May marks the second last month I have access to the studio space and it is also about the period when I have consolidated my thoughts in attempting to put together the different scenes and pieces of visual elements into a complete puzzle. I have been rewatching Koe no Katachi again and again, experiencing the same turmoil of emotional roller coaster ride every single time while paying more detailed attention to visual elements, symbolism, meaningful phrases, etc. 

There was one particular scene, flashed in a blink of an eye of not more than several seconds. It was an image of a video game, shown as part of Shouya's imagination, or at the very least, foreshadowing his subsequent bullying towards Nishimiya when she first was introduced as a transfer student. 

I like the cautionary phrase of WARNING! The final boss is coming!! as the title of this project. Despite there is almost close to no elements that. visually representing video gaming, I feel the context and hints of danger, overcoming challenges, threat and power struggle is very. much reflected from this.I will be using this as a working title for the time being. 

Another consideration is Don't fall, boy- which un fortunately by the time I am recording this entry, I can no longer remember where in the film this phrase appears. But I feel a bit more detached as the cardboard wall has been flattened from a parapeet to a sheet, hence the image of height is no longer communicated. Regardless, I'll be keeping this in mind for potential changes on the working title.

Before I am moving on to the four elements of the installation (3 performances and 1 drawing), I have decided on the 'costume' that will give the existing bodies in space, identity, or character. 

They will be wearing a similar outfit as Shouya's school uniform on the left. 

Plain white long sleeve shirt, dark brown tie and brown trousers. 

It is neutral enough to pass off without any overwhelming indication of certain identities but at the same time, due to repetition of the costume by four bodies, it will become intentionally clear and I hope it will create more reading paths of the work. 

Also, I feel the monotonous brown color scheme will resonate perfectly with the similarly brown hued elements of the performances, including the color of human skin. 

This brings me to the consideration of the bodies that I would like to engage for the live aspect of the piece. Following conceptual and narrative development, as well as injecting my personal experience and memories into the piece, I have decided to engage:

self-identifying male and Asian bodies to help me activate the piece. 

During a conversation with Ben and Joseph, I had used the word "to appear not local" which have been reminded as problematic. While the notion of transfer student has some sort of alienation and power/authority distinction between the lone individual with his new surroundings, I agree that locality is not quite the word that best explain this dynamic social encounter.

In the past, deciding on delegating bodies have been a relatively easy task for me but being in London where it is much of a vibrant melting pot of identities that just like the one I adhere to, have been so very much blurred, creating label for recruitment sake has been one that is a difficult challenge.

Identities (in this case, gender and ethnicity/cultural) have also evolved rapidly, especially the label Asian that have been approached in a rather robust and in many cases, unfortunately vandalistic within the past year of Covid-19 pandemic.

My conclusion of self-identifying male and Asian comes from personal labelling of my body, that seems to be the most suited in this particular work. While I am quite settled with this characteristic of the delegated energy that will eventually realize the piece, I can't help to wonder if the requirement (that also implies segregation to a certain extent- or worse, alienation and bullying, maybe?) is ever necessary.   

I am glad that these questions keep coming back as they will only sharpen the work's value as I explore its sensitivity, relevance and most importantly, position in contemporary society. 

Engaging bodies for the piece is a form of hiring labor which one important aspect I spoke to Ben and Joseph about- salary. We talked about the varying standard of minimum income, especially pertaining to a cosmopolitan city such as London and what is the ethical, yet affordable and budget-responsible step in moving forward. This is definitely one learning experience which I might have not paid much attention to in the past. 

Moving on to the work, I have not come up with a introductory write-up for the work just yet, but have more or less settled on the different elements within the installations. Basically, WARNING! The final boss is coming!! (working title) consists of:

1. A series of stickers on wall, some partially peeled, the non-sticky back remains on the floor

2. Performance #1- with the plane cardboard wall

3. Performance #2- tearing bread onto a fish bowl

4. Performance #3- movement as fish

These four elements are planned to be presented within the space of VSSL. The number of element 4 (fish movement) varies according to the size of the 'tank' or the stage. The bigger the space, the bigger the school of fishes, but for VSSL, I am looking at 1 or 2 performers. I will be listing down all the elements mentioned below. 

1. A series of stickers on wall, some partially peeled, the non-sticky back remains on the floor

One of the most visually striking symbols in Koe no Katachi is the Xs that hovers in front of Shouya's schoolmates' faces, stripping their identities away, homogenizing every individuals into an unknown being- even his childhood friends. Of course narratively, this is an indication how our protagonist is an introvert who is struggling with suicide thoughts and his trauma for being a bully in the past. I feel like I would not explain further what this Xs symbolize to me personally or how it as an alphabet or simply as two intersecting lines could mean, but to leave the interpretation entirely to my audience. That is also because I do not have a specific reasoning but plenty of them that has led me to include this imagery. 

It was initially approached to be a series of printed vector but I was experimenting with hand gestures that by making X gesture with both hands, there is a suggestion of performing defense stance, evading attacks, hiding and searching for a safe position from an attack. But at. the same time, there is also a sense of attacking pose that a simple gesture of X could be approached in either interpretation- or even both. 

The sticker idea remains, as I enjoy the possibility of these defense/offense pose to be stripped away, revealing a possibility underneath it all. 

These are the experiments and sample of the poses with a bit of playing around through layering of different poses, creating a more sculptural image. 

Incidentally, as I was rewatching the film, Nishimiya performed a similar pose while being attacked by Shouya- that makes his subsequent X-ing his fellow classmates even more relevant and tragic. 

2. Performance #1- with the plane cardboard wall

I have finally managed to make the weaved sheet erected but of course it is all dependent on the performer to hold the sculpture upright. The body becomes the plinth for the sculpture but not a passive plinth as the flimsy nature of the sculpture requires focus, synchronized breathing, core exercise and sensitive balance for the sculpture to stand throughout the duration. I foresee some form of internal battle between the performing body and the sculpture that fatigue will be apparent over time. 

The plane sculpture will then not be able to stand (or exhibited in that manner) without the presence of the body- transforming the experience and visual performative. The recycled, relatively passive object communicates with the breathing of the performer in their attempt to exist within the given space. 






During initial trial, I was struggling with the choreography of the hand in this segment. The hand after all is a recurring, vital visual element of this project. Moreover, with the performer's body almost quite entirely hidden by the object, the hand becomes some sort of a dangling hook. 

I wasn't sure if I should create a certain gesture as gestural approach does not seem to be important conceptually in this performance. So as I was rewatching Koe no Katachi, I came across this scene that narratively cohesive to this part of the work. 

Covering the hand with some sort of gloves (in the anime's case, is a hand warmer for bicycle- which unfortunately seems to be non-existent in the UK's Amazon (at least) haha) so I decided on oven mitts (which will relate to the next part of the piece).

By covering the palm, the gesture of the hands will be neutralized, emphasized on the shape, material and domestic context of the oven mitts. I have bought a pair of bright orange mitts which on closer inspection, I might swap it for a brown-hued for visual synchronization purpose. Also, due to the common availability of this material, the oven mitts can change its design every time the work is presented, adding characteristic onto both the performer and the project as a whole. 

3. Performance #2- tearing bread onto a fish bowl

This seems to be the most solid section of the project so far- pretty straight forward simple action of breaking bread and dropping them into a small fish bowl. I like how the idea of breaking bread and the hint of fishes have religious connotation about lone sacrifice for communal sustainability. 

The oven mitts of course, create a possible narrative chapter with the bread- which ironically, will be purchased from shop instead of self-baked. 

I will also use the bread as an indicator of time. I will choreograph this piece to be completed in four hours, hence when the bread is completely broken apart, the presentation ends. 

The only part that I am unsure of is the height variety of all the elements in this piece. The cardboard bricks are of normal height, the fish performance (next point) is planned to be on the floor and hence I might elevate this body slightly with pedestal though I am not extremely keen on the idea just yet. 

4. Performance #3- movement as fish

I think this is the main hurdle for this project as the development is still very premature at best. I know for sure that I want the hand gesture of 'friends' in sign language to be the primary focus here, and after months of playing around with some of the drawings I've made, I enjoy their mimicry of fishes; and hence, I am going forward with movement-based, roaming body/ies performing this gesture. 

This segment too requires delegated bodies for activation that have been quite a series of thinking into the most appropriate manner in approaching the recruitment. 

Ideally, I'd like to have the performance to be a school of fish- the image that I have is a group of uniformed men roaming around the space with their hands clasped together, performing some sort of improvisation that is in accordance to their individual mood, history and narrative towards the given score. 

Initially I had the impression of these bodies to be vertically upright and dominate the middle visual level of the space, but as I approach the space of VSSL again, I am leaning towards them being on the floor, occupying the horizontal vector of the tank. Their bodies will be on the same level with the fish bowl, playing on the relationship between the two. 

One other aspect of this is that (which I personally find to be interesting), the room will determine the size of the school. VSSL is relatively small and having four different works installed within it + bodies + audience will create a rather cramped environment, not one that I personally envision the work to be. I guess it comes back to practicality too, in terms of budget as well. So I am planning to make use of VSSL as the basis of the score, say 1 fish every VSSL dimension (eg. 5x4m space- I will need to check with Ben and Joseph regarding the exact dimension). In the future, the number of fishes will depend on the given space, the larger the space, the more roaming (or swimming, or bullying -_-_ area, the more fishes occupying it. 


I think that is all for now with the development of the work. I am pretty satisfied with how the project has grown, from one that is a mere idea to a piece that really responds to the space that gives birth to it, not just conceptually and visually but also in terms of realization of the actual presentation in September. June will be the sort-of last month when I have access of floor space of the studio that I will make full use to try out last adjustment of the piece. I am happy with how the project is shaping up and really looking forward to learn and experiment and discover more mistakes and possibilities in the next thirty days. 

Will conclude this month's entry with this screenshot from Koe no Katachi: