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story | Mathias Ooi, Staff Writer
photo | Peh Yi Lin, Staff Photographer
This past recess week, as many of us rushed to leave for home or vacation, eight students quietly moved into two empty suites on the fourth floor of Saga Tower A. With a motley of equipment in hand—paint brushes, canvases, and even laptops and speakers—they were heading into a retreat of their own: a week of living, breathing and making art.
Behind Closed Doors, in its third iteration this year, is an annual arts residency program that seeks to unite those in the arts scene at Yale-NUS College. The program sees a select group of participants living together in close quarters over recess week, allowing them to interact with each other, bounce ideas around, and support one another within a communal environment. The artists are free to create art in any form and work individually or in collaboration with others. All completed works are then showcased at an exhibition (this year, starting March 9) to conclude the program.
Elaine Wijaya ’20, the head organizer of Behind Closed Doors 2018, mentioned that her vision this year was to bring a community of artists together, such that “even after the residency, they will continue to interact, share ideas, and feel comfortable knowing that there are other people in Yale-NUS or between batches that can appreciate their art, as well as be comfortable criticizing each other”. To better achieve this, the organizing team even held pre-event ice-breaker activities that onlookers reportedly thought bordered on ‘cult-ish’ behaviour. Activities included screaming into microphones and spontaneous interpretive dancing, all of which allowed participants to build rapport before moving in together.
Another thing that Behind Closed Doors prides itself on is the wide range of mediums and concepts that it accommodates; this year’s participants will be creating works that encompass the visual arts, music and poetry, among others. Organizer and participant Nyang Bing Pei ’21 expressed her appreciation for the unique talents her fellow participants brought to the table. “What I love most about Behind Closed Doors is how it brings these unique, talented and creative people together for an entire week where we can just pause our crazy school lives and make art,” she said. Wijaya added that it was heartening to see participants working on and supporting very different projects during her visit to the suites earlier in the week.
Aside from the tight-knit community and wide range of talents on show, participants have also come to appreciate the space—both literally and figuratively—that Behind Closed Doors provides. Nyang said, “Behind Closed Doors gives us the freedom and resources to create something cool, something that breaks the rules, something that says what we want to say through [visual] art, performance, music and poetry.” See Wern Hao’ 20 recording his voice during an exposure session, coordinated by Jay Ong’ 21, to the loop machine.
Interestingly, being given a physical space to work with also made the experience more meaningful for several of the participants; some had never even considered preparing for an art exhibition prior to this event. As musician Jay Ong ’21 put it, “My Behind Closed Doors experience is unique because I never had to think about the visual aspect of my music before. Given an exhibition space, I had to think about how my music would be visually received as well and that forced me to think of ways to make the visual element a part of the musical experience.”
In its own way, Behind Closed Doors has enriched the Yale-NUS art scene by providing these artists with a rare platform to build relationships and explore their beloved craft. Beyond the development of technical skills, sharing of ideas, and preparing for the exhibition, there is the hope that these eight participants will move on from the program with newfound inspiration, friendships and respect for their fellow artists. As Wijaya quipped, “sometimes, it’s just nice to have art friends.”
Behind Closed Doors will culminate in an exhibition at Saga Tower A #04-01 and #04-02 to -05 from March 9 to March 18. In addition to a showcase of works created throughout the residency, there will also be live performances by other students on the opening night. Doors will open at 7 pm.