Boo Junfeng, Singaporean artist-film-maker, shared about what prompted him to create a short film for Bukit Brown and in Bukit Brown, for an exhibition at the singapore art museum (sam). Screened in one of sam’s galleries dedicated to the President’s Young Talents show and entitled Mirror, the short film is a product of Boo’s decision to make a piece of work with two screens, in freer form yet suitable for fitting into sam’s gallery.
When asked why did he pick Bukit Brown amid the many different source of inspiration and potential themes, the soft-spoken and self-assured artist said, “when I heard news about the highway (that will cut through Bukit Brown), I thought I must do something about Bukit Brown.”
He then joined one of the weekend public tours conducted by volunteers and was immediately inspired by the place to make a piece of work on it. While shooting Mirror in Bukit Brown, he and the actor Irfan Kasban lay on the ground next to the tombs and just looked up, it felt “calm and it was beautiful”, he revealed. I am not sure if he said “next to the tombs” or “on the tombs”, but I am sure he said “not pantang (taboo in Malay language)”.
Junfeng’s Mirror features two soldiers, one serves the present-day Armed Forces and the other the Malayan Communist Party from the past, and they are lost, alone, in what seems to be the same space. The soldiers mainly appear in their respective screens of the dual-screen projection bent at an angle in the middle, presenting what looks like mirror images but not quite. The artwork reiterates “the point that our present and future are inextricably tied to our past”, while it pushes us to ponder “the critical distance one might need to view history”.
I have watched Mirror umpteen times and my personal take is, the bend between the screens denotes the highway cutting Bukit Brown into two. Only some elements in the film are mirrored on the dual screens, while certain other things are not the same on each side; perhaps akin to visiting the original place personally versus punching a few keys in a library retrieving documentation on the place.
A particular scene of the present-day soldier walking towards and looking at the soldier of the past and vice versa in the other screen reminds me of how we may approach and view our past and how the past may do the same to us. Forget about the cliché of how the present is a reflection of the past and/or the other way around. If history and today were to meet, what would they think of each other and chat about?
Mirror is still open to viewing at sam till this Sunday, 15th September 2013.
According to the latest reports, approximately 4,150 tombs will be affected and exhumed from Bukit Brown due to the announced highway project. On-going civil movements are trying to keep Bukit Brown intact for its heritage and ecological values as well as its biodiversity.