Arts centre The Substation announces theme, new direction for 2016

Next year, The Substation will explore the broad theme of Memories, History and Nostalgia in its programming.

There will be a series of small, experimental exhibitions by selected artists, culminating in a major show presented sometime in September or October. Details of the artists have not been announced.

In line with that theme, the centre will also include voices outside the arts community. Writers, historians, economists, geographers and engineers will be considered for new cross-disciplinary residencies.

These announcements were part of a press statement released by Alan Oei, 38, the new artistic director of the independent arts centre in Armenian Street. It is the first time he has spelt out his plans for the institution.

On the choice of the annual theme, Oei tells The Straits Times: "There is a certain loss of optimism about the future. I find that at a time when we are becoming more technologically advanced, we are dreaming or thinking even more of the past. The idea is really to invite a range of people across art disciplines to reflect on this."

Logistically, Oei has other plans for the space. Currently, The Substation operates in part by renting out its theatre, gallery and some studios upstairs to groups and individuals.

He hopes to make the centre less reliant on rental to become a research and development space for artists.

Oei says they are gradually transitioning out of rental, which eventually means all the programmes "we run will be our own. Our budget will be balanced via a leaner team, and pushing for more educational programmes".

The Substation was founded in 1990 by theatre doyen Kuo Pao Kun as a home for independent artists working in all disciplines. Since then, it has developed a reputation for edgy, indie exhibitions and performances, and for nurturing emerging artists.

The last artistic director was Noor Effendy Ibrahim, who stepped down in January this year.

deepikas@sph.com.sg