A-Z guide to The O.P.E.N.

Ways Of Wandering is a public performance that will see more than 130 people being exposed to the arts in unusual ways. South African visual activist Zanele Muholi (above) will put on an exhibition titled Faces & Phases (left).
Ways Of Wandering is a public performance that will see more than 130 people being exposed to the arts in unusual ways. South African visual activist Zanele Muholi (above) will put on an exhibition titled Faces & Phases (left).PHOTOS: THE SAM WILLOWS, SINGAPORE INTERNATIONAL FESTIVAL OF ARTS, JEANNIE HO, NAJIB NAFID, ZANELE M
Ways Of Wandering is a public performance that will see more than 130 people being exposed to the arts in unusual ways. South African visual activist Zanele Muholi (above) will put on an exhibition titled Faces & Phases (left).
Ways Of Wandering is a public performance that will see more than 130 people being exposed to the arts in unusual ways. South African visual activist Zanele Muholi (above) will put on an exhibition titled Faces & Phases (left).PHOTOS: THE SAM WILLOWS, SINGAPORE INTERNATIONAL FESTIVAL OF ARTS, JEANNIE HO, NAJIB NAFID, ZANELE M
Ways Of Wandering is a public performance that will see more than 130 people being exposed to the arts in unusual ways. South African visual activist Zanele Muholi (above) will put on an exhibition titled Faces & Phases (left).
Ways Of Wandering is a public performance that will see more than 130 people being exposed to the arts in unusual ways. South African visual activist Zanele Muholi (above) will put on an exhibition titled Faces & Phases (left).PHOTOS: THE SAM WILLOWS, SINGAPORE INTERNATIONAL FESTIVAL OF ARTS, JEANNIE HO, NAJIB NAFID, ZANELE M
Ways Of Wandering is a public performance that will see more than 130 people being exposed to the arts in unusual ways. South African visual activist Zanele Muholi (above) will put on an exhibition titled Faces & Phases (left).
Ways Of Wandering is a public performance that will see more than 130 people being exposed to the arts in unusual ways. South African visual activist Zanele Muholi (above) will put on an exhibition titled Faces & Phases (left).PHOTOS: THE SAM WILLOWS, SINGAPORE INTERNATIONAL FESTIVAL OF ARTS, JEANNIE HO, NAJIB NAFID, ZANELE M
Ways Of Wandering is a public performance that will see more than 130 people being exposed to the arts in unusual ways. South African visual activist Zanele Muholi (above) will put on an exhibition titled Faces & Phases (left).
Ways Of Wandering is a public performance that will see more than 130 people being exposed to the arts in unusual ways. South African visual activist Zanele Muholi (above) will put on an exhibition titled Faces & Phases (left).PHOTOS: THE SAM WILLOWS, SINGAPORE INTERNATIONAL FESTIVAL OF ARTS, JEANNIE HO, NAJIB NAFID, ZANELE M
American dancer-choreographer Richard Move (above) was inspired by the late great Martha Graham. -- PHOTO: JOSEF ASTOR
American dancer-choreographer Richard Move (above) was inspired by the late great Martha Graham. -- PHOTO: JOSEF ASTOR
Lin Juan. -- PHOTO: JOSHUA LOO AND LIN JUAN
Lin Juan. -- PHOTO: JOSHUA LOO AND LIN JUAN
Noorlinah Mohamed. -- PHOTO: JEANNIE HO
Noorlinah Mohamed. -- PHOTO: JEANNIE HO
Kim Hyun-Tak. -- PHOTO: THEATRE GROUP SEONGBUKDONG BEEDOOLKEE
Kim Hyun-Tak. -- PHOTO: THEATRE GROUP SEONGBUKDONG BEEDOOLKEE
Medea On Media was inspired by both Greek mythology and the 1999 Columbine High School massacre in the United States. -- PHOTO: OK SANG HOON
Medea On Media was inspired by both Greek mythology and the 1999 Columbine High School massacre in the United States. -- PHOTO: OK SANG HOON
Holy Motors. -- PHOTO: WILD BUNCH
Holy Motors. -- PHOTO: WILD BUNCH
Documentary Web Junkies on July 5 follows three youths who are checked into Beijing’s first Internet addiction clinic. -- PHOTO: DOGWOOF GLOBAL
Documentary Web Junkies on July 5 follows three youths who are checked into Beijing’s first Internet addiction clinic. -- PHOTO: DOGWOOF GLOBAL
Ho Rui An. -- PHOTO: JOSCELIN CHEW
Ho Rui An. -- PHOTO: JOSCELIN CHEW
New York theatre company The Wooster Group will be giving audiences here a taste of its oeuvre with video screenings of its past work, such as To You, The Birdie! (above). -- PHOTO: MARY GEARHART
New York theatre company The Wooster Group will be giving audiences here a taste of its oeuvre with video screenings of its past work, such as To You, The Birdie! (above). -- PHOTO: MARY GEARHART

Kicking off on June 26, The O.P.E.N. is a 21/2-week programme of films, talks, performances and exhibitions. It introduces ideas and artists that will be presented in August at the Singapore International Festival of Arts. CORRIE TAN and LISABEL TING present an A-to-Z guide on The O.P.E.N., which stands for Open, Participate, Enrich and Negotiate

A is for the archives of The Wooster Group

The genre-bending and experimental theatre company The Wooster Group will be giving audiences here a taste of its oeuvre with video screenings of its past work - ahead of its production Cry, Trojans! (Troilus & Cressida) at the Singapore International Festival of Arts.

Mr Clay Hapaz, 53, the long-time archivist of the New York-based company, will be at The O.P.E.N. next month to discuss several of the group's iconic works that have been recorded, created and/or reconstructed on tape.

These include Rumstick Road (1977), House/Lights (1999) and To You, The Birdie! (2002).

The American ensemble came into being in 1975 with works composed and directed by the late Spalding Gray and current artistic director Elizabeth LeCompte, with founding members such as actors Willem Dafoe and Kate Valk.

It is known for its collaborative approach and daring work that often straddles theatre, dance and multimedia.

Mr Hapaz says over the telephone from New York: "The videos rarely are straight documentations of the show. There's always an element that we bring to it to lift it out of just the straight video experience which, more often than not, can be pretty deadly to watching performance.

"We attempt to infuse these presentations with the complexity and depth of experience that we hope you have when it's live."

What: Rumstick Road (July 8, 7.30pm); House/Lights (July 9, 7.30pm); To You, The Birdie! (July 10, 7.30pm); and The Emperor Jones, Today, I Must Sincerely Congratulate You and Rhyme 'Em To Death (July 12, 11am)

Where: 72-13 Mohamed Sultan Road

B is for Bertolt Brecht

While the concepts introduced by German theatre legend Brecht (1898-1956) are not always easy to understand, one does see the late playwright-director's influence across a vast range of art forms.

Whenever an actor addresses the viewer directly on a TV show or film - or a theatre production is framed in such a way that one feels emotionally distant from a protagonist, yet is compelled to critically and rationally analyse a play - one is seeing hints of Brecht's influence.

He founded the Berliner Ensemble, which will stage a surreal version of Peter Pan in September.

In order to demystify this theatre icon and trace his legacy, The O.P.E.N. features a beginner's guide to Brecht, titled Bertolt Brecht In 8 Steps.

Singapore-based actresses Nora Samosir and Sharon Frese will explore various Brechtian performance techniques through an informal show-and-tell, while academic Charlene Rajendran will look at Brecht's influences on South-east Asian theatre.

When: July 2, 8pm

Where: 72-13 Mohamed Sultan Road

C is for curators

While The O.P.E.N. resides under the arts festival's banner, it also boasts specialised curators for individual segments.

Local film-maker Tan Bee Thiam curates The O.P.E.N.'s wide selection of films (see D). Post-89er artist and writer Ho Rui An curates the 89plus (see H) panels, which will discuss the impact of the digital age. 1989 was the year that launched the Internet.

D is for documentaries

The O.P.E.N. boasts a treasure trove of films, from the quirky and heart-warming (Web Junkies, see I) to the head-spinningly bizarre (Leos Carax's Holy Motors, see L).

Curator of the film programme Tan Bee Thiam, 36, says: "My approach to film is really looking at what cinema can do, how film can tackle issues, and I also wanted to look at cinema and its relation to theatre and movement and dance."

Gritty documentaries form the backbone of the programme. The selection casts an unflinching eye on topics ranging from the brutality of the Khmer Rouge regime (The Missing Picture, see K) to illness and death (Over My Dead Body, directed by Brigitte Poupart).

For the film screenings, audiences are free to walk in and out. Tan explains: "I also want to create space for the audience. You don't have to sit there for the whole three hours and not miss a single moment."

E is for 89plus

Imagine a world without the Internet. For almost half the globe's population - born after the Internet was launched in 1989 - such a time never existed.

89plus is a long-term, multi-platform international research project by Swiss curator Hans Ulrich Obrist (see H) and French curator Simon Castets, which investigates the perspectives of the emerging Internet generation.

It manifests itself in panels, books, periodicals and exhibitions, and has travelled to Munich, New York, London and Milan.

In Singapore, 89plus is part of The O.P.E.N.'s Digital Legacies component and will comprise a series of talks and panels and a concert by The Sam Willows (see S).

For more information on the project, go to www.89plus.com.

F is for fearful fish

Can fish feel? Can they remember? In Welcome, Fish Have Fear, associate professor Suresh Jesuthasan at Duke-NUS graduate medical school expounds on the fascinating emotional lives of these finned creatures. Far from being frigid, it turns out that fish have long memories, the ability to experience panic and the capacity to draw comfort from other fishes.

In this brunch talk, which is part of The O.P.E.N.'s Legacies Of Science component, learn about how the study of fish can help in the understanding of human emotions.

Where: 72-13 Mohamed Sultan Road

When: June 28, 11am to 12.30pm

G is for Greek tragedy

The theatre of ancient Greece is commonly referred to as the birthplace of Western theatre.

The O.P.E.N. and the festival feature contemporary takes on two famous Greek tragedies - Medea by Euripides (see M) next month and Oedipus Rex by Sophocles in August - both to be staged by South Korean theatre companies.

Ancient Greek theatre was a grand affair, with large-scale festivals and competitions that honoured the god Dionysus.

Many of the theatre conventions people see today, including the genres of tragedy and comedy and the deus ex machina narrative device (where a seemingly impossible problem is conveniently solved by a new character or event, often a god), all have origins in ancient Greek theatre.

H is for Hans Ulrich Obrist and Ho Rui An

In 2009, Hans Ulrich Obrist was named the most powerful person in the art world by London-based ArtReview magazine. The Swiss curator, critic and historian, 46, is the co-director of the popular Serpentine Galleries in London and will be in Singapore for a talk on his research project, 89plus (see E).

Also part of 89plus is a brunch talk by Singapore artist and writer Ho Rui An, and two panels titled Local/Knowledge and Commentary. The first is on South-east Asian youth's relationship with locality and the second, on how opinion is shaped by the digital world.

Ho, who was born in 1990 and will be curating the panels, says: "As I was thinking through the common historical conditions that bind the region together, two lines of history struck me in particular: the history of nationalism and the history of student activism.

"The first panel takes as its point of departure the historical emergence of nationalism as we know today in South-east Asia and tries to negotiate what purchase the concept of the nation has for a globally networked environment. The second panel looks at how so many waves of activism in South-east Asia were led by students."

I is for Internet addiction

Many people spend hours lost in the vastness of the Internet for work or for leisure. But when does a pastime turn into an addiction? The documentary Web Junkies, part of The O.P.E.N.'s Digital Legacies series, follows three youths who are checked into Beijing's first Internet addiction clinic to be cured of their web-ddiction. It is co-written, directed and produced by Hilla Medalia and Shosh Shlam, who are from Israel, and will be screened in Mandarin with English subtitles.

Where: 72-13 Mohamed Sultan Road

When: July 5, 3 to 4.30pm

J is for Jason Wee, Jeremiah Choy and Joavien Ng

The three Js from Singapore - a visual artist, theatre director-producer and dancer-choreographer respectively - will be leading more than 130 members of the public in Ways Of Wandering (see W) as artist-mentors. They will be joined by actress Sharda Harrison, music director and composer Philip Tan and theatre artist and arts educator Noorlinah Mohamed.

K is for Khmer Rouge

Director Rithy Panh recalls the horrors of his childhood under the brutal Khmer Rouge regime in The Missing Picture, one of this year's Oscar nominees for Best Foreign Film.

Approximately half of the film is culled from news and documentary footage, while the other half uses clay figurines to dramatise what happened in Cambodia when Pol Pot came to power. Screened in French with English subtitles.

Where: 72-13 Mohamed Sultan Road

When: July 6, 3 to 4.30pm

L is for Leos Carax

The cult film Holy Motors is French director Leos Carax's first feature film since 1999 and debuted in competition for the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival in 2012.

The fantasy drama film, in French, English and Chinese with English subtitles, is about a surreal, dizzying day in the life of Oscar, who inhabits a host of different characters: an old beggar woman, a balaclava-ed assassin and a Chinese gangster, among others.

The Guardian's film critic Peter Bradshaw rated the film five out of five stars and wrote that the film is "weird and wonderful, rich and strange - barking mad, in fact".

Where: 72-13 Mohamed Sultan Road

When: July 5, 7.30 to 9.30pm

M is for Medea On Media

South Korean theatre company Theatre Group Seongbukdong Beedoolkee will be bringing a contemporary spin to Euripides' Greek tragedy Medea with Medea On Media. This edgy adaptation by theatre director Kim Hyun-Tak blends various new media formats, including talk shows and video games, to piece together the story of the warrior Jason and his vengeful wife Medea, trapped in a vicious triangle of infidelity.

Kim, 46, says in an e-mail interview that it was not the themes of the original play that inspired his deconstruction. Rather, he drew inspiration from real life. "The fact that the criminal of a shooting spree in Columbine had been addicted to and influenced by video games inspired me at first," Kim says, referring to the 1999 Columbine High School massacre in the United States.

"I wanted to talk about the crucial effect of media on our lives and suddenly the spelling of 'media' reminded me of that of Medea. I found that the ancient tragedy firmly persisted in today's media. And I decided to show how each channel of media drives us into a tragic corner in everyday life."

Where: Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts, Studio Theatre

When: July 3 to 5, 8pm

Admission: $35 from Sistic (call 6348-5555 or go to www.sistic.com.sg)

N is for Noorlinah Mohamed

Arts educator, academic and actress Noorlinah Mohamed, 45, manages the administration and production of The O.P.E.N.

The pint-sized dynamo was approached by festival director Ong Keng Sen last year for the position and leapt at the chance to help with public engagement, which is close to her heart. She has been conducting talks about The O.P.E.N. over the past few months, speaking with students and adults about the role of the pre-festival programme.

She hopes it will foster lively discussion on a variety of issues. "I think we need to engage critically with works of art rather than just appreciating them with 'like' or 'don't like' - not to say that that's not valuable, but to go beyond that, to add another layer.

"Attending an arts event is not just for artists - you will find resonance in any of these pieces. It's also about connecting to humanity."

O is for Ong Keng Sen

The O.P.E.N. is the brainchild of Sifa festival director Ong and his team, who envision the public engagement initiative as a pre-festival programme to set the tone for the main event.

During the media launch of the festival earlier this year, he said: "So many festivals are like UFOs - the UFO flies into the city, lands and, after three days, it's gone. We're trying to have a percolation of ideas for four weeks before the festival... It's an important time to introduce the shows and talk about the larger ideas."

The theme of this year's arts festival is Legacy And The Expanded Classic, which The O.P.E.N. will seek to introduce to viewers by exploring different types of legacies (see T for themes).

P is for public engagement

The O.P.E.N. does not just hope to lay the groundwork for the blockbuster international productions that will be sweeping into Singapore in August and September for the main festival. It also aims to encourage audience ownership of the many ideas in play.

By engaging audience members prior to these shows, The O.P.E.N. hopes to get viewers thinking about the themes of each show, discussing the various concepts and interacting with artists to gain a better understanding of their work.

For instance, audience members who go for a talk on bioethics and biomedical advances might be prompted to catch British composer Michael Nyman's experimental opera Facing Goya, which wrestles with similar themes.

Q is for quartet

Apart from The Sam Willows (see S), another Singapore music quartet will be taking to the stage during The O.P.E.N.

The newly minted Sophron Quartet will be giving a performance titled The Art Of Fear, a concert blended with film and the silent reading of texts from the Stalinist era of the former Soviet Union.

They will be playing pieces by Russian composers Glazunov, Prokofiev and Shostakovich.

The quartet comprises Christina Zhou and Tang Tee Tong on violin, Christoven Tan on viola, and Lin Juan on cello.

Where: 72-13 Mohamed Sultan Road

When: July 12, 1pm

R is for Richard Move

American dancer-choreographer Richard Move will be inhabiting the grande dame of contemporary dance, the late Martha Graham - a role he has honed to perfection since he first stepped into her shoes in 1996. His performance of four of her solos at The O.P.E.N. will act as a prelude to his acclaimed recreation of a 1963 interview Graham did with dance critic Walter Terry, to be staged during the main festival season.

Over the telephone from New York, Move says he first encountered the work of Graham while taking a high school class on movement for actors, which involved modern dance, and his teacher, Margaret Moss, was deeply influenced by Graham.

As a young man, he was "very enchanted by this kind of religious, ritualised approach to dancing". The result has been a lifelong dedication to the gifted and glamorous Graham, who died in 1991, "this character who just lived in a higher plane than the rest of us".

Move speaks of his alter ego with a mixture of delight and reverence: "I had this vision that she needed to appear again, in the public, at the top of her game, as a living legend ... and that she needed to set the record straight, that all that has happened in contemporary dance was because of her groundbreaking, revolutionary act."

In addition to the solos he will perform at the Asian Civilisations Museum, he will also be here for a screening of Ghostlight, a 2003 film that tells the story of Graham through the lens of a fictional documentary film-maker, starring Move as Graham.

What: Martha@ACM

Where: Asian Civilisations Museum

When: June 27 and 28, 8pm

What: Ghostlight

Where: 72-13 Mohamed Sultan Road

When: June 29, 4.30pm

S is for The Sam Willows

Local indie darlings The Sam Willows, who are known for their soul-folk tunes, will be giving a concert as part of the 89plus programme on young digital natives.

The quartet, made up of Sandra Riley Tang, siblings Benjamin and Narelle Kheng, and Jon Chua, released their debut album in 2012 and have since amassed close to 500,000 views on their YouTube page.

Where: 72-13 Mohamed Sultan Road

When: July 5, 10 to 11.30pm

T is for themes

The programmes of The O.P.E.N. are loosely grouped under five broad tags, each linked back to the overall festival theme of Legacy And The Expanded Classic:

1. Legacies Of Violence explores the consequences of 20th-century violence in the activism of this century;

2. Iconic Legacies presents the legacies of three 20th-century icons: The Wooster Group (see A for selections from the group's archive), Bertolt Brecht (see B) and Martha Graham (see R for Richard Move's take on her);

3. Digital Legacies documents the impact of digital culture on today's generation;

4. Personal Legacies asks the question: "How do personal narratives act as markers of time and space?"; and

5. Legacies Of Science probes the limits and possibilities of people's intervention in nature.

U is for the unknown

The O.P.E.N. is making its debut as a 21/2-week pre-festival programme distinct from the festival fringe that ran alongside the Singapore Arts Festival during its 37-year history.

Levels of anticipation went up a notch while the festival went on hiatus last year - but will The O.P.E.N., which takes place four weeks before the main festival, make a splash or a ripple?

Whether it proves a hit remains to be seen, but it is certainly venturing into unknown territory, and for that, it should be celebrated.

V is for Veronique Doisneau

Being part of the corps de ballet is, as dancer Veronique Doisneau (right) puts it, being reduced to "human decor" while soloists bask in the limelight.

Famed French dancer-choreographer Jerome Bel follows a 42-year-old Doisneau, who is retiring from the Paris Opera Ballet, in a performance documentary that pays tribute to the corps de ballet dancers.

Doisneau talks frankly about her salary, her children and what it is like to spend a lifetime playing second fiddle.

Screened in French with English subtitles.

Where: 72-13 Mohamed Sultan Road

When: June 29, 3 to 4pm

W is for Ways Of Wandering

On July 11 and 12, more than 130 people from all walks of life will gather at Tiong Bahru Park and MacRitchie Reservoir to "wander".

Ways Of Wandering is a mass participatory project that began at the end of last month, helmed by six artist-mentors (see J for three of them), which culminates in two free outdoor public performances next month.

Director of The O.P.E.N. Noorlinah Mohamed says: "It's really about generating an engagement with the public and enabling them to see the potentiality of working with a stimulus - in this case, the stimulus is the art."

At the workshops, participants were exposed to music, dance, theatre and the visual arts in unusual ways from tapping on plastic cups to practising Indian martial arts.

Noorlinah says: "The response has been wonderful and participants say it's eye-opening. They're excited about the different genres and everyone is stoked."

X marks the spot

Almost all of The O.P.E.N. events, such as talks and film screenings, will take place at TheatreWorks' premises at 72-13 Mohamed Sultan Road. Other venues include the Asian Civilisations Museum for choreographer Richard Move's performance of Martha Graham solos (see R) and the Ways Of Wandering (see W) free performances at Tiong Bahru Park and MacRitchie Reservoir.

Y is for you

You are the person The O.P.E.N. is dedicated to. You can buy a $45 all-access pass to The O.P.E.N., which will gain you entry to all events except for the special performance of Medea On Media (see M). Showcases for Ways Of Wandering (see W) are free and open to the public.

Due to limited seating, pre-registration is required for all events (go to theopen.sifa.sg) and audience members will be admitted on a first- come, first-served basis. You can get concessions on tickets if you are a student, a senior aged 55 and above, or a national serviceman.

Z is for Zanele Muholi

This bold photographer has faced animosity on all sides in her native continent of Africa for her documentation of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people in the region.

But the South African visual activist remains unfazed and will present an exhibition titled Faces & Phases, featuring evocative portraits of these marginalised individuals.

The 41-year-old says over the telephone from Paris, where she was on an artist residency, of her work: "For me, it's very important to be autobiographical, to personalise my approach.

"I project my own body onto my photographs. Because people may not receive it when they are spoken to from the outside in, but they do when speaking from the inside out."

She is still recovering from a robbery that took place in her Cape Town home two years ago, when an intruder ransacked her apartment and stole her hard drives containing years of hard work.

She had been working tirelessly for years after the death of her mother from liver cancer - and the loss of her images struck another huge blow. "My life will never be the same," she says.

She has continued to work to get through it.

"I go to different places... I learn to cope with the different stresses in life and I enjoy the work of other creative people - and they still go on, these people who have been through so much, much more than me."

Where: 72-13 Mohamed Sultan Road

When: Opens June 26 at 7pm, with a talk by Muholi at 8pm titled Collaboration, Art, Social Change. The exhibition runs from June 27 to 29, 11am to 10pm