(De)constructing the Narrative

By Mysara Aljaru

Mysara, who works primarily on lens-based projects that document the stories of the marginalised, delves deeper into her research topic after attending the first Concerned Citizens Programme closed-door sharing session with filmmaker Chris Yeo and visual artist Tay Wei Leng. She describes the methodology she wishes to undertake and shares how she hopes to unpack the narrative of the ‘model minority’ as perpetuated by mainstream media and history.

Photo contributed by Mysara Aljaru

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As someone who has been working and researching on the idea of narratives, I have always been interested in how narratives are shaped in different spaces and how it affects the way we understand social issues. I’m also interested in bringing works and research from academia together with art, as a way to reach out to the masses. I’m very excited to be part of this meaningful programme, thankful to be given the opportunity to be accepted into it, and also grateful to be able to work with such amazing mentors.

On the first day, we started out getting to know everyone over pizza, which not only allows us to familiarise with one another, but also to discover what we are all planning to do. Everyone is so excited to be on board and I’m also looking forward to not only see their final outcomes, but to build friendships from this!

We got right into work after a day of getting to know each other. We had a chance to interact with filmmaker Yeo Siew Hua and visual artist Tay Wei Leng. It was an important session, especially for someone like me who work on lens-based projects that deal with narratives of the marginalised. Having watched Yeo’s film titled A Land Imagined—which impressed me greatly—there were many questions running through my mind, especially the issues of showcasing the plight of the marginalised, power structures when it comes to storytelling, and even the idea of violence behind the camera. I had similar questions for Tay, whose works also revolves around images and interviews. All of us got into an engaging discussion about what it means to be sharing the stories of the marginalised and minorities, how do we go about it in a tactful manner, and what sharing these stories mean in the first place.

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The sharing session has allowed me to be more self-aware of my ideas for the programme, which is to unpack the idea of social mobility through the narratives that we have been internalising and have been exposed to.

I intend to do a series of projects, all linked to each other under the umbrella topic of ‘constructing the model minority’, and also about the politics of space and politics of rehearsal. What does it mean to be a model minority? How do you construct it? And from whose lens is it coming from? Can we ever be a model minority, or are we constantly just “striving” to be one but we are stuck in the idea of it?

I intend to conduct workshops where participants can come together and we deconstruct this idea of social mobility through various academic and artworks. I intend for all of us to relook at the idea of labour and how this capitalistic world has influenced us to look at people through labour. Post-workshops, I also intend to look at historical narratives, which has shaped how we look at minority bodies. Last but not least, I intend to use film and art to showcase the breakdown that I have researched and experimented on through a performance piece and exhibition.

But right now, it’s time to dedicate myself to research of course!