Life lessons inspired by a virtual artist bootcamp
Every year for the past three years, artists from all over the world have come together to experiment and play at a different kind of bootcamp – an artist bootcamp led by The Theatre Practice artistic director Kuo Jian Hong in Singapore. This year, travel restrictions due to the pandemic made it tricky for the group to meet, but they pulled themselves up by their bootstraps and pressed on, collaborating in real time, online, and across different locations and time zones.
The week-long camp held in August drew nine participating artists from Singapore, Italy and Taiwan. They worked in three groups to each create a 15-minute showcase, presented at the end of the bootcamp. Members of the public were welcome to watch the presentations and offer feedback to help the artists evolve their works.
As an observer of the bootcamp, I found the artists’ musings about their experience of the camp thought-provoking. What does it mean to connect and create in a time of physical separation?
Artist Beatrice Bresolin from Italy, one of the participants, shared in a session that she was surprised she felt the absence of her group mates – after spending 12 hours on Zoom calls with them – even though she had never met them in person before.
Bresolin’s experience isn’t unusual, but her observation holds a powerful thought – that the process of coming together to make something, art or otherwise, can bring people close to one another, and the connection lasts even when the screen is switched off.
In another presentation, viewers were asked to close their eyes and touch a part of their body they felt was most connected to feelings of grief. After the presentation, some in the audience described how they felt more comfortable experiencing the work from their homes because the private setting allowed them to feel safe and immerse themselves more fully.
Conventional wisdom has it that when talking about sensitive, emotional topics with other people, it is best to do it face-to-face. This bootcamp experience, however, suggests that holding tough conversations virtually can be beneficial; people can choose the space they feel comfortable in to have the conversation.
The bootcamp might have been meant for artists to spark ideas and make new work, but it has also brought much comfort to audiences like myself. It is heartening to know, in this time of physical distancing, that words and ideas have the power to connect people deeply, even as we converse with those who are physically apart from us.
Check out what’s coming next from The Theatre Practice here.
Read more about the artists behind the bootcamp here.