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He Is Not An Impostor by George Chua

March 1, 2008

I know George Chua from an art installation project that I did last year. He was 1 of the judges cum consultant then. George is a sound artist and he has been involved in various performances, including the Hadaka series I went to last year.

Besides the reason of being an acquaintance of George, I found the synopsis interesting. I received the Esplanade e-flyer which goes like this:

I didn’t know what to expect of the performance (knowing he’s a sound artist) and I only vaguely knew about his genealogy project. Was it going to be a sound-only performance like Hadaka? But the description included a storyline. So I called along a friend to watch it together. (ok, another reason was that it was free :P…all the more should go & give support to someone I know right?)

Anyway, as I went with an open mind, not expecting anything, the show was indeed not what I would expect based on the description. I felt it was very well done.

It has tunes/songs (some familiar) used to bring you through the cycle or passage of time, from the 1980s to present time and tells of a story of an illusionist called Chew Chong Choy. Indeed, a real magician was playing the role (maybe that’s where “he is not an imposter” comes in?). the protagonist was put on trial for a murder he didn’t commit and another person portrayed his “voice” and recited some form of poetry. It was really interesting. I didn’t expect a live magic show and the magician performed real tricks that one doesn’t often see, like passing a bottle through a person’s body, card tricks with someone from the audience being the “magician”, etc. However, there was a part that was a bit disturbing. It was the first trick he did, but described as the last trick he performed before he went to jail (he was later cleared of the charges). He used a skewer to pierce through his forearm, just under the skin and pulled it in & out. And there was indication of blood! Though after that he managed to “rub” off the “wound”. But as it was the first trick shown in the performance and the context solemn, the audience didn’t really know how to react…were we supposed to clap? Was it for real? However, later on, there were some reminiscences of the time before his implication in the murder case, and he performed the tricks, clearly displaying he’s for real & we clapped with every trick performed. Some parts were funny, if you read the words on the screen. There was some abstract portion like the beginning talk of a powerful businessman taking revenge.

Of course, it being a magic show is beside the point. What struck me most was the part about reference to time travel. This was done using a trick of a can of coke. The can was empty & flattened, but with some magic, the illusionist manages to get the can back into shape, filled with coke and even re-sealed it! Then, he opened the restored coke and drank some of it, poured it out and eventually it returned to being a squashed can. The underlying message was that, even if we could go back to the past to change our mistakes, would it really make a difference? Would the outcome still come back to the same? Are we trapped by destiny? Just like the can of coke, even when you reverse the process, eventually, the can of coke still turns up empty and squashed.

Yup, it’s well done and I enjoyed it. Something different when you don’t know what to expect. It was only 1 hour though.

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