STUDY OF SPACES // Glover and Peranakan Culture

Moving and static image: Childish Gambino, “This Is America” (Dir. Hiro Murai)

Glover aka ‘Childish Gambino’ addressed many issues in today’s society surrounding the black community in the states. For this music video, the indoor production required space for rows of old cars, including one engulfed in flames; a bound and hooded man on a galloping horse; and a group of dancers working through stereotypical black dance tropes as Glover danced for the camera.

Image result for Childish Gambino, "This Is America" set design

It was a one-take music video where Glover was the focus of the video. The simple set up of the warehouse was important in giving the audience the range of view of Glover and the extras on set. It gave us a strikingly good contrast of the actors against the white backdrop. Which is, sure enough, the topic of this whole music video. Someone being put on the spotlight for whatever he does, someone who is half naked and who has barely any type of protection or weapon on him. He also illustrates when we over-medicate; We dance; We cheat; Steal; And, we do whatever it takes to ignore the chaos that’s happening right now in the backdrop of our lives.

The whole space required a large warehouse with a second level and an exit and entrance and corridor. “Part of the fun is finding out how elastic that box is and, you know, test the limits of what TV shows can do or what a music video can do,” says Murai. Architecturally, this music video was able to encapture all the different elements and situations posed by Glover. This was very important culturally due to the challenges faced by the black community at that time. While Glover is dancing and telling us to “watch him move” with young children following his every move, there’s an intentionally ironic and chaotic backdrop filled with persons being chased by cops, there’s a car burning, and a hooded man riding through on a white horse. This also highlights the wariness by the growing youtube generation of shaming and comments. They don’t want to be too controversial because then it could start a whole storm.

Physical space for art:

This is a Singaporean play who reinterpreted a 78-year old Spanish play into an Asian Peranakan setting. This play explores themes of repression, passion, and conformity, and inspects the effects of men upon women. There is also the deliberate exclusion of any male character from the action helps build up the high level of sexual tension that is present throughout the play. Pepe “el Romano”, the love interest of Bernarda’s daughters and suitor of Angustias, never appears on stage. This is elevated even more by the Peranakan culture where the females are the heads of the house.

This cue was from Peranakan houses in Malacca and Penang, with a deep layout and open courtyard. This openness was actually crafted with the predominantly black set with minimal props that allowed its all-female cast to shine. This actually made the theme of the play stand out more due to the oppression and claustrophobic feeling of the minimal furniture and predominately black interior.

The scale of the whole project was very important as well. The larger-than-life door at the back of the stage at the theatre was similar to Greek tragedy. In this production, the door acted as a reminder of the border between the inside and the outside world.

Wong explains that he had wanted to create the feeling of “being trapped once the main house door was closed” and using the windows to create a “false belief” that the women were safe in their house, “yet open to the gossip and peer pressure from the villagers”.

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