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SIFA 2022

ABOUT NATALIE HENNEDIGE, FESTIVAL DIRECTOR, SIFA 2022 - 2024


Appointed as the Festival Director for SIFA 2022-2024, Natalie Hennedige is the Artistic Director of Cake, a contemporary performance company presenting progressive works at the intersection of theatre and a range of disciplines. As a performance director, Hennedige explores contemporary issues through highly constructed heightened worlds with collaborators from diverse artistic disciplines and cultural backgrounds. Hennedige is a recipient of the National Arts Council’s Young Artist Award (2007) and the JCCI Singapore Foundation Culture Award (2010). ​


Photo by Tuckys Photography

Helming the direction for SIFA 2022-2024, Natalie has defined a three-year arc intended to bring focus to performance & creation in the physical and online space, around the recurring title of The Anatomy of Performance.


OVERALL FESTIVAL THEME


SIFA 2022-2024 will be unified by the guiding title of The Anatomy of Performance - this will be the recurring theme of the three-year arc to bring focus on what ‘performance’ in an international performing arts festival can encompass, through both physical and virtual spaces. Over the next three years, SIFA will be programming works from artists and artist collectives that push and expand the possibilities of performance. ​

​The Anatomy of Performance will be accompanied by a subtitle that changes each year to guide and focus each edition’s curatorial stance - further unpacking ‘performance’, encouraging audiences to see the relevance of performance articulation in the midst of contemporary complexities when created by artists and artist collectives, with strong and unique perspectives in the poly-dynamic and universal language of art. SIFA 2022 is titled The Anatomy of Performance - Ritual. ​

​Upcoming editions of SIFA will also see a combination of varied performance locations to provide viewers with a unique and holistic festival experience.

 


SIFA 2022: THE ANATOMY OF PERFORMANCE - RITUAL


Each and every performance embodies a Ritual, as an evolving entity that relates to one’s shifting perspectives, personal beliefs and life philosophies. The rituals that define our common experience abide by the anthropological conditions of time (duration), artefact (symbolic objects & clothing) and gesture (significant actions). ​

SIFA 2022: The Anatomy of Performance - Ritual is an invitation to consider the very conditions imbued in the anatomy, or structural inner-workings of each performance to communicate potent narratives in the universal language of art. ​

Curatorial Programming - An Overview ​

SIFA 2022 is organised on the basis of three key tracks that are intermingling, and which serve to appeal to the various demographics of audiences that the festival intends to connect with, both in Singapore and overseas:   ​

Creation - Enabling the creation of contemporary works that can be enduring for years to come  ​

Life Profusion - Discovering and leveraging a new virtual venue for artistic expression ​

SIFA X - Providing wilder performance offerings  ​


Creation

SIFA 2022 is characterised by a dominance of original works where Singapore bred practitioners are taking key artistic positions on an international platform. With Singapore’s own creatives steering new works, SIFA 2022 serves to highlight the very city that cradles the festival – Singapore and her inherent characteristics. Held across various physical venues, SIFA 2022 commissions will treat audiences to the experience of an unusual “excursion”, where the destination holds as much charm and creative vitality as the actual performance.  ​
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Life Profusion

For SIFA 2022 and beyond, the festival also intends to draw attention to the virtual landscape as a vital, rather than alternative, platform to artmaking. In partnership with System Sovereign, this new virtual space will be introduced as an independent entity that brings SIFA to the digital domain, and to reach a wider audience across various disciplines and varied industries. This virtual platform aims to reflect the multiplicity and agency that a contemporary international arts festival is capable of encapsulating, encouraging online commissions, dialogue and exchange of ideas. The content categories (+DREAM, +EAT, +DISCUSS, +GROW, +READ) will be related to the thematic frames of the festival and artists programmed. ​


SIFA X ​

Wilder, multidisciplinary offerings that are to be presented alongside the Creation and Life Profusion tracks, adding another layer to SIFA 2022 and unifying the festival under its title and associated subtitle. ​


FESTIVAL DIRECTOR'S MESSAGE

 

The world changes rapidly and erratically. Existing vitally in it requires reflection and articulation. The performing arts offers a freeing space to do both because it remains a space that invites multiple perspectives and limitless creative expression.

I placed emphasis on the word performance in the title as a means of reflecting a dissolution of artistic boundaries or categories. The Anatomy of Performance proposes works of Creation that gather a range of artistic practices and cultural hues within single Created works, embracing a blending of genres, artistic disciplines and internationality, resulting in a plethora of Creation works that interrogate, expand and elevate notions of Ritual in unending and nuanced dimensions.

Meaning Always in the Kayan language MEPAAN the festival’s opening performance reflects artistic collaboration between Singapore Chinese Orchestra and Tuyang Initiative, a Borneo-based cultural agency propelling Borneo indigenous cultural heritage into sharp contemporary presence. Set in the Pasir Panjang Power Station, MEPAAN sonically and visually evokes the sublime rituals of Southeast Asia and its native people. Also at the power station, Turner-prizewinning British artist Tai Shani imagines a new iteration of her film THE NEON HIEROGLYPH as a live performance with Malaysian actor Jo Kukathas in the role of narration. The Neon Hieroglyph fantastically encompassing a speculative history of ergot, a fungus that grows on common grains, linked to mass hallucination in Europe. With their scintillating performance vocabulary Paul Rae and Kaylene Tan bring us DEVIL’S CHERRY with a cast including Lim Kay Siu, Neo Swee Lin and Elizabeth Sergeant Tan. Fashion artist Max Tan, percussionist Riduan Zailani and traditional Indian dance doyenne Mrs. Santha Bhaskar helm ANG, 293NW and YANTRA MANTRA respectively, three commissions rolled into a singular performance extravaganza shining bold contemporary light on culturally inspired rituals collectively entitled CEREMONIAL ENACTMENTS. Lauded Singaporean filmmaker Yeo Siew Hua’s expanded cinema THE ONCE AND FUTURE premieres featuring members of the prestigious Berline Philharmoniker in a cinematic vision that transcends the borders of land to bring into focus, our humanity. In project SALOME towering international performance director Ong Keng Sen unveils his brilliant version of a character that has from time immemorial captured the imagination, to reflect on the rituals of projecting, transitioning, becoming and self-mythologising, applying documentary film methods and featuring Berlin-based performance artist Michael(a) Daoud and Singapore actor Janice Koh. Local theatre company Teatre Ekamatra pulls together a powerhouse of collaborators from Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia to bring into sharp contemporary focus the artform of Bangsawan or Malay Opera adapting the Shakespearean classic A Midsummer Night’s Dream in their very own version entitled BANGSAWAN GEMALA MALAM. Filipino film auteur John Torres meets with Singaporean poet and playwright Eleanor Wong in a multidisciplinary work REMOTES x QUANTUM that interrogates with poetic force life in the Philippines and in Singapore. Dramabox’s co-artistic directors Kok Heng Leun and Koh Huiling are set to topple any notions of the conventional performance experience with UBIN, the island becoming the very soul and stage for their beautiful creation. A first in Singapore, SIFA presents HOLLY HERNDON in concert as a declaration of the sheer artistry in Holly’s supreme synthesis of music and technology.

SIFA 2022 also explores a refreshed relationship with performance sites and designers. Age-old rituals were typically held in multipurpose sites. A theatre is a multipurpose site considering the different ‘worlds’ that occupy the empty stage one performance after the next, as is an unconventional space such as a decommissioned power station where works of performances are ephemerally upraised and then fade away. It is in the igniting of energies between the site and the performance it encapsulates that enables the experience in its totality to reach transcendence, at best.

In SIFA 2022, the positioning of three works of Creation including the festival’s opening commission MEPAAN within the premises of Pasir Panjang Power Station allows for an unusual excursion where the experience of the site holds as much wonder as the performances held within. The festival’s connection with local designers Wong Chee Wai and Andy Lim to design the set and lighting respectively for two commissions within the power station enable their imaginative dexterity to discover transformative design strategies encompassing two distinct works in relation to the spatial grandeur. Similarly, SIFA invites prominent architect Randy Chan to imagine set design dynamizing the staging possibilities within the Esplanade Theatre for CEREMONIAL ENACTMENTS, three commissions woven into a seamless performance experience shining new light as to how commissions may be positioned and experienced.

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. As a first, SIFA commissions renowned British-born Australian science fiction artist, body architect and filmmaker Lucy McRae to manifest her performance film DELICATE SPELLS OF MIND on Life Profusion. Ripe in its performativity, enormous theatricality and confessional intimacy, Lucy’s Creation positioned under +DREAM Life Profusion’s commissioning platform offers robust artistic Creation guided by the belief that strong artistry allows for the digital space to remain desired and relevant even as the pandemic abates. Syndicate curates +EAT. Stalwarts in the local multidisciplinary art scene, Syndicate has expertly assembled bite-size performance capsules featuring artists in multidisciplinary art practice intersecting with technology. Writer Hong Xinyi has designed an exciting and ambitious editorial project in +READ involving writers and creatives from diverse specializations to create articles built on the written word intended to lend a necessary critical gaze on the artistry and ideas that propel the festival.

Finally, SIFA X becomes SIFA’s answer to wilder, freewheeling performance offerings. In 2022, SAtheCollective led by Andy Chia helms SIFA X, conceiving and directing ONERISM a ravishing mix of live-wired multidisciplinary performance to be experienced under the canopy of twilight clouds and night sky.

I see the world as a very compelling protagonist. The most compelling protagonists are at a point of crisis, a turning point, in a crucible of some trial or testing, flawed and awesome at once. We can’t tell where the world is going. We can’t tell what tomorrow brings. Yet Art carries a kind of prophetic quality. It can embody and tell us things about the past, present and future. My sincere wish is that we might all during the span of SIFA 2022 in precious fleeting moments be moved by the beauty and power of art.

Natalie Hennedige
Festival Director