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Singapore Arts Fest 2012: Ilkosa’s sum-up

June 18, 2012

As the dust settles on the Singapore Arts Festival 2012 and its 2013 hiatus begins, thought I’ll just do a short summing up of my personal thoughts of the SAF this year.

The Theme: Our Lost Poems

Quoting the brief description:

“Our Lost Poems looks at myths, legends, wandering thoughts, reflections, lost riddles and hidden stories.”

From the eight programmes I caught, and others listed, I guess the “myths and legends” portion was probably the stronger theme this year. But on the whole, I didn’t feel that it was that clear. It could be the use of “Poems”, which if I didn’t read the description, I would have found little relation.

What I Caught

Of course, catching this many shows this year, which might be the most for me over the years so far, I can’t help but give them a ranking of sorts. I believe the least satisfying show for me would have to be Pandemic. My fave was Lear Dreaming with its fusion of cultures, which isn’t always easy to achieve, and how it rests on you. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle comes in second out of the 8 programmes for its dream-like landscape.

I tried more experimental/interactive stuff this year as compared to previous years, and out of the three, i.e. Pandemic, Songbird and Hotel Maids, I liked Hotel Maids best for its subtlety and surprise at the end. Songbird was nice and the process fun, but the story/ending a little disappointing.

It’s a tougher choice for the musical ones, Flight of the Jade Bird and Rite(s) of Spring
Flight was a tad too long but it had its moments, despite, I feel, it not reaching a higher climax.
As for Rite(s), I had been wanting to listen to Orchestra of the Music Makers (OMM) for some time, and Rite(s) was a good opportunity. Despite the young age of the musicians (average age of 21 years!) and being a volunteer orchestra, the orchestra boosts a good pool of musicians that bodes well for our classical music scene. And of course, Qin Li-wei is always good to watch and listen to, even though I’m usually not that attuned to the cello. The concert also heard the premiere of Ho Chee Kong’s Passage-Fantasy for Cello and Orchestra.

What I didn’t catch

There were 2 shows that I regretted not watching this year.

One was A Language of Our Own (which Jeremy caught). I had intended to watch this, but somehow, I was eventually too late to get the tickets. I felt it really wasted. I should have bought tickets to this rather than Very Wagnerian Night.

Another that I didn’t manage to catch was The Book of the Living and DyingI’m a fan of Chong Tze Chien, but alas, the seats were fully registered within half an hour. How crazy was that! Jeremy was lucky to get a ticket to its preview (*envious*).

Thoughts of the Arts Fest – past, present and the future

I don’t know how long I’ve been following the Singapore Arts Festival. Was it since my secondary school days or JC days? I can’t recall, but I know it’s been a while, and I’ve been especially active in attending the performances since I started work (can afford more shows mah).

How has SAF evolved since? I heard comments that it has lost its “glam” factor in recent years. I guess it has in some way. Well, I believe it is due to a number of factors. I don’t know, but I used to feel that there were more “wow” shows and it was a scramble for tickets. Personally, I felt the SAF used to be THE arts festival of the year but maybe due to our arts scene becoming more vibrant and having a variety of festivals, that factor has kind of diminished. It’s not a bad thing actually, as it means Singapore has matured artistically and culturally.

For shows, I felt they are getting more and more “experimental” and abstract, even to some, fringe-like. I believe some of us still like some “conventional” form of theatre, dance and music which are more easily understood. So it has to be a balance. For me, I think the last more memorable SAF was probably 2 or 3 years back where most shows picked would ensure some form of satisfaction, even if I didn’t fully comprehend them.

Also, I used to feel that the SAF was the time for the major art forms to converge at a single festival and each distinct and strong in their own way. In most festivals, each usually focuses on one art form, like dance festival, music fest, etc. But SAF was where it felt all-rounded. Maybe my focus has changed or there are so many programmes now that I’m lost.

The SAF has also moved more “community”, I believe, as an outreach and an assimilation into society. I believe the idea is that arts should be inculcated in our everyday life in all communities. I think that ideal is good. So now, it boils down to – what is the purpose of the Singapore Arts Festival now?

I believe the hiatus is for that reason, to find direction for SAF. Over the years, I believe the purpose of SAF was to promote arts and culture and to change the arts climate in Singapore as we develop into a more developed society (besides a tourism factor). In a way, I think Singapore is already on track for that, so what should the SAF focus on now? How would the Arts & Culture Strategic Review (ACSR) influence its direction? We’ll find out in 2014.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. June 19, 2012 10:44 am

    A very nice summary and thoughts shared. =)

  2. March 6, 2013 6:57 pm

    Want say hi to everyoneAre we allowed to email this to our list

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