Artistic Director's Message
Because I could not stop for death,
He kindly stopped for me.
The carriage held but just ourselves
- Emily Dickinson
The first two lines of this beautiful poem by Emily Dickinson speak great truth.
We are too busy to think about death. We are busy trying to live and have little time to reflect and think about what it means to live.
Confucius, when being asked by his disciple what death is, replied:
While you do not know much about living,
how can you know about death.
This has been interpreted by many pragmatics as: sort out your living matters first, and death comes later.
What Does Living Mean?
So what does living mean? Do we have time to reflect on it? The world we live in now is always talking about advancing and moving forward, generating more capital and assets, producing desires, always to be alive, to be vibrant. We are constantly reminded to keep up a relentless rhythm, before eventually becoming obsolete and of no use to society. The idea of dying and death which suggests stopping, ending, decaying, and nothingness goes against the tide of things.
We are caught in this chase, with no time even to ask ourselves what living means, much less think about dying and death.
But if you take a positive spin on the same saying by Confucius, what it may mean is this: you need to know how to live, only then will you know about death and dying.
We hardly think about death. Even if the thought does come to us, we would say to ourselves that since it is the end, what is there to think about? The end is the end, isn’t it? Finish. Full stop. Zilch! For those of certain religious faiths, there is the promise of another world. What about the process of dying then?
Reflect On How We Live
Interestingly, when we start contemplating death and dying, we will inevitably think about living. This is because it is the first acknowledgement of our mortality, that there will come a time when everything comes to a stop, or for some, a rest. When we start to conceive of our mortality, we start to evaluate and reflect on how we live, and then we start learning to live better as we prepare to die well.
Time To Stop For Death
Perhaps it is time to stop for death. It is time to start slowing down and instead of letting death stop us, we make time to think about dying and living.
BOTH SIDES, NOW, in its third iteration, will be about slowing things down, and making time. We believe that time is needed to bring us closer to ourselves or to our loved ones, bringing us closer to what it means to live and to die.
An Intimate Artistic Act Of Re-Pair
We will be working very closely with and engaging the two communities over three years to make art and engage in conversation about living and dying. It is my hope that Both Sides, Now will become “an intimate artistic act of re-pair”, where one feels stronger about one’s own worth and where relationships between people can be built, strengthened or mended, so that in the face of death, one will go through the process not feeling lonely but with pride and dignity.
Kok Heng Leun