Huayi - Chinese Festival of Arts
Esplanade Annexe Studios, Friday (Feb 19)
In this time of increased online consumption and reduced attention spans, I was intrigued by the idea of physically attending an event that lasted only 20 minutes.
It simultaneously addressed my fatigue with the proliferation of online works and my increasing lack of patience for long performances.
The experience began outside the Esplanade Annexe Studio, where the front-of-house staff handled the pre-entry procedures such as the usual temperature taking, as well as checking in our bags for safe-keeping.
During each 20-minute slot, only one or two people were admitted. This made for a highly intimate experience, even during the pre-entry exchanges with the staff, who were cheerful and chatty.
While the banter may have seemed ordinary, it was not lost on me that such front-of-house activity has been rare for almost a year now. This simple human connection itself was something special in today's context.
The work, an Esplanade commission, consisted of three sections, physically separated into different spaces. The hypnotic sound provided a coherent connecting thread, enveloping the whole space and providing a contemplative atmosphere.
After a brief stop to read the wall text in the first section, the usher guided me and another attendee into the second, main space. We were greeted by rows of white columns arranged to cover the entire square of white space.
The columns were of different diameters and each was in two parts, with one hanging from the ceiling and the other standing on the ground.
Here was where the audience could unleash their playfulness. On moving around and exploring the columns, I noticed that the ones on the ground were weighted at the bottom, but not attached to the ground - meaning they could be lifted up and toppled over.
The ones mounted from the ceiling could be swayed in all directions. This allowed for endless possibilities in the shapes and patterns created by moving the columns in various ways.
I could not help but notice the patterns of the columns in conjunction with the lighting. Paths of LED light on the ceiling moved in different straight-line configurations throughout the work, creating interesting combinations of shadow and illumination.
I felt that the 20 minutes in the space was on the short side, as there was so much to take in. In between moving around the space and manipulating the columns, it was nice to stop and just observe. Sometimes a performer would enter the space, providing a sense of not being alone.
To describe Interspace in further detail would risk too many spoilers, which the work is best experienced without. Suffice to say that everything one does in the space feeds into the evolution of the work as a whole.
The beautiful thing about Interspace is that it allows participants to experience and interact with the work however they wish. It invites them to ponder what fills the spaces in between, even as they keep their distance from each other - a pertinent work for these times.
WHERE: Esplanade Annexe Studio, 1 Esplanade Drive
WHEN: Monday (Feb 22) to Friday, 4 to 7pm, 7.30 to 10pm; Saturday, 5 to 10pm; Sunday, noon to 5pm. Last admission at 9.30pm
ADMISSION: $14 per slot (one or two people) from Sistic (call 6348 5555 or go to www.sistic.com.sg). Ages 16 and above.