Kok Heng Leun, Drama Box
Assistant Artistic Director
Koh Hui Ling, Drama Box
Kok Heng Leun, Drama Box
Living and dying,
they are two sides of a mirror.
Kok Heng Leun is a prominent figure in the Singapore arts scene, having built his artistic career as a theatre director, playwright, dramaturg and educator. Heng Leun is known for his ability to engage the community on various issues through the arts, championing civil discourse across different segments of society. Having begun his work in the theatre almost 30 years ago, some notable directorial works include Happy, Drift, Trick or Threat, and Manifesto. His explorations with multi-disciplinary engaged arts has produced works like Project Mending Sky, a series on environmental issues, Both Sides, Now, a project that seeks to normalise end-of-life conversations and It Won’t Be Too Long, which touched on the dynamics of space in Singapore. Heng Leun’s contributions to the arts have earned him the National Arts Council Singapore Young Artist Award in 2000 and the National Arts Council Cultural Fellowship in 2014. Heng Leun is currently a Nominated Member of Parliament.
Assistant Artistic Director
Koh Hui Ling, Drama Box
Recently, a very good friend of mine was diagnosed with cancer, at 38 years old. It took all of us by surprise, as we try to grabble with the sensitivities around it. A week into knowing about it, I could not reach him at all. It worried me for 2 full days until we made contact again. What hit me the most, was how every breath we take, is a gift and that we are living on borrowed time.
Koh Hui Ling is a theatre practitioner who finds meaning in the process of community engagement and the participation of non-artists in art-making, evident in her works such as IgnorLAND of its Time (2014) and IgnorLAND of its Loss (2016). Her desire to create alternative avenues for public dialogue has led to the development of GoLi – Singapore’s first inflatable moving theatre that transforms spaces into vibrant places for arts and culture. She oversees the development of Drama Box’s youth engagement work and has developed a set of Drama-in-Education and Theatre-in-Education programmes for youths, teachers and adult-learners. Recognised for her contribution to community, youth and culture, Hui Ling was conferred the Young Artist Award by the National Arts Council Singapore (2013), the Singapore Youth Award (2013) by the National Youth Council, and in 2015, Ten Outstanding Young Persons of the World Award (Singapore) by the Junior Chamber International.
Ko Siew Huey, ArtsWok
Someone I loved once gave me
a box full of darkness.
It took me years to understand
that this, too, was a gift.
A Masters graduate in public policy from Harvard Kennedy School, Huey has an abiding interest in connecting people and ideas across different disciplines. She began her career producing social documentaries after studying directing at Beijing Film Academy, before joining WorldVision China to do international development work. At the China National Office, she pioneered the use of performance management tools, taking quantitative and qualitative data gathered from the field through household surveys and focus groups discussions to inform programme design and organizational strategy. She remains an avid amateur street photographer and personal portrait photographer for her beloved cat.
Ngiam Su-Lin, ArtsWok
Live each day as if it were your last
Being able to work on Both Sides, Now for the past 4 plus years and counting and being privy to so many stories shared by community on what it means to be human with all our hopes and fears, vulnerabilities and capacity for love and beauty has been deeply humbling and such a privilege. It's a great reminder of all that's important in life, and a meaningful journey to prepare for death.
Su-Lin has been active in the Singapore arts scene for more than a decade, specifically in the areas of education, community, and company management. She has produced community theatre and festivals in collaboration with the public and private sectors, and worked with numerous social service organisations to incorporate drama into their programmes. She has a double degree in theatre and psychology from the National University of Singapore and an MA in Drama-in-Education from Queensland University of Technology. She is also a trained counselor and served briefly as a full-time pastor before returning to the arts. She believes that being human and fully alive is to be in life-giving relationships with self, and others, in community.
Tay Jia Ying, Drama Box
Dying is easy, living is harder.
Jiaying is one of the 8 wonder-women (and 1 super-man) that run Drama Box. Her passion for theatre was seeded in her childhood years, where experiences with drama classes and performances led to involvement in drama societies in her youth. It was her encounter with Drama Box that opened her senses to the power of good art, and how it can create empathy and drive positive actions in people. She now juggles a range of responsibilities as the Company Manager: overseeing the financial, fundraising, human resource, marketing communications and other administrative aspects of the company, collaborating with artists and producers to create theatre and arts programmes. She is also a mother to an amazing little girl who inspires and entertains her every day.
Han Xuemei, Drama Box
All of us are dying from the moment we are born. We cannot change the destination, but we can steer the journey.
Han Xuemei is an artist who takes an inter-disciplinary approach towards theatre-making. Her methodology stems from her belief in the ephemeral and ever-evolving nature of art and life, which provides the potential for interventions and change. She embraces the possibilities that are generated by chance and unpredictability, and this fuels her exploration of participatory processes that expand the role of the spectator. Since joining Drama Box as resident artist in 2012, Xuemei has co-created a few of the company’s socially-engaged projects, such as IgnorLAND of its Time (2014), SCENES: Forum Theatre (2015) and IgnorLAND of its Loss (2016). She graduated from the Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information, Nanyang Technological University.
Early this year, I lost my grandfather. I keep the memory of him guiding my hand to touch his face. Death makes me think about self and identity, and how we can learn to love each other better.
I found writing about death and dying humbling. A reminder of just how little I knew about what truly makes a human life. Being part of this project is my attempt to understand.
Alecia Neo is a visual artist based in Singapore. Her artistic practice raises questions about the kinds of individuals who are valued by contemporary society by exploring the relationships between people, their identities and contexts. Working primarily with photography, video, installation and participatory workshops, she develops long-term projects involving a variety of individuals and collaborators, overlooked communities and their spaces. Her debut site-specific project, Villa Alicia (2011) investigated the fragility of memory, through the transformation of the 4000 sq ft private home of the late Singaporean feminist Dr. Nalla Tan, into a public gallery, which was demolished shortly after the six-day exhibition. She is currently working on her long-term art project titled Unseen: Constellations, exploring invisibility in society through the voices of youths living with visual-impairment. She is also Artist Lead for Brack, an arts platform for socially-engaged artists and their projects.
Ng Kin Kia Jasmine
When we first started making films for BOTH SIDES, NOW, one of the first communities who shared their stories with us, were children.
And what did these kids in their still-yet very short lives know so far about death and dying? So much - These kids told us about their first encounters with grief, about losing a favourite pet, and some a loved one, and how they tried and are trying to figure their way out. Filming these tender stories then, of sadness and confusion and even some comedy, and watching it now, still moves me and inspires me that we still have much to learn and unlearn, no matter our age. And the kindness we extend to these kids listening to their intimate stories of their experiences is exactly the kind of kindness we need to extend to those around us, and to ourselves.
Jasmine Ng is a film-maker/ educator with extensive experience directing and executive-producing, from award-winning shorts (Moveable Feast) to feature film work (Eating Air) and broadcast work for international channels (Discovery Channel, National Geographic). She has served on many film juries and pitch panels in Singapore and in the region. As a film lecturer, she has taught at local and regional institutes and arts centres and has mentored for the National Arts Council (NAC) Young Artists series as well as their SilverArts programme for seniors. Jasmine has also conceptualised cross-disciplinary works for civic arts engagement projects like IPS PRISM for the Institute of Policy Studies, and continues to work on the next phase of Both Sides, Now multi-media installation project exploring issues on death and dying, with communities in public spaces.
Accepting the reality of your life will end,
is the very reality that will free u to live.
anGie seah is a Singaporean artist whose multidisciplinary practice traverses the mediums of drawing, sculpture, performance art, sound and video to respond to the enigma of life and explore facets of the human condition. Since 2000 anGie has exhibited works, taken part in artist residencies and participated in art festivals in locations such as Germany (ZKM Centre for new media), Japan (NIPAF/Fukuoka Asian Art Museum), France (Palais de Tokyo, Museum of Contemporary arts Lyon) and Singapore (Singapore Biennale). For more than a decade, she has been actively involved in many community art projects locally and internationally, conducting participatory workshops for families, underprivileged children, youths at risk, children and seniors with special needs. anGie believes working within a community gives her a chance to step outside of her practice and be with the reality of life, through people.
I was with my mother when she breathed her last breath. I felt a little lost and I was not sure how helpful I was in her last moments. I have never forgotten this feeling. Ever since, I knew I needed to get better acquainted with death. The test I guess will come when it’s my turn—will I feel lost?
Shirley embarked on a life in the visual arts after two careers: the first in television journalism producing documentaries and the second in the corporate world of publishing and printing. Her art practice began with ceramics, branching into various mediums, spanning embroidery to video—making exploring recurrent themes of biodiversity and sustainability. Interested in how individuals, community, economy and the environment interdependently connect in constantly shifting—but often not benign—ways, she has grown plants, worked with migrant workers, created a retail shop and meditated for her artwork. A workshop collaboration with women inmates culminated in an art installation for the Singapore Biennale 2013. She was commissioned for the public art at the Botanic Gardens Downtown MRT station, which opened in 2015, and her work was also featured at the 2017 Singapore Night Festival. Shirley currently lectures part-time at LASALLE College of the Arts.
The mist that drifts away at dawn, leaving but dew in the fields, shall rise and gather into a cloud and then fall down in rain.
Charlene Rajendran is a theatre educator, dramaturg and researcher. She currently teaches theatre at the National Institute of Education - Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, where her interests are focused on contemporary Southeast Asian performance, dramaturgy and play-based dialogical pedagogies. Her publications include academic articles and creative works. She has been dramaturg for experimental performance and interdisciplinary community arts projects and is Co-Director of the Asian Dramaturgs Network. She serves as member of the Internal Advisory Committee for UNESCO-NIE Centre for Arts Research in Education (CARE).