Focusing on the forgotten

Adib Kosnan (left) and Moli Mohter in Angkat: A Definitive, Alternative, Reclaimed Narrative Of A Native, about the linked histories of mother and daughter.
Adib Kosnan (left) and Moli Mohter in Angkat: A Definitive, Alternative, Reclaimed Narrative Of A Native, about the linked histories of mother and daughter.PHOTO: COURTESY OF NABILAH SAID AND NOOR EFFENDY IBRAHIM

The M1 Singapore Fringe Festival in January features tales of in-between spaces and forgotten histories

Stories of in-between spaces and forgotten histories feature at the M1 Singapore Fringe Festival: Still Waters, which runs from Jan 16 to 27.

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. "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 re-creation by the artist herself.

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

  • BOOK IT / M1 SINGAPORE FRINGE FESTIVAL: STILL WATERS

  • WHERE: Various venues

    WHEN: Jan 16 to 27 next year

    ADMISSION: $15 to $27 from Sistic (call 6348-5555 or go to www.sistic.com.sg)

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

Other highlights includeSingaporean photographer Sean Cham's exhibition This Is Where, held at selected bus shelters, co-presented with outdoor advertiser JCDecaux. It 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 Straits Times 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."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 19, 2018, with the headline 'Focusing on the forgotten'. Print Edition | Subscribe