Writing (MA)

Yin Ying Kong

I received the Singapore National Arts Council Art Scholarship (Undergraduate) in 2015 and pursued further studies at Goldsmiths College, graduating in 2018 with First Class Honours in BA Design. The contextual report attending to my final project, Archiphemera: A Critical Topology of Ephemera in the Archive, is now housed in the Live Art Development Agency.

I curated the BA Design degree show Museum of Design (MOD) for my cohort and stayed on in Goldsmiths as a Graduate Learning Facilitator for Design’s final year students, supporting them in their dissertations, studio projects, and degree show.

From 2018–19, I co-edited two books on art writing and criticism, Attention and NOIT—5: bodies as in buildings, the fifth instalment of Flat Time House’s in-house journal; and published illustrations, esoterica, and art criticism on Four Eyes Magazine and The Double Negative.

I also organised a three-day zine-making workshop, Concentrating on Colour, as part of AcrossRCA, with Kaushikee Gupta, Sindi Breshani, and Laura Robertson, from which the -ish zines came into being.

In January 2020, I graduated from the Royal College of Art in MA Writing with outstanding results for my dissertation A Critical Bestiary of Singapore

Contact

yinying.kyy@gmail.com

yinying.kong@network.rca.ac.uk

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I am a Singaporean artist-designer-researcher-writer who is invested in post-disciplinary practices, having studied Visual Arts then Design then Critical Writing. I rarely work on the same things twice — think affordance and phenomenology, Victorian rowdiness, British wartime documentary film, and Southeast Asian bestiaries — and love semicolons, for they are wonderfully mysterious when used right.

My research is, at its heart, concerned with the study of form — as subject and object, and as an embedded operation that attends to/ aligns with/ sustains content — often through mimicry and play. My Masters dissertation A Critical Bestiary of Singapore took the form of a broadsheet, carrying the functions of the Nordic Pavilion’s newspapers on seaweed (in the 2019 Venice Biennale) and of the ARTICLE newsletters from the 2013 Singapore Biennale; my bibliographic survey of a British film consultancy was an impression of the Film Centre’s Documentary News Letter; I built A Supernatural Bestiary of Book-type Tsukumogami with etymological extrapolations and found my method in Sekien’s mad verses; and in A Miscellany of Rowdiness, I imitated the textual and visual configurations of archive objects, from letters to tax edicts to printing press keepsakes to advertisements. Through these explorations, I’ve found a comfortable temporary home in creative non-fiction and sometimes publish under the genre of esoterica.

I share with the Prelingers (of the Prelinger Library) “a deep empirical and evidence-driven streak” and a suspicion towards presentism and reductive query-based or thesis-driven research. This suspicion is managed with a rigorous forensic approach and with compendiousness, which betrays some of my deeper-seated archival and historiographic impulses. My body of work has very naturally manifested as miscellanies, bestiaries, and bibliographic surveys, each heavily laden with footnotes and endnotes, which I conceive to be essential auxiliary texts. 

A Critical Bestiary of Singapore — p1

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A Critical Bestiary of Singapore is a non-exhaustive bibliographic, artistic, and critical survey of beasts in Singapore, whether real, mythical, or speculative in nature, as well as a survey of alternative forms for/of bestiaries.

The research involved was para-academic, largely ‘undisciplined’ in nature, after author David Teh, for whom ‘an undisciplined approach to the foreign is at least less likely to do discursive violence to its subject’. [1] It comprised visits to sites and shows, interviews, talks and performance lectures, films, books, tours, anecdotes, found objects, etc.; following Zedeck Siew, who wrote Creatures of Near Kingdoms by way of ‘random reading and lived experience’, [2] and the Singaporean artists and writers surveyed, for whom auto- and polyphonic methods are key to their practice. The bulk of the research was done in August, Singapore’s month of independence and the seventh month of the lunar calendar, the period of the Hungry Ghost Festival.

The bestiary comes in newsletter form for ease of transmission, modelled after ARTICLE: The Singapore Biennale Review from December 2013, and as a reaction to Focas: Regional Animalities, a critical bestiary in its own right, which is hidden away in journal databases and library archives. It also hopes to leverage on ideas of addition and edition associated with the newsletter, to hint that there is much more to the corpus than represented and, importantly, that there are other ways of reading it.

The Critical Bestiary has been produced on the occasion of Singapore’s bicentennial in 2019, when the nation’s history is being dusted off and brought before the public, and the creatures within it woken from their slumber.


[1] David Teh, 'The Lowest Form of Human: Dogs, Excess and Symbolic Exchange in Contemporary Thailand', Focas: Regional Animalities (Singapore: The Substation, 2007), p. 23.
[2] ‘Information / trivia about animals / spirits are scattered across many, many sources; when I write stuff it's mainly a combination of random reading and lived experience in this context.’ Zedeck Siew to Yin Ying Kong, ‘Order for Creatures of Near Kingdoms by Zedeck Siew’, 27 August 2019.

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Art
beast
bestiary
Creative Non-Fiction
criticism
Historiography
myth
other
research
Science Fiction
Singapore
writing

Harrods Moving Staircase — '…………… "I’m not sure my delicate constitution could handle such a journey." …………… "Such a quick change in elevation would discombobulate your inner workings!" …………… "My heavens, that was a frightful to-do. I say, would you be so kind as to pour me some of that brandy?" …………… "Come along now, John. I’ve done it once and survived." …………… "The Morning Post said that it’s 'a remarkable substitute for the ordinary lift'. None of those vexatious waits to be had. Shall we go try it, Margaret?" …………… "I do declare that I shall never take the stairs again!" …………… "Now, why doesn’t Debenham & Freebody have one?" ' Excerpted from A Miscellany of Rowdiness. Illustration courtesy Meg Evans.

Frost Fair on the Ice — 'Near Blackfriars Bridge, in a tent haphazardly constructed using sails and oars, Samuel Warner toiled away. Press — For the poet nursing Old Tom’s Gin: "Upon the Ice we merry-make,/ a glass of Gin all must partake,/ or a tasting of hot Mutton Pie/ which surely draws a happy sigh./ The Brave may venture further out/ and oft will slip with a great shout!/ Lewd ladyes flit between the Booths,/ dancing about in ways uncouth./ Some slide with Skeetes or Bait the Bulls/ or Race on Coaches that horses pull./ At Showes and Humours for all to see,/ the young and olde do clap with glee./ Be drunk and mad and rough and loud;/ ’tis a Faire to make Bacchus proud!"' Excerpted from A Miscellany of Rowdiness. Illustration courtesy Meg Evans.

Pawnbroker — 'The guide draws our attention to one object in particular. We crowd around the dusty pane and peer in. A folded stack of some unnamed family’s Sunday best sits quietly, limp and yellowing. "The poor took advantage of the system. They tended to pawn their Sunday clothes on Monday, get their pay on Saturday and collect their Sunday best for church service, then repeat the process on Monday." I look at the collared shirt at the top of the pile and imagine it worn by a man with a cheeky grin. 3 October 2017, Museum of London.' Excerpted from A Miscellany of Rowdiness. Illustration courtesy Meg Evans.

Window Tax — 'Thomas Laughry, upon receipt of his duty, hastens to plead his case: "To the Right Worship of his Justice of Peace for the county of Middlesex, this humble petition of Thomas Laughry of his parish St Sepulchre. That pursuant to an act granting his Majesty certain Rates upon houses, your parishioner is Rated as assessed the sum of 10s as having twenty windows situated in the house he dwells in. That your parishioner by reason of poverty is discharged from paying tithes to the Church or poor as by certificate under the bands of the Church-wardens of this parish may appeal. This Lot therefore most humbly Prays your worship to be pleased to grant that this parishioner be discharged from payment of this Rate and Christ our Lord shall hear our prayer. Yours very respectfully, Thomas Laughry." It is July when he receives a reply: "… we have particularly Examined the said Complaint upon Oath, and upon due Examination thereof, have Maintained the said Assessment for that by reason of undue plea of poverty…" ' Excerpted from A Miscellany of Rowdiness. Illustration courtesy Meg Evans.

Penny-farthing — 'JAMES STARLEY EDITION: THE “SPECIAL CLUB” BICYCLE ARIEL MODEL SPECIFICATIONS, CONTAINING DIRECTIONS FOR USE AND PRECAUTIONARY MEASURES. […] HOLD BICYCLE UPRIGHT, GRASP HANDLEBARS SECURELY, PLACE LEFT FOOT ON PEG ABOVE REAR WHEEL, PUSH BICYCLE ALONG AT STEADY PACE, AND LIFT SELF ONTO SADDLE. […] RIDING DOWNHILL. TO AVOID TAKING A HEADER, ENSURE CONSTANT SPEED OF TRAVEL, PRESS BACK ON PEDALS TO SLOW DOWN, AND USE SPOON BRAKE GRADUALLY. FOR PROFICIENT RIDERS, HOOK LEGS OVER HANDLEBARS AND ATTEMPT TO LAND ON FEET IF DISLODGED FROM BICYCLE. […]' Excerpted from A Miscellany of Rowdiness. Illustration courtesy Meg Evans.

A Miscellany of Rowdiness is a series of five semi-fictional, pastiche renderings of London's inhabitants through the ages — of their rowdiness in response to bureaucracies, social systems, and new technologies. Each of the five renderings takes as its departure point a historical object — items which were encountered in the London Metropolitan Archive and the Museum of London — including written correspondences on window tax, the frost fair printing press, pawned Sunday best clothes, penny-farthings, and Harrods' 'moving staircase'.

Take a turn in the endnotes by clicking on the superscript available on Four Eyes Magazine, where A Miscellany of Rowdiness was first published in August 2019.

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The five illustrations are courtesy Meg Evans, who was commissioned through Four Eyes Magazine.
iiii Magazine is an independent arts and culture publication, based in London and Manchester.

[A-side] — Mixtape Methodology / Mixtape Pedagogy, 20 mins

[B-side] — If The Mixtape was a Portrait, 14 mins

Cassette Cover — Track List

In this interview, Nicholas Mortimer, Goldsmiths BA Design’s Third Year Studio Lead, expounds on a lecture he delivered to the Design class of 2018, titled ‘What I do when I don’t know what to do’. Stopping and starting, winding and rewinding, the interview meanders between discussions of sampling and actual samples, practising design and design practice; and, with A-side and B-side tracks, it pulls together and pulls apart the many sides of Mortimer and his mixtape pedagogy.


Interview conducted by Yin Ying Kong in the RCA sound studio, 4 February 2019.

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20 mins [A-side] , 14 mins [B-side]
Goldsmiths BA Design Third Year Studio Lead / RCA Alumnus, MA Design Interactions, Class of 2013

NOIT—5: bodies as in buildings — This anthology features works by students from the MA Writing Programme at the Royal College of Art and an afterword by Brian Dillon. Prompted by a productively skewed reading of John Latham’s anthropomorphisation of his home, this collection of essays, short stories, and images explore what happens when the domestic, the home, and the body are alienated from their most basic associations and given new ones. In these works, the threshold between house and street—the distinction between the public and private—becomes porous and inexhaustibly complex. Edited by Yin Ying Kong, Rosie Higham-Stainton, and Bryony Bodimeade, and designed by Emily Schofield. Photos courtesy Hannah Archambault. (London: RCA, 2019. ISBN 978-0-9557163-0-0)

A Supernatural Bestiary of Book-type Tsukumogami — ‘Strange stories about spirits of the paper variety have been recorded as early as the eighteenth century. Kan-su-no-okina 巻子の翁, old picture scrolls in neglected collections, appeared in their owners’ dreams as old men to remind them to air out the pests. Kyōrinrin 経凛々, the monk Shubin’s old sutras, became sentient to avenge their creator, who died when a curse he cast at a rival backfired. And Garei 画霊, an old hanging scroll, would materialise the woman it depicted at night to haunt its owners when uncared for. As books became more common household items and grew advanced in age, new species of such spirits emerged…’ Excerpted from the text. A Supernatural Bestiary of Book-type Tsukumogami is a compendium of books and their tales that explores anxieties over ownership, domestic spaces, and objects developed for the MA Writing collaborative project, Flat Time House’s in-house journal, NOIT—5: bodies as in buildings. Text and illustrations by Yin Ying Kong.

Tsukumogami — Hengao, Heiroku-sho, Hisshō

Tsukumogami — Hengao

Tsukumogami — Hyakkieda

Tsukumogami — Hyakkieda

Tsukumogami — Nenshōhon

Tsukumogami — Nenshōhon

In Japanese folklore, tsukumogami 付喪神 — ‘artefact gods’ — are man-made objects that have gained sentience after a hundred years of use — or misuse. The nature of their possession is defined by the sentiments received from their owners: well-loved objects become loyal servants or protectors while neglected or mistreated objects turn vengeful or malicious.

This bestiary of books adapts ‘etymological’ data from existing tsukumogami in Toriyama Sekien’s 1784 compendium Hyakki Tsurezure Bukuro 百器徒然袋 (‘The Illustrated Bag of One Hundred Random Demons’ or ‘A Horde of Haunted Housewares’), with reference to Hiroko Yoda and Matt Alt’s translated version, Japandemonium Illustrated: The Yokai Encyclopedias of Toriyama Sekien (New York: Dover Publications, 2017). Each beast’s specific traits are told in verse, borrowing the metre (5-7-5-7-7) and style (where possible) of kyōka 狂歌 or ‘mad verse’, a form of satirical poetry popular in the Edo period, often used by Sekien to accompany his illustrations. The beasts’ names were developed with the help of Danielle Ong’s linguistic input.

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Attention — eds. Yin Ying Kong, Rosie Higham-Stainton, Bryony Bodimeade (London: RCA, 2020. ISBN 978-1-910642-45-0). Photo courtesy Ludovica Colacino.

Attention, open to Seven Hours with Hokusai — Illustration and text by Yin Ying Kong. Photo courtesy Ludovica Colacino.

People Climbing The Mountain — Illustration and text by Yin Ying Kong. 16 June 2017.

Kirifuri Waterfall — Illustration and text by Yin Ying Kong. 16 June 2017.

Suspension Bridge — Illustration and text by Yin Ying Kong. 16 June 2017.

Phoenix — Illustration and text by Yin Ying Kong. 16 June 2017.

Shakyamuni On A Lotus — Illustration and text by Yin Ying Kong. 16 June 2017.

Fast Skiffs — Illustration and text by Yin Ying Kong. 16 June 2017.

Time Logged — text by Yin Ying Kong. 16 June 2017.

A retrospective look at an endurance exercise conducted at the Hokusai: Beyond the Great Wave exhibition in the British Museum on 16 June 2017, from 1:30PM-8:30PM.


Published in print in Attention, an anthology of student writing, developed from an MA Writing workshop on attention, scale, duration and endurance, delivered by Brian Dillon.

Excerpted from the brief: ‘The task here is to consider the forms of attention or concentration that inform critical (and other kinds of) writing – these may include the duration of looking or experiencing a work of art, place, object, or state; the spatial delimiting of your topic (a place, a room, a detail); the organisation of material by hierarchy or stratification or narrative movement. Among the narrative clichés often levelled at critics is one that says they have not paid enough “attention” to the work at hand… What is, or could be, the duration, extent, and degree of proper attention? We will think about the degree or kind of attention that our writing demands of the reader, and the techniques adopted to persuade a reader that an object or experience is worthy of attention.’

First published on The Double Negative.

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An online magazine featuring the latest arts, design, film & music coverage in the UK.

Documentary News Letter Vol 9 Iss 1 — a sprawling, non-exhaustive bibliographic survey of the Film Centre and their critical interventions into the documentary field.

Documentary News Letter Vol 5 Iss 48 — Copious scans and notes were taken across eight day-long visits to the BFI Reuben Library, BFI Mediatheque, and the British Library from February to March 2019. Among them, the DNL's 48th issue cover was used as a guide to design the speculative Vol 9 — Documents on Documentary: The Film Centre Papers.

In Shadows of Progress (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010), the pioneers of documentary film who helmed the advisory body Film Centre were described to have “enthusiasm for use of the written word — skilfully composed and propitiously placed — as a form of cultural self-promotion.”

But it’d be too simple to state that Film Centre’s papers were merely for ‘cultural self-promotion’. In their various formats, the newsletter, scenario treatment reports, and pamphlets, among other documents and ephemera, directed policy, aided instruction, and advanced discourse on documentary’s purpose.

My investigation into the Centre’s critical interventions into their field took a meandering path, characteristic of my anti-query-driven research tendencies. I allowed my encounters — beginning from lesser known figures in documentary film; to ambiguous mentions of Film Centre in the biographical data of documentary’s greats; to the unconsolidated filmography of the consultancy — to shift the trajectory of my investigation. Through archive visits and consultations with leading documentary historians, my interests eventually alighted on the Centre’s writing practice. The Documentary News Letter naturally became the consolidatory framework for my research, writing, and designs, as it historically served as a nexus for all of the Centre’s textual modes.

Documents on Documentary: The Film Centre Papers is an exercise in mimicry, not just in its appearance, but in its functions and intentions. Beyond description, this speculative newsletter hopes to fulfil and perform Film Centre’s philosophies.

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-ish — ‘Can you write a colour? Can a comic be criticism? Concentrating on Colour is a fun, hands-on and intensive three-day zine-making workshop on the subject of colour. Participants will bring an excerpt from a favourite text about colour (up to 500 words) from an essay, short story, poem, lyric, magazine article, etc) to use as a starting point. They will then be challenged to reimagine how colour can be depicted in a print publication. We will be drawing on the expertise of artist David Blandy and writer/critic Sally O’Reilly, amongst others, for guest lectures and workshops. With experimental writing, zine-making exercises and a visit to the RCA Colour Reference Library, we will be producing a limited-edition publication to take away — a zine! — plus a mini exhibition and group crit. Concentrating on Colour is for sharing ideas and skills across programmes; led by students in Writing, CAP and IED, and invited RCA staff, participants from all disciplines will be welcomed to critically reconceptualise the possibilities of text and image.’ Project brief for Concentrating on Colour: A Writing and Zine-Making Workshop, 6 – 8 November 2019, 10AM – 5PM, RCA, DAR 10. Organised by Yin Ying Kong, Kaushikee Gupta, Sindi Breshani, and Laura Robertson.

-ish — 'Text can [verb] Image and Image can [verb] Text — Illustrate, explain, juxtapose, need, clarify, add (to), save, augment, frame, describe, align with, inspire, cover, confuse, (over)simplify, destroy, distill, repeat, improve, compromise, feel, ambiguate, (over)complicate, complexify, embody, caption, enhance, (dis)engage, articulate, be, harm, complete, ruin, replace, justify…'

-ish — a set of four zines.

-ish — the zines respond to the visit to the Colour Reference Library and four mini-workshops. EXQUISITE CORPSE: Source text (by A) begets a colour (by B) begets a new text (by C). / SUBJECTIVE/OBJECTIVE: Write an image in “I am…” and “This is…” / DOLVEN TEST: A hides a line in their source text; B tries to dig it out. / HOT AIR BALLOON: Fight to be the last colour alive at the end of the world.

-ish — Exquisite Corpse

-ish — Hot Air Balloon

-ish — Colour Reference Library

-ish — Exquisite Corpse

'Amid the cosy-ish studio’s book-stacked almost yellow-ish warmth, finished-ish images cry out to escape the posh-ish transparence of silicate-safe confines, their own colour-washed truths defying the framed uneven-ish matte of varnished wood. Watercolours by nature are born to bleed — to accommodate secrets incomplete pictures leave untold —

to allow for our own unstated desires —

for the dark-ish blue to paint my bedroom door, a notch darker than navy; the brightish gold-ish, happy-ish yellow sunlight on London streets over its gloom-ish blue counterpart of fog and rain; vacant-ish seats on peak hour 5-ish pm train heading towards lavender like painted walls of your home-ish shared flat; the walk across the bridge everyday as routine only to see the river changing colour in its own unique-ish way with every blink of an eye — sometimes sky-ish or green-ish or murky-ish or clean-ish or swallowing you whole-ish or clam-ish or thunder-ish or high tide-ish or low tide-ish, and the gazillion more variations of blue — a tinge of silverish-white sparkle; a night like pitch black during the late hour of the day; a different experience every day... You turn left round the corner where the only streetlight’s inadequate crimson makes you want to paint the town red.



From our Colour Reference Library visit, we learned that the nomenclature of colour was established before the actual colours could be produced. People from various fields tried to articulate colours by adjectivising them through the natural world. They made records and guides of these. Travel documents from the age of exploration, including a number by Charles Darwin, then used these guides to names to convey sights and experiences, in lieu of (expensive) coloured pigments on their pages. Words shaped our ideas and experience of colours; we adjectivised in a manner as to subjectivise.

How white is the white? “The white of an eyeball.” “Skimmed milk white.”
Tangerine-like or Marigold-ish orange.
What blue is the blue? Steel or Mineral or Indigo or Blue-Black or Midnight blue.
Pink like Petunia.

— all these colours in a spectrum under the sky and beyond — the very “‘spectrum” that derives from “spectre”, the ghostly image conjured from when Isaac Newton first diffracted sunlight through a prism.

In this wide world, everything bears something similar or approximate; attempts to define colours have leveraged heavily on this relation. Werner’s Nomenclature of Colours (1814), one of the first attempts to catalogue all colours, is an atlas wherein the suffix “-ish” proliferates. Eye lens and brain cells try to visualise everything with respect to something already, personally known. Every image in the brain is almost always something “-ish”.

We present to you the collaborative outcome of our Concentrating on Colour zine-making workshop: - ish'

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Kaushikee Gupta is a sari-wearing, storytelling badass. (MA Contemporary Art Practice, Class of 2020)
Sindi Breshani is taking down totalitarian regimes, one docu-game at a time. (MA Information Experience Design, Class of 2020)
Laura Robertson chases bedtime ghosts at night and on paper, all while running The Double Negative magazine. (MA Writing, Class of 2020)
The Colour Reference Library is one of the largest and most comprehensive collections of colour-related publications in the world, and their archivist Neil Parkinson is an absolute genius.
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