upon things in my own country, having learned the dialectic of fields and woods from my unforgettable friend, Gaston Roupnel. In the vast world of the non-I, the non-I of fields is not the same as the non-I of forests. The forest is a before-me, before-us, whereas for the fields and meadows, my dreams and recollections accompany all the different phases of tilling and harvesting. When the dialectics of the I and the non-I grow more flexible, I feel that fields and meadows are with me, in the with-me, with-us. But forest reign in the past. I know, for instance, that my grandfather got lost in a certain wood. I was told this, and I have not forgotten it. It happened in a past before I was born. My oldest memories, therefore, are a hundred years old, or perhaps a bit more. Then, this is my ancestral forest. And all the rest is fiction.”
Place is an imagination in a house, a city, a ruined place, or a disappeared place. It appears to be human-like, possessing human emotions. “A lamp is waiting in the window, and through it, the house, too, is waiting. The lamp is the symbol of prolonged waiting,” Gaston says. The lamp in our house doesn’t seem visible when we have company but when we are alone the solitude of the lamp, whether it is on the ceiling or sitting in the corner, reminds us of ourselves, glowing in solitude in the corner, waiting: “Through its light alone, the house becomes human. It sees like a man. Its eyes open to the night.”
So a place in our imagination must be inhabited, if not by humans then by phantoms or witches, elves or monsters. An abandoned house is always haunted in our imaginations because it not inhabited. A ruin is haunting and poignant because it cannot be inhabited.
Place isn’t necessarily a romantic narrative; there may be hidden codes. It is open for subjective interpretation: ‘The act of imagination, is a magical act' (Jean-Paul Sartre)