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Undressing Room

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Participant 9: Teo Dawn
(Completed on 22nd February 2017, Singapore)

1) What is your view on IMDA and its classification?
It is to protect and ensure that suitable content is shown to people at different stages of their life, in terms of age. (Though honestly, maturity of any kind does not come with age. It is just a higher chance.) I think trying to discuss and censoring content, perhaps such as sex, can be better for younger age groups. That leaves parents with more control over the up-bringing of their child, in a way.

However, in the age of technology, there really is limited power of controlling exposure to everybody, really. And sometimes, in an attempt to stick to their “values”, however these “values” are derived, the function of IMDA stunts us as a nation. Spoils us, even. It lets us think that as long as we complain about something, we will just get it banned. We are falsely trying to shape our society to a skewed version of the majority’s Wants and Idealised Desires. We become so backward, narrow-minded and discriminatory. Which helps nobody. The pathway to hell is paved with good intentions, right? And we Singaporeans are misusing the hell out of the censorship board, in my opinion.

To me, IMDA’s classification is not of any importance. I think after turning twenty-one, the freedom is astounding, especially if it goes through the censors. I remember being younger and being so disappointed half the time because shows I was interested in were censored, cut and only for older audiences. So I missed out on a lot.

If I am willing to attend, pay for a ticket even after reading reviews and the various synopses for a show, I don’t understand why I need a third party to inform my choices of whether I should be watching this or not. Watching or experiencing something is never really a should, it is always a want. And who’s to tell me whether I should pursue what I want or not? I’d like to be my own judge on that.

2) How did you feel about IMDA’s denial of classification for Undressing Room, on the grounds that it contained ‘excessive nudity’?
Participants are fully in control and the “excessive nudity” is not enforced onto us. I think that’s the misunderstanding. Nudity only happened in a place of trust and comfort. If we choose to stop, the process will stop.

I would have it classified maybe M16, because then we should be mature enough to start discovering ourselves and our bodies. And have it clear that if there is discomfort, there is no pressure at all to go further. It is according to our own threshold, if I may put it this way.

3) What was your reaction to Undressing Room being withdrawn from the M1 Singapore Fringe Festival, after it was denied a classification by IMDA?
Upset, disappointed and angry. Censorship has always been an issue with The Arts in Singapore, but to withdraw a performance based on such shallow judgments was beyond me. It also makes me wonder why people who are unable to think out of the box or have any interest for The Arts are on the panel. And how no one considered our dollar votes, our interest and our trust in the work to be of any value. I mean, we are willing to pay to experience this and we understand what the work is about and there are only so many of us. Are we not trusted? 

But in some ways, I am glad that the entire performance got withdrawn instead of compromising on the work itself. The artistic intention and integrity was saved by pulling the whole performance out, and I completely respect that. In some ways, I guess we are simply not mature enough as a nation to enjoy this work openly. And that is a responsibility/burden we must bear.

4) Why did you decide to take part in the revived Undressing Room, despite the controversy surrounding it?
My interest remains. And with the withdrawing of the show, it is even more pressing to go through this. Then I can have an informed opinion and get the word out there of how much misconception there has been about the work, and what Art can be. And it is a true privilege to be a part of this; so thank you. To educate, to share, to challenge and to change something. 

But if I had to try and articulate, then perhaps it would be to discover myself, as well as the possibility that there can be connection with another human being. I would also like to go through conscious vulnerability, love and just be naked. Anything the experience is willing to give me, really. Just be.

5) What were your thoughts or concerns regarding your participation in Undressing Room, a work that had not been approved by IMDA?
I think I didn’t pay much heed to that, honestly. It was more of a disappointment that things turned out this way. Laws are made by the winning majority, or at least the most vocal and heard, so if the performance was going to risk a staging, I am all for it. Because that’s where I stand. I think if I get questioned, I won’t be scared because it is difficult to change my mind about such things. I am not wrong.

It feels good that I experienced what I want to, and stuck to my gut feelings I guess. Honestly, if I had the money to experience works banned in Singapore but available overseas, it will be the same. This censorship only has reach within our borders. The works are to be experienced, and they are mostly readily available overseas. If I attended one overseas, no one can say anything or stop me. I think attending Undressing Room is quite the same.

6) How did IMDA’s decision affect your participation or experience of Undressing Room?
Nervous, initially, because there are few people to discuss my experience with. But being in the theatre community, my friends are all very open and supportive. Some even said I am lucky, to be able to experience this. So in that sense, I am sheltered from scrutiny and the frowning disapproval of others.

But with the censorship and public outcry, I feel strongly for speaking about the work and sharing my own experiences if asked to. Because we always fear what we don’t know and shun differences. Speaking and owning it can serve as a small step towards change.

7) Other comments.
Just that we need to leave space for tolerance, acceptance and understanding. Or even space to learn and change our own views. Otherwise, we are just being myopic to the world beyond our island.  Listen to the people, and I mean all people. Not just the vocal majority you want to listen to.