Weekend at The O.P.E.N. with the 89pluses

Noorlinah Mohamed - Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Images by Olivia Kwok
Text by Koay Yi Ling

For the weekend of 5 and 6 July 2014, The O.P.E.N focused on #Digital Legacies and more specifically, on the ‘89plus’ – those born on or after the year 1989. The year 1989 was a watershed year in the political as well as technological worlds. In fact, many have dubbed it the ‘Year That Changed the World’, or rather, the world that many have come to know.

Major events that occurred that year are now imprinted in the historical consciousness of the world, and not to mention, multiple textbooks. Some of the significant political events are, the fall of the Berlin Wall that led to the eventual end of the Cold War; Tiananmen Square protest; the rapid development of technology with the World Wide Web and the consequence of internet culture and living digitally. The concentration on the 89plus generation is aimed at understanding how these events have shaped the psyche, thinking and practice of the generation born within that period.

5 July 2014, Saturday

Space 3 awaiting the Brunch Talk with Ho Rui An and Matthew Claudel with Being 89plus.

Matthew Claudel (left) and Ho Rui An (right): The first session on #DigitalLegacies. Brunch at The O.P.E.N: Being 89plus began.

Ho Rui An, an artist and writer, discussed how themes such as nationalism, knowledge, space and social cultures, have influenced his
work. Art and artists are indeed part of the community, not apart from it. 

Matthew, a designer and architect, presented the projects he has done in Singapore under the MIT Senseable City Lab. Some of the amazing stuff that he has done with big data: Link Twitter post patterns with people's state of emotion and a bicycle wheel that will foster the realization of green cities.

Q&A session was very lively with many pertinent questions asked.

5 July 2014, Saturday

Ho Rui An curated two panels for The O.P.E.N.

Panel #1: Local/Knowledge with panelists art critic Lee Weng Choy, cultural research specialist Brigitta Isabella, film-maker Grace Teng, writer Amanda Lee Koe and architect and researcher Matthew Claudel. Moderated by Ho Rui An.

Local / Knowledge convenes some of the most exciting protagonists of the 89plus Generation — the generation born in or after 1989 — in a panel that investigates what it means to produce knowledge around the concept of the local. Focusing on longitudinal and collaborative modes of research carried out by key members of the 89plus Generation in Southeast Asia, it looks at how a younger, more mobile and more cosmopolitan generation negotiate their relationship with locality, whether through the construction of new corpuses of knowledge, the practice of forms of fieldwork and ethnography, or the development of new tools and technologies.

Ho Rui An began the panel with Lee Weng Choy. Art critic Lee Weng Choy discussed the ways art locates us within today's globalised art world dominated by large-scale biennales and festivals.

Brigitta Isabella, a writer and researcher from Yogyakarta, tackled the ways through which youth is politically constituted as a demographic category in contemporary Indonesia.

Grace Teng showed a film about a musical performance by Singaporean students at the University of Pennsylvania featuring some elements of Singlish. This is followed by a dialogue with Amanda Lee Koe on the notion of language, identity and social transformation. 

6 July 2014, Sunday    

Panel #2 Commentary was led by Ho Rui An, with a panel of speakers Tan Zi Hao, Fahmi Reza, Netwit Chotiphatphaisal, Pumiwat Rangkasiwit and Raksha Mahtani.

Commentary investigates how the 89plus Generation — the generation born in or after 1989 — engages with new forms and avenues of socio-political critique. What are the roles and responsibilities of the critic in today's networked environment, where “comment is free” and where opinion does not just respond to but also increasingly shapes the contemporary moment? Focusing on Singapore and the wider Southeast Asian region, the panel further examines how online media has been mobilised for the production of critical discourse and is changing the form of political agency in the region.

Zi Hao, a multidisciplinary artist from Malaysia, was the first to speak. His performance-lecture covered the theme of human relation, both emotionally as well as the physically. 

Fahmi Reza, a self-taught graphic designer, arts worker and political activist from Malaysia was next. He discussed the use of social network platforms such as Facebook in organising political participation and information dissemination in Malaysia.

Ho Rui An moderating a discussion with Thai students activists Netwit Chotiphatphaisal and Pumiwat Rangkasiwit (far right) with a translator Pimsiri Petchnamrob. 

Raksha Mahtani read out her poetry to a very attentive crowd.

The entire panel gathered to interact with the audience during the final question and answer session. Moderated by Ho Rui An.

Ong Keng Sen, Festival Director of SIFA, in a quiet moment with
The O.P.E.N.

Kheng Hua Tan - Saturday, April 05, 2014

We grabbed SIFA Festival Director, Ong Keng Sen, straight off a plane, into the joyful madness that was The O.P.E.N. Call on February 15 at 72-13 Mohamed Sultan Road, and then to this quiet moment where he shared some of his more personal thoughts about The O.P.E.N.

1. What was the genesis of The O.P.E.N.?

OKS: Very often, when we go into the theatre, we go in without any context as to what we are going to see. And so I sometimes feel as if the experience is very reduced. It’s like chess. If you don’t know the rules of chess, you can’t enjoy the game. So I think if you don’t know the context of the performance you are going to see, you are only enjoying the theatre experience up to maybe 50%. 

The O.P.E.N. is formulated to try to make up the other 50% by helping to create a context for you to experience and enjoy the festival at a deeper level.

2. How is The O.P.E.N.  doing this?

OKS: This year, The Singapore International Festival of Arts 2014 is programmed according to the theme of Legacy and The Expanded Classics. In The O.P.E.N., we are connecting the audience to the legacies of the 20th Century through a series of talks, exhibitions, film screenings, performances, demonstrations and discussions in an informal and casual way. 

I feel very strongly that how we live today is very much affected by how we lived in the 20th Century. The use of energy which has resulted in so many nuclear reactors. The climate change that has occurred. The racism that was institutionalised by apartheid. And this of course, came from World War II and what the Nazis were doing to the Jews and how the whole discrimination against minorities was very strongly institutionalised.

Connecting the audiences with these legacies of the 20th Century was the reason why The O.P.E.N. was created. And I believe you can only have open spaces in our lives if we open our minds and our hearts. And that’s how the name The O.P.E.N. came about. It is really, the process that we hope the audience will go through when they come join us. 

3. How did you feel today, when you encountered all who came for 
The O.P.E.N. Call?

OKS: I am amazed. Singapore has changed. I think Singaporeans are really searching to be more involved. They want to participate. They want to place themselves in the centre of the world. They want to understand the world by being there, by being in the centre. And in that way, they can localise what the world means to them. 

Today, in The O.P.E.N.’s first engagement exercise with the public, we were asking the public to come up and take their place in our space. And we hoped once they take the space, the world becomes clearer because it is contextualised to their position. We want them to know they can look north, south, east and west, because of where they are standing. I believe The O.P.E.N. can only begin when the audience says they want to stand here, in the middle of the 20th Century, and to see how it has affected them. And the fact that today, more than 270 people came, it really shows me that there has been a change in Singapore. That there are Singaporeans who really want to be engaged. 

4. What do you hope for when The O.P.E.N. is in session?

OKS: I would like to see the hunger of the Singaporeans who come to The O.P.E.N. satiated. There is a lot of hunger out there, a desire to know more and sometimes, I feel in Singapore, you can’t experience the answers for yourself. You are always learning from a textbook, or told the answers by someone else. What The O.P.E.N. does is to put you in the centre of it, so you are asked to make certain decisions about the issues and topics being discussed. What do you think about biomedical ethics? What do you feel about taxpayers’ contribution to Singapore’s biotechnology? What does this mean to me? Do I want to make a decision about gene profiteering, cloning? I recently watched a documentary about breast cancer, how a woman wanted to test whether she could get breast cancer from her mother and how her genes were being patented by pharmaceutical companies who are making money off her.  It was absolutely shocking.  These are all big issues. What is my position about the legacies of fear and violence in the 20th Century? Will I defend someone who has been victimised? When we attend The O.P.E.N., we will feel these questions coming at us strongly.  And for the people I saw today who are hungry to make a stand, to know more, to learn, I hope they will be satiated. 

Copyright 2014. Arts House Limited.
Unless otherwise stated, other images by Jeannie Ho