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Undressing Room

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Participant 4: Anonymous
(Completed on 21st February 2017, Singapore)

1) Why do you choose to be anonymous in this documentation?
I have to protect my public role as a generally non-partisan observer of the arts community.

2) What were your thoughts and feelings when you first read about Undressing Room?
I thought it was the most provocative work in the M1 Fringe Fest for a while, and together with Naked Ladies, this would bring the festival up a notch. Its premise is intriguing. Of course I’ve taken my clothes off before others in an erotic or medical situation. But never in the context of art. And of course I’ve seen performers strip before me, but never assisting me to strip as well. So there are many levels of newness and intrigue to this work.

3) Describe your experience of Undressing Room.
The entire proceeding was professionally conducted. I never once felt coerced or compelled to do anything outside of my comfort zone. The work was honest and engaging.

4) What was it like for you, being a participant in Undressing Room?
I was scared, a bit cold. I wondered if I might have an embarrassing erection, I wondered if the performer (who is very much of the Singapore arts scene as I am) would judge me, I wondered if it would go too far or not far enough. I couldn’t relax.

I think I had a lot of barriers and couldn’t really open up to experience. When my clothes were off (and clothes protect us in many ways, not just physically but psychologically too), I thought that I could open up. But instead, new defence mechanisms kicked in, and I relied on my corporeality, individuality and persona to be my next line of defence and protection. That’s why I think I burst into laughter at several points – I couldn’t open up and fully experience the potential emotionality and sensuality of the encounter.

The most challenging part was to open up and not feel self-conscious, even when my clothes are off. As a rule though, I always need time to open up – especially in a professional setting where all my guards are up. And as an arts writer participating in an arts event, I still perceived this as a professional setting rather a personal experience.

5) How was it for you to undress each other and touch each other’s naked skin?
It was pleasant and non-erotic. Simply touching. I was not aroused. I think context is everything, and in this context, Ming is not my lover, and I am not his. It was two strangers dealing with each other’s nudity that was not about to lead to sex. Hence, it was an appreciation of his body in the most abstract form – perhaps no different to the experience of an art student painting a portrait of a nude model in front of him or her. It was entirely non-sexual.

6) What did you get out from the whole experience?
I think what I mostly understand is that nudity in itself is harmless, that societal rules on clothing and decency are simply barriers to keep our guards up, and that allowing yourself to be seen naked but in a non-sexual way may be a first step toward pulling our guards down and engaging with each other more sincerely.

However not much stayed with me from this experience, to be honest. I guess because it felt more cerebral than emotional for me, and when an experience doesn’t hit me at an emotional level, I tend to file it under “Art I’ve Seen” rather than “Art I Love and Want To Remember”. Of course, I will remember taking part in it, because of the unfortunate controversy surrounding the work. But I can’t say I have an emotional connection to it. So for me, Undressing Room is a cerebral exploration of nudity with a stranger.

7) Did you feel unsafe or threatened at any point in Undressing Room?
No, it was entirely safe. Ming was very attuned to my emotions and was careful to take things one step at a time.

8) Would you participate in Undressing Room again?
Not really – unless the work happens to be different the second time round.

9) Other comments.
Objectively speaking, I consider the work to be one of the bravest and more challenging I’ve ever seen a Singaporean performer carry out. To shed one clothes again and again, and also lead different strangers hour after hour through this act, must be extremely exhausting for the performer. To have to confront the Singapore censors to defend the legitimacy of the work must have also been another gargantuan task. So kudos to Ming for doing this and taking Singapore art into unchartered territory.