A playbook for weathering the storm – Part 1
Natalie Hennedige, curator of digital playbook Life in a Cloud. (Photos: Sean Lee)

A playbook for weathering the storm – Part 1

Work pyjamas, bizarre dreams, conspiracy theories – life these days can sometimes seem surreal.

While there is no playbook that tells us how to navigate the complexities of a pandemic, theatre director Natalie Hennedige offers a suggestion – look to the arts.

The SIFA Festival Director Designate says: “This is a time where reflection is important, and art has a unique way of expanding the conversation. When we engage with art, we find ourselves connected, dialoguing, and vitally looking at a difficult situation from different angles.”

Life in a Cloud is her answer to her own advice – a digital playbook that follows seven Singaporean artists as they create in isolation.

Inspired by both the virtual and mental cloud cast over lives by the pandemic, Life in a Cloud unfolds in chapters, revealing one personal story every week since its premiere on 9 Aug. New York-based filmmaker Kirsten Tan launched the series with an interactive story, stripping down the art of filmmaking to its most essential – colour bars. By working with the bare minimum, Tan hopes this will “form the purest of connection”.

With the world in isolation, Hennedige thinks of ways to create connections through the language of art.

The weekly online series will feature six other artists from a range of disciplines, including dance, literary arts, theatre and visual arts. Hennedige hopes that the platform will bring together unique perspectives and ways of creating and offer a glimpse into the “intimate space of another’s creative potential.” In turn, she hopes it will remind others of their own creative potential and to tap into it during this time.

Here, in the first of a two-part series, we ask the artists of Life in a Cloud about making art and staying creative in this time.

Santha Bhaskar presents a beautiful and poetic piece on movement in isolation.

For Santha Bhaskar, a choreographer and one of Singapore’s pioneers of Indian dance, her creation for Life in a Cloud was very much driven by emotion.

“Artists are emotional creatures,” she says. Disappointment, depression, anguish and anger were emotions she experienced during Singapore’s circuit breaker period, which she sought to express through her primary form of art – movement.

With the temporary cessation of live audience performances at arts venues, Bhaskar has had to grapple with digitising her art. “When performing on stage, you have freedom to use space, whereas in the digital world we have to rely on camera angles and editing to capture movements effectively,” she says.

Nonetheless, she believes in staying adaptable to keep art alive in disruptive times. And while she has questions about the future of art – whether technology will dominate, and the kinds of art that the next generation will make and appreciate, she is inspired to move forward. “These things push me to create differently and to continue my journey as an artist in this life.”

Visual arts and sound project NADA plays with the balance between dreams and reality for their piece.

Inspired by the blurred line between dreams and reality, which many experienced during the circuit breaker earlier this year, artists Rizman Putra and Safuan Johari chose to reflect this state of liminality and uncertainty in the song they wrote for Life in a Cloud.

Like Bhaskar, the duo, who are also behind the visual arts and sound project NADA, has had to pick up new skills like storyboarding to continue making art in a time of safe distancing. They credit their resilient nature as artists with helping them pull through this period, teaching them patience and how to live life to the fullest. These personal lessons have also influenced their current work, which has taken on a more meditative approach.

“As performers, we miss the stage,” they say, in a joint statement. “But at the same time, it drives us to find new ways to create and present our works on new platforms, which is a good learning curve.”

Life in a Cloud is commissioned by the National Arts Council as part of #SGCultureAnywhere. Watch it here, and stay tuned for Part 2 of our Life in a Cloud artists feature next week.

We can’t wait to share more awesome content with you. This is going to be so much fun.

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