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Thumbs up for O.P.E.N. atmosphere and programming, but not ticketing and jargon-filled talks

The first edition of The O.P.E.N. had good audience response but also its share of criticism

Published on Jul 14, 2014 11:17 AM
One of the acts showcased in The O.P.E.N. was by American dancer Richard Move, who performed four solos by late dancer Martha Graham. -- PHOTO: JASON SCHMIDT & THE NEW YORKER

The O.P.E.N., held for the first time as a three-week-long prelude to the Singapore International Festival of Arts next month, drew to a close last Saturday.

A showing of the film Over My Dead Body (2012), about an artist with cystic fibrosis, marked the end of more than 40 performances, screenings and talks, which were held mostly at 72-13 Mohamed Sultan Road.

Audience members praised the warm atmosphere and diverse programming, but pointed out that some of the talks were unnecessarily jargon-filled. The $45 all-access-pass ticketing format was also a deterrent to some.

The O.P.E.N. - which stands for open, participate, enrich and negotiate - was styled as a popular academy and sought to introduce some of the themes and issues of the main festival.

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Background story


Inviting atmosphere

The atmosphere at 72-13 Mohamed Sultan Road was inviting and intimate. Events were held on both floors of the two-storey building and each space was amply furnished with chairs, tables and the occasional beanbag.

There was a free flow of great coffee, and sometimes, wine, snacks and hot food were available. Artists and organisers mingled freely with the audience.

 Thoughtful peripherals

Many events were accompanied by short explanatory write-ups, available for free.

For example, Ho Rui An, curator of the 89 plus panels which discussed the impact of the digital age, wrote a thoughtful introduction explaining his selection of topics, while quick cheat sheets on Brechtian Theatre were also available.

These extras were a testament to The O.P.E.N.'s rigorous organisation - almost all of the events started on time - and definitely contributed towards its goal of educating arts lovers here.


Lack of single-event ticketing

All events at The O.P.E.N. were accessible with the purchase of a single $45 pass, except for theatre group Seongbukdong Beedoolkee's Medea On Media, which was separately ticketed at $35.

However, the lack of single- event ticketing made the programme unappealing to those who wanted to catch just one or two events.

Suggestion: Future editions of The O.P.E.N. could offer single-event ticketing in addition to the pass. Screenings could go at $10 each, and talks and brunches could be priced similarly.

It might also be worth lowering the price of the all-inclusive pass towards the end of the three-week festival to draw more people.

Obscure location

Aside from some performances which were held at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts or the Asian Civilisations Museum in the heart of the Civic District, most of the talks and screenings were held at 72-13 Mohamed Sultan Road.

The downside is that it was slightly out of the way. It is about a 20-minute walk from the nearest MRT station, Clarke Quay, and there is not much arts-related footfall in the area.

Suggestion: Future editions could be held at venues with a greater catchment of arts lovers, such as at The Arts House, Aliwal Arts Centre or Goodman Arts Centre, to encourage walk-in attendance.