process


Across A Small Distance with Chew Shaw En and Jevon Chandra

April – September 2021
A project under our Labs programme

🏸 𝘼𝙘𝙧𝙤𝙨𝙨 𝙖 𝙎𝙢𝙖𝙡𝙡 𝘿𝙞𝙨𝙩𝙖𝙣𝙘𝙚 is a work-in-progress by Chew Shaw En & Jevon Chandra about the nature of landing, receiving and transmission. Through a sequence of movements and activities, the work explores the textures of communication in small settings: the things too near to touch, misunderstandings too slight to notice, tiny truths too inconvenient to say.

6 work-in-progress showcases took place on 9, 10 and 11 September 2021, hosted at starch, an art space located at Tagore Lane. Each session was followed by a post-show discussion with audience members.

It asked the question: [[what is distorted across the arc of physical or digital space?]]
However, 𝘼𝙘𝙧𝙤𝙨𝙨 𝙖 𝙎𝙢𝙖𝙡𝙡 𝘿𝙞𝙨𝙩𝙖𝙣𝙘𝙚 looked very different when Shaw and Jevon first embarked on the project. We trace the various iterations it underwent; its underlying and persisting threads; and the negotiations that occured – with each other, with the Feelers team and with the ongoing pandemic circumstances – passing a shuttlecock back and forth.












Transcript: On World-building

Shaw
Okay. January. I think at the start I wanted to, I was thinking of a more immersive experience, and I was thinking of how nice it will be to experience the environment as an extension of the body. Or the energetic lines that we draw in space, like in dance right. So I mean, it still comes from the body, but how can tech extend our sphere, our... okay I mean, if we are coming from the body, then like the sphere of influence, in a way. Kind of like you're holding a sword right, then that is an extension of your arm, so how can sensors and technology and that kind of thing be a part of that. Yeah, and then together with the idea, I was also thinking of a physical terrain. So then we started calling it like a playground kind of thing.

So that was the initial desire, it was really an improv jam, but within like a scored structure kind of thing.

I think it would have, I think I imagined a jam, like a live jam between audience, performer and and DJ. Maybe the performer being like a DJ operating the light and sound. So, the sensors [were] more for the operating table not to be the main contact point. Of how the tech elements can change in space. So, that was like one of the... that was the idea or like, that is how I can articulate it at this point. At that time, it was more wanting to make an immersive-ish environment. And I think last week I spoke about how the performing body is more or less usually responsible in creating that immersion or you know, responsible for your own environment. Actually, that is just part of your job or your craft of being a performer, right? Kind of like, work on the quality of movements or the quality of like, how you move so that people watching can really be a part of the landscape that the performers are painting on stage, even if it's a bare stage, right?

Yeah, so with the light and sound and body. But then usually there isn't so much of like, the light and sound being part of that responsibility. There is a hierarchy of responsibility when it comes to dance, or maybe theatre, but I can speak more for dance. Yeah so I think I'm like, as a performer, I've had this strong desire, not so much to make a... I think, I don't know, the desire is more like, I want something that that supports me and the audience at the same time, you know. And I think it will be fun to have that world created not just by that one creator person, right? Yeah, and the performers, but to just be created, like live and improvised. Yeah. So that was the impulse.

On World-building (Phase 2)
Shaw
Ok! So I can just do like, a Miro tour. So hi everybody, good morning. Thank you for joining me on the Miro board tour.

Jevon
I think I want to clarify a bit about what the board is and what this phase is meant to be. I think two main things. I think firstly for me, this phase two actually didn't feel like something qualitatively very different from phase one. It didn't feel to me like it was a different idea, rather I feel like it's an old idea. I think to me the kernel of the idea, I think even in phase one, as very material and site-specific it is, was never the site and the material itself right. I think loosely speaking, the kernel of the idea in phase one, or what I hear or what I think is productive to pursue, is generally an idea of world lah, loosely speaking. So I think to me when we were moving onto phase two, it wasn't a different idea to me? I think it was just world-building but in a different way right, we are not going to put scaffolds in or we're not going to put like interactive physical elements in but we are world-building by... or rather we are world-building, but the way we curate it is through delight lah, so to speak, right? What gets more space or airtime or gets platformed in kinda this world, this board, is what brings us delight.

Yeah. So cellular, cellular automata is essentially a category of things wherein this kind of, like very lifelike looking animation can come out from actually a very simple set of rules. It's a bit like, you know, if you're touched by a pixel on the left, you should do something, you know, that kind of thing. If you are touched by a pixel from the bottom, you should do something right. So it's just very, very precise specific rules. But from there, you get very lifelike and I want to say expressive, I think, animations? And I recall this relating, again to phase one, because I think a big part of world-building [is] creating space for generation, right? In the sense of like, yeah, how do you just give, again, someone a few rules right? Or a space a few rules, but then give space for, you know, a lot of things to emerge from out of that, right?

How do we make it such that the rules are few and simple? So people – and I don't mean just people, right – could be like dancers, I don't know, or like artists, or choreographers, or whatever, or co-creators, whatever you call it. How do we make it such that the rules are so simple but so tight, that once they engage with it, they get lost in the game and they're not thinking about the rules, you know what I mean?

So I think actually, there was yeah, there was a common and shared interest between the both of us from phase one with actually generative systems, right? How can a lot be generated from a bit?

On World-building (Phase 3)
Shaw
As in, I think the world-building aspect was always there, but I think like practically what we went into space starting, like, shifting things around in that space is just a constant, just something that you constantly have to do lah. So at the beginning it was really like, we just placed like two tables in there. And then we started to pull things that we might need right, so we started to bring in like, our badminton racquets, shuttlecocks, our paper planes, speakers, and Jevon brought his keyboard and I brought like a ball or something. Basically just bringing stuff in so that we can, that we feel like we might use to generate material, you know, or to find tasks to do.

And I think actually the beginning was more like... actually, no, at the beginning, we just started to try things with badminton. So it was like, projecting a video of one of our first few exercises on the wall. And then just seeing how seeing what angles made more sense, or seeing what angles, you know, just fit the ideas that we've been talking about in the first two phases. And then trying out like badminton, with different boundaries, different rules. Yeah. So that was basically how it started and how it continued actually, I think badminton just was the one thing that continued on. And then we just changed the rules. And then we added more shuttlecocks, we took away more shuttlecocks.

Jevon
Yeah, okay. I'm trying to recall again, because I keep thinking that phase three is when we stepped into starch, but it's actually not. Right, I think phase three happens quite a bit before we stepped to starch, which is actually as soon as we decided to do a physical performance again, I think that was phase three. But I think maybe what might be most notable in the shift to phase three is really just, yeah lor, the switch from having a work that was entirely digital in phase two, and then having, needing it to be very physical again.

I feel like world-building is resonant in the sense, that I don't know, maybe we weren’t so much trying to create a physical world but more like just an emotional world, like some kind of vibe that pervades throughout the piece. And actually, I feel like that was most potently embodied in the cloth.

Shaw
I think it was during, we were basically trying to generate ideas. Trying to jam like a flow, like you know what Jevon said, just see how our exercises can be strung into a in-person live performance. And then I think I went, "Oh my gosh, oh my gosh, we need to raise a cloth up to the ceiling". You know. And just the thought of, I think Jevon said something about installing something. And then I was like, what if it was part of the performance? Or what if it was not something that was done before the audience arrived? I found that very exciting in when I was like, hey, this is an exciting idea. And we just went to Chinatown one day and then we got the cloth. Then we went back to starch with that size of cloth and then we just laid it out on the floor. It was a very, I would say it was like a clarifying object to have in the space. Because now our thoughts can all center around or can be built from, you know, the cloth. The moment you see it's so much easier to to sense whether it is right, basically like whether it feels right, you know, for this iteration of the work.


"And I recall this relating again to phase one, because I think a big part of world-building [is] creating space for generation, right? In the sense of like, yeah, how do you just give someone or a space a few rules, but then [allow] for a lot of things to emerge from out of that, right? How can a lot be generated from a bit?"





Transcript: On Unburdening and Clarifying Desires

Jevon
Several things. So I think that was... and maybe here Shaw can chime in because I feel like around phase two is around a time where maybe Shaw's kind of initial non-negotiable of really wanting a physical performance seemed the most impossible. I think it was around phase two that, yeah, a physical thing seemed the most impossible. Because my non-negotiable wasn't a physical space, you know what I mean? So I was affected by it in a different way than she was. And I think I was just reflecting on kind of Feelers' reason for existing. The first half is something tech-related, how performance can be remapped using tech or something like that. But I think I was focusing more on the second part about it persisting, and I think so the simple conclusion is like, how can performance persist? Well, for performance to persist, performers must take care of themselves. It's as simple as that, I think on some level. So I was thinking about like, just the human and the energy management level, and I think for me, that was a point when it crystallised. I was like, yeah, no performer, no performance, you know, no technologist, no tech lah. So I think there was a very human aspect. I mean again, regardless of whether we are talking about human performance or tech or whatever, I think it's just an awareness that like, yeah but our mental health though.

And so therefore I think we found it appropriate to pivot to delight, because yeah it's really more in the spirit of maintenance as well. So I think for me at that point in time I would say that the idea is following through on desire. But I think at that point in time, I found it to be an apt framing to take also to follow through on that particular desire, so I think that, to me, also became a worthy kind of idea to explore.

Shaw
I think it's not so much the... 'what is desire?', you know, or 'how it is felt?' But like if I want to do something and I'm committed to it, I cannot just scrape that away so fast. It will take an emotional toll on me. Okay, June. June was like a period of sadness, because like voices also couldn't do like a physical performance. Then I was going to do a baby show for SIFA and they built a really nice set. Yeah that one couldn't happen, it’s still postponed or cancelled. Yeah lah, so I mean you get a sense that yeah June was just already difficult, like creatively and professionally, it's hard lah. Because you know, cannot really teach also, you know for for me because I teach dance. Then I think the idea of... it's a bit ironic because like I know this phase is us trying to be led by delight right, but it was very hard to do that, because it was going to be online. I think I think the initial convincing was hard, I needed to convince myself. Jevon needed to convince me also.

Jevon So I think to me that's what this board is. I think first and foremost it’s a very low tech, it's a very low commitment, low investment way to really just dump pictures or whatever in, right, I think that's the way I approached it.

Slightly on the top corner to the 12 o'clock of where the... Yep, kind of around that area, there is a specific cluster of games made on this thing called Pico-8.

What Pico-8 is, is that it's basically a game design software. At that point in time, I was also thinking like, yeah, maybe we can make a game, or I can make a game, because I've always wanted to make a game, right? But then the next question is, okay, what game-making software should I use or learn right? And the gist of it is that actually, softwares are sometimes a pain to pick up, because they're so big and so powerful that you are like, actually very intimidated. It's kind of like the paradox of choice kind of thing. The more choice and power you have, you know, the more incapacitated you feel sometimes. And then I chanced upon this thing called Pico-8. Which is a game making software but with very, very strict low tech limitations. So for example, on Pico-8, you can only choose between, like 16 colors. Right? And your game must be under 32KB. 32KB is what, is smaller than like a font pack? It's smaller than, I think, any word document that you have on your computer. Yeah. So right, amongst other things that Pico-8 has these limitations. So I think I was very taken by that. Because I learned that there were actually a lot of good, robust games made with Pico-8. And people have used it to prototype games.

On a slightly more conceptual level, I think I was very attracted to this. Because I think to me, it relates to the idea of scale as well. Which is that like, yeah, it's again, especially with tech, and I think this is where I can see the direct relation to commentaries about tech, is that it's very easy to want to do more with more, right. And I think to me sometimes that is the temptation with world-building as well. Or I think any kind of art-making lah, which I do see as a kind of world-building, right? Is that it's very easy to want more of this to, yeah to kind of, again, desire more of this and more of that in your world or in your art project. But I want, I'm interested a bit in like, almost like a de-growth kind of mindset, if that makes sense.

And I think part of this thinking is informed by yeah, of course, some of my previous projects, but also just my job as like a sound designer. In that it's very easy to desire, always a more and more immersive environment, for your audience, whatever, theatre or art, right? It's very easy to want bigger projections are more sounds or more speakers. And sometimes it's requested, and it's always very hard to do. But I think I was at a stage where I am kind of slightly suspicious of that desire for, for more and more. And I don't want to belabour this point, but I think to me it feels a bit like capitalistic as well, kind of the desire for growth. So I think, yeah, there was a very strong desire to like, can we just scale back right? Actually, with very little we can do a lot.

I think firstly, no, I mean, my notion of too much or too little is not based on quantity. It's not about 5 things or 10 things on 50 things. It's more about what do we need? And just including things that we need, right? So to me, if we are doing 200 things that we need, that is not too much, right. But if we are doing three things that we don't need, then that will be too much. Right. So I don't think it's a quantity issue. And again, it's not about like density of image or visuals or something like that. It's more about sharpening again, the question, what do we need to do, right? What we need, we’ll put it in, what we don’t need, we take it out. The things that are in there that we need, if it looks a bit messy, or a lot to some people, like density wise, then that's fine. But I think, yeah, my idea of too much or too little isn't so much to do with quantity. It's more about clarifying, again, intentions and actually, clarifying desires. I think, loosely speaking, and now I'm just reflecting on this again also, I think phase two for me was a lot about unburdening and clarifying. So I think clarifying is what I just talked about, it's about, yeah, what do we need lor? And I think like yeah, before you can answer that question, you need to know what you want right, and so on and so forth. And I think underlying that thought is the awareness that nothing comes for free. On both the part of the creator and the viewer, right. So I think to me, all of this was a process of clarifying. And I think the other part is that actually, phase two for me was also a process of unburdening.

Yeah, I think just now Shaw mentioned that actually, in a sense, she felt quite tied, like to the tradition of dance and, and so on. Which could be Shaw’s kind of own response to this exercise. But I think what I was really trying to do was unburden my own notions of visual art and contemporary art. There was what I wanted to unburden. By adding these things that normally kind of have no place or would be, quote, unquote, relegated to like design or craft. And I thought, forget it, I just want to include things in about game design, right? So I was trying to unburden my own notion of what a good, or this good art project should be, or can be like.



"My idea of too much or too little isn't so much to do with quantity. It's more about clarifying intentions and actually, clarifying desires. It's about, yeah, what do we need ? And I think before you can answer that question, you need to know what you want. And underlying that thought is the awareness that nothing comes for free, on both the part of the creator and the viewer.

And I think the other part is that actually, phase two for me was also a process of unburdening. I was trying to unburden my own notion of this good art project should be, or can be like."




Transcript: On Scale, Simplicity and Silly Things

Jevon
I think to me something quite interesting to explore is also the idea of almost like intentionally leaving gaps in your work. Right, and which gaps are like a product of, sure of like, unintentional oversight, which gaps are intentionally left there because you don't want to over-rationalize the thing, right? You don't want to kind of encase it in your own, prison of meaning and logic, that kind of thing. And whether that necessarily makes it a work-in-progress, right? Or can completed works still have that kind of gaps right, that creators are not, you know, is it okay for my completed work to have facets, which I do not understand right, that kind of thing? I'm also keen to know how we as creatives can calibrate the amount of process that we sometimes put on ourselves.

Yeah, but we are happy to report that I think yeah, we do not feel like burdened or heavy after the thing. So I think the happy note is that I feel our process and product aligned, in a sense, right? Like, it wasn't just a sharing thing that looked light because of the cloth or whatever. I think the process was also quite light. Not in a fluffy way, but in a appropriately sensitive kind of way. But yeah, I also want to say that I think we arrived at that lightness in our process intentionally. And I think a lot of work was also done on that front to keep it that way.

I mean, we had some quite intense arguments nonetheless, not just in the third form where Across A Small Distance was made, but I think even when Shaw and I were talking through the first and the second form, I think we did have several, like, quite heated points of contention. But even then, I think even as as those contentions happened, I think we don't forget to acknowledge that work was already done there. You know what I mean?

I would say that I think forthright, I think not necessarily every element in this work in progress has been rationalized. I think I'd say. I think everything was, as far as able, selected with intention, but kind of exactly why I think we both left some gaps right, for people and also for ourselves. I think Kia Yee you asked a question about the cloth. I think for me, the simplest thing about what the cloth is, is that it's really just a thing that takes up space in a lot of different ways. And I think it's something that has memory, I think I want to say. And I would say that that is part of what the multimedia was trying to do. I think there was the motion, there was a part of it when Shaw was pushing the cloth, and then words were coming up as the cloth was being moved. So I think generally, the intention is for the multimedia to add another, to map another layer of meaning onto this object that is otherwise just an object.

Shaw
Like maybe you cannot see that there are, like, the more this work is being done over the days, right, the more creases in the cloth. So I think that the multimedia is just there to be like, the creases are forming up. More and more and more. Yeah.

Jevon
Yeah. And yeah, I guess, loosely speaking. Yeah, just the idea of traces. I think even just the fact that as Shaw moves she leaves a bit of a trail, I suppose, on the multimedia again, I mean, if we had more money, I think we would have wanted to project it on the floor, on the cloth, on the performer's body. And I think that would help with legibility as well. So people don't keep, you know, looking here and there, and here and there. Yeah I think that's mainly it. But the question about whether multimedia wanted to take more space or less space? I find a bit hard to answer that right now. Because I feel like even if I want to say that yeah, more space, I don't know what that looks like, right? Is it like bigger, more colors, two channel or something? I think there was something that we also wanted to limit for ourselves, because the temptation is always there, especially with tech stuff, to like, shoot stuff everywhere.

Jevon
I think what I want to say also yes there is a level of, I want to say absurdity, to some of the tasks, right? I think perhaps maybe indeed in the, kind of the desire to look at them is a bit childish slash childlike. Right? And I think sometimes I think it's a bit like how, yeah I think some of us are like artists or creatives right, sometimes your attention is on a very small, actually a very silly thing, but it's really something that you care about and see, right, but for those few moments really that's all you can have headspace for. On the grand scheme of things, which is not always the scale which we think things with, on the grand scheme of things, this detail is super silly, it's a bit absurd to zoom in onto that. But yeah at the moment that's all you focus on, the task of playing badminton, almost at all costs that kind of thing. So I think there was a desire to really just focus on the small silly thing and see what arises from there, and what kind of emotions it might bring in, or what audiences might feel as they watch us doing the stupid things lor, some of the things are just very... and trying to also see how much we can pull that silliness sometimes, I suppose. So yeah.

Shaw But yeah, I think it's also like putting on like the first task and then seeing how that influences the way that I would approach, you know, the rest of this distance, right? This thing that was obstructing us. And I think like just going back to the silly, silly tasks. I think so far, it seems silly from the outside. But yeah, for me quite serious, right? Because I think for us, it was about keeping something in the air, about keeping communication alive. So I think on some days, I would be like, if I don't try my best, that says something of me. So for me, I was also like, okay, as more shows happened, this is how I prepare myself. It's okay, like don't do anything extra or like, this is how far I need to run.




"At the moment, that's all you focus on, the task of playing badminton, almost at all costs. I think there was a desire to really just focus on the small silly thing and see what arises from there, and what kind of emotions it might bring in, or what audiences might feel...

I think, it seems silly from the outside. But for me, it's quite serious. Because I think for us, it was about keeping something in the air, about keeping communication alive."



Transcript: On Lightness

Post Show Discussion, 11 Sept, 9.00pm
Audience 1
I think what I really enjoyed about this is how all the elements to me was very soft and very light, like, the material was like badminton itself, it's feather right, it's also light. The music, no sorry the soundscape, is so subtle that sometimes I can't tell whether the sound is from the space or it's actually from you. And also the scribbles, it's also very light. So I'm not sure whether it was intentional for you guys to kind of pick everything that [indicated] lightness, but also a lot of strength and tension. Because badminton, when you play it, it's quite harsh, but it's still feathery, and then the movement that you did with the cloth was also very strong. But the cloth is so light. It was always this juxtaposition between every single element that's running through and it was quite enjoyable for me.

Jevon
Yeah, thank you for pointing that out. Was it intentional? Yes lah. Yeah. It was. I think also a bit of context about what we were trying to explore in the work is really just just small distances. Just the title of the work, Across A Small Distance. So I think in many ways, we were not really talking about things are huge or large or heavy. We're really just talking about relating with someone, a stranger, friend whatever, across a small distance, right.

Shaw
Even like small distances as intimate you can be with someone, sometimes the distance feels large, like so large that you cannot, sometimes cannot bridge, or you think that you have bridged it, but it's still like, up in the air sometimes.

Jevon
And I think certain components of the work, for example the fabric, when it was kind of there present in the middle and when we were playing badminton, it was an obstruction lah. As light and malleable as it is, I mean we had to like switch the aircons off otherwise it would move. But yeah sometimes even a light thing, sitting there in the middle of you and someone else, is still something to overcome. It's still something to contend with, I suppose. And I think likewise, perhaps with the soundscape, certianly I think generally things are soft. But I think at least even for myself whenever I tried to monitor the sound from above, there's always one soft thing that will always poke upwards, that's soft but there's a certain punch or presence or even... the word at the tip of my tongue is like violent, but there's a certain grit, or punch to it.

Shaw
I think, before I forget this thing I want to say. I think we were also talking about being okay with unbridgeable distances. There's this quote that I think about at the start of this work, like that "we live and die alone". And it feels sad and it feels very hard, but at the same time I think that just myself being at peace with it makes it, or at least for myself, I find that if you're at peace with that sometimes there are unbridgeable distances then maybe you can communicate better. So the cloth is like an obstruction but the same time yeah, can you see that the distance or obstruction as something beautiful, or something that you can try to understand, try to move around, you know, maybe that can be, maybe the obstruction or distance can even add meaning to the relationship or the forms of communication that are borne out of that trying to get across.

Jevon
And I think just briefly speaking, not so much on a conceptual level but on an aesthetic level, I think we are both more interested in speaking with using light metaphors, I want to say. I think we are not so much interested in punching with heavy imageries or something like that, I think we just curious to see...

Audiece 1
Which I find very interesting and very effective because it is so light but it's so violent, like what you said.

Jevon
Yeah. So I suppose just an aesthetic level... I also just want to say that it's a kind of a discipline that we tried to enforce in this work, because it's easy right, to add things, to make things bigger or brighter or so forth. But I want to say there was, it was difficult to keep it... enough. This is enough.

Audience 2
When you were talking about the cloth, this idea of the thinly veiled metaphor, the thinly veiled artwork, so when you were talking about badminton, in a way almost like cheesy but in a nice way, like the extremely thinly veiled metaphor. I think I'm also thinking about magical realism and notions of that, and sort of magical realism being this like thinly veiled metaphor for things like not trying to be too abstract.

Shaw
Yeah interesting, that's a helpful phrase to think about the work.

Post Project Meeting, 21 Sept
Jevon
I feel like another aspect that for me it's important to, maybe not document but also like think through, is also like, the energy management aspect that was quite important to us. Not just in the final form that you kind of see, but like throughout the past few months. So for example, yeah, this desire to really like manage our energies properly, is what I would say is a strong impulse behind the second form of the work also right, the one where we tried to focus on delight. I think essentially, that was also just us trying to stay emotionally afloat.

But I mean, thereafter even as we were making the work and again, throughout, I think we were just conscious that we didn't want to overwork ourselves. I think that was quite a strong, almost like a meta project, that kind of thing. I knew that on my end, I wanted to actively resist the scale creep which all projects will have if you don't contain it, right, you will always want more and more and more and more things, that kind of thing.

Like there are some baselines right, trying to figure out what the baseline that is tied to all those parties, to you all, to myself, to audience, that kind of thing. Wha a fair minimum is, I think, a lot of that is like the meta project maybe, for me, even across these past three months. Yeah. And I think the nice thing that maybe like, both Shaw and I can report is that yeah, we really don't feel like burnt out after this project. You know what I mean, after a lot of projects you're like, bloody hell, you know, or like you just need a few days to recover.

Shaw
I don't want to see anybody again [laughs].

"Another aspect that for me is important to think through is the energy management aspect that was quite important to us. We were just conscious that we didn't want to overwork ourselves. I think that was almost like a meta project. I knew that on my end, I wanted to actively resist the scale creep which all projects will have if you don't contain it, right."



Transcript: On Making Differently

Shaw
And I think at the beginning phases also and actually now like reflecting back, I also want to, like, reflect on the different ways maybe that me and Jevon approached making. Because for me, when I collaborate with other dancers or performance makers, the desire is very strong.

But I think I think Jevon is driven in a different way when he makes. Yeah, so so sometimes I would be like, unsure or like I would have to ask, what is it ah, do you still want to do this or not? You know, cause like I'm unfamiliar with that.

But I appreciate it, that as in that we are so opposite. Because I'm very like "I want to do this" but actually you know if I think back, sometimes majority of my desires would not be very productive. I know we're not really trying to be productive, but the same time we are, because we want to make a good work right? But yeah, sometimes if you just desire then it might really just fan out and not really be very focused, which at the end of the day, will not actually come up with a worthwhile endeavour, you know, whatever that means. Yeah, so I think I appreciate that scaling down as much as I am also reflecting on like, maybe the ways that I'm used to working.

Jevon
Several things. I think firstly, it's simply that I don't see ideas and desires as different. I mean, my desire is to realize an idea lah, or I think more specifically, I think my desire is to realize a good idea. I mean, what good means, I mean that's a bigger thing. But I think yeah, it's rare that I only focus on the idea or only focus on the desire. I think that there are always moments like that where like, kind of non-rationally I also feel like oh, yeah, I really want this part. But I think kind of the third thing that I'm thinking of, yeah, on top of just ideas and desires is also just feasibility and I say that because... I feel like these three kind of vertices are quite strong for me. I don't know if desire is like the heart, you know, like the heart or the ideas, the brain, then I think feasibility is really just the logistics. How much can we do with the time that we are given? And with the resources that we're given, right, and with the current skills that we have? So I think in my mind, yeah, these three are always kinda in conversation with each other.

But I think if I'm in it as a collaborating artist, I think my calculus is a bit different. I would have, the short of it is that I will have more kind of like conceptual related questions. Or even if it's even if it starts from desire – and it's okay and it's good if it starts from desire, I think all kinds of curiosity comes from desire – I think the next question is like yeah lor, what are the next steps to pursue that desire, right? And I think pursuing a desire can mean several things. So I think to me it's not so much that thinking about ideas is deviating from following through with desire? I think thinking about ideas is a form of following through with desire – is where I am.

Shaw
Maybe because it's also an implicitly like agreeable environment that I’m in usually, when I make stuff that, yeah, even collaborators would be like let's try okay, let's try it, even if I don't agree. Yeah, so I'm like more used to that? And also yeah, it is not clear right, like what is good or what is not good, or what can just be decided based off of like instinct? And what is more, what asks for more thinking to lend value to the thought, yeah.

I think just as a last thing, like in response to like what you just said, it is hard to know what is good, and what is meaningful, and what makes sense, right? Because we're like, it's fine if it's good, and it's fine if it's meaningful, and it’s fine if it makes sense, but what makes sense to each of us is very different.

And sometimes, like, what is meaningful for me, actually is just like instinct lah and like, why we say, this is not good or this is not meaningful is also instinct what, right? You know? So, like, I know it’s very hard, it's very hard to explain these things, but at the same at the same time, I’m also like thinking, do we need to? Do we need to actually like, put in the work to explain to each other why we think this is good, or why we think this is meaningful, you know. And actually, this thought is also making me like, think about actually how much we can take for granted, when we're working quite like within our own sphere. Like, there's so much that we actually don't need to communicate with someone who understands the things that we do lah, you know, and that actually a lot of things that we forget that we need to say to someone who's not as familiar with the forms that we are working in or working with, you know. So yeah, I think those thoughts are connected.

Jevon
Yeah, I think yeah, I think I agree with that. I don't think it's enough to simply say, actually, that like, this makes sense to us, or this is meaningful to us, especially if you're working with other people. Right? But I think we did try to cross that bridge quite actively, like we tried to communicate and to translate to each other, right? And I don't know, I think to me all that...

Shaw
It took time though. It really took time. It really, it really was a process of like, realizing that we needed to say, to say more.

Jevon
Yeah, and I think all that did happen. And I think what I want to say is that like also in as much as we sometimes rely on instinct, I also want to say that sometimes our instincts are wrong. So I think to me, it's these kinds of, yeah, like, I think it's collaborations of these kinds that should prepare us to confront that kind of conclusion.

So I think stepping in that was also an aim that I had in that, yeah, always kind of in art-making, there’s the vision. Yeah, but sometimes... yeah lor you realize actually, that vision, maybe this part don't need or that part can be tweaked to better realise, actually, what is the more fundamental desire or push, or something like that?

One thing that I just remembered also is that I think sometimes I was also speaking in the capacity of a logistics coordinator. So this is much more technical.

Again, even in the end right even when we've stripped everything down there's so much to troubleshoot. And I think I was speaking from a place of some awareness of that, of how easily things can go wrong. And how much time it takes to to rectify that.

And I feel like this might be one key material difference I would say between maybe dance and other art forms, or like maybe just performing and other art forms, in that I've often noticed that in performers, they can enact the change like quite instantaneously. So I think there are some fundamental differences I want to say, in the medium that we're working with. And I think quite often yeah, it's not so much that our goals differ, it's that I'm aware that given our materials, the path to that goal is different. So I feel like something meaningful to highlight here might be simply that, I don't know, as independent artists, yeah lah, it's just rare that you wear one hat.

Shaw
I think it wasn’t clear all the time, which which hats we had on when we are talking. So sometimes I will be like, I'll be like, why? Like, why are you shooting down my idea? When actually it's just like a logistical concern?

Jevon
But it's not shooting down. Yeah, I mean, there is a response to that question.

Shaw
Yeah. I mean, I would be like wait wait wait, are we talking as collaborators, as like art creators, or are we thinking about logistics now? You know, so I'll be like, well, which hat are you wearing at the moment?

Jevon
Yeah. So I think for better or for worse, I often wear all the hats at once kind of thing.

Shaw
I would get like whiplash, I'll be like, oh my God, what, which part... Because I obviously agree lah. I mean, it's not like I disagree, you know, but sometimes I would like, woah.

Jevon
Yeah, I don't know. Now that I'm talking about this. I feel like this is not just like, the inter-disciplinary. It's also like, inter-occupational or something. I don't know. I mean, that doesn't need to be a fancy word to it. But I feel like it's a bit yeah, slightly different things. Yeah. Again, not specific to this project per se, of course. But just the nature of making something. Yep.



"I don't think it's enough to simply say, actually, that this makes sense to us, or this is meaningful to us, especially if you're working with other people. Right? But I think we did try to cross that bridge quite actively, we tried to communicate and to translate to each other..."

"It took time though. It really took time. It really was a process of like, realizing that we needed to say, to say more."







Transcript: On What is Obvious

Jevon
Oh, if we're just passing by badminton, again, something that I think quite interesting to talk about is shoes. How we decided to wear shoes and what kind of shoes?

Shaw
I did not… as in, I know we spoke about this, but I think from the beginning I was like, we are wearing shoes. That’s it.

Jevon
No but I thought the difference in opinion was quite, because remember Yun Teng, I think when when you saw the first [iteration], you also thought like oh yeah, I mean barefoot, right? Or something like that. It felt like it felt like something that was quite, duh. And quite, “of course it's barefoot”. So as in to me, what's interesting is that, our “of course”, it's very different, like for Shaw, it’s like “of course” is to wear shoes and then for us, so maybe for m,e it's of course it's barefoot, right?

So it's like, yeah, our initial instincts were like, totally opposite. But they both felt very, like 100% correct to the both of us. I'm at a point where I am more convinced in Shaw’s favor, much more convinced in Shaw’s favor at this point. Because I mean, her point is simply that you must protect your feet lah you know, how can you do these activities and not wear something padded, that it's just not an option? But I think the takeaway here is that like, yeah, we really sense a lot of different things with our bodies lah, right.

Shaw
Okay, I was like, of course, right? Of course, wear shoes right? I will talk to any dancer... Okay. No, actually, that's not true. Some people will be like, I prefer bare feet. But I think for me, I think over the years I have developed this like, my performers’ wellbeing first, you know, kind of like mindset. It's more like, it's more like performer’s well-being must come together with what we see the work can be, and it's not one or the other lah, it really has to come together. So for me the shoes were just a thing to help facilitate that kind of comfort that I feel I would have, you know, running around and being on concrete. So I'm like oh, yeah, it just makes sense. It just makes sense to have the shoes there.

Shaw
Can I ask you, because you brought up streaming a lot, right? Like when in post-show dialogues that you brought streaming a lot like, you know, out out there. Actually, I have never... just wanted to mention that I never thought about streaming. I have really zero desire, zero desire. And I never thought that we would stream it. Not that I didn't want it. It's more like it was just not in my headspace for this work to be streamed? Yeah, so actually, I wanted to ask about that. Or I wanted to hear more about like, why you thought that streaming was the thing? Is it because like, your recent in your recent works, you know, there was quite a bit of streaming, or?

Jevon
Oh, I think yeah, it's quite straightforward. It's just this time, and it's just this period and my recent projects lor. I mean, I think what's notable is that I think in different periods, there's a different sense of what is the norm almost, so to speak? Yeah, I think nowadays, if you do any kind of performances, somehow, someone, somewhere will ask if live streaming is an option or can be an option. I feel like recently as in starting last year, all my projects have been like that. There's been no project in which a live streaming component is not talked about.

Shaw
There are a lot of dedicated dance audiences that are live like in-person dedicated audience members, and actually in dance, if you're like, live streaming, it's a big thing lah. Or it is additionally quite a lot of work to think about.

Jevon
Oh, I know, as in I'm not saying that it's not a lot of work. Or I'm not saying that live stream is preferred. I'm just saying that even for those works that don't have a live stream component, that question would have been floated at some point. How you decide to react to that question is something else. Yeah, and also for our work, we were still very much unsure whether people can come in at all. So how can we not think about livestream, I feel? Okay, to me, it's a bit like, maybe it's a bit like your wearing shoes.

Shaw
Yeah, yeah, I was thinking about it like that.
Transcript: On Crossing Distances

Jevon
Yeah, Yun Teng, I think what I wrote in the chat – all the exercises right, so the one that was made visible the most is Exercise 3. I can briefly describe Exercise 1: badminton paper planes – straightforward, we just threw paper planes to each other, badminton a little bit. That was I mean, the genesis of a lot of things. Exercise 1 was done like at my house, like below my house. Exercise 2 was done below Shaw’s house. Exercise 2: paper planes with warm-up. Yeah, the warm-up thing is exactly what it is we did like a proper warm-up thing that Shaw led before we did the exercise, and I think to me that is notable because Shaw's practice is of course much more embodied than mine so of course having a warmup changes a lot of things that, yeah lah, I wouldn't actually otherwise have noticed. The paper planes in Exercise 2 we threw a bit differently, I think we had like a, kind of a box around us that we tried to land the plane into right.

Shaw
We tried to pretend then that like... so you know, under the pavilions, you know HDB blocks have pavilions, and they have like tiles, coloured tiles right? So we're trying to imagine that the large squares, you know, kind of demarcated by coloured tiles would be our quote unquote platforms, and this is before we entered starch, and then we still had that like, maybe we are on our different platforms and we cannot leave, you know. So we're trying to have our paper planes land on the platforms lah.

Jevon
Yeah. Yun Teng if you remember, I think in the earlier proposals there were like the two islands, yeah. Anyways, then Exercise 3 is yeah lah. So Exercise 3 is what is on the wall text. Exercise 4 is yeah, I guess, conceptual distance lah, which Shaw shared just now also.

Shaw
I think that it's not so much teaching each other the concept because teaching is one thing – teaching is its own thing actually, I would say – but I think we were trying to get, I think the goal is to get the other person to as close as possible to an understanding of what you know of this thing that you're familiar with. Yeah, and I think that that is a different thing from teaching. Teaching is [one thing] yeah, but then trying to do that in an exercise is a different thing. Yeah.

Jevon
I think it's not… Conceptual distance is one thing, but I think we were also trying to share why something is not only familiar to us, but also exciting to us, right? Yep. Exercise 5 is experiential distance, I suppose. It's mainly Shaw teaching me like, or like choreographing something for me. But I think in all across exercises we were just trying to attempt bridging different kinds of distances. Does that make sense? Yeah, that's really it I think.

Oh, Yun Teng I think elaborating a little bit on Exercise 3, there’s a part of it that wasn't quite on the wall text. Which is that we would we would sit on opposite sides, right? If you can imagine like Marina Bay, sit on opposite sides. And like try writing a letter to each other, like trying to see where the other [was] and you write, and then after that, we would like rotate. So we would leave our letter there, and then we go to the other side, and we read each other's letters. And then we write a response again. Does that make sense? Yeah, my bad, I think yeah that one wasn't communicated so much.

Shaw
It’s like a treasure hunt. Actually on one of the postcards, there’s the “Do not touch” right? So I wrote that on the folded piece of letter and then I taped it down to the floor, and people were just like what is this? “Do not touch”.

It was so like, it was so impromptu. It would be like, I think it was just one afternoon I was at Jevon’s place and then we were like, hey, let's just go downstairs and and try, you know. So then we went, we just folded some paper planes and then we went downstairs, throw them and play badminton. So that was how it started.

When we started doing things that was when the process really started for me, which is, you know, I... not to discredit the obviously, you know, the phase one, phase two, that we've gone through to get to like here, but I've been really, really, like wanting to make something as we went. Make as in, make in space, you know. I've been thinking a lot about how... and I did say this to you Jevon, I think, like to try not to just talk about work or like just make something at the table, you know, but like really experiment with ideas as as we come up with them.

Shaw
There's a lot because I feel like, especially for whatever movements that people saw in the final thing, right, which is actually a lot, which is actually quite a big part of the work. It's the manipulation of the cloth and kind of the sequencing of the movements, right? Actually didn't come until, like, two days before the show, you know. I mean, we did, we did workshop, like, all the different elements, but it really, really just came together a few days before the show and then during the show, it continued to grow.

But it was not up to... It wasn't like up to a performable state, at least for me, you know, like dramaturgicalIy it was still quite lacking and the flow of it, I wasn't very satisfied. I think only until the last, kind of like the second day at night. That I was like, okay, I feel I have accumulated enough good decisions or choreographic decisions for me to be okay with it and then like go from there.

Throughout the rehearsal process right, I think because there was so many elements to this work and I mean, even the choreography was made, not just by me, it was like me and Jevon, right. So Jevon actually gave quite a lot of input on the movement of it, or the movement of basically me lah, basically my body, and that process right, is just so difficult to explain. It was like, suddenly, let's try this projection. Suddenly, let's try to play with the cloth. Suddenly, let's go and play badminton. And it kinda was like a pinball. Like, we were a pinball in a pinball machine and just like, trying to hit all of these things, all ding ding ding. And then after that, finally, you get enough like EXP to birth out that, whatever you saw, you know, and I don't know if we could have done it in another way. I really don't know.

Jevon
I don't think, no, I don't think it was that chaotic. And I don't think it was that freeform. Because I recall that for a lot of the things that we wanted to do, I would often ask you like, how does it tie to what we've discussed before? Because I'm aware that this is like a phase three. So I think quite often I would ask you or us or even like when I'm proposing something I would often ask,yeah, how does it tie to what we have mentioned in phase one or phase two, or like, whatever proposals that we have sent? So I don't think it was that freeform. I think there was curation, curation was just done in a different kind. It's not, it's not... sorry, sorry it's not organization in the in the sense of like, coming out of a timesheet or schedule, but just organisation of ideas. And what threads are relevant lor to explore this point or not, right? I think to me, yes, there was a lot of playing and exploring, but I feel like I almost feel like sometimes the best play and exploration comes from... yeah lor, very deeply understood boundaries lor.

Shaw
Yeah, I think for me, the theatrical the theatrical lighting was great, I mean iit's just natural for me to be like, okay this is, the area of focus is in the centre, you know, then how, what will look nice, you know, than just one like that, one like that. But I think for me, I also saw the top one was kind of like the Sun, you know. The wall text that we put on the wall that people read, Exercise 3 right, Across A Small Distance, 'go to opposite ends and then just regard each other from a distance'. And actually throughout the entire exercise you know, both of us had difficulties looking across the distance because of the Sun. You know, the Sun was so bright and it was in our eyes, and it was also very present in our writing, you know. Like I think some of the postcards were also, if you really read the small text, like you will be able to see like oh, “the sun is in my eyes” or something like that, “I decide to lie down instead and consider the distance” instead of just trying to force your sight to discern you know, when actually it's just so impossible in the... yeah, just like in the presence of the Sun lah, the setting Sun, which is very, very strong. Then there was also the Sun's rays being reflected off of the water that was in between us, kind of made it all the more, just glaring, you know, just to look at it, so I feel like the sun's presence was a big thing.

People will make their own connections and it is not too far from like what I see, you know, that light as. And actually, in one of our early explorations before I kind of, before I made the switch lah, like some of my movements would also regard the thing as like the Sun, you know. So for example, I think I wanted to pull up the carabiner with that light in my face. So actually, I wouldn't be able to see whether it reached Jevon or not. But then yeah, I mean that sort of changed right, you know, once it came to the show.

Jevon
Oh, okay. Okay, the Sun thing is also notable because depending on which side you're on, the Sun will either be behind you or in front of you.

Shaw
I feel like it also really... actually now that after we've been talking about it. I think I put in more effort trying to look across, trying to identify Jevon. But yeah, I think both, was it both times? I really stood there and like, just trying to use my eye power to really like, you know. And I think whereas Jevon was like, okay, the Sun is too bright, I will just lie down, I will do something else. And I cannot, I really cannot see. So for me, I did something very futile for a while lah, you know, and then I got frustrated and everything. And I think that kind of is reflected in the performance. People have also have also come up to us saying like, why are you moving around so much, then Jevon just sit there. As in that's not to say that we are both not putting effort in our own ways, right? It's just a different kind of activity that we choose to do lah, you know, how we choose to respond to that kind of distance, which I think really manifested actually in the show. Yeah.

Jevon
It's also that for the first part of the exercise. The Sun was in your favor, but it was against my favor.

Shaw Yes. Yes. Only after I went around, then I was like, Oh, I can better empathize with Jevon’s position. And then I did the same thing, I also just lie down.

Jevon
But I think the the poetic thing for me here is that what helps you see can also blind you. I think that's what I found quite rich about the Sun thing.