Arts Aloud: Sept 2017

Published on 26 August 2017

Discover how the arts have made a change in the lives of some of our fellow everyday Singaporeans.

On 13 April, I attended the opening-night screening of feature film Pop Aye by auteur Kirsten Tan, at Singapore’s only English-language arthouse cinema, The Projector. For years, I’d been keeping my eye on Tan as a director, and after the film started winning major prizes at international film festivals, I knew I didn’t want to miss it. And it blew me away. Tan’s voice as a film-maker is assured and empathetic, and she coaxed incredible performances from her cast of non-professional Thai actors (including one very expressive elephant). I also greatly appreciated it on a writing level, as she was patient enough with the story to allow for many moments of slowness and stillness, which she discussed after the film. This is something I’ve been working on lately in my own writing, and I’ve been inspired to return to my own work with renewed interest.


“ One of my fondest childhood memories is enjoying a Sunday treat at the old nightclub, Tropicana, where smartly dressed staff would push trolleys of steaming bamboo baskets of delectable dim sum. I was always curious about what happened at night on the stage above. I had heard stories of topless dancers, glamorous guests in gowns and suits, but was too young to see for myself. Tropicana the Musical brought my imagination to life! It gave me a glimpse of the cabaret show, the showgirls, the music and the people who made Tropicana, the place of my childhood, real. It reminded me of a time when Singapore had rules about long hair for men, and banned rock music on the radio. It made me wistful for the edgier, more creative time in our history; but also grateful that we are experiencing a revival in our local arts scene. ”


“ I had an emotional experience watching Pancha by maya dance theatre. It’s a contemporary dance performance and the story revolved around two strong women: Sita from the Indian epic Ramayana and St Joan of Arc. I grew up with Hindu mythologies. Sita was always praised for her ability to tolerate suffering. As a kid, I used to ask my mum why she didn’t protest and was told that’s how women should be. Through Pancha (this is the second instalment in a five-part series), I felt the struggles of both women; even empathising with Flame, the feminine energy of Fire. I was captivated from start to end. When Sita gave me her hand and invited me to join her to walk towards ‘hope’ and ‘freedom’, I automatically followed her. Being trained for 12 years in Indian classical dance, this show has inspired me to explore its contemporary forms. ”


“ In June, I attended the opening of Yayoi Kusama: Life Is the Heart of a Rainbow at the National Gallery Singapore. I had the privilege of experiencing her Shanghai show a few years ago, and also My Eternal Soul in Tokyo a month before, so I was really excited to catch this exhibition. I must say it was comparably beautiful. The space and layout of the museum allows us to fully immerse ourselves in the pieces. I was glad to see not only her more well-known pieces such as the ‘Infinity Mirrored Room — Gleaming Lights of the Souls’ and ‘Narcissus Garden’, but also her earlier more intimate paintings and video works. Seventy years of art-making is a long time. In her video introduction, what struck me was her dedication to create art until her last breath. This is definitely a milestone for the Singapore art scene. I hope there’ll be more blockbuster shows in the future. ”


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