Concerned Citizens Programme: Class of 2019

The Concerned Citizens Programme is a 4-month intensive mentorship programme led by artist-mentor Cheong Kah Kit. Originally intended for five participants, the programme eventually accepted a total of six participants due to the outstanding quality of the applications received from the open call process. From 3 September to 14 December, these participants will develop their social and spatial mobility concerns into tangible project outcomes under the mentorship of Cheong Kah Kit, Alvin Tan, Nurul Huda Rashid, and Kin Chui.

We speak to the selected participants about their practice and concerns below.

Pictured above: CCP Participants with lead mentor Cheong Kah Kit and guest lecturers Tay Wei Leng (top left) and Yeo Siew Hua (bottom right)

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Jocelyn Chng and Amanda Lim


Jocelyn Chng
is a freelance practitioner, writer and educator in dance and theatre, with a keen interest in issues of culture and history, both personal and in wider societal/national contexts. She holds a double Masters in Theatre Studies/Research from the Universities of Amsterdam and Tampere, and obtained a BA(Hons) in Theatre Studies from the National University of Singapore. She also completed a PG Dip in Education (Dance Teaching) in 2018. Her previous works, Becoming Mother? (2017) and Mulled Wine (2019, working title) deal with the intersections between personal histories, culture and form.

Amanda Lim is a visual artist at heart, an educator by day and a musician on weekends. Her art practice is concerned with time, form and indeterminacy, often using speculative narratives to explore paradoxes of the human condition. She has a keen interest in building communities of authenticity, inclusivity and kindness; and in using the arts as a vehicle for connecting people, ideas and for personal growth through meaningful encounters. She holds a Master of Art from the University of New South Wales, Australia, and a Post-grad Diploma in Education (Secondary) from NIE, NTU, Singapore.

What aspects of social mobility are you most concerned about, and why?

As persons who have had the privilege of a good education in a meritocratic society, we have had many opportunities and access to social and cultural capital which has kept us ‘mobile’. Through our own physical mobility and moving through public spaces, we hope to explore how spaces (and the time at which one travels through them) can reveal undercurrents of social status and ‘class’. Are public spaces really colour- and status-blind? Can roads, pavements, parks, Seniors’ Corners, void decks, playgrounds, sheltered walkways, bus stops etc. tell us stories about the people who use them? Who are they, and why are they here at this time? Does time and space belong to certain demographics to the exclusion of others? These are some of the questions we would like to explore in this programme.

How does your ideal Singapore look like?

Our ideal Singapore is a place that we would be genuinely proud to call “home”. Where everyone is accepted, loved, and feels safe; not only those whose beliefs, behaviours and practices fit into a narrow mould of what is deemed acceptable. Even though we cannot solve the problems of inequality, we can always treat one another with respect, kindness and generosity.

Jaclyn Chong


Jaclyn Chong
is a freelance performance-maker and a Young Professional Trainee at NTU Centre for Contemporary Art. She is a recent graduate from the Theatre Studies programme at National University of Singapore. As a Southeast Asian studies minor, Jaclyn believes engaging with the arts is a necessary form of social consciousness. Her works explore the boundaries between moving image and performance, probing into representations of the body.

What aspects of social mobility are you most concerned about, and why?

I am most concerned about social mobility for people who fall out of institutions and formalised structures. Who and what protects them? How do we create spaces, and by extension safe spaces for them to exist? As a freelance performance-maker myself, I find that the temporary alliances and safe spaces we try to create in the theatre, can instead place individuals in compromising situations. When are we pushing creative boundaries, and when are we pushing personal boundaries of safety and privacy? These lines become blurred when vulnerabilities are exploited, excused as idiosyncrasies for the sake of the art. In other words, I am concerned about how we may care for the individual that is marginalised by society, but yet has nowhere to turn to when alternative structures falter too.

How does your ideal Singapore look like?

It would be an empathetic society, where we are able to hold space for our grievances and frustrations that can build up over time living in a city like Singapore. It is nothing to be ashamed about, and I hope that we will be mature enough to have the difficult conversations we need to move forward as a society.

Kristian-Marc James Paul


Kristian-Marc James Paul
is a recent graduate from Yale-NUS College. He majored in Anthropology with a focus in Gender Studies and minored in Arts & Humanities with a focus in creative writing. He won the Bernard Bate Prize for Outstanding Anthropology Capstone Thesis for his undergraduate thesis. In college, Kristian was the inaugural Director of Diversity & Inclusion for the Yale-NUS Student Government, a Sexual Wellness Peer Educator, and a Residential College Advisor, mentoring and providing guidance to incoming first-year students. He has also written several creative nonfiction essays for various publications. Kristian is also currently a part of the climate advocacy collective, Singapore Climate Rally.

What aspects of social mobility are you most concerned about, and why?

I don’t think we live in an equitable society.

I’ve come to be very invested in how specifically, class, race, gender and sexuality intersect in Singapore and how performances of these identities manifest in Singapore. I’m very interested to see how narratives surrounding social mobility—narratives that are undeniably state-constructed and state-controlled—limit but also grant social mobility to only specific individuals here. The state espouses narratives surrounding survivalism and pragmatism, which in turn produce very limited definitions of and pathways towards social mobility. Inadvertently, this means that only certain manifestations and performances of identities keep getting (re)produced, further valorising the already successful and further alienating the already oppressed.

Additionally, I believe that social mobility can be seen through the body, through our movements. State scripts are inscribed on the body and so, I would like to examine the kinds of bodies that are granted social mobility.

How does your ideal Singapore look like?

For a start, maybe one that isn’t so Mandarin-speaking? One without National Service, one without GDP as a measure of success, one where a Chinese dialect can be taken as a Mother Tongue, one where Malay is compulsory and where pre-colonial Malayan History becomes a compulsory subject to take in schools and where that history is more valorised that Raffles, where PSLE is abolished, where capital punishment is abolished, where our economy is decarbonised, where inter-racial couples pervade, where domestic and migrant workers are treated equitably and are provided with just rights.

Mumtaz Md Kadir

 
Mumtaz Md Kadir
is a learner who is curious about the unique narratives epitomised by every individual. If not burrowed in books, she can be found in long conversations, trying to deduce what shapes a person’s identity, value system and lens of perception. She wonders if these factors can be weaved across diverse narratives to bring people together, so we as a humanity can miraculously enter upon a collective dream. This curiosity has shaped her career in Singapore’s social sector, attempting to shed light on the less popular causes left stranded on the margins of our economic success story. Her search for alternative narratives also compelled her to traverse beautiful but conflicted lands—including that of Palestine, Kashmir and Iran. Since completing her bachelor’s degree in economics and political science, she has been contemplating on ways to foster her intellectual curiosity and develop methods of self-expression.

What aspects of social mobility are you most concerned about, and why?

A discussion on social mobility is incomplete without also addressing inequality. I am most concerned about the divisions that are caused by disconnected life experiences in a less equitable society. What implications will varied experiences have on self identity, social behaviour, and belonging or ownership to the place we live in and the country that we are supposed to have an equal claim in? I believe that there is a need for interconnected safe spaces, allowing different life trajectories to cross. When people are up close with one another, perhaps they will want to engage, learn about and act with or for someone who would otherwise only be imagined in a certain caricature. Then, we can collectively address real or perceived structural conditions that impact day-to-day lives of some more than others.

How does your ideal Singapore look like?

A place where persons occupying the weakest positions in society will have spaces to fit in, to be.

Mysara Aljaru


Mysara Aljaru
is a freelance journalist and producer currently pursuing her Masters in Malay Studies at the National University of Singapore. She was previously a TV producer with the local mainstream media. A lens-based practitioner, she is currently researching on mainstream media discourse on Malay development. Her works revolve around politics of space, class, race and gender. Her writings have also been published on Beyond The Hijab, Budi Kritik (2018), Growing Up Perempuan (2018) and Karyawan. She is also a participating artist for the upcoming 2019 edition of Objectif’s annual Women in Film programme.

What aspects of social mobility are you most concerned about, and why?

I am concerned with firstly, the narratives that we have been exposed to when it comes to the conversation on social mobility. The narratives that we internalise and share are still very uncritical of structural issues, and the conversation and narratives are dominated by the elites. While it is heartening to see more Singaporeans taking concern in this issue, we need to also see how we can shift the focus from mobility to social access, a key point that is important when we talk about inequality, in my opinion.

How does your ideal Singapore look like?

My idea Singapore is one where access is not restricted because of anyone’s race, gender, sexuality and class. It is one where not only the elite gets to speak, but where they also listen—and where there is no elite.

ila


ila
is a visual and performance artist who works with found objects, moving images and live performance. She seeks to create alternative nodes of experience and entry points into the peripheries of the unspoken, the tacit and the silenced. With light as her medium of choice, ila weaves imagined narratives into existing realities. Using her body as a space of tension, negotiation and confrontation, ila creates work that generates discussion about gender, history and identity in relation to pressing contemporary issues.

What aspects of social mobility are you most concerned about, and why?

This year, Senior Minister Tharman akin the importance of social mobility in society as an escalator that needs to keep on moving up, something that should be kept in the minds of policymakers. But social mobility should not necessarily be upwards or vertical. Instead, let’s consider the act of mobilising as horizontal and loosely distributed. The aspects of social mobility that I am most concerned with is not about weaponising privilege and power to assist those who are marginalised. Instead, how do we mobilise one another to create affinities and gather our resources to destabilise/disrupt existing systems? For the CCP, I am interested particularly in dismantling violent behaviours, such as sexual harassment, all forms of discrimination and abuse that have been happening rather frequently in the arts and within our communities.

How does your ideal Singapore look like?