Monday, April 2, 2018

Graffiti in Indonesia: #throwback Interview with Artist Wormo (2012)

There were many things that frustrated me to hell about my time as fresh grad in Indonesia: the typical traffic jams, poor public infrastructure, and lack of green spaces in Jakarta, but its art remains unparalleled in the region (in my humble opinion as a six year standing resident of Southeast Asia).

And as a 24 year old, I had the unusual, albeit coolest opportunity to sit down with Indonesia's best underground artists to understand their perspective for my local art magazine/biz +sixtwo. I am sharing one or two here because when you hit 30 years old, it's a time to start re-reading books and looking backwards for a fresh perspective, I heard. Currently, I am reexamining my opinions about Jakarta. More on that another time. See below for street artist interviews from the city that raked my patience but had an art community that kept me infinitely intrigued.

An Interview with Jakarta Street Artist Wormo (September 2012)

For the colourfully inclined, growing up in Jakarta can be difficult. The grays and beiges of city life just beg for rupture and graffiti artist Wormo, aka Arem Kaleva are part of a group of artists that are injecting colour into the public sphere. His work showcases vibrant neon colours, bold typography and the little monsters seen crawling about distinguish the walls of which he has tagged. Wormo is smart, well spoken and his street art is driven not only by his need to break daily routine but also from a belief in the freedom of public space and expression. Arem took some time to meet up with me and explain his work, his beliefs and the life of a graffiti artist.

So, why the name Wormo?
My main character is a worm and so Wormo. I started off by painting
worms that eat the concrete. In Jakarta there are too many concrete walls
and so much grey!  So this worm eats it down and adds colour to the monotony.

What did you want to be when you were a little boy?
I have always loved drawing. My family and uncles are artists
and that gave me my love for colours. In highschool I pursued graphic
design but I never thought I would be an artist. In Indonesia you couldn’t
live as an artist at this time.

What turned you from graphic design to street art?
In highschool I did mostly tags. Then in 2004 my work partner thought,
“let’s paint on the street!” We were both graphic designers and it was boring to
sit in front of a computer all day. We would would grab a beer and just go to break the routine.

Is graffiti art?
Yea of course. Quality graffiti is. Even the tags you can see the quality. Everyone has a style.

What's your opinion on the street art scene in Jakarta?
Street art in Jakarta is going up and up after experiencing a slump post 2007. Before we all
knew each other in the scene but now I see a lot of quality work now from youngsters I don’t
know. Compared to Yogya, they’ve always had a different style. I think they were the first to
paint in the street and it’s awesome there because it’s just more common to do street art.
In general Yogja is more artistic, and now there is an emerging hip hop style whereas before
you could see a trend of characters and big murals. Also, it’s better there because it’s a smaller
city. Here you have to take a motorbike and taxi to get anywhere!

Two words to describe your work.
Colourful. Organic.

Where does your international inspiration come from?
Suiko from Japan, Main Street Killahs (MSK) crew from LA,  
and CMK Crew from Boston. I think Japanese artist have a very
distinct style because their writing and culture is so different.

When you're not tagging walls, what's your day job?
Graphic designer for Blitz Mega, movie theatre.

Free movies?
Not really. Two vouchers every three months.

Is there a difference between graffiti and vandalism?

For me both are important. Vandalism is the urge to put your
name everywhere. But quality is important, and that’s where the art is.
Graffiti is all about freedom. I also believe that since we see so much advertising in
public space we have the same right as artists to display our messages whether it be
vandalism or graffiti. Just because they have money doesn’t mean they have the right to f
orce people to look at it. We also have that right.

Friday, March 2, 2018

Female Travel in India or How to Be a Big Idiot Your First Time

After grinding the corporate stone for three years in the tech startup scene of Southeast Asia, I decided to take time off to pursue an MBA (spoiler alert: didn't go). But my first order of business was to master the discipline of mindfulness. And thus began my Great Indian Odyssey with a silent retreat for 10 days in Rajasthan, tantric yoga for a month in the holy city of Rishikesh (tantra's not the naughtiness you think, pervs) and studying Buddhism in the Himalayas less than a kilometer away from where the D. Lama himself lives! Before becoming an ancient wise one, I faced many challenges traveling as a woman in India- absolutely not mindful of my womaness in a society still largely trying to come to terms with its gender outlook. Below is my guide to being an idiot the moment you step off the plane and first impressions of a country I have come to love.

Not wearing tight clothes is one key to not being dumb. (Vintage cuban shirt from Bangkok's Chatuchak market, $3.3 USD btw omg)

Getting to Rishikesh from Delhi: An Idiot's Guide

1. Arrive at midnight in Delhi with no hotel booked, a dead phone and without an adaptor to charge it. Planning is overrated. People have voices. Ask locals for help. This is especially useful when they don't speak English. The only thing you need to know is your destination. In this case? Rishikesh because you're a unique snowflake who wants to do yoga on a gap year.

2. Despite having not the slightest clue of where to go and how to get there, learn Indian sign language fast. This consists of varying finger pointing intensities and mysterious head bobbles. Once you have mastered the language you will learn you must take public transportation to the ICBD, Kashmiri Gate. It may take an hour and you may be the only girl of a bus full of men, but when did that ever turn out badly?

3. Wear your tightest clothes. With a disturbing lack of women in public spaces, especially when travelling by night, put unnecessary effort in coveting the heavy blunt stares of Indian men. Breath in the fresh air of repressed sexuality, girls! It's a whole new ozone really.

4. Once at the dingy public bus station at 1am, continue to converse with more people who don't understand English. If you're lucky, the ticket sellers will be sleeping and will give you a dismissive bobble. The Sleeping Bobble may be interpreted as liberally as you want. When extracting info from sleeping men gets too exciting, proceed to walk around in circles past rows of more sleeping people. Contemplate laying next to them, until someone takes pity on you and buys you tea, samosas and biscuits.

5. After an hour of local bus station loitering and fruitless Rishikesh inquiries, accept the biscuit from a kind biscuit man who uses said biscuits to (successfully) soften the news that there is in fact no bus to Rishikesh at 2am. Embrace the sense of dread that looms over your exhausted body. This vulnerability look, coupled with your butt forming lulu lemons, will attract a counsel of Indian men who will gather to help you find your way. Trust them when they say that Hardwar takes you to an hour outside of Rishikesh where you can transfer buses. They say too many choices make you unhappy, right? You're laughing now because right now you have none.

6. Finally, board the gaudiest red bus with a half inch level of grime on seats and a door that doesn't close. You'll be free to enjoy the soothing honks of a bus gone mad, impossible weaving (swerving?) through traffic and high-pitched Indian songs for the next 5-6 hours. Use the chaos and your impending death as a way to get a head start on Buddhism ideals of transience that you had come to India to learn in the first place. Don't try to read the New Yorker's article about Islam erasure in Indian poetry because you'll puke.

7. Arrive early morning alive and reborn really where a blue eyed mystic man will greet you. Do not be alarmed when he menacingly shakes a wand of peacock feathers at you and chants in deep undertones. May be a hex or he may just be a Harry Potter fan. If you wish for the occult entertainment to continue, keep refusing to give him money while avoiding eye contact/ his spells.

Important Note: You may be the only female again on the bus travelling alone. Calmly clutch your belongings and put on a polite but firm smile. Best to avoid confrontation when people (men) sit too close to you or whisper 'I love you' while you're sleeping on the bus. What's lovelier than waking up to a stranger an inch from your face looking at you?

8. And finally trust the high rickshaw driver who offers you a joint when you arrive in Rishikesh city still without phone, internet, hotel or plan. Laxman Jhula he says, while he pulls a deep drag and insouciantly hauls ass around moribund mountain roads. The journey will cost you 200 rupees.  Tip: Ganga View Resort is beautiful but pricey (3000 rupees per night).

9. Nine hours of excitement and travel later warrants a nice meal. It may or may not give you chocolate rain belly and where the toilets may or may not have a seat and/or toilet paper.

10. After finally settling in Rishikesh from Delhi as a solo female traveller, make a video about Rishikesh as a solo female traveller because you're meta like that.

What's the lesson here? Planning is for squares.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Vipassana is the India Bootcamp of Meditation, Here's Why I Did It

The first time I heard about meditation, it was in the philosophical film Ace Ventura. A pillar in my young life.

I spent my life thinking it was for mystics, monks, my childhood crush Jim Carrey and kooky creatives like David Lynch and it basically gave you magic power skills. Then some years ago I started hearing about actual people I knew claiming to be doing this meditation business. I had no idea what meditation entailed except mind flying and sitting calmly for a long time. I'm not going to lie, I still wrote it off, thinking meditation was NOT for me. Why? First, I'm not a believer in anything metaphysical. I play sports. I am an extrovert. My hyperactive mind is part of what makes me, me. Plus, it sounded dull.

Then a couple things happened. First, a good friend would not shut up about it. In fact, once we were out in Jakarta he went to look for a rose to buy from some old guy on the street. I thought it was sweet, but unnecessary to buy me a rose because we were just homies, no need to try. I let him know as much.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Indie Food Guide to Bangkok: Picks for Best Curry, Seafood and Brunch

Before I had ever visited Thailand, I asked my best friend Andrea what she thought of her experience. Normally a talkative sort, she had only one word for me this time: Delicious. 

Her laconic response was apt. Everything about Thailand is delicious. When it comes to food, the Thais know how to enjoy life. Instead of McDonalds or Tim Hortons on every street corner, in Bangkok you'll find a fresh faced Thai woman selling fresh coconuts or a mobile meat skewer man with sizzling chicken, pork and innards brochettes that he can roll away with at any time to find better corners. 

You'll have your neighbourhood fruit lady with glistening watermelons and mangoes cut for your convenience and a neighbourhood noodle soup guy with some spicy boiling liquids with ghostly white glass noodles. Less prevalent but still everywhere are bbq fish and seafood stalls. It still amazes me that nearly anywhere you go to eat Thai food in Bangkok you will be in ambrosial heaven. It almost seems impossible to have gross Thai food. 

That being said, a lot of people will have their "special spots" and personal recommendations. I have no doubt that they are delicious. Permit me a bit of arrogance by saying that I know the BEST of some things. Such as best crab curry in Bangkok, best seafood, best vegan, and best western restaurants! I'm joking of course, I have a penchant for hyperboles. Joking aside, I've been living in Bangkok for three years and have been on an infinite quest for bestness. Here is my best list. If I'm wrong, don't be shy to share your spots!

Defining "Best": My 3 Pillars of Awesome
My criteria consists of three pillars: taste, ambiance, price. To make it on my list a restaurant has to satisfy at least 2 of 3.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Indie Guide Bangkok: Wonderfruit Music Festival 2015 and

When people ask if I enjoyed Wonderfruit , I just heave a deep sigh and look at my half-polished nails in shame. It's not that I didn't enjoy the music art festival (Southeast Asia's fresh, less commercial answer to Burning Man) but more that, my possee and I were not prepared at all. And it's all my fault. Hence the burden of shame weighing my head low upon mention of this magical wonderland

Listen, using my free time, a resource with ever decreasing amounts of freeness, to plan for partying camping festival weekend is not the top of my priorities.  So when my friend asked me to join their shanty town of tents, I figured I didn't need to prepare much except awesomeness and some sweaters. That was a mistake.

No tent or booked accommodation meant we had to be super resourceful (luckily we were three Canadian champions). Besides being an eye sore, that orange garbage mound you see above also served as a tent when a chair is under to prop it up. The weekend was a bit rough for my old self, but whateves, still loved it.

Anyways, this post is mega late so I'll just wrap up quickly. Wonderfruit 2015 was a great out of the city experience. It was in no way as magical as what I hear Burning Man to be - lacking volume and probably the right crowd (very family friendly atmosphere) - but something I would do over and over again and probably travel from around Asia to go to. If you imagine it as a weekend camping trip with friends, music and some art and over priced, albeit delicious as, food you will have managed your expectations perfectly. Oh and for a tech plug: the cashless payment system worked very well and was stress free. THE FUTURE!!

Follow adventure travel and life stuff at Snapchat: lil.fel or tweet and abuse me @LilFel

Some of the photos were taken from Cynthia. Check her blog, here.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Hiking Ontario: Hamilton Waterfalls & Spencer Gorge Toronto Day Trip

Orgasm for the eyes, yawn-worthy for the thighs


Day Trips from Toronto - Homeboy Steve & I's "Staycation"


After travelling Thailand's electricity free mountain villages with my old uni friend to erasing our brains on catamaran boat parties of Asia it was time to look homeward for some tantamount level thrills on my annual trip to the patria. It's weird, but I've seen so many of my childhood (and non-expatty) friends become paralyzed by the inertia of routine. You know, when one lives in a place for so long that they lose the sparkle for adventure and discovery simply because they are inured to its existence and availability i.e. death of FOMO for anywhere not typically "exotic"?! It's sad and disappointing for returning expats to see such a paucity of enthusiasm for adventure-- the very stuff that becomes the crack that keeps addict expats away from ever returning to normal. So it was nice to see that Steve (Toronto-based) was still up for Toronto waterfall hike in what he called his 2 days off from consulting a 'staycation'.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Vintage Shopping in Jakarta and the New Wave of Indonesia's Hipsterpreneurs

After almost two years buried away in Bangkok (doing that whole young professional thing in tech startups), I am updating my pick for the best vintage shopping in Jakarta. I wrote about Pasar Senen before as a pulsing, sweaty second hand market for the people (ie perfect for a poor UN intern living in an alley with goats) where through hours of digging you could find purple leather loafers for $8 and even designer stuff for under $20.

Pasar Santa is different. To shave the prolixity, it will suffice to say that this Jakarta vintage market has, in the last year, turned from a traditional derelict

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Indie Guide Thailand: Catamaran Party Near Bangkok

How to Escape Bangkok for a Day: Ballin' Boat Party in Pattaya !

You know what has always made me jealous of my friends living in Hong Kong? Mind-erasing boat parties. When I heard about the libertine expat life of Asia, these nautical tales of music x waves x homies teased my heart with promises of the ultimate adventure! What could be more thrilling than dancing with your friends on a boat in the middle of paradise?

But living in Bangkok the last year has not really afforded me the opportunities that Hong Kong expats had. I've been NEAR to water, like this Kolour party, but golly I wanted to be the meat in a sky and sea sandwich.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Where to Buy a Turkey in Bangkok or How I Battled this Big Ass Bird and Won

Happy Thanksgiving, Bangkok!

I'm delighted to report that it is not excessively hard to find a turkey in Bangkok for Thanksgiving, as I discovered for my Canadian Thanksgiving party feast I had in October—nor is it stupidly expensive. Thanks to the most useful Facebook group for expats in Bangkok, Desperately Seeking Bangkok, I was given great tips from da hood to host the most epic dinner party of my life with the most butterlicious bird to ever enter my mouth. If you are desperately searching for a place to pick one up either for Canadian or American Thanksgiving or Christmas try these recommendations below.

Did you know that Canadians celebrate Thanksgiving on a different date than Americans?

 If this sounds like an obvious knowledge nugget, you need to back.right.up, (hoser). To my chagrin it was obviously not obvious to most of the Europeans I had invited to my dinner (if you're Canadian I'm sure you have suffered at the repeated stings of the world's ignorance). The Canadian day is a day of munificence  to celebrate the end of the harvest season the second weekend of October. Whereas the Americans celebrate as a historic symbol of cooperation between the Native Americans and the pilgrims at the end of November. Boom. Knowledge.