“We never understand how little we need in this world until we know the loss of it”
- James Barrie
Loss as a concept is something that everyone would be intimately familiar with as an inevitable part of our human experience. It implies a previous state of existence, a reality that has altered, sometimes irrevocably. But yet without that knowledge of a past being, there would not have been loss in the first place. Through loss, we are made acutely aware of a presence of the past, and perhaps through that, a projection into a future that we aspire towards.
In this materialistic age where there is a universal obsession to procure, win, and retain; where we seek to embellish our lives with ever more items, people, and meaning, loss reminds us of the fragility of possession: of history, of memory, of relationships. When we lose something – or even ourselves – we come face to face with change, in a new environment we now need to get acquainted and accustomed to. We are challenged to view our world anew, to confront our beliefs, to compromise and adapt, and finally to learn how to let go. Loss compels us to accept transience, and by way of that, we learn to be free.
“Loss is nothing else but change, and change is Nature's delight.”
- Marcus Aurelius
Art is therefore the perfect medium to explore these notions of loss and what it brings with it. Art allows us – as creators and viewers alike – to straddle between what-was and what-is, and in doing so, opens our horizons up to imagine what-could-be.
Art can be used as a form of remembrance (of places, history, people) but it is also catharsis in creation. As we examine loss through art, we learn not to lose ourselves in that, because art implies the genesis of something new that may honour our loss but yet possibly replace it.
“There is no better than adversity. Every defeat, every heartbreak, every loss, contains its own seed, its own lesson on how to improve your performance the next time.”
- Malcolm X
Loss is a good thing to happen to human beings. Without loss, we take things for granted, especially for those amongst us who are mollycoddled by our very own comfort zones. We easily rationalise and justify our ways of existence, and hubris sets in as we become increasingly ethnocentric. Whether it is just a man-in-the-street, a celebrity or a politician, we always gain blindness when we ascend in power or sustain our status over long periods of time, particularly when left unchallenged. Art and Loss is therefore an opportunity for us to reflect, re-think and re-vision the ways we perceive ourselves and our surroundings.
Gentle prodding seldom works as human nature is such that we often remain transfixed in our positions. We are often too smart for our own good and stubbornness is misconstrued as convictions that we opt to abide against all odds. So often, unless loss involves something we value like our eye-sight, a limb, a close friend, a lover, a spouse, an organ, we are not in a state where we would want to make any real change. For transformation to even begin, loss has to be real and concrete. It has to hurt and one has to feel the price of the absence of what was once important to us.
“The more the data banks record about each one of us, the less we exist.”
- Marshall McLuhan
In this technologically advanced age, where data is king and the means of capturing and archiving data are innumerable, where we can document immense amount of raw data and even put them on the cloud for an extended period, how has our comprehension and appreciation of loss altered? With information overload, have we lost anything about ourselves at all? Can art serve as a filter of sorts, to direct our attention towards issues that matter, to force us to take a step back and think before reacting upon impulse online?
We can even arguably say that social media has made artists of us all, by virtue of our cloaks of anonymity online, leading to carefully curated personas of ourselves and mirages of our Instagrammed world that we want others to partake in. Our connections across the globe may have proliferated, but this web is filigree-like, based solely on the fabricated selves of individuals and ephemeral – sometimes meaningless, oftentimes complicated – threads of relationships. In our art of self-creation, have we lost ourselves in the process, or have we lost our true bonds, our appreciation for real-time personal touches?
Art and Loss makes one contemplate on the performance of loss as if one is able to rehearse it so we can avoid it in real terms in our lives. Yet life is often stronger than art in that we often feel that art can reflect loss and loss can find its way into art works, but few art works inscribe that loss whilst the audience members encounter it, few create the void as it is being engaged shifting us as we leave the theatre, museum or the site in which we experience that very art work.
Join the Fringe as we examine and excavate different interpretations of the relationship between
Art and Loss.
14 – 25 January 2015.