A Sip of Singapore

Published on 2 March 2015

Singapore arts and artists hopscotch the world, giving audiences abroad a taste of our upwards-and-onwards creative scene.

TEXT BY PAMELA HO

Singapore has a strong global standing. Sound credentials aside,  it’s also thanks to savvy packaging and marketing, executed over the  years, that has led to the growth of brand Singapore.

“We are a city known for our connectivity and efficiency; for being business-friendly and great to live in,” observes Carrie Kwik, Executive Director of Arts, Entertainment and Integrated Resorts, Singapore Tourism Board (STB). “This year, we’d like to broaden that perception of Singapore.”

Tale of Three Cities

Come April, some of our top contemporary creative talents will take to the international stage as part of STB’s travelling showcase, Singapore: Inside Out. Featuring the works of
20 artists and groups, this showcase will tour Beijing, London and New York City before returning to Singapore in November.

“A different side of Singapore will be presented to international audiences — it will reveal the development of our creative scene and talents,” Kwik explains.

An outdoor scaffolding structure, measuring 25m by 30m, will be constructed in each city. “Audiences will be invited into the structure where a series of multi-sensorial and immersive encounters await,” reveals Singapore: Inside Out’s Creative Director, Randy Chan. “The storytelling is done in a very intimate and experiential way.”

Presented is a diverse body of works representing a spectrum of creative fields: from visual and performing arts to design and architecture;  from music and the literary arts to food, fashion and film.

Among the artists involved in this interdisciplinary collaboration are theatre practitioner Tan Kheng Hua, sound artist Zulkifle Mahmod, dancer Lee Mun Wai, poet Alvin Pang and chef Janice Wong. Joining them will be Singaporean creative talents based in these cities.

“These artists were selected based on the merit of their existing body of works. Coming together, they will tell the story of Singapore’s thriving creative landscape,” says Chan. “Through their eyes, a new narrative of Singapore will be told.”

Over five days in each city, visitors can expect live performances, artists’ talks, panel discussions and film screenings. There will also be trade engagement events for industry players. Ultimately, the hope is to spark interest, conversations and collaborations for our local talents with their counterparts overseas.

STEP INSIDE An artist’s impression of the scaffolding structure that will be constructed in Beijing, London and New York City to showcase the collaborative works of Singapore’s creative talents.
ALL FOR SG ARTS  Chef Janice Wong of 2am:dessertbar will create edible installations for Singapore: Inside Out, while Carrie Kwik oversees arts, entertainment & integrated resorts with STB.

French Ties

But even before Singapore: Inside Out leaves for Beijing in April, another heavyweight festival is set to roll out this month.

Come 26 March, Singapour en France – le Festival (Singapore Festival in France) debuts in Paris with a plethora of events covering the visual and performing arts and film. The Festival will run for three months across France, in the cities of Paris, Lyon and Lille.

Organised by the National Heritage Board (NHB), National Arts Council (NAC) and Institut Francais (France’s agency for international arts and culture projects), the Festival celebrates Singapore’s Golden Jubilee and 50 years of diplomatic relations between Singapore and France.

“This is the first large-scale, concerted showcase of Singapore’s arts and culture in France, and it will feature the best of our creative talents,” says Tan Boon Hui, Artistic Director of Singapore Festival in France and Group Director of Programmes at NHB.

“We began working on this three years ago, and the programmes have been selected and developed collaboratively with prestigious French institutions, venues and partners throughout France,” he adds.

Opening the Festival in Paris is The Incredible Adventures of Border-Crossers (26-27 March), a six-hour site-specific performance directed by Ong Keng Sen (above), Festival Director of the Singapore International Festival of Arts, and staged at Palais de Tokyo, the largest contemporary art centre in Europe.

“The 22 performers come from all walks of life and from around the world, but they have all called Singapore home for the last seven to 30 years,” reveals Ong of the ‘border-crossers’ featured, adding that the production encompasses a fashion show, site-specific installation, live filming, photography and documentary.

Another anchor event is Secret Archipelago (26 March-18 May), a large-scale visual arts exhibition featuring Southeast Asian artists and curated by Khairuddin Hori, Deputy Director of Artistic Programmes at Palais de Tokyo and a former senior curator with NHB.

“I hope the Festival continues to expand the cultural connectivity of the Southeast Asian region with the rest of the world and generate deeper dialogues on art and with artists — especially at home,” says the Paris-based curator.

PHOTO  Courtesy of TheatreWorks (S) Ltd
PHOTO Courtesy of National Library, Singapore

On the Write Track

In addition to these mega exhibitions and festivals held abroad are smaller initiatives that bring Singapore arts, culture and heritage to new communities and markets.

Under the SG50 Gift of Books project by the National Library Board, some 10,300 books will find new homes in 40 libraries around the world this year. These volumes include works by local writers and titles on Singapore, covering a range of topics.

Supported by NAC, a delegation of Singapore publishers will also be heading to the London Book Fair in April, and six local writers are set to attend the Association of Writers & Writing Programs Conference in Minneapolis, United States. Come May, Singapore Literature Prize winner Amanda Lee Koe and author Audrey Chin will take on London’s Asia House Literature Festival.

Culture and heritage are also going places this year. Currently in India is a unique exhibition called The Peranakan World — Cross-cultural Art from Singapore and the Malacca Straits by the Asian Civilisations Museum. Held at the National Museum of New Delhi from 2 February to 5 April, it’s the first time an exhibition of Peranakan culture has gone on display in India.

PERANAKAN WORLD IN INDIA 122 objects from singapore’s Peranakan Museum form part of the collection currently on display at the National Museum of New Delhi. 
PHOTOS  Peranakan Museum of Singapore

Inside Out, Outside In

It is hoped that these travelling showcases will not only generate new conversations about Singapore around the world, but also contribute to the global conversation through our unique brand of arts.

“When we set out to develop Singapore: Inside Out, it was not solely to present how we have arrived as a nation, but to share the progress of this journey and to offer a glimpse into the future,” shares Chan.

“Singapore is very much a city that looks forward to the future and its possibilities, so a lot of the works are about creating new futures and ways of being in the world,” adds Tan.

Sharing our unique vision of life beyond business, politics and economics will expand the Singapore narrative and broaden the international community’s perception of us. Perhaps, this will entice more to come knocking on our doors to find out more.

IF YOU’RE IN FRANCE…

What French audiences — or you — won’t want to miss, if  you’re heading there!

From 26 March to 30 June, a full-scale Singapore Festival will descend upon the French cities of Paris, Lyon and Lille. Apart from key events, The Incredible Adventures of Border-Crossers and Secret Archipelago held at Palais de Tokyo, here are other highlights:

Open Sea

Historically known for its maritime routes, Southeast Asia has experienced a hybridisation of cultures and languages. A collection of 30 existing and newly-commissioned artworks illustrate this phenomenon. Musée d’art Contemporain de Lyon, Lyon, 16 April-12 July.

PHOTO Heri Dono

Lear Dreaming

Based on Shakespeare’s King Lear, this performance features top-notch artists from Asia, including a Japanese Noh actor, Chinese pipa player and Sumatran martial-arts dancer. Théâtre des Abbesses, Paris, 10-13 June.

PHOTO Albert K S Lim

Est/Ouest–Nord/Sud

Singaporean conductor Darrell Ang conducts the Orchestre Symphonique de Bretagne in a classical concert featuring a pipa soloist from the Singapore Chinese Orchestra.  La Philharmonie, Cité de la Musique, Paris, 28 March.

PHOTOS Darrell Ang

Butterfly

Theatre practitioner Ramesh Meyyappan does a modern fantastical adaptation of Madame Butterfly using poetic narratives and handcrafted puppets. International Visual Theatre, Paris, 9-14 June.

50 Singapore Films

A screening of 50 significant films that, collectively, chart the development of Singapore cinema. Complemented by talks and discussions involving Singapore film directors and French critics. Cinémathèque Française, Paris, 17 June-17 July.

PHOTO Ben Tan
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