art naming 奇能
you are facing yourself you are facing me
oct 2020

In the spirit of pausing, art naming 奇能 offers viewers an opportunity to reflect on their viewing habits and its performativity in the virtual realm.

“you are facing yourself you are facing me” was commissioned by Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay, Singapore, and first presented as part of the Open Call at da:ns festival 2020

Video Creative Consultancy, Film Production and Live Stream provided by Fiction Shore Pte Ltd
for 10min i am looking into the camera looking into the audience (or myself?) who is watching the livestream (or recording) on their viewing devices. in the piece the dance is the interaction i perform with the audience, as if listening to them, watching them perform (though, of course i do not see or perceive them in anyway—they are imagined). only my face from neck-up is seen moving. i am looking into the camera, at the perceived audience, watching them watch me, each anticipating initially for a “performance” to happen but over sufficient time they should realise that this anticipation is not realised. or that they are already watching a performance. yet because my gestures, my behaviours, my dance is similar to their own in how they watch a performance (my head might tilt slightly, a subtle furrow in the eyebrow, touching my chin), they might begin to ask, begin to conjecture: What am I Watching? AM i being Mocked? Is this what I look like when watching a show through Zoom livestream? then: why are we watching what we are watching? for escape into another narrative world? for education? for critique? for pleasure? and underneath these questions: to what end? to make myself feel good? of course they might also pause the video or close the browser window.

this is performed live (and livestreamed) 3 times but in certain moments the video/streaming "glitches" sometimes activating a kind of killswitch that converts the livestream into a prerecorded version of the performance in video like when/if "the internet" stops working or a technical mishap happens like during a power outage. as with all livestreaming events there is expected latency that i intentionally highlight by interacting with the live chat function: when i type and post a comment it is seen almost immediately in the live chat box but in the video it might take a few moments before the audience can see that i am physically typing on my computer. this can create a kind of cognitive dissonance when we witness multiple timelines happening in the one instance. there are even moments when i "pretend" to lag by intentionally keeping still.

the soundscape for the piece is a recording of what seems to be someone dancing (myself) to create the illusion of me watching a live performance or watching myself perform.

to clarify, i am not just STARING into the camera, i am watching the “audience” (or camera) perform, or i am performing that watching (since the audience is imagined). or performing trying to pay attention. i am watching the audience watch me. to beckon the audience to realise that performance exists only because there is an audience. for them to anticipate a performance from me, but realise that we are all performing when put on a platform consciously or not. that perhaps the relationship between the performer and watcher, between performing and watching, is more permeable than we think. and, ultimately, i want through confrontation with another face for the audience to face themselves again.
choreographer's message:
contrary to popular belief i do not enjoy looking at myself or watching myself or facing myself any instance of confrontation with any parts of the self(s) is difficult and a reminder of the hideous of the insufficiencies of the have-nots but i have learnt the necessity of facing them in order to recognise them admit these parts into material and coexist honestly with all of me.

then to be aware that there is a self that is projected outward that other self(s) perceive through their own other multitudinous self(s) (an each of us final in each moment but changing across time and space) whether we behave consciously or not we are always a performance to others and therefore it is only responsible to know our own face. and we are each and every one of us elementally the same so to face one is also to face another that to face yourself me is also to face yourself me together.

i am grateful to be afforded the resources and platform to explore and present this video performance especially in such times when we are attempting to reintegrate our existing world with the new i have learnt and enjoyed much from working with the Esplanade team and Fiction Shore team many of whom i would if time persisted spend more time with besides. in particular Joyce, Gigi, Chia Meng, Petrina, Xin’en, Max, Shireen, and others whom i have interacted with less but have helped in their ways seen or unseen. it is strange for me and also heartening to witness a whole team of people supporting my work into completion. i appreciate all the patience and commitment and extend fondness.
Festival Programmers: Joyce Yao (Esplanade), Shireen Abdullah (Esplanade)
Creative Consultant: Koo Chia Meng
Live Stream Programmers: Maximilian Liang, Koo Chia Meng
Live Stream and Theatre Productions Services: The Esplanade Co Ltd.
Producer: Xu Xin’en
Junior Producer: Marcus Goh
Director of Photography: Koo Chia Meng, Maximilian Liang
Lighting Designer: Petrina Dawn Tan
Production Stage Manager: Lee Xinzhi Gigi
Editors: Chap Heng, Joan Chia, Maximilian Liang, Marcus Goh
Production: Fiction Shore Pte Ltd
this was also borne from the frustration with the increasing flux of online performances in the form of live streaming to take the place of live performance (because of the covid thing) but the audience might not yet realise that perceiving a live performance and a video/performance on a screen is a different experience with different subtleties and ethics and should be accorded different expectations and attentions. many livestreaming events also purport to be presenting a live performance in video form but might just be showing a prerecording. this opens up questions into what constitutes a live(stream) performance, its transmissions with the virtual realm, the multiplied layers of performativity when interacting with multiple mediums/media.