Khatib & Toa Payoh

About the Edition

As our city becomes more developed and urbanised, concrete starts to take over nature.

In nature, one sees the natural course of being: growing, living, withering and dying. But the city is so focused on being alive that we hide everything that may suggest the opposite.

Even though we would like to forget about it, dying is very much part of being human. So a city that does not make space for one to think about and accept dying, is not a city that is humanised.

This is why the Both Sides, Now creative team has created this immersive arts experience – to provide the opportunity for the living to encounter dying. We hope to normalise conversations about end-of-life issues by taking this conversation to public spaces.

Taken from the introductory message from the Artistic Director of the project, the text above reflected the ethos of this second edition of Both Sides, Now. The immersive arts experience was installed in two different residential neighbourhoods for a week each, in Khatib and Toa Payoh. It featured ten different artworks comprising installation, film, performances involving puppetry and forum theatre, and participatory arts activities. There were also talks from subject matter experts, and each day ended with audiences engaged in small group conversations around a table, facilitated by volunteers.

Reach and Impact

The immersive arts experience reached about 6500 audiences in total between the two residential communities. Many were from the immediate communities of Khatib and Toa Payoh, although audiences also came from afar, and from different areas of Singapore. Responses to the project were extremely positive, with more than 90% of audiences randomly surveyed finding the issues and themes relatable and resonated with them. As well, about 80% indicated they were intending to perform follow-up actions related to end-of-life matters.

The project continued to recruit, train and work with about 100 volunteers, some of whom continued to volunteer from 2013. These volunteers continued to be crucial to engaging audiences, and the overall provision of a welcoming and safe space for participation.

The impact of the project also extended to audiences experiencing the power of arts approaches for exploring a challenging and complex topic which was also emotionally laden. This came through in feedback provided in the survey, with many appreciating the stories shared, the opportunities provided to respond, and in creative ways, as well as being able to hear the views of other community members.

Beyond this, the project Creative Team also observed informal, transient communities being built during the immersive arts experience, through audiences who attended more than once, and with some travelling across neighbourhoods. Some had lengthy conversations with volunteers, or connected with other audience members. The team realised from this edition, the potential for real, and sustained community building through this project in neighbourhoods if the project could take place over a longer period of time.

Community Voices

“I really like how this set-up is like a physical funeral, yet the whole atmosphere is so different. It relates to the message that death is not taboo! … It made me want to discuss this topic with my parents who are ageing as we are growing, even my grandparents.”

Audience Member

Public Engagement Photos

Life Journey: Ups and Downs, Khatib
Life Journey: Ups and Downs, Khatib - Back view of student engaging with wall art
Puppetry Performance, Khatib
Public Engagement, Khatib
Public Engagement, Toa Payoh - Table with senior citizens
Public Engagement, Toa Payoh - Facilitators on stage
Public Engagement, Toa Payoh - An audience looking at an empty coffin
Public Engagement, Toa Payoh - Public members looking at wall exhibition
Exit Intervention stage performance, Toa Payoh
Public Engagement, Toa Payoh - Audience watching performance

Presented by

LIEN Foundation logo Ang Chin Moh Foundation

Produced by

Drama Box Artswok logo

Supported by

Ministry of Health Arts Fund logo National Arts Council

Official Radio Station

UFM 100.3 Radio Station

Community Partners

Tan Tock Seng Hospital Yishun Health logo PA logo