Sunday, 13 January 2013

2012 My Year in Art

2012. It went so fast that I feel like I hardly know what happened! But wait, I refuse to let it just slip by and disappear like so many things seem to do in Singapore life.  I am lucky, I am grateful. But there's a lot more to it than that. I guess that's why I keep making these shorthands for time, and attempting to decipher them afterwards.

Making Things.
The rhythms of my year were structured around creation - works for others as well as works for myself. More than once, I realised that the experiences that were changing me the most weren't the actual performances.  I've been conditioned for years to yearn only for the magical moment when the curtains go up, etc. For which everything else was merely a preparation.  Nah.  I am getting quite hooked on the rehearsal process - getting convinced that sometimes the best things are discovered in the studio, with other like-minded artists.  Now I suspect that "performance" is the excellent convenient enabler for those rehearsals to happen and for me to continue to grow.  Sh.  don't tell the funders.

Focus with KHAM Cie (Jan-Mar/Apr/Oct/Nov in a lot of places) was the first time I've experienced the intensity and luxury of a creation residency, and the bizarre intimacy of a company living and learning and working together on tour in different venues and different audiences, watching a work change and grow over several performances.  I also learned not to panic when faced with grant applications, tour budgets, and festival applications. 

I watched the flowers (Jun at the Substation) was my first full-fledged production as an equal artistic collaborator, decision-maker and producer. A leap of faith that Nirmala decided to take with me.  We had so many wonderful collaborators and friends who made that work possible. It was a trial by fire but also a rebirth...  

All is Divine (May at SOTA Theatre) with Charlotte Engelkes was the shortest of all the production processes that I did this year.  I didn't think I liked opera but here I guess I got what I was asking for! I was amazed by what Charlotte's intuition and decisiveness led our team of collaborators to explore and stage in just one week, and I'm really excited about continuing this work this year.

My best birthday present was Pretty Things (Sep at the Substation) by Pat Toh and an amazing team.  I haven't attempted any theatre work since I was 18 years old (or okay, since I auditioned for the Vagina Monologues in college and didn't get a part). Pat is a crazy girl who assembled a fabulous team for her crazy experiments.  Milk, sheep, cakes, poetry, gonzo and so many questions.  I wish we could do it again!

Developing my new solo S@ (Dec, Srawung Seni Candi) was a test of my own discipline and also a test of my own methods and intuitions that continue to develop - versus my own inertia!  Then the unnerving serendipity of getting to perform the piece for the first time in such a spiritual and imposing place itself dedicated to reincarnation.  In the meantime I've also began conceptualising two new pieces - seeds for a duet and two ensemble experiments that i hope will grow in 2013!

Making things happen.

I fully acknowledge my festival junkie-dom. I jumped on board the organising teams of two festivals this year - Contact Festival Kuala Lumpur and the Fang Mae Khong Festival in Laos. Obviously festivals look very different from a co-organiser/administration perspective than as a volunteer or a performer. It is a sort of satisfying constant state of panic.  I was seeing how things happen - or rather very often almost not happen.  Who needs bungee jumping. We have the adrenaline rush of pulling together gigs that may or may not have all the artists, the funding, the equipment, gambling with last minute changes and the weather.  Devising makeshift solutions and turning decisions on a dime.  And the great satisfaction of working with some capable collaborators and teams that support and forgive.

I'm also a class junkie.  As in taking class.  I hope my addiction is more than the old fashioned technique zombie insecurity that the dancing body cannot survive without being fed with a million plies - or the comfort of switching off my head and letting the teacher tell me what to do.  I do like seeing other people's methods of working, of moving, and trying them on.  It's a bit like shopping in a vintage vault.  You don't always recognise yourself but it can be very entertaining.  Sometimes just silly, sometimes it helps you to see something new.  I have been a shopaholic in 2012. Odissi, capoeira, acroyoga, contact improv, popping, contemporary randai, the Jan Fabre method and even a moment of pole, on top of my rat race to keep up ballet and contemp classes wherever I could find them.  When I find a method that works for me I love to get to know the garment in as many qualities as I can - even if maybe I'll never learn how it was made.  And not by any planning of mine, I also ended up teaching.  Baby ballet (terrifying), improvisation for french high schoolers (chaos) as well as rolls on the grass for adult dancers (by far the kindest of them all). I still don't love teaching and I enter most classes wanting to bolt for the door.  But I see each time that the process is teaching me - and I am increasingly fascinated by how classes are constructed and how instructions and constraints affect our experience.

Some folks can't live without TV.  I can't live without theatres and performance - and after that without books and visual art.  Last year these guys knocked my socks off and i never want to forget them - they grabbed my heart and didn't let go, set my brain on fire, made my jaw drop, or got tears streaming down my face.

Waiting by Carlotta Ikeda (les Hivernales, Avignon)
Pavlova's Dogs by Rachel de la Nieta and performed by Scottish Dance Theatre (The Place, London)
(un)it: HD85828 by Ming Poon (The Substation, Singapore)
Lear Dreaming by Ong Keng Sen (Singapore Arts Festival)
Gostan Forward by Marion de Cruz (Singapore Arts Festival)
The Lan Fang Chronicles by Choy Kar Fai (Singapore Arts Festival)
A Very Wagnerian Night by Charlotte Engelkes (Singapore Arts Festival)
Double Take by The Plant Collective (Reconnaissance competition, Echirolles)
Cheerleader by Danny K (SidebySide at the Esplanade, Singapore)
Phase47  by Shoko Kashima and Chico Katsube (Telok Ayer Performing Arts Centre, Singapore)
Preparatio Mortis by Jan Fabre/Annabelle Chambon (Theatre de Gennevilliers, Paris)
Bouziane Bouteldja in Alterite by DAN6T (Fang Mae Khong Festival, Laos)
And some new discoveries of older things:
A retrospective on the work of Lee Wen at the Singapore Art Museum
Selected short stories by Rabindranath Tagore
Paroles by Jacques Prevert

Suprapto Suryodamo, Martinus Miroto, Eko Supriyanto, Fitri Setyaningsih and Danang Pamungkas (Srawung Seni Candi, outside Solo)

Penangsang Gugur by the faculty and students of ISI Solo

That now familiar ache of a disappearing landscape (captured in 2011 so poignantly with Dust: A Recollection) I found again, visiting the displaced hallways of the Tanjong Pagar Railway Station and the rail corridor, the deserted blocks of Covent Garden estate and the sad boarded face of the Shui Xian Gong when invited to Old House @ Zion.  I didn't make it to the Bukit Brown Cemetery except in essays and I discovered wonderful photographs of HDB playgrounds only after they were demolished.