Art & Design

Singapore International Festival of Arts reflects on rituals in performance

SINGAPORE — The first wave of festival lineup for the 2022 edition of the Singapore International Festival of Arts (SIFA) was announced at the Pasir Panjang Power Station this evening by new Festival Director Natalie Hennedige. Organised by Arts House Limited (AHL) and commissioned by the National Arts Council (NAC), SIFA 2022 marks the start of Hennedige’s three-year tenure as Festival Director, till 2024. Returning from May 20 to June 5 with the title The Anatomy of Performance – Ritual, the 2022 festival features new commissioned works by a mix of local and international artists. From today, audiences may also begin their SIFA 2022 journey through the new virtual venue, Life Profusion

A new festival concept and focus

The next three years of SIFA will be unified by a new curatorial arc – The Anatomy of Performance – placing emphasis on original creations, new iterations of works by local and international artists in both the physical and online space, and the invitation and presentation of works by outstanding international artists. Each festival edition comes into focus with a subtitle accompanying the recurring title The Anatomy of Performance. This year’s focus is “Ritual” — The Anatomy of Performance – Ritual invites audiences to consider our shared social rituals which are echoed in performance as both adhere to the conditions of time (duration), artefact (costume, installation, symbolic objects, clothing), and gesture (expressive movement, charged stillness). These conditions thus become passageways to discover the anatomy, or structural inner-workings, of each performance expressed in the nuanced language of art to convey varied narratives and perspectives.

Festival Director Natalie Hennedige says, “The performing arts remains an important space for reflection, creative articulation and nuanced expression. SIFA 2022: The Anatomy of Performance – Ritual gathers within individual creations, a range of artistic disciplines and perspectives, inviting practitioners of vivid cultural hues, from different walks of life to embrace a blending of genres, artistic practices and internationality, to imagine the possibilities of performance made by exploring and expanding notions of Ritual in varied, unexpected and nuanced dimensions. My sincere wish is that during the span of SIFA 2022, we might all, in precious fleeting moments, be moved by the beauty, power and generosity of art.”

A fluid festival across physical and virtual realms

This year’s festival aims to express the current fluidity and intersections between art forms locally and internationally, and how in practice, many artists go beyond the conventional limits of artistic genres. The works exist in and of themselves as multilayered creations, reflecting the diverse cultures and artistic practices that intermingle within each performance. 

The curatorial strategy has created three layers of programming in the festival:

  • Creation – Creation is a platform for SIFA’s prime offerings encompassing new commissions, fresh iterations of works by local and international artists in both the physical and online space, and the invitation and presentation of works by outstanding international artists.
  • Life Profusion – SIFA’s virtual stage which runs parallel to the live festival. It acknowledges and expresses how the digital stage is a new reality for performance and artistic presentation. For SIFA 2022, its five unique content categories are exclusive to this virtual stage and are not digital recordings or archival documentation of the physical production. These digital programmes under Life Profusion include: +DREAM, +EAT, +READ, +GROW, +DISCUSS; They are designed to expand, organise and deepen the profusion of ideas and artistry radiating from the festival. Life Profusion is proud to launch the world premiere of world-renowned science fiction artist, filmmaker, inventor and body architect Lucy McRae’s astounding performance film Delicate Spells of Mind, highlighting SIFA’s commitment to commissioning high-profile creations for the virtual space.
  • SIFA X – SIFA X marks the spot for more alternative performance offerings at Goodman Arts Centre and Aliwal Arts Centre, allowing for more diverse and eclectic programming. The inaugural edition is helmed by SATheCollective’s artistic director, Andy Chia, who delivers oneirism to bring together multidisciplinary artists and fantastic experiences. 

More details on Creation, Life Profusion and SIFA X may be found in Annex A, Annex B and Annex C respectively.

Art born from collaboration 

SIFA 2022 is committed to encompassing diverse perspectives that signal present-day interculturalism and global interconnectedness. By being the platform for local and international artists of varied disciplines and perspectives to collaborate and exchange ideas, SIFA 2022 is the catalyst for creative intersections and bold artistic innovation. 

Examples of collaborations are evident in the headlining commissions:

  • SIFA’s opening commission, MEPAAN, presents a visually arresting sonic journey by Singapore Chinese Orchestra and Borneo cultural agency, The Tuyang Initiative, reaching into the wellspring of spiritual and cultural nuance embedded in Southeast Asian culture
  • Ceremonial Enactments by MAX.TAN, Nadi Singapura and Bhaskar’s Arts Academy weaves together three re-enactments of culturally specific customs and rites from birth to weddings, bringing a sensorial awakening that celebrates these local rituals in contemporary performance imaginings.
  • The Once and Future presents an expanded cinema experience by lauded Singaporean filmmaker and Young Artist Award recipient Yeo Siew Hua, paired with live music from musicians of the Berliner Philharmoniker.
  • Remotes X Quantum stems from a collaboration between playwright Eleanor Wong and Philippines-based John Torres that marries film and installation. 
  • Expanding to the international sphere, The Neon Hieroglyph by British artist and 2019 Turner Prize Winner Tai Shani makes a new iteration of her work for SIFA performed by Malaysian actress Jo Kukathas charting a speculative history of ergot, a fungus that grows on common grains.
  • Bangsawan Gemala Malam by Teater Ekamatra, a reimagination of Shakespeare’s classic A Midsummer Night’s Dream in the resplendent traditional artform of Bangsawan.

Executive Director for SIFA Organiser Arts House Limited (AHL), Tan Boon Hui, says, “In the last two years, SIFA as with other festivals, has had to adapt to the ever-changing necessity and relevance of the new metaverse. This year, we continue to push boundaries with the festival as we embrace the fluidity of digital platforms as new frontiers for creation, while discovering new ways of experiencing the in-person experiences that our local and international audiences have surely missed. Under the helm of Natalie as Festival Director, we are expanding on what it means for SIFA to be an international arts festival, showcasing boundary pushing interdisciplinary performances, bringing together artists of diverse backgrounds from around the world, and drawing out different cultures through performance. We hope that SIFA 2022 will not only reimagine the vast possibilities of performance today but also awaken to how the experience of art is crucial to enriching our lives and encouraging a sense of new possibilities.”

Chief Executive Officer of the National Arts Council (NAC), Rosa Daniel, says, “Audiences can look forward to a cultural highpoint with a multitude of performing arts programmes starting with SIFA in May. The arts continue to play an integral role in people’s lives, and we are excited to see how SIFA’s creative vision will come to life, as we anticipate the diverse offerings which create space for meaningful cross-cultural connections between Singapore and the world.”

Kicking off pre-festival programmes with Life Profusion

From today, SIFA 2022 kicks off with Life Profusion, its virtual landscape and platform for expanding areas of artmaking, critical discourse and ideas generation. Natalie explains, “Life Profusion is a fresh imagining of SIFA’s virtual presence. Running parallel to the festival in May (and beyond), it serves to connect artists, ideas and festival attendees near and far, bolstering SIFA’s international reach with creative zest. A world changed irrevocably by the pandemic requires a fresh response to the virtual.”

Life Profusion programmes begin with +EAT – a series of seasonal capsules curated by local tastemakers Syndicate that deliver digital content across music, moving images and digital arts. Scheduled to be released regularly, +EAT will feature new inter-disciplinary collaborations, experimentations and a cross-pollination between artists, designers and creatives of various disciplines and backgrounds. The first capsule will include releases by local musician and illustrator Anise, and a debut three-way collaboration between CyberCesspool, Claude Glass and deførmed.

Early bird tickets for SIFA 2022, which offers audiences savings of 20%, go on sale until March 31, 2022 11:59 p.m. on sifa.sg. Ticket prices and savings may be found in Annex D.

For programme information and high-resolution images, visit https://bit.ly/sifa2022.

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