The Best of You is a social movement that encourages everyone to challenge stereotypes and break barriers with communities such as migrant workers and people with disabilities. This movement is a celebration of all people and things, big or small, in hopes of building a more inclusive society.
This time, we speak to Alecia Neo, a visual artist who spearheads project for visually impaired youths to find out about her involvement with The Best of You, her current project and her inspiration behind her work.
How did your journey as a visual artist started?
As a child I was always drawn to making and drawing and collecting strange and beautiful objects that could be used for personal projects. My father’s shop was always a place of inspiration. And things began to fall into place during my time at NTU’s School of Art, Design and Media, where I majored in Photography.
How do you run programs for the visually impaired, like with Unseen:Constellations? What kind of impact do you hope to achieve?
The art project Unseen: Constellations emerged from the desire to explore contemporary issues of social stigmatisation, marginalisation and inequality. I led a programme where students living with visual-impairment are given the opportunity to explore their aspirations and deeper issues faced in daily life through creating their own projects and being part of a mentorship programme, where they work with professionals from fields of their choice. This was a process of experiential learning.
This artistic process has led to the creation of 7 distinct installations that are self-directed by the students. Amongst the works, there are music videos about friendship and discrimination, original music about kinship, a short film about a visually-impaired recruit’s journey in the army, experimental films about love and danger, an audio storybook featuring a blind criminal investigator, a stage for motivation, and a dream alternative orphanage. Central to the work, is the shifting of perceptions of the other, and raising questions about the kinds of individuals which are valued by contemporary society.
I also hope that the students will be proud of what they’ve created so far. I think they’ve pushed their personal boundaries in their own way, and experimented a lot. Perhaps the experimenting and role-playing can help them clarify some of their desires, and make them more tangible.
I also hope that art and creativity will always be part of their lives, and that they know that they can always turn to it as means of expression and reaching out.
What is the inspiration behind your art?
I’m an artist working with people. Relationships are at the heart of all the work that I do. I grew up watching my parents run a hardware store in the neighbourhood, seeing how this little space that they ran often became a gathering space for people to exchange stories, goods and connect with one another. We had all sorts of people come to the shop, and was how we learned about the people living around us. Those childhood experiences often got me thinking about how relationships were formed, and I was also often thinking about how our different backgrounds, histories and beliefs shaped the lives we lived.
Hence, I produce with photography, moving images and installations, which are often reflect upon our identities and relationships between people, their contexts and their living spaces. In my work with communities, I choose to foreground the agency and autonomy of the people I work with. I am interested in understanding how an artist can potentially contribute in generating shifts or transformation in society through negotiating difference.
What encouraged you to join the Best of You movement?
Photo Credits: Julie’s The Best of You
The Best of You movement has created a platform for our project Unseen: Constellations and our participants to continuously engage with new audiences through exhibiting the works by our participants, as well as showcasing live performances by some of our participants who have passion for storytelling and music. We have been really surprised and excited by the many written responses from the public about our project.
Participating in the movement has given me the chance to interact with really diverse individuals with powerful stories. The exposure to the realities of migrant workers for example, has definitely deepened my understanding of the complex socio-political issues in my own country. I also had the chance to learn about stories from ordinary people who have really worked hard to challenge status quo, perceptions, stereotypes and difficult circumstances. In particular I have been very moved by the work of individuals and communities who have supported the work of organisations like AIDHA and Banglar Kantha. Their long-term commitment and work with migrant communities have really shown that lives can be transformed through giving access, opportunities and the right to practice creative expression, exercise one’s voice and imagination.
Moving forward, how do you hope to change the social arts scene? What is your hope for the future?
Our work continues to be about reshaping civic imagination and human behaviour through art and I hope for a more equitable world! One of the insights I took away from the movement was that change is possible in small little steps. Starting with ourselves and the choices we make.
The Best of You
The Best of You is a social movement that celebrates the diverse stories of people from all walks of life. Focusing on the theme of People First, this year the movement seeks to zoom into the different segments of marginalised communities in Singapore and Malaysia. With the notion of eradicating stereotypes and social labels placed upon people, The Best of You is calling for people to view people as who they truly are inside. Since its inception in 2014, the movement has collected and shared thousands of inspiring stories from the public, artists as well as social organizations. Visit The Best of You to be part of this meaningful cause.
To view more of Unseen Art’s initiatives, click here: www.unseenart.co