Artist removed from Singapore exhibition for threatening ‘snakewhore’ Indian woman

Artists Jonathan Lim, at left, and Priyageetha Dia. Photos: Jonathan Lim/Instagram, Priyageetha Dia/Facebook
Artists Jonathan Lim, at left, and Priyageetha Dia. Photos: Jonathan Lim/Instagram, Priyageetha Dia/Facebook

A giggling audience member at the opening night of an art exhibition triggered a racist outburst by one of the event’s artists, leading to all of his work being removed.

NPE Art Residency removed the work of artist Jonathan Lim two days after his show, called On Common Ground & Public Forms, opened with Priyageetha Dia. It was there that one of Priyageetha’s friends apparently giggled while Lim’s guest speaker was making comments. The reaction seemingly offended Lim, who is of Chinese ancestry, who the next morning called the woman a “snakewhore” on Instagram and threatened to “obliterate” her and Priyageetha, referring to them as a minority “cult.” Both women are of Indian descent.

NPE Art Residency does not support and condemns racism. The NPE team has spoken to former artist in residence, Jonathan Lim, with regards to this stand and wishes to inform all future artists in residence to abide by this stand,” the gallery said in a Saturday statement.

At left, one of Jonathan Lim’s works that was exhibited. At right, view of works taken down from the gallery. Photos: @whereartjon/Instagram
At left, one of Jonathan Lim’s works that was exhibited. At right, view of works taken down from the gallery. Photos: @whereartjon/Instagram

Lim said that the friend, named Chand Chandramohan, was laughing at a mispronounced word spoken by guest Ben Slater.

Quite a turn for an artist whose joint exhibition was about people finding unity despite their differences. The gallery described Lim’s work as suggesting that “whether or not we realise or acknowledge it, we already stand on much common ground. As Singaporeans first, and then as human beings situated within the universe.”

Apparently that doesn’t apply to snakewhore people.

Lim returned to Instagram last night with videos showing empty walls at the gallery where his work had been on display. 

Priyageetha Dia responding to Jonathan Lim’s racist post.
Priyageetha Dia responding to Jonathan Lim’s racist post.

That’s when he wrote his wack and incredibly racist rant declaring he was “not afraid of Indians who try to oppress me with the abuse of their minority privilege,” especially their dreaded moments of laughter.

“When your guest snickered at the exact same moment my guest-of-honor used the term ‘iconoclasm’ in his speech, was that a totally random coincidence with no ill-intent; was that her thinking she’s woke AF and that that gives her the right to be unkind to people she perceives to be less than her; is she fundamentally socially inadequate; did her mummy not teach her to love and respect regardless of race and religion; or does she just think that being Indian gives her a license to say and do whatever she feels like, whenever she wants to, to a middle-aged white man,” Lim wrote.

So many questions, such complete absence of question marks.

“I’m not afraid of Indians who try to oppress me with the abuse of their minority privilege. It’s possible to be minority and also a hypocritical snakewhore. If I could take down a majority cult, I can sure as hell obliterate a minority one.”

Despite its much-celebrated ethnic pluralism, Singapore struggles with seething racial animosities just below the surface. Last year, grievances toward the ethnic majority Chinese population erupted after a government-backed advertising campaign for an e-payment system featured a Chinese-Singaporean actor in brownface playing an Indian-Singaporean.

That led to two Indian-Singaporean rappers producing an angry and not just a little bit racist video attacking the perceived majority privilege of the ethnic Chinese community, for which they were nearly prosecuted.

Lim’s bizarre hate-splosion, which included him saying “I am Harry Potter,” set off an online backlash and series of reactions from Priyageetha, who two years ago made waves with an unsanctioned public exhibition she was forced to remove.

She called Lim out for “lamely” attacking her friend.Jonathan Lim’s Friday message.

Hours after his racist post, Lim issued an unapologetic apology defending his statement. 

“I didn’t think through enough before I spoke and I’m grateful for all the response and feedback that’s come in,” he wrote. 

“EVEN IF what I said wasn’t entirely illogical (open to the possibility EVERYTHING I said was wrong), I fully admit and concede that fighting fire with fire is insanity and I was too blind to see that that was exactly what I was doing. I’m sorry,” he added. 

Chand said Saturday that she had reached out to the guest speaker whose honor Lim purported to be defending.

She wrote online that he didn’t hear the laughter during his speech, when he stumbled over the word “iconography,” and would understand why she had done so. He also disapproved of Lim’s post. 

“I can see how you might have reacted to a reference to Jon’s work as ‘iconoclastic,’ as it clearly is not,” she said was his response.

Related:

In voluntarily tearing down her Golden Staircase, Priyageetha Dia made an even bigger artistic statement

Artist’s guerrilla gold flag installation piece in the heartlands gets shut down by residents’ complaints

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