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Searching for Lee Wen: A Life in 135 Parts

Publisher: Epigram Books
  • Description
  • Praise
  • About the Author
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    Writer, biographer and mental health advocate, Chan Li Shan, takes us on a path of discovery, while painting a vivid and searingly honest picture of a man many knew of, but few really knew. Along the way, she learns about art and friendship.

  • “Flickering with exacting yet poignant insights while balancing anecdote, lyricism, curated imagery, laudatory response and verbatim record, this biography delicately deconstructs linearity without compromising on a heartfelt and multifaceted picture of a performance art icon.”
    –Cyril Wong, poet and fictionist

    “I congratulate Chan Li Shan for having written this beautiful biography of Lee Wen, who died too soon from Parkinson’s disease. At the age of 30, Lee Wen gave up a secure and stable career in a bank to study art. He would devote the rest of his life to the practice of art in its many forms: drawing, painting, poetry, songs, installation and performance. George Bernard Shaw once said that the world consists of two kinds of people: reasonable people and unreasonable people. The reasonable people are those who conform to the world. The unreasonable people are those who seek to change the world. Lee Wen was an “unreasonable” man and artist. Lee Wen once described himself as a soldier of culture. He fought many battles for culture and art. His victories were not unnoticed. He was awarded the Cultural Medallion in 2005. We will never forget him as the Yellow Man and The Sun Boy.”
    –Professor Tommy Koh, Founding Chairman, National Arts Council

    “We like to pretend that biographies are ‘objective’. That the truth they bear is untainted by bias or partiality or opinion. That they are pristine. Nothing is further from the truth. Biographies are fiercely subjective and born of one person’s obsession with someone else’s life. The obsessiveness is not only for the storyline or narrative, but the telling of it. And the telling of the life story of an artist like Lee Wen—significant, protean, impulsive, explosive, brutally honest—demands an obsessive storyteller. Li Shan dives headlong into the minutiae of Lee Wen’s life, disregarding guardrails of convention and is sometimes eccentrically selective. She is desperately seeking line and colour, and motif and sfumato; yearning for composition that is him. The result is bricolage, cracked, disrupted, dismembered. But beyond the veil of the tale, as the clouds of dissonance disperse, something of a shape emerges; distinct and hewn by instinct, intimacy and understanding. A Lee Wen shape.”
    –T. Sasitharan, Director, Intercultural Theatre Institute

    “In Searching for Lee Wen, Chan Li Shan offers readers a biography of a fascinating and important performance artist; a memoir of her own experience as his biographer, collaborator, and friend; and an innovative, nuanced, often moving mosaic of interview excerpts, testimonials from friends and admirers, timelines linking Singapore’s history to Lee Wen’s own, striking photographs, and meditations on the act of representing a life. The result is a memorable book, in which both Lee Wen and Chan Li Shan are ‘interfused, liminally, between being a sign, a signal and a person, enigmatically within, yet beyond each’—truly ‘an elusive joy to watch.’”
    –Craig Howes, Director, Center for Biographical Research
    Professor of English, University of Hawai’i at Mānoa

  • Chan Li Shan is a doctoral student at the University of Hawai'i at Manoa, where she has been awarded the Biography Prize for her work on Lee Wen. Her memoir, A Philosopher's Madness, was published in 2012. Her writings have been published by The Straits Times and Grey Projects. She was Director of the Writing Centre and Writing Residency Fellow at the Asian University for Women in Bangladesh.

ISBN: 9789814984331
Cover Type: Paperback
Page Count: 284
Year Published: 2022
Size: 225mm x 152mm