For artist weish, who is one-half of electronica duo .gif, this has been an intense year creatively, and one of increased self-scrutiny. Her most recent project, Did you want more sleep?, combines sound, visual and text, and references the artist’s personal problems with sleep. It is available online via video-on-demand from now to 31 December, and is presented by the Singapore International Festival of Arts (SIFA) as part of its Sound Social Series.
In a year that has seen a blurring of creative boundaries in the arts as it finds its footing within the digital space, weish’s emotionally effervescent work appears to have found several spiritual homes. As part of .gif, she was involved in Beside Ourselves, a theatrical and sonic exploration at the M1 Singapore Fringe Festival in January (“right before everything hit”); and in July, the intensely personal Be Here, With Me was part of Checkpoint Theatre’s online series Two Songs and a Story.
ArtsEquator talks to weish about how Did you want more sleep? fits within her oeuvre, and her development as an artist who does a “mishmash of theatre and music”.
What was the starting point for this project?
SIFA came to me at such an interesting time. This year I found myself doing three, I guess, intense multidisciplinary work. There was Beside Ourselves for the M1 Fringe in January, which became an entire play with songs interspersed – we had actors and live visuals and sound designers and everything. It was way more than I thought it was gonna be. Middle of the year, there was Two Songs and a Story. Checkpoint Theatre asked me to tell a story, and I guess in my entire career of being a musician, I haven’t really done much of that, even though I do have a background in studying theatre. I guess I started writing scripts, dramatic text, this year.
SIFA caught me at a time where I was beginning to really find my own and get excited about this sort of hybrid form.
Can you tell us more about Did you want more sleep??
I linked up with Marc (Gabriel Loh), a visual artist that I work with a lot. He’s done so many of our albums across different projects. He was also my art director for the M1 Fringe show. We were thinking, wouldn’t it be fun to subvert or put a spin on this livestream thing, because we’re all so saturated with just watching a music set. So let’s mess with that a little bit, and do something weird and unexpected. It’s kind of absurd and nonsensical in a light and fun way.
I have an array of weird problems with sleep. I can wake up a billion times and not know whether I’m really awake. It happens to quite a lot of people, like false awakening. But for me, it’s very existential, and quite disorienting. So we decided to go with that.
Did you want more sleep? is something you ask someone when they look like they haven’t had restful sleep. Like “eh, do you wanna sleep some more or not, you got time.” But I guess as you watch this, you realise that the overtones of that question are quite sinister and horrific, because I really don’t want to sleep anymore, I just want to know that I’m awake and get on with the day.
So for you sleep is something that’s not comforting?
Lately? Yeah. This past year. I guess people with sleep afflictions – sleepwalking, sleep paralysis, sleep apnea, all kinds of things – have a very different relationship to sleep. And it’s actually very fascinating how that works. The other day I sleptwalked to the fridge and cleaned out all the expired things because I couldn’t tahan that they were there in waking life. I woke up the next day, and I thought, “haha, so funny, I had this dream”. And I went down and I realised that I actually did it.
In terms of the medium of video and storytelling, how do you feel about going into these forms this year? What have you learned about yourself?
It’s been a very overwhelming experience being asked to write more stories that are performed in a theatrical way. I also feel that anxiety of “hey, I’m not a playwright, and I’m not an actor”. And I guess worrying about where that places me. And whether I’m just being very “step”, you know. It’s something that I keep in mind and try and create something unique and of its own – that isn’t necessarily trying to be something else.
It’s been heartening because the people that I’ve had on board have been very excited. Like “eh, I’ve never seen a work like this before”, and then they come in with their own ideas. And especially for this production, Did you want more sleep?, just calling old friends (Very Crafty Films) who are in production. And they’re like, “how about we do this and then that, and we mount this thing.” And I’m like, “wah, you’re making your life very leceh”, and they’re like “it’s ok, it’s worth it”. So I guess that’s the affirmation I’ve had so far.
How has this year been like for you?
Ups and downs, like everybody else. I mean, most of my income was from live shows. So financially it was tough. But creatively it’s my most prolific year. All the other years, we were caught up going from gig to gig. Last year .gif travelled like crazy, sometimes twice, three times a month, different continents. Whatever writing or composing was done late at night, because we had to.
Cleaning out our calendar this year meant that, not only did we have time to play and dream, but that similarly, different companies had time to think, “hey, what should we do with this situation?” and be more open minded about new forms of art. And then in turn, engage people like me to help them dream about new things. Which, I guess, was something that would never have happened if we continued to be that busy.
Did you want more sleep? is a year-ender for you. How do you feel about that?
Very happy. I was so worried about this back in October. Like “I have a blank slate! I don’t know what to do!”. We went through multiple drafts of ideas and chucked them. I was worried that the work was going to be very solipsistic and self-absorbed. I tried to do something more research-based, but in the end I couldn’t help but draw from what’s been happening (gestures to self) here. Yeah, so it feels like a big celebration, because everyone had so much fun on set. And it’s like, messy – I’m throwing things around, and the whole thing was like a party. It’s a really sweet ending to the year.
Did you want more sleep? is available via video on demand from now to 31 Dec 2359 hrs. The pay-as-you-wish tickets are offered at $10, $15 and $20. Buy tickets here. For more information on the programmes of SIFA v2.020, please click here.
This article is sponsored by the Singapore International Festival of the Arts.
About the author(s)
Nabilah Said is an award-winning playwright, editor and cultural commentator. She is also an artist who works with text across various artforms and formats. Her plays have been staged in Singapore and London, including ANGKAT, which won Best Original Script at the 2020 Life Theatre Awards. Nabilah is the former editor of ArtsEquator.