Singaporean to helm Taipei festival

Dramaturg Tang Fu Kuen, Taipei Arts Festival's 2018 artistic director, aims to bring together young artists from South-east Asia and Taiwan

Singaporean curator and dramaturg Tang Fu Kuen will provide the artistic direction of the Taipei Arts Festival from next year until 2020.
Singaporean curator and dramaturg Tang Fu Kuen will provide the artistic direction of the Taipei Arts Festival from next year until 2020. ST PHOTO: JERMYN CHOW

Singaporean curator and dramaturg Tang Fu Kuen, who was yesterday unveiled as the artistic director for next year's Taipei Arts Festival, aims to be the bridge between artists in Taiwan and South-east Asia and start a cultural dialogue among them.

The 44-year-old, who made a name for himself curating dance and performing art works showcased in London, Berlin, Venice and Japan, will provide the artistic direction of the festival until 2020.

After being based in Bangkok for nearly a decade, he moved to Taipei last month to start working on next year's roster of shows, which he hopes will include collaborations between artists from Taiwan and South-east Asian countries.

Tang's appointment is a boost to Singapore's arts practitioners and administrators as more of them take up leading positions in the arts industry abroad.

Mr Tan Boon Hui, 47, the National Heritage Board's former assistant chief executive for museums and programmes, is now director of the New York-based Asia Society Museum, which is known for promoting knowledge of Asian art globally.

Former Singapore Arts Festival and Singapore Biennale general manager Low Kee Hong, 46, is head of artistic development (theatre) at Hong Kong's new arts hub, the West Kowloon Cultural District.

Tang and home-grown artist Ming Wong scored a coup for the Singapore art scene at the Venice Biennale in 2009 when their exhibition, Life Of Imitation - which focuses on the cinematic culture in 1950s and 1960s Singapore and Malaysia - was awarded a Special Mention.

Tang is the first foreigner, since the Taipei Arts Festival was launched in 1998, to be appointed its artistic director.

His appointment also comes at a time when Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen is seeking to boost cultural and trade links between Taiwan and South-east Asia.

Mr Austin Wang, director of the Taipei Performing Arts Center, which runs the festival next year, said: "We have always looked to the West in terms of collaborations or brought in shows from Europe or America. But there is so much talent and good productions in Southeast Asia.

"Fu Kuen has the kind of network and links that we can tap on to further boost Taiwan's exposure to South-east Asian culture, but at the same time, he is also familiar with Chinese culture."

While Tang was approached in May last year to take up the position, he said yes only at the beginning of this year, after four study trips to Taiwan.

Tang said: "People can rattle off everything about the arts scene in the West, but little is known about culture in South-east Asia.

"Coming from Singapore, which is known for its cultural diversity, and having lived overseas for so long, I bring with me that cultural muscle to absorb and adapt to the environment here."

For a start, he hopes to bring together young artists from Southeast Asia and Taiwan to get them to "start talking to one another".

"I want to form this dialogue between the artists and, hopefully, through this process of negotiation, help them realise something they can work on together."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 21, 2017, with the headline Singaporean to helm Taipei festival. Subscribe