In this performance I started by wearing only a pair of long-john (winter underwear) in skin colour. My posture was kneeling down with body hunched forward and the eyes closed as if feeling insecure and scared. I also had my hands inter-twined in prayer, marking how I started the journey with nothing but faith. This stage represents her deconstructed state, torn from my formed identity. It was a metaphor of the new journey moving back to Bandung after living in Singapore for six years, with a fresh start.
The performance showed how I walked in repetitive circle around a stack of white shirts, wearing the shirt one by one. The white shirt is the most common attire for uniform, whether in school, or as formal wear, thus it represents attribute of identities and achievements. My motion started of slowly, insecure still, but surely found comfort as a few layers of clothing covered me up. The performance is an unscripted act of contemplation that also displayed the reality of struggle upon wearing more layers as the structure built up. In the performance, I wore nineteen layers of white shirts in total, representing the number of months spent since coming back to Bandung until the day of the performance. Upon wearing the clothing one by one, I was thinking about each month in particular, what I went through in those times.
Growing, as a human being, is an important process. The performance showed how I find comfort in wearing layers of identities on my body. A couple of these layers are good, but then I became obsessed to put more layers. When I was so focused on re-forming identities, to grow and achieve things, paradoxically then I lost sight of my own body, my essence of being.
When we try so hard to form our identities, forming who we are, at the same time we lose sight of our core, of who we truly are.
By the time the nineteenth layer was put on my body, I was so exhausted, suffocated, and burned out. Ever trying to wear nineteen layers of clothing? It was heavy. It was a real struggle, as when the layers became too thick, it was hard to even bend the arms. It was torturing, like the layers are swallowing you up.
That moment of realization stopped me. I took off all the layers, put the now structured piece of clothing back on the table where they first stacked, and end the performance the same way I started it, kneeled in prayer. Displaying it as a video, the cycle repeats.
These layers that were formed might feel like a second, third, fourth, fifth, and more additional skins, though they are not really part of the body. Human often view the structure of identity as a part of being, the layers that shaped us to be who we are. We get comfortable in the layers, especially those we has worn in a longer time, not realizing that these layers at times need to be deconstructed, to be taken off and reviewed, as wearing more does not always mean better.
Reforming is a process. We grow, forming layer over another layer, and another layer upon it, and another, until things happen, anything could have; either something knock us down, a storm happen to pass by, or even the layers you make upon ourselves that suffocated and weighed us down, making us losing sight of ourselves. And then either by choice or not, those layers –which has been a part of our body for so long- are taken off, and there we are, feeling small, stripped, vulnerable, and exposed, but it is us as we are. Ready to be re-formed again.