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Undressing Room

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Participant 6: Anonymous
(Completed on 24th February 2017, Singapore)

1) Why do you choose to be anonymous in this documentation?
I chose to keep my identity anonymous because I didn’t want my participation to be used against me via blackmail, slander, or obstacle in career advancement. As much as I believe in fighting the climate of fear in Singapore, this is not a battle that I choose to pick right now. There will be other opportunities.

2) What were your thoughts and feelings when you first read about Undressing Room?
In all honesty, I just bought a ticket to Undressing Room because I saw that the show was selling out. I didn’t read the synopsis. I generally enjoy shows from the M1 Fringe Festival so the choice of show didn’t matter, and I didn’t want to miss out. I am also used to every strange performance under the Sun: naked people on stage, elaborate projections, random paint splatters, phallic costumes, interpretative dancing to an electronic soundscape. I mean, how fringe could this possibly get, right?

Quite fringe, apparently. I was not expecting the participant to undress. At first, I misread the synopsis and thought that I would have to undress myself in front of other audience members (that would have made me even more uncomfortable). But after re-reading the description, I felt slightly relieved. I thought how I shouldn’t have a problem with nudity since I am okay with casual sex, and getting naked with a stranger shouldn’t be a problem. 

Then, I started getting a little uneasy. Somehow, nudity in a non-sexual situation felt out of place. As much as I identify as socially liberal, there was still a part of me not comfortable with this idea. It made me feel upset with myself that I would hold judgement against this experience. 

I think there is an association between nudity and immorality. There is a sense of shame, vulnerability, and a fear that someone will take advantage of you whether through dismissal, ridicule, or assault. It says a lot for such a perception to permeate even a liberal-minded person as myself. It makes me question the validity of labels (e.g. liberal, socially progressive), and whether we are truly free from all prejudice.

3) Describe your experience of Undressing Room.
In the waiting room, I found it a little odd that someone (in this case, the assistant) would speak of undressing in front of a stranger so casually. It almost felt like preparing for a medical appointment, where undressing in front of a stranger would be considered perfectly fine. It makes me wonder why many people don’t see nudity as something neutral as one would undress in front of a doctor, for example.

In the main space, I remember feeling a bit anxious. So when tea was poured for the both of us, I forgot my manners, picked up my cup and started drinking. The tea drinking reminded me of a formal, Japanese tea ceremony. When I think of those events, I imagine how one would need to adhere to many strict rules. I knew that it was out of line to take a sip of tea first before waiting, and that made me feel a bit more self-conscious. Out of courtesy, I tried to time my sips according to when Ming Poon drank. But after a while, I didn’t even know why I was so obsessed with following such tea-drinking rules in the first place. It felt like I was just following them for the sake of coming across well mannered. In hindsight, it makes me question why we follow rules or certain social expectations to begin with.

Also, I thought it was interesting how such a rule-based ritual was positioned right before a performance that would violate rules of social expectation (strangers undressing each other). As I reflect upon the piece, I question the fragility of rules. It makes me think about how rules can repress (being so restricted in ways of drinking tea), and at the same time protect us from danger (such as not being allowed to touch genitals etc)

4) What was it like for you, being a participant in Undressing Room?
It’s interesting to note how external factors feed into how I responded to the performance. I think there was a bit of baggage as a gay person participating in this performance. I was very conscious not to let my action/touch be misconstrued as a sexual advance or an unwanted act of aggression. I think this has to do with a present – but lessening – misunderstanding of gay people as sexual predators. I am generally very open with my sexuality, but I find it strange that despite all that, there is still a very small part of me that internalises such prejudice against gay people. To counter that, I make sure that my actions do not get misconstrued as that of a lecherous pervert (so commonly suggested in local mainstream media during sexual offences). 

5) How was it for you to undress each other and touch each other’s naked skin?
At first, I was quite restricted in the way I touched Ming Poon. As the performance continued, I relaxed and reminded myself that it’s okay to casually stroke or caress someone – especially if it’s done in a respectful, consensual manner. Doing so reduced the taboo of touching someone else. 

6) What did you get out from the whole experience?
I didn’t find the experience vulgar at all. It was respectful, thought provoking and meditative. I found the touch calming and relaxing. At times, it occupied a grey area between sexual foreplay and something like cuddle therapy. It made me reflect how many things should not be judged as black or white, but rather, we should expand our acceptance and understanding of things. 

7) Did you feel unsafe or threatened at any point in Undressing Room?

8) Would you participate in Undressing Room again?

9) Other comments.