Wrapping up 2020 with gratitude
This year has been fraught with challenges for many and some cannot wait to bid it goodbye. Yet others have found a silver lining in all the disruption. Two arts groups, Checkpoint Theatre and Pantheon Media, have made forays online to stay connected with the public and the arts community in this time.
Checkpoint Theatre staged Two Songs and a Story, an online performance series that blends music and storytelling, when safe distancing measures prevented it from holding live, in-person shows. Musician weish and theatre practitioner Adib Kosnan were among the artists involved in the series. The theatre company’s latest online project, Checkpoint Celebrates! 2020, is its first-ever digital fundraiser. The event will mark how the company overcame the odds in a difficult year, and raise funds to help the company produce original work, mentor new talents and engage the public. The digital fundraiser, which includes performances of music and sketches, will be held virtually on 21 Nov.
Pantheon Media, on the other hand, worked with artists such as singer-songwriter Trevor Nerva and multi-hyphenate artist MASIA ONE to create new works of art in collaboration with migrant workers. The creations, which range from songs to dance and poems, pay tribute to the workers’ experience of living in Singapore. The works will be presented by the participants in a TV show, Embrace, broadcast on Mediacorp Channel 5 on 29 Nov.
We ask the artists – weish, Kosnan, Nerva and MASIA ONE how they braved the new normal in a difficult year, and how they are emerging stronger from 2020. Read on for their honest, heartfelt answers.
How has 2020 changed you?
weish: 2019 really broke me. Many core elements in my life and its trajectory were thrown off-course. I developed debilitating anxiety, sleep paralysis, night terrors, insomnia, the works. So as much as 2020 has been an earth-shattering collective crisis, it has actually been for me, an intense year of growth and recovery. It inspired my piece Be Here, With Me for Two Songs and a Story by Checkpoint Theatre this August. The piece had me shaking, not just in front of the camera, but during the writing process. It was the kindness of the team, which stood by with hot Milo and tissue, and who gave their thoughts and emotions to the development of the work, that gave me life and taught me so much about art and humanity.
Adib: 2020 made me value time much more dearly. As a freelancer, I have always been rigid about maximising and dedicating time to each area of my life – family, work and leisure. When one of these areas — work, was taken away completely, it left a gaping hole. I filled up the hole pretty quickly by being totally immersed in life with my family – my wife and two young children. This made me realise how much I had previously missed out on, including the children’s childhood. It ultimately made me decide to be more flexible with how I allocate time to the different areas of my life and the roles I take on, as a creative and as a parent.
What are you thankful for in 2020?
MASIA ONE: I am thankful for my house, home, family and the amazing collaborations that are popping up during this time. I am also so happy to be a part of Embrace. As an Asian hip-hop artist who came up in Canadian and American music industry, I am a strong advocate of unity, anti-racist messages and education through the arts, and Embrace encompassed these ideals. It also gave me the opportunity to step out of my genre and challenge myself, which shows what can happen when people step out of their worlds and collaborate.
Nerva: I am thankful that there is a reawakening among people in general. A reawakening to our humanity and the opportunity to connect and reconnect with each other, and the realisation that, in the end, we are all in the same boat. I am also thankful that Mother Earth had some “breathing space” due to the shutdown of air travel.
What do you hope to achieve in 2021?
weish: In 2021, I want to truly find my place in art, within the different disciplines I currently straddle. To not make multidisciplinary work just for the sake of it, but with purpose and intention and only respect for every form. To say things only if I must, and each time with more clarity and feeling than before. I will slowly uncover what being an Associate Artist of Checkpoint truly means, but I can be sure it will involve a good measure of laughing, crying, dancing, growing and making honest and important work.
Adib: I hope to continue finding a balance for all the things I love in life. I also hope to continue journeying with Checkpoint in sharing stories from the heart with our audience and champions, whose support has been invaluable to us especially in these uncertain times.
Nerva: Aside from continuing to make a difference and being an inspiration for others, I would love to write a handful of songs like Embrace that will bring joy and make people happy.
MASIA ONE: I hope to focus on the regional market of Southeast Asia and find different ways of bringing human connection into the digitisation of content and experiences. Music is an important way of doing this as it touches the spirit and the heart.
Replies have been edited for clarity.