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Four days to Singapore Art Week

Singapore Art Week a bonanza of film and visual arts events packed into nine days

This year's visual art bonanza Singapore Art Week includes films and walks with the aim to reach diverse audiences

To make Singapore films come alive, the Asian Film Archive is organising a series of weekend bus tours to old movie locations starting Saturday.

Destinations include a forested spot along East Coast Road where the Malay comedy Mat Tiga Suku (1965) was filmed. In reaction to the film and location, artist Mike H.J. Chang has created a life-sized bus stop using sand.

Mixing film and visual art, old work and new responses, the programme is part of Singapore Art Week, a nine-day-long art bonanza of more than 100 activities such as art fairs, exhibitions and talks.

Running from Saturday to Jan 24 this year, Art Week was started in 2013 by the National Arts Council, Singapore Tourism Board and Economic Development Board to ride on the momentum of the rising visual art scene, including the growth of the art fair, Art Stage Singapore, and the launch of the art gallery cluster in Gillman Barracks.

 
 

Over the years, however, non- visual art activities have made their way into Art Week.

Last year's programme included a family-friendly carnival, neighbourhood walking tours and music parties.

This year, the cross-disciplinary focus is stronger. There is an immersive theatre production in Joo Chiat by the arts group OH! Open House as well as a skateboard exhibition at Aliwal Arts Centre.

The Asian Film Archive is participating in Art Week for the first time. It hopes that the buzz surrounding the event, which drew about 126,000 visitors last year, will widen public interest in Singapore films.

It is presenting State Of Motion, which comprises an exhibition of film stills from the archive of the now- defunct, Singapore-based Cathay- Keris Studio, and a weekend bus tour of the different locations in the film stills where a work of art, specific to the film and site, is installed.

Another exhibition-cum-tour project is Concrete Island by the NUS Museum. It is based on the idea that the city is "a condition of movement, exchange and intensities", says the museum's assistant curator Kenneth Tay, 27, and it takes off from the J.G. Ballard novel of the same title and the film 80km/h (first shot in 2003) by Singapore film-maker Tan Pin Pin.

The exhibition presents research material related to the project while the tour, led by architectural historian Lai Chee Kien, will address Singapore's urban history as the bus travels across the country on the Pan-Island Expressway.

Other components of the project include a reading workshop starting on Jan 30 and a mobile cinema event in April.

Mr Tay admits the project is "not strictly a visual art event", but he says it reflects the museum's inter- disciplinary approach. He adds that its launch during Art Week allows the museum to "showcase the breadth" of what it does and, in turn, offer Art Week audiences "a different understanding of how art and research can unfold".

Art Week's activities are predominantly led by the arts community. Government agencies come in to support and ensure that the overall programme offers quality and diversity, says the arts council's director of sector development for visual arts, Mr Low Eng Teong, 46.

The broadened focus to include other art forms "can be novel ways for audiences to experience art and see visual art beyond the traditional confines of a museum", he adds.

"We hope to encourage different creative expressions that can also appeal to a broader and more diverse audience."

It was a similar thought that led Mr Alan Oei, executive director of OH! Open House, to launch an offshoot of its popular neighbourhood art walk at this year's Art Week.

His production, titled No Man's Land, is billed as an immersive theatre experience. It will take audiences to different spots in Joo Chiat - the location of its art walk last year - where performers act out scenes.

Mr Oei, 38, who is also artistic director of No Man's Land, says: "OH! walkabouts tell the story of a neighbourhood and the format is accessible and entertaining - that's a big part of our mission to build new audiences who might not go to museums otherwise. But I've always wanted to do something more challenging and immersive for audiences who have an appetite for experimentation."

The spirit of exploration was what sparked the idea for the art exhibition Cannot Be Bo(a)rdered at the Aliwal Arts Centre. The centre has been holding an annual urban art festival during Art Week since 2014 that includes music performances and street culture activities such as skateboarding, but this is the first time it is launching an art exhibition.

The centre's senior manager of place making, Ms Natalie Tan, 34, says the opportunity arose through conversations with artist Muhammad Izdi and curator Iman Ismail. "With skateboarding a part of the festival since last year, we thought it would be amazing to showcase the skateboard as a primary medium for art," she says.

The show sees 16 artists and collectives from Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia using the skateboard to create new works that address public perceptions of skateboard culture.

Those in the visual art scene welcome the cross-genre art projects in Art Week.

Mr Douwe Cramer, 55, show director of the inaugural art fair Singapore Contemporary Art Show at Suntec Singapore Convention & Exhibition Centre, says: "In many cities around the world, art weeks have proven to engage a wide range of people by offering something for everyone."

Similarly, Mr Lorenzo Rudolf, 56, president of Art Stage Singapore, says "contemporary art is more than just aesthetics and form".

"It embraces all mediums, including film, video and performance, and crosses boundaries," he adds.

"Being its anchor, we are glad Singapore Art Week is following our philosophy and expanding the definition of art in a contemporary way."

•The Straits Times is the official media partner of Singapore Art Week. For more stories on Art Week, go to str.sg/ZHe4

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 12, 2016, with the headline 'Visual feast'. Print Edition | Subscribe