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District 14: Associates' Rehearsal 3

| Documentation by Syarifuddin Sahari |

7:30pm - 9:30pm, Rumah P7:1SMA & Geylang Serai

(This entry is a combination of 2 rehearsals)

Part 1

The associates first carried out a Last Breath with music.

They then responded to soundscapes and audio recordings from the Nada workshop, while keeping a few points in mind:

- Come in one at a time.

- To respond to music via imageries, colours, textures, shapes, lights and sounds that are conjured from the audio.

- To ensure the space between them is never empty.

The audio recordings included old Malay songs sung by the MKAC patients (the participants of the Nada workshop), the ‘gong’, ‘gamelan’ and ambient sounds in the background. The tracks were played in succession and on repeat; the resonance constantly filled the studio throughout the task. An observation was that Sonia’s movements were more pedestrian / gestural in contrast to Syimah, Valerie and Xiao Jun’s.

Taking turns to share a piece of themselves.

After which, they had a Circle Time to round off the rehearsal:

- Sonia:

o Inclined to the words such as, “Tak nak,” (“Don’t want.”).

o Imitated the fierce (Malay) uncles with their hand gestures.

o Tends to juxtapose the fierceness with ‘keroncong’ music.

o Was reminded of time at Geylang, shown through her ticking-like movements.

o Felt the sadness when Valerie went down during her part, a reminder, possibly affected by what was in her mind at the time.

o Was figuring out how to absorb, do justice and be sincere in her movements.

o Enjoyed Xiao Jun’s grooving.

o Thought about the beggars in Geylang and Indonesia.

o Hand had a lot [to show, to do], though perhaps too much.

- Syimah:

o Felt enlightened during and after the task.

o It felt nice for her to watch the others.

o Was observing the absence in space.

o The ‘gamelan’ made her feel something in the air.

o Saw / superimposed in movements.

o Transformed the ‘salam’ gesture as part of her exploration.

o Xiao Jun ‘gelek-gelek’ (grooving) in the corner reminded her of the makciks who were usually at the back doing the same thing.

o As she personally knows Xiao Jun, she saw her in a different light and enjoying herself.

o Was reminded of the waiting / sight of people waiting.

o Was questioning the difference between imitating / mimicking someone else and doing the action as herself.

- Valerie:

o Observed and played with the shadows in space.

o Shadows on the walls, on the floor, of things in the studio and from outside the studio.

- Xiao Jun:

o Was not thinking.

o “How to go in differently each time?”

o There was the usual / certain way of performing or going into performing dance; is there another way?

o Her little nephew came to her mind during the task.

o Felt weird to be present when dancing, and wanted to put it in front / project it out.

o Did not care what the others were doing.

o Was negotiating the distance of the performer.

- Holding the fort:

o What left Geylang?

o What has / had happened? What is now?

o Personified.

o Holding dear that everyone shares / was involved.

o All the information, input, seeping in; what to do with all that?

o Network approach to space, people, film, movement, environment, architecture.

Circle Time (Square Time? Time Square?)

Some thoughts from the rehearsal:

- Recollecting while being out of the space; what then lives on (both physically and within each of them)?

- The transforming of (a possibly foreign) space between them into a common, shared, familiar, safe space after being “displaced” from Geylang and into Rumah.

- Observing the movements informed / shaped / inspired by history (perhaps audio / verbal history).

- There was a presence of community energy through the symbology / significance of the Last Breath.

Part 2

Hasyimah first checked in with the associates with where they are at for District 14, what they understand about the direction for the project and if there is anything they might want to clarify:

- Xiao Jun:

o Symbols to communicate with those who were or are still here.

o Memory of designing Wisma Geylang Serai where she conceptualised performance spaces (which were not considered).

- Valerie:

o Thinking more about the process/es as her workshop was in a few days.

- Hasyimah:

o Space / Opportunity for collaboration amidst CoVid.

o More unpredictability when on the ground.

o She is the anchor, and as much as she prefers to have associates be embedded it might be intrusive to do so.

o Intentional subversion to take the Berubah video out of the space as a commentary, part of artistic vision, also relating back to CoVid period.

o “Geylang is a feeling but not the same.”

o Upcoming renovation of Joo Chiat Complex and Tanjong Katong Complex, a coincidence for P7:1SMA’s District series.

Starting off the rehearsal with a check in.

The rehearsal then shifted over from outside Joo Chiat Complex to Haig Road Food Centre, as Hasyimah also invited them to:

- Say goodbye to Joo Chiat Complex and Geylang Market (as rehearsals will no longer be held in those locations).

- “Shed their skin” after Hotel 81.

- Each to choose an audio file / recording from the Nada workshop.

- Practice blending --> in do something --> blending in.

- Choose a location to respond to the audio clip for 20 mins.

- Cue / reaction / prep to start; try not to start from a comfortable start point, different from the usual.

Thoughts as we were walking:

- It gives power to the audience to allow them to engage and witness.

- Listening to the audio clip which has ambient sound while walking around; detachment? Connectivity?

- Echoes of past recordings about the present, heard in the present.

- Lingering presence, adding to the soul of the place, like snakes shedding their skin and contributing to the forest.

A subconscious shedding of the physical, and maybe spiritual.

Each then took turns to perform for each other / the people in Geylang, and a debrief / exchange of thoughts happened at a nearby void deck:

- Hasyimah: “Leave me for 30 seconds.”

o Challenged self to blend in, though felt that her presence was still too strong.

o Clothes were Indonesian-looking, which some onlookers might have identified.

o Onlookers asked if she had eaten.

o Went too in and her habits came back.

o Would naturally absorb and trie to filter.

o “Saw” no-one else there.

o Distinguished performer-audience boundary.

o Had a nice surge of energy from the “audience” around her.

o How strong / intense / concentrated does the artist need it to be to bring the message across (whether intentional or not).

o Pass-through / Do we want the retention of energy?

o Does that affect too much of the audiences’ response.

o To play and be aware of the range to manipulate.

o Scared to let go (even though able to – in the mind).

o Contrast during stillness, challenge to pass through when not still (or still to still).

- Valerie: “Walk around and listen to audio.”

o Atmosphere was set, echo, lights flickering.

o Almost like Sadako; an auntie saw her and ran.

o Each lane has a distinct character.

o Geylang Market is more lit up and had more surveillance.

o The space as a performer.

(Personal keywords: hidden, eerie, unseen, crevice, ghost-hunting, self-initiated experience)

- Xiao Jun: “Find me where there are plants.”

o Tried to start with being pedestrian by first drinking chrysanthemum tea.

o Shifted from initial intentions as the location was previously crowded.

o Went from young to old.

o Tried not to talk (even though a drunk “audience” approached her out of concern).

o Wanted to wilt slowly.

o Inner conflict of the concerned.

o Sensing gaze when still; receiving messages, no filter but absorb.

o Concerned uncles came over, makcik asked Hasyimah what was happening, shopkeepers telling each other about the “performance” that was happening.

(The necessity of a safe word or gesture was discussed especially when it comes to such site-specific explorations in public spaces.)

Unsuspected live performances.


As much as we will attempt to record the process, this journal does not necessarily reflect the artistic direction or intention of the work. This is our interpretation as we experience it with the artists and collaborators.

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