Q&A: Malvina Tan on MOVE W I T H (OUT)#6 Singapore

MW 2

Something Human: How did you come to get involved with the MOVE W I T H (OUT) project and what were your initial reactions when you first heard about it?

Malvina Tan: I was invited by Something Human to be part of the MOVE W I T H (OUT) project. I remember receiving an invitation from Something Human and was really happy because I had such a lovely experience working with them for FRESHLY PACKED, I was extremely satisfied with the outcome of the performance art piece which I managed to present at Deptford Lounge, London. Hence, given the opportunity to work on another project, I had no doubts about it. I was intrigued by the whole idea about a traveling exhibition, and also the themes that were being explored for this project. Particularly, I was especially excited when I found out that the project involved a traveling trunk, the idea that I could interact and experience art works by other artists from other countries whom I have never met before, and also, the fact that we have never met before but yet still able to be part of a collective project, was just rather mind blowing.

Something Human: What connections did you make with the themes and issues raised by the project, and how did you come up with your performance idea?

Malvina Tan: When I thought about the idea of movement and traveling, I immediately thought about the prevalent issue about a sudden influx of foreigners in Singapore today. There are so many stories and debates about Singaporeans experiencing difficulty trying to adapt to the idea of “strangers invading their territory”. I then started to question the idea behind territory, adaptation, and the how one feels the need to call a place a home, the definition behind a home to a particular individual; basically, what is so desirable about a particular place, that one would consider permanent residency. Also, I thought about the response of Singaporeans towards the foreigners, and why they should be considered foreigners. Should we actually feel privileged that we have authority over our apparent territory in Singapore? Is Singapore really a territory that we have ownership over, and how much of our territory defines us? What then is a home, how can we each place a definition on the term “home”. Is it wrong that foreigners in Singapore consider Singapore their home; do we really have the right to exclude their desire?

Something Human: What was your experience of doing a durational mobile live art performance around the public and historical spaces of Singapore? What were the challenges?

Malvina Tan: It is my first time being part of a durational mobile live art performance, and I must say, it is rather exhausting, but yet exciting at the same time. Exhausting because I am continuously performing, and somehow, whenever I am presenting a piece of performance art, my brain switches into a “performance mode” function whereby I completely erase every thought from my head, and focus on my gestures, my actions, my thoughts about the performance, and nothing else. Hence, being in my “performance mode” over a long period of time, is really new to me- my brain was really at work! Apart from them, performing around the public and historical spaces of Singapore was a first for me too, and I enjoyed them wholeheartedly. For the first time, in a really long time, I was able to enjoy and experience Singapore as it is. Most of my days, I experience Singapore because I just have to experience it, it is the norm and part of my everyday activities, and I suppose, based on my current routine right now, I am unable avoid doing regular things in Singapore. However, with this performance, I was actually able to experience Singapore as a separate entity, disconnected from Singapore, I was able to experience Singapore as a performer, as a distant stranger, breathing in every bit of Singapore in its raw form. I don’t think there were challenges per se, but I guess, the fact that I felt like a distant stranger, and a separate entity from Singapore during my performance, I felt like I was being watched constantly, and I was unable to blend in with the norm like how I used to be able to on a regular day. In retrospect, I suppose that created some sense of discomfort for me.

Something Human: In your performance the artist’s role becomes the one of the sociologist-cartographer that disrupts Singaporeans’ everyday routes to question their sense of territoriality. How did the audience react?

Malvina Tan: The audience reacted in a variety of ways, and I really enjoyed that because it created a lot of layers for my performance. Some people thought I was a stalker on the lose and they were wary of telling me about their routes, and eventually, they resorted to telling me vague responses just in case I actually do stalk them afterwards. Some people even told me stories about their everyday routes, telling me their memories about the routes that they used to take, or even talking to me about their purpose of being at that particular location.

Something Human: Upon reflection, what insights did you acquire with regards to the issue of migration and movement? If you were asked to perform Citizen of again, what would you change?

Malvina Tan: Somehow, I feel as though we are all nomads, but we do not actually realise it. The people whom I managed to approach, they were all going to a particular destination, some of them maybe even to the same destination, but all taking different routes, and they all came from different locations only to find themselves ending up at the same location even. This idea of everyone running, walking, rushing, strolling, in essence, traveling, just provides me with this idea that we are all constantly in motion, and that nomadic nature in us actually exists from day to day. If I could perform Citizen of again, I would love to trace the city in other ways, perhaps through GPS mapping, and maybe even mapping my entire journey non-stop via a video feed, and also audio feed. I would love to create more layers for this performance, to explore more ways in tracing the city, take the idea and process of tracing further.

Something Human: What is the state of the live art scene in Singapore? What do you think could be done to develop it?

Malvina Tan: I suppose the live art scene in Singapore exists and I am really blessed to have met like-minded people around me who enjoy live art, and who also involve themselves in live art. However, as always, I would love for the scene to blossom further, I would love to be able to allow people who are not interested in art or have knowledge of live art, to be educated about live art, to reach a point where they understand the reason behind live art, to understand live art performances, to realise that live art is a legit form of art, and that art can actually go beyond drawing. I am not saying that drawing is boring, drawing is beautiful and necessary, but I suppose there are people who think that art exists as only one medium, and on one standard plane, but that is not true, art can go beyond that one standard plane, it can go further, and it can be used to change, nurture, impact the lives of many through different mediums and experiences.

Something Human: The new year has just started, what else is in store for you in 2014?

Malvina Tan: I am currently working on my Final Year Project for my graduation in university. I am working on an ongoing project entitled 130912, dedicated to my husband who passed away of cancer on 11 September 2013. It explores his journey going through cancer, my journey going through cancer with him, his death, and my life after his death. Visit www.130912research.tumblr.com for more updates!

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