AN ARTIST'S REPERTOIRE lies in her awareness towards how she can express herself and be expressed by her art. True to a Type T personality, Jacquelyn Soo's decade-long experience with various art styles and curatorial projects belies a persistent curiosity towards environmentalism, racism, cultural barriers, political history, anthropology and psychology.
Her decision to delve into performance art was a progression from sculptures, drawings and video works, and her list of admired fellow performance artists includes Joseph Bueys, Gilbert & George, Matthew Barney and Yoko Ono. In search for an answer through these art mediums, detractors have accused her of being “impractical”, “insensible”, “crazy”, “dreaming” etc.
After all, it might seem insensible for the 32-year-old Chairperson of Singapore Contemporary Young Artist (SCYA) to don an army jacket, chalk out her territory around strangers seated on the stairs in Stockholm and shoot them with a harmless water gun in a bid to provoke reactions.
“My least favourite [performance art] would be Line Up Soldiers (2012)! Even though it was a performance in Stockholm, it did not capture the audience as much as I was searching for them to interact more with me on the nature of war and territorial behaviour,” she said.
Jacquelyn started SCYA in 2008 to raise awareness of artists and contemporary art in Singapore, and to build such an archive of artists and their works can be a long, thankless process. Having ran SCYA for 5 years, the group is slowly gaining a foothold on both local and international grounds as government and corporate sectors are beginning to engage SCYA's artists for projects, and are starting to acknowledge her efforts in archiving and promoting these artists.
Her favourite performance was The Fall of Tragedies (2008), where she performed as different characters seven times, illustrating the roles and mythology of women in society. The piece was inspired by Henrik Johan Ibsen, a 19th century Norwegian playwright, theatre director and poet who is often referred to as “the father of realism”.
Contrary to theatrical performances, a performance art piece may or may not end with a curtain call. It has the flexibility of doing away with the script and emphasises mostly on interaction with the audience rather than of applause. The next passerby on the streets could be your fellow actor, director and audience.
Can I listen to your heartbeat?
In 2011, Jacquelyn walked through Union Square Park in New York City and knelt after every ten steps, followed by a request to listen to a citizen's heartbeat. With the intention of highlighting the historical events in Union Square Park through the act of a prayer for kindness and freedom, she has caught some people by surprise when she placed her ear on their chest and repeated words of prayer for “hope, freedom, anti-corruption and all the vices that as humans we are capable of".
“As the first impact of performance art is usually the use of sight, something that is out of the original or the reverse will catch the attention of people and this is usually what I prepare myself mentally for,” she explained her thought process behind her performance art. “Then I would source for the right colour, material, form, texture of the object that can best represent the concept/message.”
“My journey as an artist has been a fulfilling and worthy experience, and as long as I can, I will continue pursuing art and creating.”