Growing up in Singapore: Why Destination:INK Was An Important Space For Me
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Growing up in Singapore: Why Destination:INK Was An Important Space For Me

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Growing up in Singapore: Why Destination:INK Was An Important Space For Me
Abishek Balasubramanian

It’s the second Monday of the month and you’ve found yourself on third floor of Blu Jaz. The decor is a funky collision of biblical tiles and Middle Eastern architecture iconic of Arab street, ornamented with stained glass windows, golden chandeliers, and various mismatched furniture. You’re cozy, and you’re probably here for Destination:Ink.

Known to expats and tourists for its hip location, downstairs people sip margaritas while smoking away on hookah pipes. By 8pm however, the third floor is transformed into a unique ecosystem of its own. A poetry scene has sprouted from these walls, fostered and tended by the spacer.gif collective, who runs the monthly event Destination:INK.

Singapore’s poetry scene didn’t start here, but it was within these walls that it blossomed into its spring. It’s not the only space in Singapore to find words, but in the past 4 years, it has arguably become the most popular.

I remember coming here for the first time: sixteen, awkward, shy, and just a little wild-eyed. Something in me felt a little brave and a lot curious. This was a mere 2 years ago, and even then it was easy to get a reading slot, oftentimes I could just show up.

Now, people rush to the Facebook page to claim a slot the minute it’s opened up. I’ve seen spots run out in less than an hour. It has grown so rapidly in the past years, that as much as spacer.gif would love to have everybody perform, they’re only so many you can squeeze into a two-hour period.

But what I’ve always respected about Destination:INK is their commitment to fairness. Someone with 3 published books under their belt has just as much chance as going up as someone who is reading out of their journal for the very first time. It gives people a space to experiment with different forms of storytelling; the only rule is that it has to be original. From music to multimedia, perhaps Destination:INK’s greatest charm is in how you will always find the unexpected.

And credit must be given to Blu Jaz as well. Compared to the other poetry venues I’ve been to, because this lounge-bar was created with the intention of being a space for live music and performance, its sound system is solid and well-equipped.

There are many who show up here month after month even when they aren’t reading because they know they’re going to see familiar faces; friendships fostered that normally wouldn’t have, had you stuck to work colleagues and people you went to school with. The poetry, of course, is important, but sometimes it’s also just a way to bring people together.

When many people walk the same path, it becomes a road.

I can’t remember where this quote came from, but I can’t help but be reminded of it whenever I think of Destination:INK. When trying to hone an art, it's vital to be surrounded by people who are doing the same thing. Inspiration fuels inspiration, idea fuels idea, and being surrounded with people of parallel visions is what makes them come true.

Picasso, Duchamp, and Dali would share the same Parisian coffee shop. The pioneers of the Beat generation - Ginsberg, Kerouac, Burroughs - were all friends with each other, and continued to be throughout their lives and careers. Even in China, writers emerging from the May 4th movement, Lu Xun, Ding Ling, Mao Dun, were an interconnected network of artists, helping each other get published but also challenging each other’s ideas.

The fame, the fires, and the discoveries of one feeds another. As artists or simply dabblers, we cannot work in isolation. The kinds of dialogues that are fostered in this space are the ones that we find infinitely precious. Who knows how many projects have been birthed in a nearby food stall after the event. It is exactly this kind of open community that made it such an important space for me to have experienced and grew up around.



Photos Courtesy of Abishek Balasubramanian

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