Spilling the beans, 23 – 30 May – Some highlights of the Singapore Arts Festival 2012

May 23 – May 30

It’s here!

That time of the year where we attempt to be artsy.

Whip out your wallets everyone, time to splurge on a play or musical performance that could easily cost you S$60.00 a pop. An abundance of events await – from film, dance, instrumental, theatre, installation…fortunately for us there are also many free performances we can enjoy.

This year’s Singapore Arts Festival revolves around the theme of Our Lost Poems, supposedly the completion of the trilogy of “Between You and Me” (Arts Fest 2010), and “I Want to Remember” (Arts Fest 2011). It is centred around myths and storytelling, imaginations and legends. Low Kee Hong, General Manager of the Singapore Arts Festival, reveals a little bit more in his Curatorial statement:

The women artists or projects that directly or indirectly looked at the place of women we were considering for the Festival became an important clue. It is the patriarchal society that created the hysterical woman. The labels witches, shamans and banshees given to women who threatened the patriarchal system with some kind of mystical power that is often misunderstood and feared. We take a different view at the Festival, rather than fear of the unknowable, it is the gateway to unlock these mysterious of ourselves. We all begin our biological journey as female; only the presence of the Y chromosome marks the difference at the last stages of our birth when the gonads descend to form testicles. Of course it is not about the return to some kind of mother earth new age belief but rather, to consider and reflect on this investigation from a perspective that perhaps reveals more than it conceals.

Interesting observation, but I find it difficult to interweave these thoughts into the array of arts offerings presented at the Festival. Never been big on themes, but here are some of the standalone events that have caught my eye for this week:

1. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle

As an adaptation of popular Japanese writer Haruki Murakami’s book, “The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle”, this play looks to be one of the more notable theatre performances of the Festival. American filmmaker Stephen Earnhart uses Japanese puppetry, music, shadowplay and other media to grapple with the line between surrealism and realism, chronicled through the protaganist Toru Okada’s interactions with a middleteen girl, lieutenant, and “prostitute of the mind”, as he sets out on a journey to find his missing wife and cat. (S$20.00 – S$110.00, May 25 – 8.00pm, May 26 – 3.00pm and 8.00pm, Esplanade Theatre, tickets from SISTIC).

2. Advanced studies in…(Ten Lessons for Life)

Don’t be fooled by the write-ups on this one. It’s a performance-based installation written by Heman Chong, where students aged 13 – 18 years give 10 one-on-one lessons on world literature inspired by various authors, Kazuo Ishiguro, Dostoyevsky, J.M. Coetzee, Jean-Paul Satre. Alternative histories, ethics of biotechnology, poverty as an eternal recurrence, existentialism, and 21st century democracy are some of the philosophy-heavy topics covered. Apart from the fact that it is SOLD OUT at present time, I think the methods and the vein in which the lessons are presented by the student-teachers would make for a very fascinating watch. Musings on the function of education and the fluid roles of teacher, student, and performer would certainly provide food for thought.   (S$18.00, May 25 – 27, 7.00pm, 8.00pm, 9.00pm, SOTA Gallery).

3. Bridge Cafe Project 

Imagine being served an ice-cool drink in a coffeeshop filled with singing Japanese uncles (“oyajis”) and Singapore youths. This is the Bridge Cafe Project, a fun-filled cafe for all ages, created by Japanese professor and dance choreographer Kim Itoh, who dabbles in performances at non-conventional spaces. Certainly not something you would see everyday, the magic in this project is that it involves non-performers, making this all the more accessible as your mind is freed from the confines of traditional theatre. I’m sure this will be a delightful and stress-relieving experience. (Free, May 18 – June 2, Intervals between 6.30pm – 9.30pm, Festival Village at The Esplanade).

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