No True Singapore Ghost Stories, but still Sorta Scary - horror tales come to life at Textures festival

Artist Jolene Tan's illustration, a part of the Textures festival's Sorta Scary Singapore Stories installation, is based on home-grown writer Suffian Hakim’s 2018 novel The Minorities. PHOTO: JOLENE TAN

SINGAPORE - Step into the Old Changi Hospital, see ghosts and spirits and listen to a chilling horror story.

Visitors to the Textures literary festival starting this Friday will be able to experience frightening tales at Sorta Scary Singapore Stories, an installation that uses virtual reality, 360-degree illustrations, short narrations from audiobooks and sound to depict local horror stories.

The four stories featured in the installation are Daryl Qilin Yam's novel Kappa Quartet, Catherine Lim's short story The Exhumation, Clara Chow's short story The Wheel and Suffian Hakim's novel The Minorities, upon which the Old Changi Airport scene was based and created by artist Jolene Tan.

Sorta Scary Singapore Stories was Tan's first time working with 360-degree illustrations.

"There were a lot of technical aspects which I had to pick up. The process felt like having an extremely large canvas that I had to fill up in a 3D space," says Tan, 25.

She describes The Minorities as a darkly funny novel and says she took a leaf out of the book for the style of the illustration.

"The comedic tone allowed me to work with a style that was more cartoony to keep a sense of that light-heartedness, while I used darker colours and grittier textures to convey a sense of horror."

Tan and the project's other illustrators - Ng Xiao Yan, 30, Debbie Ding, 36 and Justin Tiang, 30 - were commissioned by digital publisher Tusitala to bring the stories to life.

Tusitala publisher Christine Chong says that horror, one of the more popular genres in Singapore literature, lends itself well to immersive experiences.

"The 360-degree installations put you in the world of the story, while audio can create both intimacy through narration and a sense of space through ambient sound and sound effects."

This year's Textures festival features more visual and audio programmes, compared with previous editions that included more performance adaptations of texts, says Ms Lisa Lip, senior manager of programmes at The Arts House and producer of Textures.

"The reason for this was to make the festival more accessible to audiences by having something they can spend more time with and keep coming back to as opposed to the one-time encounter of a performance," says Ms Lip, who adds that there are still live performances that are ticketed.

Co-commissioned by The Arts House and local literature movement #BuySingLit and supported by the National Arts Council, the festival's third edition will feature more than 30 programmes that focus on Singapore's literary scene.

It adopts the theme "These Storied Walls" and is inspired by The Arts House's history and many stories.

Ms Lip says: "I wanted to go beyond the stories of the house and into the stories made by each person who comes through our doors."

Other festival highlights include O/Aural Waves - Spirited Words, an exhibition and performance piece by storyteller Kamini Ramachandran and interdisciplinary artist Ferry, whose real name is Jean Low.

Festival goers can also catch poet Marc Nair's Handbook Of Daily Movement Performance, a music, spoken word and movement performance with other artists that interprets Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs.

Meanwhile, the House Of Cheah is an installation resembling comic artist Cheah Sinann's studio.

Ms Lip says: "We want visitors to be surprised by the unexpected ways through which Singapore literature can be encountered."


Where: The Arts House, 1 Old Parliament Lane

When: March 13 to 22, 10am to 10pm

Admission: Free and ticketed programmes

Info: The Arts House

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