Show Me The World

2020

  • Copyright: Alvin Shen
  • Copyright: Alvin Shen
  • Copyright: Alvin Shen
  • Copyright: Alvin Shen

By Toccata Studio

2020 is a strange and exciting figure, it seems: it is a figure in the future, and of it. To the Malaysian millennial, it evokes images of flying cars zipping about towering skyscrapers - machines and structures of modernity. Symbols of progress and prosperity. Kuala Lumpur, the capital city of Malaysia, has such structures, but the rest remain elusive. 2020 – to artists alive and working in these years while being pushed towards it – contains connotations that gives both dread and excitement: if 2020 is a tipping point, how far along can we move forward till something gives? If 2020 meant the dawn of a new age, what of this current one to save and be brought forward?

‘I’m from 2020’ emerges as a subtitle to lend shape and structure to this elusive progress; who or what could ‘I’ be; where and what is 2020; and who are we, the people who seek them? 2020 as an art project presents multidisciplinary performances pertaining to differing ideas of the future, while also pushes in small but not insignificant ways towards the future via initiatives such as roundtable talks and archivist projects. The project in its exploration of the future also touches on concepts of time and perfect vision: in a performance, the audience sees what the artists see, directly or otherwise. This is a passive sort of seeing, existing only in a specific time-space created by the artists’ vision. As countermeasure, or as supplement, there exists initiatives that are socially engaging, like the roundtable talks, or like the archivist projects, where narratives and stories are recorded, transforming into ‘history’.

What then, is perfect vision in a roundtable talk? Or in archivist projects of documentaries and nonfiction reportage? The director’s eye, and the moderator’s voice, perhaps. The shaping lens, didactic speeches. However, that all these visions – including that of the artists’ – can be interrogated freely and openly, is what we seek: a perfect vision of an age troubled by the dissolution of truth. Perfect vision, is then many eyes and many voices, at once critical and compassionate.

In the upcoming 2016 performance, ‘I’m from 2020’ is about a ‘seeking’, and more important, about seeking together. People from different times and experiences appear in the same time-space continuum, and they are all after the one from 2020. They might fight, because it seems like a race, at first. But the search is about survival, and perhaps the survival need not be at each other’s expense. In the context of globalization, and in a world that grows more connected as time passes and yet grows more conflicted, survival seems like a race, no more and no less. 2020 addresses this: in the 2015 performance, the clones are characters made in direct reference of present ideas of sameness and difference. Their inability to connect with each other even after travelling across time to be in the same space speaks to our hopes and fears about existence and its solitary quality.

Ideas of sameness and difference from the 2015 performance expand to include fears of conformity and the unknown. 2020 may serve to remind us of our depleting resources, and that if we are not racing against one another, we are racing against time. What does cooperation or collaboration entail? What of the power dynamics among many differing factions, of concepts of intelligence and abuses of power? In a political coalition, leaders come to a roundtable to discuss and argue about the future before coming to a compromise. An agreed vision of the future. In performance, perhaps that roundtable discussion is between artist, performer, and the audience.

However passive an audience may seem in their seats, a live performance varies from show to show owing entirely to the many energies an audience brings into the hall. The dialogue here is atmospheric: projected points of resonance are met with non-verbal acceptance, confusion, and sometimes rejection. The beauty of performance, and indeed all art, is that with each individual there is a different take away from the work. Each point of resonance differs slightly from the other and exist as they are, and yet, engendered from the same frame of reference, can direct each specific individual towards a common future.

Roundtable talks of the verbal kind – where participants are at once open and naked and yet shrouded in words and semantics – counters and tempers the idealistic airs commonly found after an exciting performance. What next? Verbal language has direction, one does not like talking in circles, or talking to people who do; in a world where self-worth is measured by work and production, the topics of career and profession allow closer examinations of personal effort while not forgetting institutional and systemic powers in the background.

The seeing eye of an archivist might capture this: regular folk trying and flailing, grasping at meaning and motivation for progress. Stories are compelling in that they have perspective: what is the subject of a camera’s focus? The archivist project of 2020 is a strange one. It is a project directed at the future; it contains and preserves the present; it frames and makes coherent the fragments and vignettes of a multifaceted subject. 2020 as a project that progresses in time while pushing for progress is then captured, and made to make sense outside of itself via the lens of a camera. It is an exciting and terrifying undertaking.

Collaboration looks a little like this, perhaps: multiple journeys converging into one of numerous strands and pathways, pushing relentlessly forward to an agreed upon vision, a future built upon careful maneuverings and compromises. Art as one of these many strands, sometimes serve as shaping hands, a reflecting mirror, and perhaps both; an influence to the tangible world that motivates and inspires it into existence. 2020 as an art project aspires to be these: hands, reflective surfaces, and also lenses: testament to the present; fluid and flawed, plural – and yet a creature in its own right – breathing alongside life into the future.

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