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1987’s Scar Literature and Scar Art

What do these people have in common:

Alfian Sa’at, Vincent Cheng, Russell Heng, Teo Soh Lung, Tan Jing Quee, Aileen Lau, Gwee Li Sui, Lau Siew Mei, Sonny Liew, Suchen Christine Lim, Seelan Palay, Jason Soo, Joel Tan, Jolene Tan, Jason Wee, Wong Souk Yee, and Robert Yeo

They are artists whose creations have dealt directly with or referenced the 1987 alleged Marxist plot against the government. I previously wrote about the scar literature and art that deals with the detention without trail of the “Marxists” when I discussed Wong Souk Yee’s novel Death of a Perm Sec:


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“Wong’s novel and especially her play add to the slowly growing body of what is probably best termed Singapore’s “scar literature” (used for works dealing with China’s Cultural Revolution.) In our own scar literature I include not just novels and short stories, but also non-fiction, films, poetry, etc, which deal directly or indirectly with the period of the “political ISA”. By this I mean the time up till the late 1980s, during which the government locked up without trial politicians, social activists, and playwrights, journalists and other intellectuals (some for unimaginable years and years.)”

The above writers, editors and other what we call “Artists for Marxists (Alleged)” (disclaimer: including myself) are part of a as complete as we know list of the scar books, plays, sculptures, installation and other art works that a few of us compiled in commemoration of the 30th anniversary of Operation Spectrum arrests on May 21 ( click on the link below for the PDF):

1987 artists final

Artists for Marxists (Alleged)

Let me know if there is something we have left out.

The anniversary has been marked by the launch of “1987: Singapore’s Marxist Conspiracy 30 Years On” (available here:). Publishers Ethos Books describe it as:

“Survivors of Operation Spectrum—the alleged Marxist conspiracy—speak up in this volume. For many of them, this is the first time that they cast their minds back to 1987 and try to make sense of the incident. What they did in that period was meaningful and totally legitimate. Their families and friends share the same view.”

Other anniversary events such as talks are on-going. Look up Function 8, the group behind them, to find out more.

Crowd at launch of 1987 book

The overwhelming response to the launch of the 1987 anniversary book (source: Function 8)

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About tantarnhow

Everyone has at least two sides, and this is the non-work side of me. My office and work-site (haha) are the Institute of Policy Studies (www.ips.org.sg) and http://tantarnhow.blogspot.com I am a playwright (my last play Machine was staged in 2002). I am also interested in social and political issues, including those outside my IPS research areas of arts and cultural policy, media and information technology.

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