Under the Skin showcases the experimental practices of George Chua, Nina Djekić, and Noor Effendy Ibrahim, three artists who engage with sound, bodily movements, and performance to examine contemporary body and identity politics. Bringing together elements of performance, sound and visual art in response to the theme of Proposals for Novel Ways of Being, the artists have been commissioned to produce new work reflecting their own experiences of the sudden uncertainty and loss of normalcy during the global COVID-19 pandemic: abrupt shifts in social interaction and daily routines, confinement and physical limitations, adjustments, and reorientations to relationships. As we grapple with the uncertainties of the post-pandemic future, this radical moment of instability also calls upon us to reclaim our personal and collective consciousness, to nurture the resilience of our body and soul. How does a body compose itself and develop new vocabularies for articulation? What new sensorial and corporeal sensibilities can we locate and uncover?
While the current conditions of our lives also expose global fragilities and social divisions, this project draws mainly from the spaces, experiences and materialities of everyday life, where the effect of the pandemic is, perhaps, most potent and surreptitious. Attempting to reconcile ideas of tenderness in violence, Noor Effendy Ibrahim continues his on-going performance research to excavate inherent and latent memories within his own body through self-inflicted physical pain. Locating marginalised bodies and their everyday lived experiences via a mythical dance troupe, George Chua meditates on vulnerability and belief, contemplating our existential struggle on what it means to be human. Engaging with translations and memories within an constructed setting, Nina Djekić invites us to consider notions of intimacy via virtual spaces and proxy bodies.
The trio of performative works are cinematically translated into the medium of video by Singapore artist and filmmaker Russell Morton, and their videos presented online.
Under the Skin is curated by artist Cheong Kah Kit for NTU CCA Singapore’s Free Jazz III
NOOR EFFENDY IBRAHIM, IN COLLABORATION WITH SYIMAH SABTU
Dancing with the Ghost of My Child in 33 Steps
2020, HD Video, 38 min 12 sec
Dancing with the Ghost of My Child in 33 steps is an aging man’s increasing desire and longing for an inspiration, for a life, for a child that he pains to father, and be a father to. In this dance, a man dreams of invoking the ghost of a child, his child, who has not yet been born into the world. This man lays his prayer across time and space. He prays for what love has yet to conceive. He hopes that if the ghost of his child is lost, the child may hear his voice, and find a path back to him. This dance leads the man to a moment in his life where perhaps he might begin to believe again.
Interdisciplinary artist Noor Effendy Ibrahim continues his on-going performance research to excavate inherent and latent memories within his own body through self-inflicted physical pain. Empathising with guilt and desire, Effendy constantly negotiates his faith and shifting identities in society as he seeks to neuter otherness. These excavations often result in violent and numbing effects on his body, creating a spectacle whilst leaving his body desensitized and apathetic. In his ongoing “Dancing with the Ghost of My Child” series, Effendy seeks to reconcile ideas of tenderness in violence. Website: https://www.anjing-performance.com/
Syimah Sabtu is a dance artist from Singapore. She graduated from Republic Polytechnic (Theatre and Arts Management) and Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (Dance). Syimah’s practice is rooted in Malay folk dance and contemporary dance, where she examines the kinesics state of the dancer’s body. Syimah is currently researching on the Dualities of Being, exploring layered connections between personal histories, narratives and beliefs that are nestled within our bodies. As a dance artist, she believes in the potentiality of collaboration, interaction and connection across various art forms and disciplines. Syimah is currently a core associate with P7:1SMA Ltd and an associate member with Dance Nucleus. Website: www.syimahsabtu.com
Seven Legged Spider Dance Troupe
2020, HD Video, 19 min 45 sec
An electrician, a cardboard lady, a dwarf and a crippled chicken rice hawker. Together, they dance with seven legs. These are the nameless bodies only known by their vocation and physical handicaps.
They were immersed in oppression and yet developed a dispassion towards evil. They carry evil in their bodies but were not evil themselves. Rather, evil had been done to them and had marked their bodies with its effects.
I am dancing their dance, yet I am not them. Their flesh is smeared in these isolated rooms, yet their anguish cannot be isolated. Though full of anguish, I must tell of this secret joy.
I have known them as characters in my head yet they became unknowable by me, hence unnameable.
That which was unnameable was forced upon with a name of a malformed insect, in the name of art.
This work was conceptualised in 2007 but shelved. A time of reflection during the COVID Pandemic brought this work to light again. Dedicated to the memory of my two aunts who committed suicide when I was a child. I remember you.
George Chua is a multidisciplinary artist based in Singapore. Active since the late nineties, he works in the intersection between the body and sound. He has presented works in the form of physical theatre, performance art and sound installations. As an instigator and explorer of sound, he resists development in a singular style or genre. Apart from his solo work and performances, George’s collaborative interests include live sound improvisation, sound design for film and theatre, as well experimental strategies for soundtracks.
2020, HD Video, 16 min 40 sec
Approximities presents us with a series of seemingly everyday vignettes. However, as the characters move in and out of the frame, the scenes increasingly gain an air of artifice.
The film builds on my experiences visiting a local park while living in Singapore. Spending long stretches of time at the park without a particular aim in mind, it has allowed my thoughts to roam freely and gently, amidst the company of strangers. One by one, alongside the scenery and vegetation, these strangers became a familiar presence.
Reconstituting this familiar park space through my memories, I engaged with a group of friends in a long-distance choreography of enacting and translation. This process is a paradoxical task of establishing common ground within an artificially constructed situation.
Can we think of a park as a virtual space or vice versa, that enables us to gather regardless of physical distance? How do we rearticulate proximity under those conditions?
How do we spend time?
Born in 1989 in Ljubljana, Slovenia, Nina Djekić is an artist and choreographer based in between Singapore and the Netherlands. She graduated with a BA in choreography from School for New Dance Development and an MFA from Sandberg Instituut, both in Amsterdam. Her work revolves around choreographic notions in exhibitionary settings. It looks at the bodily engagements between the artwork and the visitor as well as the affect the uncanny presence of artworks has on the relationship between the visitors themselves. Often conflating the conventions of writing with the scoring of movement, her curiosity lies in the relation between embodiment and language. Central to this is the notion of empathy, as an ability to be moved (physically and/or otherwise) and how to choreograph it. Website: http://www.ninadjekic.com/index.php/about/
Russell Morton makes films and performances. His short films The Silent Dialogue of All Artworks (2013), The Forest of Copper Columns (2016) and Saudade (2020) explore folkloric myths, esoteric rituals and the conventions of cinema itself. In recent years, Russell’s work has taken a choreographic turn through collaboration with movement and dance artists. As part of residencies and laboratories with dance-film independent collective CineMovement, his collaborative piece with a Hong Kong dance artist was part of Hybrid Motion (2019) for the Jumping Frames International Dance Video Festival (2019).
Cheong Kah Kit is a visual artist based in Singapore. He graduated from Umeå Academy of Fine Art, Sweden. He was affiliated with p-10, a Singapore independent curatorial team (2004 – 2006). In 2016, he co-founded Peninsular, an artist studio / experimental project space in Singapore. Kah Kit was artist-in-residence at Para Site, Hong Kong, 2015. In 2020, he was Co-curator for State of Motion, commissioned by the Asian Film Archive Singapore.
A partner programme of
Top image courtesy of Nina Djekić.