Open your heart to The O.P.E.N., a $45 buffet of films, talks and performances

We're about halfway through The O.P.E.N. now, a pre-festival festival styled as a public academy, designed to ease people into the full Singapore International Festival of the Arts in August and clue them to the latter's offerings.

A name like The O.P.E.N. can sound intimidating - and each of the four letters broken up by periods do actually stand for something.* But the programme is an unexpected treat, with a wide variety of well-chosen talks, screenings and performances scattered over three weeks. Experimental theatre icons The Wooster Group, gallerist and renowned curator Hans Ulrich Obrist and well-known choreographer Jerome Bel all make an appearance, whether through film, over Skype or in person, presenting art as well as the ideas behind it.

Unfortunately, there don't seem to be enough people taking advantage of the buffet of events.

I attended Martha@ACM last Friday - where American dancer Richard Move performed as the late grande dame of modern dance Martha Graham - as well as a talk and screening of a dance film at 72-13 Mohamed Sultan Road the day after, and the crowd quickly started to become familiar, with the same few faces repeated in the audience.

It's really a pity, considering the quality of the programming, and the way that it's been run. Attending events at 72-13, the base of The O.P.E.N., feels almost like a quirky family has opened their home to you. There's a steady flow of coffee and food, which you can bring in to the screenings, and a handful of beanbags littered around the space.

The whole atmosphere is warm, casual and inviting, and the artists themselves are charming. After the screening of Veronique Doisneau, about the dreams and regrets of a corps de ballet dancer at the Paris Opera Ballet, a clearly bedheaded Jerome Bel chatted with an appreciative audience over Skype, sounding spontaneous and engaging despite it being 9am in the morning in Paris where he was. Many of the speakers linger after their talks to field questions from the audience.

It's also great how members of the organising team such as festival director Ong Keng Sen and The O.P.E.N. director Noorlinah Mohamed personally address the audience before each event, introducing the upcoming works and putting them in context.

The small crowd of arts insiders attending the events probably has something to do with the ticketing format. There's no single event ticketing available, only a $45 pass to catch all the events, which is quite a big commitment.

I'll be attending a couple more events this weekend, and I do hope to see a couple more unfamiliar faces.

The O.P.E.N. runs till July 12. Here are five things to catch before it ends:

1) Medea On Media

What: Theatre Group Seongbukdong Beedoolkee's hyper-contemporary take on the Greek classic deconstructs the myth with 21st century media like talk shows and video games.

Where: Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts, Studio Theatre

When: July 4 to 5, 8pm to 9.30pm

2) Selections From The Wooster Group Archive

What: Experimental theatre company The Wooster Group presents documentary screenings of their past memorable works: Rumstick Road; House/Lights; To You, The Birdie!; and the triple-bill of The Emperor Jones, Today I Must Sincerely Congratulate You and Rhyme 'Em To Death

Where: 72-13 Mohamed Sultan Road

When: From July 8 to 12. Check for timings.

3) The 89plus Concert: The Sam Willows

What: Local indie darlings The Sam Willows perform as part of 89plus, a project which explores the impact of the digital world on the generation born after 1989, the year the Internet was launched.

Where: 72-13 Mohamed Sultan Road

When: July 5, 10pm to 11.30pm

4) Ways Of Wandering Performances

What: Over 100 individuals will be part of this free performance, which invites members of the public to be part of the art-making process, guided by six artist-mentors from fields such as music, dance and theatre. It takes place on two days, in two different locations.

Where: Tiong Bahru Park

When: July 11, 7pm to 8pm

Where: MacRitchie Reservoir

When: July 12, 8am to 9am

5) Insight: The 89plus Generation

What: Writer and curator Hans Ulrich Obrist and curator Simon Castets give a talk about how the world has changed with the advent of digital culture. 89plus is an international, multi-disciplinary project which charts and discovers the innovators and creative producers of the Internet generation.

Where: 72-13 Mohamed Sultan Road

When: July 12, 5pm to 6pm

*The O.P.E.N. stands for "open, participate, enrich, negotiate".

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