Pondering the beauty of the spaces between

The second and main area of Ricky Sim's Interspace is lined with rows of white columns.
The second and main area of Ricky Sim's Interspace is lined with rows of white columns.PHOTO: JOOTZ, COURTESY OF ESPLANADE - THEATRES ON THE BAY

DANCE

INTERSPACE

Ricky Sim

Huayi - Chinese Festival of Arts

Esplanade Annexe Studios, Friday

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 front-of-house staff handled pre-entry procedures such as taking temperatures and checking bags in 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 in itself was something special in today's context.

The work, an Esplanade commission, consisted of three sections separated into different spaces.

The hypnotic sound provided a coherent connecting thread, enveloping the entire space and creating 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 main space.

We were greeted by rows of white columns arranged to cover the whole square of white space.

The columns were of different diameters and each split into two, with one part hanging from the ceiling and the other standing on the ground.

  • BOOK IT/ INTERSPACE

  • WHERE: Esplanade Annexe Studio, 1 Esplanade Drive

    WHEN: Today to Friday, 4 to 7pm, 7.30 to 10pm; Saturday, 5 to 10pm; Sunday, noon to 5pm.

    ADMISSION: $14 a slot (one or two people) via Sistic (call 6348 5555 or go to sistic.com.sg). For ages 16 and above.

    INFO: Esplanade website (bit.ly/3dE8hHy)

Here was where the audience could unleash their playfulness. Moving around and exploring the columns, I noticed 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 hanging 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 followed straight lines in different configurations, creating interesting combinations of shadow and illumination.

I felt that the 20-minute duration was on the short side, as there was so much to take 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, giving one the sense of not being alone.

To describe Interspace in further detail would risk too many spoilers. Suffice it 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 lets participants experience and interact with the work however they wish.

It invites them to ponder what fills the spaces between, even as they keep their distance from each other - a pertinent work for these times.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 24, 2021, with the headline 'Pondering the beauty of the spaces between'. Subscribe