Plunged In The Pandemic, This Artist Stays "Alive" By Creating And Volunteering
STORY: Ng Kai
16 June 2021
Wa lau, the pandemic has been around for a good one and half years leh. There've been challenges aplenty for many, but surprisingly, some in the arts industry have not been any less busy or creative.
Just ask singer-songwriter Yams, whose vibey debut album caught our attention recently.
We speak to the 25-year-old about volunteering part-time for an arts charity, finding small silver linings during this period, and adapting as best he can.
Kindness is something we could do with these days, and it's really cool that you've been doing part-time volunteer work for a local arts charity. Tell us about it!
I’ve been working at the Foundation for Arts & Social Enterprise since around November last year. I do campaign management and social media work for them.
I’m really quite enamored with their message, the things that drive them. Essentially, they believe that the arts is an impulse within all of us that has the capacity - or potential - to better our lives.
I think that’s something that I really believe in, that I hope will grow in Singaporeans as well, which is the power of art to impact people and effect change, no matter how big or small.
We lump a lot of things under the term "artist". What does it mean to you and how do you approach "art-making"?
I think "being an artist" means something different whoever you are, and for me, something I’ve come to realise over the past few years is the importance of creation or art-making for myself.
For me, it is the source of a lot of purpose and inspiration, and one of the only things that makes me feel alive.
Art-making, however, implies a degree of art-consuming as well - a big part of my process is listening, watching, feeling, etc. Since the art one creates is inevitably tied to the sort of media you’re consuming as well as your surroundings, being in the pandemic has been quite challenging for myself and a lot of my friends who create.
Creativity was not meant to be stuck inside, repeatedly facing the same thoughts and visions. That said, I do think it’s incredible how some artists are putting aside their difficulties to continue making inspiring work. But if you’ve gone the other way and struggled to find your muse, I think that’s okay too.
Artists do have an opportunity now, though - art continues to be one of the few things that can still reach people, touch people beyond the boundaries that are between all of us now.
These are bleak times. But has the sitch also forced artists like yourself to think outside the box or changed the way people appreciate the arts?
As wonderful as some of the innovations have been - virtual shows, live-streaming, etc. - I do believe that some things are meant to be experienced in-person. Seeing art in a gallery, or watching a live performance - I don’t think anything can replace the magic of that experience.
Personally I’m incredibly excited for the first live show I see after the restrictions are eased off; watching live performances always inspires me like nothing else can.
You recently release new music (congrats!). How has the current pandemic/ stuck-at-home situation inspired or aided you in art-making?
Something cool I did watch was this theatre company that did a play entirely over Zoom, using different camera angles and set-ups to create an entirely immersive experience that probably would not have worked in any other medium.
I did have a chance to collaborate with visual artist Yanyun Chen on a piece that was kind of rooted in that stuck-at-home circumstance - we did a short film titled “Hindsight is 20/20” (above) centered around the difficulties of being stuck in your room and the kind of loopy, repetitive nature of time in a space like that. That piece was more of an emotional response to the kind of feelings we were stuck with.
That said, I think we’re still waiting to see the ripples of this COVID-19 experience, and how it will reflect and impact ideas and colours within art movements. It’s been almost two years since we’ve entered this new reality, and I don’t think we’ve really seen any major work that focuses on COVID.
I think sometimes when you’re going through something, you only really get to create something that interacts deeply with that experience after the experience itself is over.
It's hard to remain positive during this difficult period. Do you see it differently and have you had more time to sit down and think about your craft, for instance?
As I mentioned, creativity hinges also on the kind of things you’re exposed to, so I think there is a limit to how positive an experience like this can really be. That said, I’m quite excited for the explosion of art and performance that is sure to follow once our situation improves, which, hopefully, will be soon!