Fridae chats with Aiman Hakim ahead of his first solo exhibition For Ages 4 and Up which opens on Thursday, Jul 30 at Utterly Art Exhibition Space. The former flight attendant tells more about growing up gay in Singapore, the use of 'Ken dolls' in his semi-autobiographical painting show and his search for or to be the perfect man.
Aiman Hakim with 'Stewards,' to be exhibited at For Ages 4 and Up from Jul 30 - Aug 8 at Utterly Art.
æ: Age, sex, location?
25, gay male, behind the earlobes
æ: Tell us about For Ages 4 and Up. What inspired it?
For Ages 4 and Up is my very first solo exhibition (Yay, claps) and it deals with the idea of conformity in our society. In these series of works, I explore the ‘absurd’ notion of self-individuation, in a culture where communal ideologies still dominate.
I came up with the concept and title of the exhibition because I think that the idea of regulation and conformity generally begins when a four-year-old child dons on his first kindergarten uniform. This then continues on through school, to National Service and into the workforce. My subjects involve the repeated use of iconic representations of ‘a perfect man’ in different stages of his life - various 'Ken dolls' that have been generated over the years, ranging from vintage to the very recent. These dolls are then characterised with the use of uniforms and props to denote various organisations.
æ: You wrote that your works involve the repeated use of iconic representations of ‘a perfect man’ in different stages of life, what do you think is society's perception of ‘a perfect man’ and what is your idea of one?
I cannot be sure what society prefers but hey, society chose Kris Allen over Adam Lambert. I think there’s your answer. It’s so hard to gauge perfection, I don’t even know if it exists but one person who comes close is my best friend who I refer to sometimes as ‘gennycakes’ But she is gay too so we have the best relationship ever, without the sex. (Laughs)
æ: The central theme of your works deal with individuality vs. conformity. Do you personally experience the conflict and what effect does it have on your work?
I’ve always been an awkward child knowing that I was somehow different from what I was expected to be. For as long as I remember, I’ve always tried my best to blend in with the other children. The ‘exhale’ really came for me when I learnt the word ‘gay’ when I was 12 or 13. I remember being so happy just to be classified that I didn’t realise the negative connotations that came with the word. These experiences during my childhood and teenage years, however ‘cringe worthy’ in retrospective, ultimately fuels me to constantly work for what I believe in.
æ: Are you a full-time artist?
Yes. Literally, 20 hours a day with four hours of sleep in between.
æ: How old were you when you knew you wanted to be an artist?
I wanted to be an artist on the day I first discovered maths and science. But the passion grew during my course of study in LaSalle-SIA where I found my ‘voice’ through art. It was no longer about painting pretty pictures but about taking a stand, without the need to dress up and jump around like Avril Lavigne.
æ: Who are your biggest influences? What inspires you?
I’m simply inspired by people who dare to be different, and being Gemini (star sign), my attention span tends to jump quickly from one person to the next. Two months ago it was Lily Allen, then it was Adam Lambert, right before that was US President Barack Obama. Right now it’s Ellen DeGeneres.
However where art is concerned, I’ve always been and still am in awe of Lucien Freud’s paintings. And I think it helps that my two good friends, Gen and Nic are amazing artists as well. I usually run by my ideas with them for a ‘quality check’. (Laughs)
I’m also easily ‘stirred’ by the littlest things in life, like getting a fine for not notifying the military in advance when I travel overseas [all Singapore male citizens are conscripted to undergo two to 2.5 years of military service and continue to be liable for reserve military service for up to 10 years], or the extent of news coverage received for capturing Mas Selamat to distract us from freaking out about how he managed to escape in the first place, or how close the results of the US Presidential election was despite Sarah Palin’s ‘eccentricities’, etc.
æ: I spied that you were a flight attendant until quite recently. And since you are the first flight attendant being interviewed on Fridae, what do you think is the biggest misconception (gay) people have of gay flight attendants?
(Yay, claps) If I’m being honest, the brand whores, the ‘supposedly monogamous’ seductresses and the clubbing queens (literally) do exist. But if I were to be REALLY honest, those are merely a fraction of a whole lot of good people I met while working in the airline. Sorry. No juicy stories there. (Does a flight attendant bow.)
But like all jobs, you have your fair share of slackers, bitches, boot lickers and liars. However, personally, I feel that most of the drama came from the straight attendants. I just think that unless you’re a drama queen, gay people are generally very careful and more successful in hiding their dirty laundry, especially since we had so much practice in high school.
Since we're on topic, might I just add that nothing annoys me more then to read comments on flight attendants whining about their rosters on Facebook every month. Get a diary, or call a friend. Please.
æ: Did you constantly get hit on by (gay) passengers?
I tend to psych myself up before each flight to be the friendliest person you’ve ever met, so that’s probably why. But I did meet my ex bf from flight and it was ‘funny’ while it lasted.
æ: Coming back to art, do you see a relationship between art and activism?
I think art is mainly fuelled by emotions, beliefs and a need to bring a point across and make a change. There is no doubt a relationship there. It just depends on the extent of sacrifice an artist is willing to make for that change to happen.
æ: What is your vision for the gay community?
I’d just hope that we’d be a stronger, happier more ‘cohesive’ bunch of people who’d be able to see past physical flaws and differences. But then again, we’re only human and besides, three out of four is not too bad.
'Falling into place,' to be exhibited at A Marriage of Convenience from Aug 21 - Sep 4 at Forth Gallery.
æ: You are also part of a group show A Marriage of Convenience from Aug 21 – Sep 4 as part of the Indignation festival line-up? What can you tell readers about that?
I got the idea for the show one night after attending a friend’s wedding dinner where I recalled mentioning to a friend, “I wish I can get married too". So we brainstormed and I started planning this show like i would my own wedding; a once in a lifetime (or not) event.
It is basically a group show that looks at the output of a group of artists, Aida Dolrahim, Aisha Ramat, Nicholas Chai and myself, dealing with issues concerning the idea of oppression, and conformity, moulded into what Singapore’s society, deems as acceptable.
The exhibition will be held at Forth Gallery and the opening reception will have kind of a wedding theme to it. It’ll be on Aug 22, 2009 (Saturday) at 7pm.
Do drop by and make a toast to the happy couples in celebration of our faux marriage. Dancing not included.
æ: What's your biggest guilty pleasure?
Cocktail hour with friends at 5pm with various martini concoctions while eating brownies, on a work day. Good times!
æ: Tell us one of your fantasies?
To have a day out with Ellen DeGeneres, and Adam Lambert, shopping in Japan with Paris Hilton’s credit card and flying back home to a HUGE studio space to paint about the "government," without worrying about getting into any trouble. Yeah. It’s one collective fantasy.
æ: Who would your dream date be if you were straight for a day?
I’ll be happy hanging out with Gennycakes at 5 pm with vodkatinis and brownies. Good times!
For Ages 4 and Up will be shown at Utterly Art Exhibition Space, 229A South Bridge Road (2nd Level) from Jul 30 to Aug 8, 2009. A Marriage of Convenience will be shown at Forth Gallery, 69A Pagoda Street (2nd Level) from Aug 21 – Sep 4, 2009. Indignation will run from Jul 30 - Aug 30, click onto