So today’s Singapore Shorts is a tad longer… last week was apparently Arts Week in Singapore, but it’s been a really artsy month for me as I attend a record number of arts events in the month of January 2013.
Friends and longer-time readers will know that my day job is in the arts sector, and while that immediately gives one the impression that I’m a high-faluting culture vulture, rest assured that my knowledge and appreciation of arts is not much above that of the average person out there. I like to market myself in the comms department as the ‘layman test’ – if it doesn’t make me wanna check it out, then it’s not going to get much attention from your man-on-the-street. Quite honestly, I’m probably attending more of these events because I’m surrounded by people who’re a lot more enthusiastic about arts than I am, and I’m always up for something new, even if rather abstract-sounding…
Arts is not something that comes up when you talk about what you can see or do in Singapore, tourism-wise we have things like The Esplanade and the Singapore Art Museum, but I’ve got to say that we have a surprising amount of arts things happening at any one time – according to statistics, there are up to 90 arts events happening in any one day in Singapore, from large scale events to community arts outreach, international sensations to a thriving local ground-up indie scene! It really is pretty amazing when you think about it.
But I digress, here’s a quick rundown of some of the arts-related events that I attended in January, just to give you a flavour. Even if you missed them this year, don’t be sad, just look out for them next year!
If you just want a visual tour with captions, how about heading over to look at some of the pretty pictures in The Occasional Traveller Facebook Album. If not, commentary in chronological order…
OH! Marina Bay – The Happiness Index
OH! or Open House is a pretty interesting project that takes art out of the galleries and into your homes. Previous versions were held in residential districts like Niven Road, Marine Parade and Tiong Bahru and made use of resident’s homes to showcase various art installations. This year’s was a step away from the norm by heading to corporate offices within the Marina Bay Financial district, Singapore’s newest business district, with artworks revolving around the theme of money and happiness.
Interesting idea, and yes it was very interesting to see how swanky or surprisingly retro some of these offices were, but personally I thought it could have been better executed with the artworks calling out more closely to the theme. It felt a little like 1.5 hrs of just walking from office to office and I was a little bored after awhile. A lot of what you learn from the tour also is dependent on your volunteer guides, and ours… well they were decent but not great unfortunately.
Still, I’d recommend anyone visiting Singapore to check this out if you’re here during the right period, it’s a great way to get to know Singapore more intimately.
M1 Fringe Festival
The M1 Fringe Festival has been around for 9 years though I’ve never once caught a performance from it. Fringe festivals supposedly feature performances that tend to be more alternative and experimental as there usually isn’t a panel that selects the acts. I ended up catching 2 acts – The Holycoaster S(hit) Circus, a mockumentary style play by an Israeli-German-Swiss collaboration and Best Of, presented by The Necessary Stage and featuring just one woman, Siti Kalijah.
The Holycoaster S(hit) Circus: from the name alone I knew this was gonna be weird, and I had no idea what I was getting myself into. It starts off with a pretty long and somewhat bizarre mockumentary film that got rather boring (I yawned, a few times) before finally going into this live act which involved an assorted amount of strangeness, including featuring a fake paraplegic dude, odd audience participation and increasingly off-colour jokes. I still don’t get it a lot of it, though it was an interesting experience, so I’ll leave it to Mayo from Today Paper to give you a much more enthusiastic and enlightened review.
Best Of: A much more relatable piece, Siti Kalijah is an excellent actress and engaged the audience fully with just herself and a chair on stage, as she told her story as a young Malay woman trying to get a divorce and move on with her life. Very localized, lots of commentary on Singapore’s society and culture, with insights on taxi drivers, the education system and racial issues. I enjoyed this quite a lot, even if it might not be the most innovative piece around, but it was a good show.
Jersey Boys – The Musical
Jersey Boys, the story of 60’s music sensation Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons was just pure entertainment – I never knew how many of the popular songs I knew actually originated from them, like Can’t Take My Eyes Of You and Oh What A Night. Still, after watching this at Marina Bay Sands Theatres, I can’t get Sherry and Big Girls Don’t Cry out of my head, and I know like one line from both those songs, so it’s annoying as hell! Here’s a sampler of their songs – how many do you recognize?
If you get the chance, this is a pretty entertaining show, though the start can be a bit bewildering because things are just moving so fast (but trust me, the actual history of The Four Seasons is way more complicated, just google it for yourself!). It’s ended in run in Singapore already (we had a South African cast), but you can catch it many other cities still.
Art Stage Singapore
Art Stage Singapore was the big arts event happening last weekend from 24-27 Jan 2013 over at the Marina Bay Sands Exhibition Centre. I’d been to last year’s edition and was quite eager to see what they had this year. Lots of South-East Asian and Asian artwork, including a special Indonesian pavilion which was pretty good. While I wasn’t among the who’s-who of the Arts world and schmoozing with the buyers and gallery owners, I did enjoy just checking out all the stuff at the exhibition, see the video above for highlights.
You’ll probably need a solid 3-4 hours to cover everything sufficiently – I sped around in about 2 hours and got a pretty good picture but wished I had more time to wander. p/s: one of my favourite works and centre piece in my Imaginary House that I can Afford and Collect Expensive Artwork (TM):
World Apart Fair
World Apart Fair was a pretty unusual art fair – Touting itself as the First Hotel Art Fair, it was held in Conrad Centennial Singapore, not in their function rooms but in actual guest rooms on two floors! My friends dragged me here after an afternoon of Art Stage and Best Of, and it was pretty interesting walking into various rooms on the 23 & 24th levels of Conrad and seeing artwork strew… displayed on beds, window ledges and even on the bathtub and sinks in the toilets! The artworks here were generally more affordable than the Art Stage ones and made for pretty interesting viewing.