Three days to Singapore Art Week

When film, art and real life collide

This year's Singapore Art Week, which runs from Saturday to Jan 24, will have a deeper focus on film than past programmes.

In addition to screening documentaries on art and artists, as had been done previously, there will also be a guided tour of sites used on films made in the 1950s and 1960s.

Mr Low Eng Teong, director of visual arts sector development at the National Arts Council, says that film is a "very accessible medium".

"A lot of artists use film and video as a form of expression. It's multi- sensory, so audiences connect with it more easily. It's a nice window for people trying to enjoy art for the first time," he tells The Straits Times.

The point is to avoid being didactic. Works of art have intriguing stories behind their creation and films give the details with everyday language, says Mr Low, 46.

A scene from Chinta Kaseh Sayang (1965), one of the films featured on a tour of filming locations in Singapore.
A scene from Chinta Kaseh Sayang (1965), one of the films featured on a tour of filming locations in Singapore. PHOTO: CATHAY-KERIS FILMS

In the State Of Motion tour, launched this year, visitors view clips from five Malay-language films from the Cathay-Keris studios made between 1958 and 1965. The genres run the gamut, from horror (Sumpah Pontianak, 1958) to romance (Chinta Kaseh Sayang, 1965) to crime thriller (Che Mamat Parang Tumpol, 1960).

Then a bus will take them to locations featured in the films, including Siglap, the old Outram Prison and Queen Elizabeth Walk. At each stop, there will be an installation created especially for that site, by Singapore-based artists such as Kin Chui, Hafiz Osman and Stephanie Jane Burt.

It might be argued that the tour might be a history lesson or a trip down memory lane, but Mr Low does not see it that way.

Most of the places featured have changed beyond recognition and, for younger participants, the films' images are not anything they have seen in real life, he says.

Through seeing the space in person immediately after watching the clips from decades long past, Mr Low believes the viewer will be faced with a conceptual collision, between past and present, and between art and life.

"Seeing how much things have changed, and moving from a cinematic space to a real space in such a condensed span of time - that will certainly evoke feelings," he says. Giving an example, he adds that in the excerpt from the movie Chinta Kaseh Sayang, a woman watches the waves break against the sea wall along Elizabeth Walk, its motion reflecting her state of mind following a recent break-up.

As of late December, the piece had yet to be completed, but it would most likely be a sound-based installation, he says.

"The installation artists were all born in the 1980s and it will be interesting to see how they respond," he says.

Each tour group will be kept small, to around 11 persons, to allow for interaction between the tour guide and participants, he says. There will be 10 tours daily, across two weekends starting this Saturday. Tickets for the three-hour screening, exhibition and tour are $12 each.

Also new this year is Spirits Of Singapore, a short film programme. The screening showcases the work of the 13 Little Pictures film-making collective, created over the last six years. It includes Silent Light (2015), a new work shot on 16mm film by Liao Jiekai, and Kopi Julia (2013), director Tan Bee Thiam's tribute to Malay horror films of the 1950s. The free screening will take place at the Lasalle College Of The Arts on Jan 23 at 8pm.

Following on from last year's documentary programme is Exhibition On Screen. Five feature films will take on famous classical paintings and painters. This includes Vincent Van Gogh - A New Way Of Seeing (NC16, 96 minutes), which explores Amsterdam's Van Gogh Museum as it prepares for the 125th anniversary of the artist's death.

The features will be screened at The Projector, Golden Mile Tower, Beach Road from Saturday, with tickets at $10 for each film.

Correction note: An earlier version of this story referred to the artist Kin Chui as Cain Chu. The information was obtained from NAC's website.

  • For schedules and ticketing information for the Singapore Art Week film programmes, go to
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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 13, 2016, with the headline 'When film, art and real life collide'. Print Edition | Subscribe