Trapped Inside A Box

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In September 2019, I did a site-specific performance at the National Art School, Sydney, inside what used to be a prison cell when the campus of the art school was a Gaul. For this performance, I stood inside the cell and read out people's responses to the question, "Describe a time in your life when you felt trapped inside a box." The feeling that standing inside this little, daunting cell had given me was the sense of being 'trapped', and that is where the idea had stemmed from.

The names of the contributors were kept anonymous, and through their responses, people spoke of some deeply personal and terrifying experiences - such as domestic violence, rape, the feeling of being 'trapped' in a marriage, abuse, and so on. For the performance, I read out sentences or paragraphs from the various responses, weaving a whole new narrative from the answers - one that went from the darkness to the light. In that, no iteration of the performance would ever be the same. 

It was a powerful performance, one that moved many of us to tears. A shared sense of solidarity was created, a space where one could be vulnerable and real even in the presence of so many people was created, which to me, was priceless. I was later told by a few contributors that hearing their words read out by someone else and empathised with, was healing for them. 

Two years after the above performance, I have decided to take this project further. I am now revisiting all the responses I received, taking out quotes from them, and writing a poem in response to each of the quotes. The outcome I am hoping for is a book and an exhibition, though I also hope to send out books or prints of the poems to each contributor, as a way of expressing my gratitude. 

For, through this project, you felt understood by me, but in fact, I was understood, held and empathised with, by you.

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