Marching Towards the New Normal

In November 2019 and 2020, I received ACC’s support to travel to two countries, Indonesia and Japan, respectively, to embark on cultural exchange and artistic exploration. Coincidentally, both trips kicked off in November. But a year’s difference brought vastly different changes. For freelance artists, the “new normal” is about our mindset as we face our everyday lives, more or less.

                                     Learning Amerta Movement Practice with Suprapto Suryodarmo

Before heading to Indonesia, I was once again reminded by the local staff to “go with the flow”. Living in Indonesia, there are often times where “plans don’t catch up with changes”. Entering Indonesia with a “wanderer” state of mind could bring forth a different experience, savoring and studying every word, food, culture, and architecture. I remember during my exchange, we brought up the relationship between nature and people. For a long time, Indonesia has seen nature as a sacred deity. Eventually, with urbanization comes changes in our relationship with nature: once it was your “close family”, then “partners”, and our “resources”. Today, nature is reduced to a commodity. These dynamic changes have also affected us as human beings. The human body is a small replica of nature. If we are unhappy with the current situation, perhaps it is time we start rethinking our relationship with our bodies.

In Japan, when it comes to creating dialogue with your own body, there is a type of meditation called seitai. Normally, most seitai salons you see only provide massage services. However, I have the fortune to meet a seitai specialist—a Butoh dancer named Yohei Tanaka. He designed a special kind of seitai regimen consisting of freestyle dance movements, a vegetarian meal, and temple meditation. For myself, this is a legit seitai regimen because it is about creating dialogue with the inner and outer parts of your body. The treatment, after fine-tuning our bodies, is followed by a Kyoto-style meal made of fresh ingredients plucked from nature to replenish the body. If you pay attention to the energy emitting out of this treatment, people will feel more aware that we are a part of nature.

                                                   Yohei Tanaka and Wayson Poon

Although society emphasizes the importance of individuality, we cannot simply ignore our reliance on our surroundings. Nowadays, it is difficult to separate contemporary art from contemporary society. To think critically and reflect on my privileges, the best choice is to leave a place of familiarity. Perhaps under the “new normal” during this pandemic, the concept of “quarantine” connotes a self-learning mentality. In the future, artistic exploration could possibly bring out the unexpected. But in every person there is a “musical march” which I believe will paint a new landscape for artistic creation, and nature will have its own wonders. (Photo Courtesy of Wayson Poon)