FL(U)ORESCENCE​

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"The sea is as green as the forest": Land, Sea, and Loss

by Azura Farid

We’re waiting for our turn to enter the space
and beyond the curtain I can hear a wall of sound
voices together
Is this joy?

Where does all the sand come from?

Hey, that beachgoer looks familiar, and that group too, and —

Who’s singing right now? Look around, look around, spot the mic…

Do many people use blankets like these on Singapore beaches?
But this beach isn’t in Singapore
or is it?

“The man I once married,
My ex, he drowned in Southeast Asia.”
sings a European woman
and I know we’re thinking about humans’ relationships with the vastness of nature
but I’m also thinking about how that’s where we are
Southeast Asia
where did he drown?

How will the singers do this on loop for four hours straight?

Where will the sand go afterwards?

It’s easy, at first,
with all that’s going on

(a shuttlecock fell into that kid’s baby pool! ooh, that person’s reading Joan Didion.
this family has an Enid Blyton book, but the children have gone off to play. wow,
so many books on this beach, actually — what universe are we in?
something smells good, who’s having dinner? is someone really using an SSO1 brochure
as reading material?)

to almost miss when the text starts to show its surreal colours
and then the vacationers sing from their places, as if
in a collective trance

“WALK THE BEACH COLLECTING STONES,
SHELLS, AMBER, AND BABY TEETH!...”

I think of the children on this beach
Will their baby teeth become fossilised one day
an artefact from prehistoric times
a future person’s souvenir from a sunny holiday?

what
if anything
will be left of us after
the volcano erupts

the sun blazes up

the sea takes over?

I move along the walkway for another vantage point
and find myself standing underneath
a strongly blasting aircon vent
looking down at the beach

“The colours of the sea and sky have changed!

THIS SEASON THE SEA IS AS GREEN AS
THE FOREST!”

What does it mean to stand
in our air-conditioned nation
looking down at people singing about climate change?

Someone is grappling with mortality

“I cried so much when I understood that
I am mortal,
That my body will one day get old and wither.
And I won't see, or feel, or smell ever again…”

Someone is recounting their distress

“I cried so much when I learned that corals
will be gone.
And together with the Great Barrier Reef
the fish would go extinct –
From sharks to the smallest fry.”

And children are talking intently about their sandcastle
audible over the music
singers’ voices interlocking a cappella
while life goes on around them

The climate feelings are scripted and real
The children’s conversations are unscripted and real
This beach is constructed and the sand is real
The people are real

It all builds up:
human stories,
feelings,
relationships,
troubles,
dreams,
worries,
complaints,
longings,

“When my body dies, I will remain,
In an empty planet without birds, animals
and corals.
Yet with the press of a single button,
I will remake this world again:
– 3D corals never fade away!
– 3D animals never lose their horns!
– 3D food doesn't have a price!
– 3D me lives forever!”

tenderness,
love.

“I will print you out, mother,
When I need you,
My sister too, I will print you out,
When I miss you dearly.”

The climate isn’t just something

out there,

There is no us without the environment

but there is a world with or without us

What will it be?

All the singers raise their voices

“THIS YEAR THE SEA IS AS GREEN AS
A FOREST:
EUTROPHICATION!”

and it’s like I’m swimming

“BOTANICAL GARDENS ARE
FLOURISHING IN THE SEA –
THE WATER BLOOMS.”

in the sound

“OUR BODIES ARE COVERED WITH
A SLIPPERY GREEN FLEECE,”

I realise this is what I heard

“OUR SWIMSUITS ARE FILLING UP
WITH ALGAE,”

from outside

“EMPTY SNAIL HOMES, SWOLLEN
SEAWEED, FISH REMAINS,”

at the start

“AND ALL KINDS OF SHELLS…”

Is this joy?


[1] Singapore Symphony Orchestra

Opera
30 & 31 May 2024, Thu & Fri | 6PM, 7PM, 8PM & 9PM

1 June 2024, Sat | 2PM, 3PM, 4PM & 5PM
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