Thursday, 31 May 2012

Singapore Arts Fest 2012 - We've got you covered!

Covered by the Umbrella for Two

Now that it's happening, I'm finding it hard to grumble about this arts fest.  Really. 

Just one main grumble.  Just one. When I first picked up the programme I was disappointed at the slim pickings for Dance with a capital D. I could do sodden women in clay jars.  But Akram Khan, again? Dancing horses? The rest looks like an avalanche of hodgepodge on recycled paper.   I am still sure that there must be a better way to organise the programme and do justice to the shows.

I confess that have ended up having a great time.  I love the festival village, its breadth and energy and the fact that most of it is free and accessible to a lot of people - compared to the commercial claustrophobia I ranted about last year. I have come to see that many projects both locally commissioned and overseas were built with a network of local collaborators, providing opportunities for employment and networking of a lot of Singapore artists in different disciplines, as well as an army of bright and perky student assistants.  I've especially enjoyed Lan Fang Chronicles and Parallel Cities-La Fabrica.  I also had a good adventure with Flux, An Umbrella for Two, The Bridge Cafe, and (some of the) dance films.  I appreciate the good spread of disciplines and formats, multi-disciplinary work, and co-optation of the audience in experiential and ambulatory works. I like that I didn't have to bust my artist's paycheck because of half of those shows were free and the tickets for most of the other shows were affordable (I had some money left to go to Conversasians instead, that's a story to come).  Doesn't hurt too that I also got some fun employment with another great production, A Very Wagnerian Night!
But I do have this uneasy feeling that quite a lot of what I caught seemed to have too much in common, whether it had been created by a Singaporean or a foreign artist.  That nearly all of what I saw had been selected by programmers based on the feedback of forms of conscientious arts fest goers who indicated that they prefer shows that are:
  • challenging/experimental
  • multidisciplinary
  • experiential
  • relevant to my life or touching on social issues
  • tell me something about myself
  • (the last two equating to "local in content")
I can't speak for the rest of the work that I haven't been able to catch, of which a fair share was also staged in conventional theatre formats.   I am looking forward to a final weekend of shows and to Platform Campus in print that's sitting on my coffee table.

I have heard rumours that the festival will be swapping leadership and maybe formats after this year.  Which leaves me with mixed feelings.  I hope that we won't lose the inclusive yet adventurous vibe.  I don't envy the next team which has to figure out what a national festival should do for Singapore's varied audience, demanding society and a high-saturation arts calendar.

Saturday, 26 May 2012