Finding comfort in song when the world is in flames.
In a year that’s felt like the end of the world, it’s not hard to extrapolate our nightmares from there and imagine what the apocalypse looks like. For some, it’s the collapse of the environment, as flowers go extinct and the world is on fire. For others, it might be the destruction of museums, the disappearance of artwork, and the loss of culture.
In Bellepoque’s CRAVE, the company presents their first ever digital work tackling the struggle 2020 has presented artists with, as they attempt to find meaning and strength in their lives amidst the confusion and loss. Directed by Yeo Hon Beng, and filmed by Tejas Ewing and Deepesh Vasudev, CRAVE features pianist Tabitha Gan, actress Sharda Harrison, baritone Yeo Zhe Hao, soprano Ng Jing Yun, actor Wayne Leong, soprano Rachel Siong, and playwright/storyteller Verena Tay, and producer/mezzo soprano Sabrina Zuber.
In the first of the two films, CRAVE NATURE, we open in a newsroom, as we hear from various agencies how nature is in a state of collapse, and lamenting how a lotus species has gone extinct. We question the reason behind this, and how we’ve let things reach such a dire state, our lack of knowledge, and the continued talk about climate change. What then can we do about it?
2020 in particular has seen so many people adopt plants as their new best friends, where suddenly, everyone has become a home gardener while on lockdown, when we can’t go out much. We watch an intimate relationship develop between Wayne Leong and his plant, as psychedelic lighting is cast upon them. In spite of how much chaos is happening around him, we feel a sense of affirmation and peace, further emphasised by the corresponding aria sung in the background.
As they discuss history, we think back to the visuals of walking through the corridors of National Gallery Singapore. We then glimpse the sight of mountains, lakes, reservoirs and the living things around us, while Sabrina dances in the background, almost showing how small we are compared to how vast nature is all around us.
Sabrina now looks forlorn, and as we enter her house, we realise that we are again at the steps of National Gallery Singapore, then move to the green pathways, almost making us feel that we are now on the steps of something new, and it’s our time to create our own story. Just as we seem like we are able to grasp onto something, we realise that everything now is a blur, just like how if we are looking through a kaleidoscope. As she now lays on the ‘safety net’, it seems she is attempting to find her way out of the entanglements of the world around us or in a different perspective, she is now trapped with no where to go.
Now as we watch Wayne dance and try to react to the visuals on a screen, the descriptions are somehow meditative, as reflected in the piece sung in the background. CRAVE NATURE ends on a poignant note as we consider the significance of the lotus living on inside us, even through its extinction. As a symbol of regeneration and resilience, the image of the lotus assures us to live life as it is, and that nature and life find a way through the hellfire, and will bloom again.
In CRAVE ART, we are introduced to similarly apocalyptic news, as we learn of a fire blazing through a museum, destroying priceless artworks and artefacts. Again we hear people discussing and wondering to themselves what can be done, and what is life without art.
Combining opera and poetry is certainly a creative choice and one that is a common theme in this this piece. CRAVE ART is very graphical and visual in its presentation, allowing us to enter a reflective state as we ponder about how sometimes, we are being driven to absurdity, and we become disillusioned about things, as represented by Sabrina riding a toy horse. There are so many ways to express ourselves through art, be it pretentious or real.
Now we arrive at a nature reserve, quaint and unassuming. Perhaps it represents how it is time to make way for a new normal, and we watch various performers dancing, learning how to express themselves through their bodies. As they now look afar, perhaps at what lies in the future. As we now watch Sharda dancing, we seem to want to focus on her shadow. We then think about how our own shadows mimic whatever we do, yet still seems like a character of its own.
Ultimately, we’re left with the impression that pandemic or not, art is here to stay. The world may be going to pieces, but the arts will always offer a warm hug, regardless of the means by which to express it or present it. Cherish what we still have, and when the arts return in full force in future, let’s go out again and appreciate the real thing.
CRAVE is available to watch on YouTube, compiled here.