Knock, knock; the door is O.P.E.N.

Benedict Leong

April 12, 2014

To me, The O.P.E.N. is a platform for people to connect with performing artistes, not to find out what they do, but what drives them to do what they do. The issues, ideas and themes that will be discussed through this platform are linked at various levels to the performances showcased during Singapore International Festival of the Arts (SIFA). The O.P.E.N. provides people a context, while SIFA offer people stories. When one attends both events, their mind forms the bridge between the content of a story and the ability of the performing arts to convey them.

We are all familiar of the definitions of 'open', 'participate', 'enrich' and 'negotiate'; with The O.P.E.N. and SIFA as my context, I decided to break them down according to what happens after these definitions have been applied.

[ Trying in spite of fear, preconceived ideas, uncertainty, etc. ]

Being 'open' suggests that prior to being so, one was 'closed'. I look at being 'closed' similar to standing behind a wall; this wall is our pre-conceived ideas, our fears, our suspicions, uncertainty, doubts, etc.

One can want to accept or engage in new ideas, suggestions and people, but that 'want' has to evolve into a 'try'. Once one is 'trying', I consider one being 'open' to the variety of influences around them. A person who attempts to scale the wall will have decidedly more experiences than someone who, convinced of its difficulty or pointlessness, does not.

[ Exchange of ideas, thoughts, opinions, etc. ]

If we say participating is a form of communication, whether vocal or physical, the crux is on the sharing and exchange of personal and/or factual information. A conversation that is one-sided does not suggest healthy communication.

[ Adding layers to a personal impression ]

What makes an experience enriching? Anything, really. I believe an enriching experience is memorable, and memorability for a fact or situation is like the design for a school bag: you need it to carry your books, but having Batman on the flaps is going to make carrying it to school a lot more enjoyable.

[ Agreeing to disagree, a (positive) form of compromise ]

I think negotiating is a process, but also that it need not come to a dramatic conclusion of only one right answer. Agreeing to disagree with each other is a wonderful way of cultivating an environment that is encouraging and stimulating for people in general. You may have personal judgements but unless it's been called for, there seems to be no harm in letting an opposing opinion simply exist beside your own. It might even be a refreshing, not having to limit one's point of view to one single opinion.

Of course, that may not always be the outcome. Between two differing perceptions, sometimes a compromise must be met for amicability.

Think about the word of 'compromise'; people have regarded it as a result in which people have made 'concessions', giving up something for an amicable end. Why doesn't anyone consider the benefits of a compromise instead? Rather than focusing what both parties lost, how about what they've gained? A new insight is as meaningful a gift as any! This brings in the previously mentioned concepts of being open, communicative and participating; perhaps being amicable comes naturally from the enlightening rewards each party has received. That would be an enriching experience, don't you think?

Words are important to me, and I have been writing long enough to know that one of the best ways I can express them is in poetry. So here is one of several poems dedicated to the festival and it's many events; may it be successful in cultivating an open-mindedness amongst Singaporeans, be they performing artistes or not.

Let The Door Fly Open

Knock, knock.
Who's there?
Opportunity who?
Opportunity is not a lengthy visitor.

And what is with the “who”?
Why does it matter who
stands at the door, would you
slam it shut if the “who”
didn't think like you?
Don't shoot
the messenger just because his shoes
don't touch the floor, his eyes are two
different shades,
his clothes smell of the mountain plains
and sunsets on another country's lake.
People who breathe with open ribs have a tendency to fly
the wind catching on their lungs and their wide open minds.

Let your doors break loose
from everything you never knew;
let the unknown and the unheard come crashing through.
I know there is a chain
with questions and doubts and notions, hanging like charms
on a bracelet. It loops around your ankle
like a grenade pin ready to be pulled,
so let us be the crash and the airbag when the bomb is thrown,
throw out your fears so you'll see your soul:
there is strength and courage just waiting to be worn
like a warm scarf and a thick coat.

No one said you're going to meet a rainbow,
and you might just catch a storm.
Maybe fear and uncertainty trails behind you;
maybe the loop around your ankle will slip off.
But you'll meet ugliness and beauty
and cry for both; you'll
find companions in both friends and enemies,
and shake all their hands.
You'll know how to point out your views,
and make yourself stand
for anything you believe in; you will give a damn.
And you'll live in the clouds
above houses and buildings,
above locked doors and closed windows;
you'll see the best and the worst of the sky
all because you opened a door, and
you tried to fly.

- Amber Lin, an O.P.E.N. Fellow

  • 2014