Day 26

30 Days Of Art With NAC: Pandemic through a fresh Lens

To inspire and uplift readers as the country emerges from the Covid-19 circuit breaker, The Straits Times, supported by the National Arts Council as part of the #SGCultureAnywhere campaign, has commissioned 30 works by local writers and artists on the pandemic and what it will be like when all this is over

Sriwana, founded in 1950, is one of the oldest performing arts groups in Singapore. Their latest work, Lens, is a first attempt at bringing the arts to the public through digital platforms.
The choreo-graphy for Lens by Sriwana is inspired by the isolation and social distancing demanded by the pandemic and reflects scenes of family squabbles and domestic abuse.
The choreography for Lens by Sriwana is inspired by the isolation and social distancing demanded by the pandemic and reflects scenes of family squabbles and domestic abuse.PHOTO: SRIWANA

Sriwana, founded in 1950, is one of the oldest performing arts groups in Singapore.

The pandemic is just the latest challenge to this veteran troupe, which began as a keroncong party (a traditional Malay orchestra).

Its president and artistic director Fauziah Hanom Yusof, 58, says the circuit breaker has brought home "the need for us to explore different ways of bringing the arts to the public through digital platforms".

But digitalisation is difficult, she admits. The company's new video work, Lens, for the National Arts Council and The Straits Times' 30 Days Of Art series, is Sriwana's "first attempt in presenting works in digital forms with the limited knowledge about digitalisation".

Fauziah notes that everyone had to learn to adapt to new ways of working: "The creative team discussed and brainstormed the concept through Zoom sessions. Zoom meetings have their challenges - distractions and time limitations.

"The choreographers and dancers did their own individual practice also via Zoom sessions. The choreographer and the dancers met only once to finalise the dance piece."

With limited studio access, the troupe also improvised during production, incorporating a shoot at a dancer's home in the final piece.

Fauziah says: "We are aware that we cannot replicate the power of live theatre. But at least we made do with whatever options we have to reach people virtually - bringing the arts to audiences and giving hope and connecting the people during a pandemic."

The choreography for the piece was inspired by the isolation and social distancing demanded by the pandemic, incorporating scenes of family squabbles and even domestic abuse. Fauziah says it is a reflection on what people have seen and experienced during the circuit breaker.

The team was "inspired by artists all over the world and how they responded to the challenge", she adds.

"We wanted to do our part as well by giving ourselves a purpose, and a task to the performers, who are missing the feel of performing, and reigniting the physical bond missing for the past three months."

She recalls the team's pre-pandemic routines of late nights brainstorming in cafes and rehearsing pieces, and says everyone deeply missed the social interaction. Getting together to make a new work, despite the technical and logistical difficulties, brought "satisfaction that we've challenged and pushed ourselves to make this piece happen".

She hopes that the work will be a message of hope for viewers and "encourage us to use our isolation time to learn to be more caring and connected to each other and to the world".

• Watch Lens at str.sg/30Days.

• For more local digital arts offerings, go to a-list.sg to appreciate #SGCultureAnywhere

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 13, 2020, with the headline 'Pandemic through a fresh Lens'. Print Edition | Subscribe