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Interviewee with HIV

I felt the experience was very impersonal. It was a very intellectual but I felt that the emotions was missing. This is largely due to the lack of participation in the audience. The emotions were all in the text and the dance: a response. However, since not many audience were ready to participate in reading out the text, or were reading it very softly, most of the show was in the dark or very dim light.

This very rightly reflects the voice in the society for the HIV patients. The general public is not concerned or speaking out for us. This was frustrating. During one point in the performance, I almost shouted out, “people, just shout out the text number you just read from, so that the next person could follow up with the subsequent number!” But I did not as many people know me as a performer in the audience and I didn’t want the show to be about me. Many other theatre people were sitting in the audience, but did not volunteer to read out the texts. But this again totally reflects the attitude of the society, even your loved ones or people who know the truth about HIV might not speak up for you for fear of ridicule. 70% of the audience had an attitude of “see how you die”(singlish).

The irony was, towards the end, when Ming asked, “if I was HIV positive, will you dance with me?” Some people who did not volunteer to read under the dim bulb, came up to dance in the dark.
Reflection: some people are willing to date HIV patients but only in the dark.

And all but one person put on a mask in the beginning when the masks were passed around. So all were worried to be seen as ‘un-accepting’ when revealed in the light. Reflection: peer pressure of false acceptance from some.

Overall reaction: sad. that even in a largely theatre and accepting audience, I managed to hear just over 20 of the 100 over text. If everyone had a bit more courage and interest and involvement, more of OUR stories could be told..

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Interviewee with HIV

When u appeared naked with hands cupping your genitals, it hit me Most. The appearance of yourself barring it all reflected my vulnerability, my own weakness and helplessness. It was as if magnified a thousand times and liken to looking at my own mirror reflection.

i was reminded of my shame and disgrace I had brought upon myself yet in the mist of it all hide it under the concealment of confident, strong and fearless outlook.

The purpose of going naked is not sensationalize or self gratification at all. It realized the utmost importance of portraying the dichotomy of a positive individual. At the heart of it all, the debased and disgraced emotions.

The entire movement of involving audience brings forth the idea “it’s the society at large that needs to take the next step”. We as the positive community has voiced and the artist had portrayed and given us the physical representation. Who would like to take the next step of responsibility and actions? U the society at large?

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Interviewee with HIV

I was really moved (but personally, our journey has enable us to create more paths to face many many various situations, I hope a hardened heart is not going to be at the end of any of these paths) and really like in inclusion of audience in an authentic manner as if no one participate or part take of this performance, then so be it, we’ll all either stare at each other awkwardly or look at the dance in darkness.

I have no problem enjoying that darkness anymore. In this inhumane country, its already a little victory to allow your presentation to happen, and during the first night where I brought some friends to watch, the level of proactiveness aptly paralleled the real situation of our community at many levels and layers. However we did choose not to watch in silence and in darkness, we spoke, we danced.

Its heartening to have a space like this in a dance where the choreographer is generous enough to share his work and take a lot of risk with by doing that. I think this work should be repeated and properly documented through other mediums so that our citizens and the govt have something to remind them of such deeds, we do have a forgetful lot here in Singapore.

Interviewee with HIV

 

In darkness there’s always light. Ming’s performance light up my darkness having to put up such a brave yet strong presence of a taboo topic that rarely our society talk about. I recalled the time when I was interviewed by him 2 years ago, following up with endless curiosity of his research, we can see as audience how his canvass has turn out to be a masterpiece. Not only that he stripped my vulnerability during our interview session but he did so too himself, I guess it was something that he wanted to explore being in our position.

Having heard the text that were being read by presumably non positive people, I almost teared and felt a strong sense of relief that the people that were not in my position were able to hear our stories. They are screams of invisibility that want to be heard.

The fact that I observed as an audience when instructions were given by the performer amuses me on how slow the response were by the audience. Were the instructions unclear? Were they reluctant? Were they afraid? The task was simple, just read the text, or better yet having volunteers holding a light bulb. It’s not as if they were asked to strip or owning up who is HIV+. In the end, I was one of the few who hold up the light bulb even though how much it kills so badly that I wanted to read the text. This is what I was afraid of, how people would reach out to someone who is HIV+. Are we still damned by society?

I teared up with chills down my spine when Lovesong by Adele was being played. A song with the lyrics that powerful to end that eventful night. It touched me.

I acknowledge Ming for his brilliance and how he stepped up to put up such memorable picture for me which I know it’s not easy. Even though it was an experiment, but it showed a great lesson to some, be it successful or not.

Thanks again Ming, your performance has touched many of the poz people here in Singapore. I respect your craft and your work that you have come up with. I hope you continue this research abroad and I hope to see a new work from you regarding this.

Interviewee with HIV

I thought the whole thing was really brilliant. The way the dark room symbolized the darkness surrounding PLHIV, and how, when the room was lit, it symbolized the exact opposite.

It was so surreal listening to someone else’s voice read my own transcripts. In that moment, that person could have been the one with HIV, instead of me. Made me see how being HIV positive is not all about being me, but about everyone else as well. Humanity is strong as a collective whole, not by their individual selves. I guess this was my strongest moment in the show.

The audience was fucking slow in reacting lol. I know it was an experiment and all but sheesh. There was so much spaces of awkward silence and only the same few people ended up reading the texts.

“people always think that people with HIV are weak, but what I saw was strength.” said Ming Poon during the dialogue. It made me remember the strength within me which came through during the interviews. I now know it wasn’t unique to me. This, I will always carry on my heart. Love is so much stronger than death!

Interviewee with HIV

Sorry for this late reply. It is long overdue. I have been really sick after I came back from all my travels. Down time is really down for me. Anyway, I am on my last week of antibiotic and all seem to go on much better now.

As for my thoughts, I do hope I remembered what we have spoken. I really like the whole performance, seriously. Like I said, I was anxious about making sure I sat close or under my own number so I get to read them. And thankfully I managed to find one which was not occupied yet and hurriedly there.

During the opening, when you called for volunteers to come up and hold the lights, the response was very slow. There was much hesitation. This is truly a clear representation of how the general community will react to us HIV+ people. They might say they do not mind knowing a HIV+ person but when we require help and support, support is minimal. People will shun away from coming forward. As I mentioned to you, recently I told one of my so called “good” friends about my status. After that, I can see the friendship slowly thinning and probably now disappeared into thin air. So its not that we do not want to make ourselves public, but the risk to take outweigh the freedom of mind we will have.

On the hindsight, the audience that night were very responsive and obedient. They even started reading before you told them to do so. I am not sure whether they like the kind of engaging performance or they understand the rationale of reading it in the darkness. The darkness symbolise the lives of most HIV+ people. Not many of us see the light after being diagnosed. Hence, not many care about voicing out. The voices or readings are only those who care or have intention to be heard.

The lights are very symbolic to me too. When our voices are heard, it means there is hope. And when more voices are heard, more lights or more opportunities are made available for us to walk through this darkness path of our lives. And I like it when the sequence just got mess up. Because life cant happen in a normal sequential order for us anymore. We live our lives on day by day basis, on borrowed time from God. We act and react to circumstances that are presented and happen infront of us. We want to make the best of our lives before our time is up.

The ending is also another symbolic part. When you asked the question, “Will you dance with me?” I was standing waiting for my turn to read my text, and I replied “Yes” with many others who were standing with me echoing the same response. I am deeply touched to know that these people do care. But a question hit me after that. Is it because they only care as they cant see who I am? Will they still care when they see the real me?

At the end, during the Q&A sessions, I was so tempted to out myself after hearing some exchanges between you and the audience. But then again, I held back. I have many questions ringing in head. So if these people do care, do I really know who they are? Will my privacy be protected outside these 4 wall? I have nothing to lose if I want to out myself as a HIV+ person, but then again, how ready are these people to accept it? We all know HIV is just another manageable chronic disease. If we follow the regime of taking our medication, we will be in good health. But, its just beyond that honestly. This audience does not represent the community at large. They are just 80 to 100 people which is not a sample size of the community. There is so much more at stake if I want to out myself.

And about not reading every single texts on the wall, whether you are doing justice to us or not, I am neutral about this. True, we had spent hours meeting you, tell our lives to you and it might be a little disappointing not to hear what we had talked about. But then again, that’s the story of our life too. We all have our own plans to life to 100 years but we wont know when is our time to go. Our entire life story might just not be told just like the text on the wall.uld be told..

 

 

Interviewee with HIV

I was really glad that I had attended your performance. It was a very powerful and impactful performance, and indeed very inspirational.

When I stood up to hold the lights with the gloves, to me, the lights symbolised sperm and it felt that your use of gloves is to remind the audience to use condoms when encountering sperm, or having sex.

As I stood in the room as the performance progressed, I felt like I was inside the Omnitheatre. The black box is actually very powerful because it symbolised so many things all at once, with your performance.

When the room went dark and you were shifting in the white suit, it felt like you were the white blood cell moving around in a physical body and as you encountered spaces where the HIV virus, the white blood cell weakened and started crawling and squiggling around.

When you changed into the black suit, it felt that you had had morphed into the HIV virus and that you were rampaging around in the body, you were bruising the cells and rummaging through the body. It felt that the body was being weakened by your movements of dashes.

When I was standing within, initially I felt like one of the cells or mechanisms within the body and the environment gave me a microscopic view of the body, and how as I was within, I could understand how the body was being attacked and how the virus was working itself.

When you became naked, it felt that the human body was transformed into the psychological mind of the person, and the bare and exposed body and movements showed the embarrassment and fear that people were feeling.
At one point, when you came pass me, I felt like reaching out and patting you, because it felt some emotional and touching as this person who was baring himself felt so much in need of affection.

Indeed, as the performance went on, I felt very intense and my moods shifted with the intensity. At one point, I felt like I might cry.

The vantage point of actually standing in the middle of the room allowed me to immerse within the experience even more closely and intensely.
As the people spoke, it felt like what they were speaking were also moving with the progression of the virus within the body and the gradual stigma that the person felt, whether real or not.

At one point, when a few people were speaking at the same time, it was quite intense and it felt like the body was being weakened, physically, psychologically, emotionally and also from societal pressures. Standing within felt very intense at that point and I was actually glad the pace only picked up towards the end.

I liked the ending because it got people to think about how they can relax and enjoy yourself. It was also a way for the audience to relieve themselves from the intensity. But even as short as the music and dance was, its lightheartedness allowed people to, through the empathy generated within the show, let people let go of their inner fears and look at things differently.

Interviewee with HIV

An out-of-the-box interactive performance piece that involves the public to lend their voice to the voiceless or those who remain in the shadows. A theatrical experiential journey; I found myself watching, gazing and contemplating one’s role and how to move from apathy to activism. A work that inspires reflection, making one think deeply on how one can give of oneself to bridge the gap. Thanks Ming Poon for the amazing work that brings across a strong message in a subtle and nuanced way.

Interviewee with HIV

 I am so pleased I was able to attend and witnessed Ming Poon passion for his people. He feels that great things can be accomplished by allowing a collaboration of the minds and hearts of artistic people to unify better moral values like to be non judgmental, non labeling and non assuming. It’s a holistic inviting approach. The installation, the mini story telling of the lives of people living with HIV from all walks of life – how they feel, how they lead their lives and their challenges. It’s a sharing. The performance, the dance expressed with the story telling from willing participants were both strong and unique and I hope they will provoke thoughts, de stigma ideas and make everyone want to act, explore more and “give back”. Mistakes happen. we should not be too hard on ourselves. we acknowledge, make some adjustments and keep learning. Like I said, It’s a collective effort of making this world a better place to live.

Interviewee with HIV

I would like to thank you for the interesting & touching show. The amount of hard work you put in it is very obvious. The whole affair e.g. the darkness of the room, unseen faces of speaker and the little glow in the light bulb had struck a deep chord in me.

During the show, I could feel my emotions taking over me & at some parts of the show I was holding back my tears. I believe that you have successful managed to really capture what was in my mind all these past years.

The darkness; not knowing what to do. Audience speaker with gentle light bulb slowly lighting up the place; the relief of talking about true emotions.
If you ever need more interviews, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Thank you

Interviewee with HIV

I would like to thank you for the interesting & touching show. The amount of hard work you put in it is very obvious. The whole affair e.g. the darkness of the room, unseen faces of speaker and the little glow in the light bulb had struck a deep chord in me.

During the show, I could feel my emotions taking over me & at some parts of the show I was holding back my tears. I believe that you have successful managed to really capture what was in my mind all these past years.

The darkness; not knowing what to do. Audience speaker with gentle light bulb slowly lighting up the place; the relief of talking about true emotions.
If you ever need more interviews, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Thank you

Interviewee with HIV

 To add on to my SMS yesterday, i’m really grateful that an artist of your caliber choose to focus on HIV. a much forgotten issue around the world. I believe that there is much myth about people living in HIV around the world and people NGO around the world still face this problem. even at places where HIV is much a part of the society.

Your presentation acted like a voice in side my head when the lights went out. if i knew nothing about HIV and knew no one living with HIV, it would be quite an intimidating experience, but i can only imagine that.

It was real, a little too real for some maybe, but i liked the rawness of it, i’ve always liked participatory art forms and i believe in experiential learning.
as i was a participant on the stage, i didn’t get to experience how a viewer might experience the show from the ground, there were times when the light came on and yet we don’t see the performer, it is like this in real life too i guess, people living with HIV may hide from opportunities to speak out too. I thought that part can come through more stronger since i’m advocating for PLHIV to speak up too.
overall, it was a really powerful and touching experience. it spoke to me: the darkness, the light, the emotions. the fear. the stone being lifted right after i spoke to someone or had the opportunity to. when i found acceptance or knew that i can be accepted.

it started the process of forgiveness. towards myself. it was as much forgiveness from my friends too, but more so from myself. and it felt exactly like this right before i came out. i’ve came out many times to many people but every time i come out, it was different. you never knew if he or she is going to accept. and i’ve had people who i knew were very well educated, but failed to see beyond the virus.
it felt like i was naked too when i stood on stage speaking, the process of arriving there was equally crude. i had to confront many of my own issues, i had to be really honest with myself and towards those who might potentially be affected by my coming out.

the audience were great. granted many did not stood forward, but them being singaporeans, it will take more for them to participate. for those who did. they were commendable. i felt an overwhelming need to control my tears when people started reading the more intense transcripts.

i appreciate that the transcripts were not altered and kept as they were. those stories need to surface.

Interviewee with HIV

 Overheard at The Substation

for Ming Poon

Overheard at The Substation
for Ming Poon

The dancer asked us to stand and shine a bulb over our faces.
Did you?
No, but others did; who might or might not have been us.
How do you know?
You’re right: they might have been.
But not all of them were us.
Yes.
I dislike being represented.
There’s reason to fear.
I wished I’d watched it with you.
You wouldn’t like being a flashing symbol in the dark.
So it was almost dark?
The next part when people pulled sheets of paper from the walls to read.
What did they read?
Transcriptions of what we supposedly confessed before hanging microphones.
Did they whisper?
Some did; others were melodramatic.
Because they weren’t us.
You can’t be sure.
You’re right; I can only guess.
We can only guess.
Because we’re used to being misrepresented.
Because we misrepresent ourselves.
The dark is only stuff such lies are made from.
I wished more stood up to be lit.
I’d have taken your hand.
We could have held hands in the stuttering dark.
What happened next?
The dancer cavorted naked with the audience.
What did that moment signify?
Nothing; there was nothing to mean between his body and us.
But he’s not us.
He said that he could be.
He said that?
And then we danced.
We?
No, the audience and him; I remained seated, hands frozen on my lap like corpses in late winter.
If I was there, we could have stood up; we could have danced.
We didn’t, since you weren’t there.
But neither was you.
Neither was I.
So where did you go?
Behind another layer of darkness.
Dimmer than fiction?
Less than a germ of thought.
Then where are we now?
In nobody’s mind.
And still we’re speaking, our voices like nebula, softly streaming.
We’re only real when we speak.
We’re real when we’re speaking to each other.
And holding hands.
Intangible hands.
Was there question-and-answer?
They discussed our sickness; the sickness that originated the dance.
Was the discussion meaningful?
Does it matter?
No, it doesn’t, since everybody went home afterwards; a dance is just for show.
All will be forgotten.
We may only be forgotten.
So nothing happened.
Nothing that happened happened.
Yet it’s not too late to dance.
As in right now—in the dark?
Our stage is only as dark as we deem it to be.
We deem it to be.