Lim Chin Huat shares about his journey of learning one artistic discipline after another, his approach to creating work, his struggle with calling himself an artist, and how his current project In Her Hands traces its origins back to more than ten years ago. He currently teaches movement full-time at the Intercultural Theatre Institute.
CH: I was a science student, then the day I decided to quit science, the first training I was interested in was fine arts, visual arts. When I start to do something, I always have this idea that if I want to play with it, I go for it. I never say “I cannot do this, I cannot do that.” Even in my first training, I crossed from Western styles to traditional Chinese ink and even calligraphy. I believe that everything you want to explore, just go for it. But go to the fullest, whatever it is. This is my learning process, and it has led me to many things.
When Boon Teck [currently the Chief Artistic Director of theatre company Toy Factory wanted to do a performing piece, I thought, “Okay, why not?” In my third year, NAFA students created a lot of happening things. Whenever we had an issue, we would think of how to express ourselves regarding visual or even movement, to convey a message, even to the school management. We even did installations. But during then we didn’t care how to call these things. Now people are like, “Wow that’s installation.” But we treated it like an art piece. We played without any boundaries of, “You can’t do this,” or “I need to paint on the canvas only.” Some things can’t be said through your paintbrush. So it started from there.
Then when Boon Teck invited me to join Toy Factory, my first task was set design. All of us trained together, even the designers, so it was never about just sitting there and watching. Everyone would come in to have that exploration together, to figure out how the piece should be.
Then they realized I could move, and said, “Why don’t you perform?” But I felt I wasn’t good enough, so I was looking at what can help me further fine-tune my body ability. I took dance as elective modules, and I performed with Toy Factory. Somehow because of the playfulness, I never thought of how I should categorize myself. I feel like I’m still in the process of exploring. I treat whatever I do as an art form. But I don’t see myself as an artist. I see myself as a practitioner. I have to keep learning.
There’s never been a process for me to get ready. There are always new tasks, new games. I treat everything like a game. I never know a single thing, but I will figure things out. It’s all about framing solutions.
GK: One form of art kind of led you into another discipline and so forth.
CH: But I never think about their difference.
If you want to call it art, whatever I do, for me it’s about how eager I am to talk about certain things, to be able to deliver a message across. Even for movement, do we need to involve voice? Or even more acting? It depends on how much you need to begin to deliver. So then things start to cross.
Read Gua Khee’s interview with Chin Huat on Talking Circles.