Mark Tan’s Reflections

As I am hardly a literary writer, I thought that I’d just share some personal reflections on my engagement with Literature.

It is only in the distrust of language that we find ourselves able to apprehend more fully the depths of poetic expression, for language is at best an approximation of human experience. Any attempt to idolise language or text results in a fossilisation which finds validation in intellectual pretense. The immediacy of the image is lost, the image that compels, moves and pulses with the intimations of the human heart. As the word that breathes life is first spoken, then felt, so is the image experienced – it engenders, not dictates.

You will find the short film, Phantoms of Nabua, on the website below:

I would like to share this with everyone, especially the Year 5 students who attended the screening of Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives as this short film is part of the larger Primitive Project from which the feature film developed. In it you will find visual expressions of light that transcend language but are yet thoroughly literary in spirit. Light exists as an emotive force, open to a range of connotations free from categorisation, prescription and judgment.

“On that glad night,
in secret, for no one saw me,
nor did I look at anything,
with no other light or guide
than the one that burned in my heart.”

– St John of the Cross

What is our light? Whether it be the fire of spiritual longing or Virginia’s Woolf’s “light in the heart,” to quote Wim Wenders, we must “set off in the direction of the flash.” There is no guarantee that we will attain the illumination we desire, but what we do discover would be well worth the journey for no real discovery is possible without embracing uncertainty, no insight without courage.

Mark Tan


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