The power of “now”: live well to leave well
Photos by artist Alecia Neo of a senior with a homemade baby carrier were shown last year in Chong Pang as part of the three-year-long community project Both Sides, Now, which addresses end-of-life issues. (Photos: Drama Box)

The power of “now”: live well to leave well

Conversations about death and dying are often tough to have in public, but it is not just because the topic is taboo.

For those who already find everyday life challenging, conversations about dying with dignity can seem  irrelevant and unnecessary.

Mr Kok Heng Leung, artistic director of Both Sides, Now, a community engagement project on end-of-life issues, says: “In trying to engage residents, we have found that a conversation about dying well seemed pointless to them if their everyday existence was a struggle.

“Hence, we have to talk about how to live well now. We have to engage the residents so that they will find beauty, meaning and connection in each and every moment.”

The latest phase of Both Sides, Now, which started in 2013, therefore focuses on being in the moment – nurturing relationships in the present and making plans now for the future. This theme has guided the project’s arts workshops, activities and performances in Chong Pang and Telok Blangah over the last three years as it sought to build deep, meaningful connections with residents in the communities.

Both Sides, Now is co-presented by homegrown theatre company Drama Box – of which Kok is also the artistic director – as well as the Lien Foundation, Ang Chin Moh Foundation and the arts group, ArtsWok Collaborative.

The project will culminate in a two-part finale that includes a public art installation in the void deck of Block 7 Telok Blangah Crescent from 29 June to 7 July, and a carnival at the open field next to SAFRA Mount Faber from 3 to 7 July.

Artist anGie seah is one of four Singapore artists showcasing her works at the Both Sides, Now public art installation.

The carnival will feature Drama Box’s signature GoLi, an inflatable pop-up theatre space, which will allow visitors to engage in activities, performances and conversations about life, death and dying. The public art installation will feature works by residents of Block 7 Telok Blangah Crescent and Singapore artists Alecia Neo, Jasmine Ng, anGie seah and Shirley Soh.

Artist anGie’s work was inspired by the Chinese expression for activity, which is made up of the characters huo, which means “to live”, and dong, “to move”. So, she conducted a series of vocal and physical exercises for elderly residents in the block.

Through the process, residents rediscovered their everyday environment and found simple pleasures in the mundane. Their experiences were recorded and turned into a soundscape installation for the project’s finale.

On her greatest takeaway from the project, anGie says: “I have learnt to embrace life as it is, to spend time wisely and not overthink anything. My outlook on life seems brighter if I can focus on each moment at a time.”

Details of Both Sides, Now – Public Arts Installation & Carnival here.

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