Poignant reflections on life and death

WHEELS OF LIFE: Yellow pinwheels at the exhibition allow visitors to pen their reflections on what gives their lives meaning. (Photo: Muhammad Ridzuan Osman)

It was Mother’s Day. She had bought chocolates to surprise her mum but instead, she was the one who got surprised. Her mum died before she could see her.

This is one of the many stories from the children featured in a short film being screened as part of the Both Sides, Now immersive arts exhibition at Khoo Teck Puat Hospital. Commissioned by the Lien Foundation and ACM Foundation and co-produced by ArtsWok and Drama Box, the exhibition aims to get visitors to discover and think about what it means to be living well and dying well. Visitors can watch outdoor theatre, attend public dialogues, view short and animated films and scrutinize art installations.

Ms Ko Siew Huey, the exhibition’s co-producer from ArtsWok, believes that the exhibition can be used as a platform for people to talk about a taboo subject. She said: “Dying is actually something that people want to engage in but because it is such a taboo topic, it is stopping them. By not talking about it, that is very much a hidden agenda and unexpressed feelings and thoughts. We have built in different ways where people can respond to the artworks, and through that, we are building open conversations and dialogues.”

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STA students Arnisa Abdullah and Rasyiqah Rosli are among four RP students volunteering at the show.

The short film at the ‘Some Things Lost, Some Things Gained’ booth tells the story of how children cope with the death of loved ones, with the aim of getting viewers to reflect on their own ways of dealing with loss. At another corner in the hospital’s main foyer, an art installation called ‘Turn Turn Turn’ features hundreds of yellow pinwheels spinning, with each pinwheel containing drawings and writings by visitors expressing what gives their lives meaning.

There is even a twist to the concept of a will at the ‘Will-Not’ booth, where visitors can draft a “living will” – a list of things they want while still alive and what they do not want when they die.

SAY YOU WILL, SAY YOU WON’T: On these “living wills”, visitors write a list of things they want while still alive, and what they don’t want when death comes calling. (Photo: ArtsWok)

It has certainly made visitors pause and reflect on a topic they may not have previously given much thought to. Ngee Ann Polytechnic student Muhammad Haziq Bin Yusof, 18, said: “It’s different from the other exhibitions that I have been to. You get to see the different views people have on death and how they deal with it. It made me reflect on the things that I value most in life and what I really want to do before I die.”

His schoolmate Siti Aishah Bte Aziz, 17, said she found the exhibition enlightening. “It made me cherish those that are around me more,” she said.

Other highlights include a documentary by filmmaker Anthony Chen of Ilo Ilo fame on how different family members cope with the death of a grandmother, as well as public dialogues with healthcare professionals and those who had survived death.

Ms Huey hopes that the experience will get people to start talking more openly from now on. “We hope people think, reflect and take some actions to have that conversation that is so important, after visiting this arts experience. Yes, it is a complex issue, but I would say, make a start, take a step, and take your time.”

Photo: Carol Sak

What: Both Sides, Now Exhibition
Where: Khoo Teck Puat Hospital (Mostly at Main Foyer)
When: 9.30am – 8pm (until Dec 8)
More information: http://www.bothsidesnow.sg/