Exploring in-between spaces at 2019 M1 Singapore Fringe Festival: Still Waters

JOGGING: Theatre In Progress by Lebanese performer Hanane Hajj Ali, where she revisits dreams, desires and the cityscape of Beirut through her daily routine of jogging.
JOGGING: Theatre In Progress by Lebanese performer Hanane Hajj Ali, where she revisits dreams, desires and the cityscape of Beirut through her daily routine of jogging.PHOTO: MARWAN TAHTAH

SINGAPORE - Stories of in-between spaces and forgotten histories feature at the M1 Singapore Fringe Festival: Still Waters, which runs from Jan 16 to 27 next year. The works have been programmed in response to Suzann Victor's 1997 performance, Still Waters (Between Estrangement And Reconciliation), in which the artist investigated art and public space by creating a glass dam at the Singapore Art Museum.

The work was created in a drainage gutter at the Bras Basah Road art museum. The building is a gazetted National Monument and was retrofitted with a glass wall to control its internal climate.

Glass panels were installed in the drain so the space flanked by panels and museum wall could be filled with water, reversing the original purpose of the drain. Water thus represented the "unwanted", just as Victor's work was performed soon after a 1994 ban on funding performance art (which was lifted after a decade).

Festival director Sean Tobin wants to draw attention to this seminal work, which he thinks is often overlooked. He adds: "It was also clear to me that the work still had a lot of relevance to important conversations about issues such as history, authority, alienation and exile. I felt this work could still speak to local and global experiences."

Next year marks the 15th edition of the home-grown annual Fringe Festival, which is sponsored by telco M1 and organised under the aegis of local troupe The Necessary Stage. The 14th edition held this January was inspired by Singaporean artist Amanda Heng's 1999 performance against beauty stereotypes, Let's Walk, and included a recreation by the artist herself.

Victor will speak about the work and her career on Jan 12 next year, ahead of the festival.

The 12 ticketed performances and exhibitions programmed for the festival respond to her ideas of uncovering the hidden and exploring in-between spaces.

Overseas highlights include JOGGING: Theatre In Progress by Lebanese artist Hanane Hajj Ali, on Jan 16 and 17. Hanane is a performer in her 50s who explores desires, dreams and the city of Beirut through her daily jog.

Lecture-performance A Fortunate Man, by British theatre company New Perspectives on Jan 18 and 19, explores mental health among medical practitioners. Q&A (The 36 Questions), choreographed by British-Israeli dancer Rachel Erdos and will be performed by Rachel Erdos And Dancers on Jan 25 and 26, is inspired by the famous 36 questions purported to cause two strangers to fall in love. The questions were originally published in a psychology article in 1977.

Hidden histories closer to home are uncovered in works such as Ayer Hitam: A Black History Of Singapore, a lecture-performance on the history and influence of the African diaspora in Singapore. The production runs from Jan 17 to 20 and was created by British Afro-Caribbean actress Sharon Frese with Singaporean artists Irfan Kasban and Ng Yi-Sheng.

Local artist Loo Zihan's Catamite, an interactive experience featuring objects important to queer history, will be held from Jan 25 to 27.

Theatre-maker Koh Wan Ching's multi-lingual work, precise purpose of being broken, will be staged from Jan 24 to 26. It was originally presented as a work-in-progress for The Studios: Raw platform of the Esplanade - Theatres on the Bay. Koh and her all-female cast interpret a selection of texts from award-winning playwright Haresh Sharma of The Necessary Stage, who often gives a voice to marginalised experiences.

People at the fringes of society are also documented in Singaporean photographer Sean Cham's exhibition at selected bus shelters, co-presented with outdoor advertiser JCDecaux. This Is Where features migrant workers in various industries, including construction, alongside the noise panels and safety barriers that conceal their work from Singaporeans. The exhibition is up from Dec 26 to Jan 29.

The Adventures Of Abhijeet, by local theatre group Patch And Punnet, makes a mythic adventure of a migrant worker's journey to Singapore and will be performed on Jan 20, under Fresh Fringe, the Fringe Festival's platform for new works and works-in-progress.

Also presented under Fresh Fringe is yesterday it rained salt, written by playwright and former ST journalist Nabilah Said. It combines text, dance and performance in the story of an islander returning home. It is choreographed by Norhaizad Adam and presented by the Bhumi Collective on Jan 19.

Nabilah's other work at the festival is new theatre production Angkat: A Definitive, Alternative, Reclaimed Narrative Of A Native. It tells the linked histories of mother and daughter, the first dealing with the loss of her life on an island, and the other struggling with identity. It is directed by Noor Effendy Ibrahim and runs from Jan 24 to 26.

The 33-year-old playwright says: "A couple of years ago, I started being conscious of Singapore as a mainland, a focal point where most things gravitate towards. It made me think about the hidden narratives that existed in the fringes, of the people who lived in the islands surrounding the mainland. I found that dynamic fascinating."