Since October last year, artist Malvina Tan’s been on the staff of SIFA. I actually managed to grab her for this interview before The OPEN ended - just before the performance of Frenemies, methinks.
YS: How have you found The OPEN so far?
It’s really exciting, and I think the works, the artists, are really very cutting edge, something that I wouldn’t expect to be brought to Singapore.
From October onwards, working on SIFA, I’ve been reading a lot about how Keng Sen wanted to use the theme of Post-Empires. I read a lot about it, but I didn’t really grasp what the theme of the festival is about.
I think I really realized a lot about the theme when I actually went for the shows. And I had that sudden realization when I watched a couple of the films at the Projector which I really loved, like CitizenFour and The Look of Silence. While I was watching it, it just hit me that it was really well curated, it’s really tied together with the theme. Its issues are so current – what we experience every day, only this time through an arts festival you put a name to them.
YS: What about the performances? Which of them did you really love?
MT: I really, really, enjoyed BIOMASHUP especially. I’m not into dance, but into performance art, and since it was by a dance choreographer, before I even went into the show, I expected it to be really “dancey”. But it turned out to be really something I didn’t expect, something that was really intriguing. I was really blown away watching it. It really challenges and talks a lot about the detailed aspects of movement and the body, which are things that we probably don’t talk about when we watch dance or performance art in general.
Then I started to question, like, how every twitch, every sweat droplet that drops from the skin of a dancer is so important in the work, and from all that I try to think about how I can actually compartmentalise every single small little thing and that makes up a dance. That also leads to a lot of what the festival is trying to address - the archival of dance, the archival of art – the compartmentalization of all these little things that lead to the work.
YS: What’s been the most difficult part of your job?
MT: I think it’s the idea of how personally in my department we’re trying to promote the shows and share these shows to the public and talk about them, and the fear that we always have of we’re not sure they’re ready for such shows, if people might think they’re too far-fetched, too avant-garde, and they might not even dare to try it out.
But that’s always the constant thing that will bug us. We try to work around it. Working for an arts festival we have to try our best to be more creative, and share and talk about the shows and why not talk about this rather than the norm. We know this is a pinnacle arts festival, and it’s not supposed to be the norm. It’s something that injects into the norm. That’s what we’ve been trying.
YS: You’re an artist yourself, aren’t you? How has that interacted with your work here?
MT: I think it’s really beneficial for me as an artist because I’ve opened myself up to different artists from everywhere, Singaporean and international, and these are the people that honestly I’ve never heard of before, and it’s really eye opening. Communicating with all these artists, I feel a sense of connection, and in my art practice I grasp inspiration form my memory, so I can make references for my future works.
Also, I think it’s beneficial that I’m working administratively in the arts because I get a fuller view of the art world, so I know how both ends work.
YS: Could you tell us a bit about your art?
MT: I do installation art, but most of the time now I’m practising performance. Most of my work deals with memory, and also, quite ironically, I deal a lot with trying to preserve memory, like archiving memory in a way, and trying to explore the idea of what’s intangible, what’s tangible, and what should be preserved. So strangely it ties in with the archival issue that’s talked a lot about in the festival this time, so I’m very invested in it.
YS: Is there anything else you’d like to say to our readers?
Thanks for suprporting The OPEN and gear up for SIFA! Cos we’re all really really excited for the big programs for the main festival. I mean…
I think all of us are still in this weird blur phase. When the open first started we were all like, “Oh my god guys, it’s tomorrow, “and then suddenly it was all happening, one event after another, and as it went along it got exciting, challenging, yet comfortable and fun.
And now we’re all looking forward to see what the main festival’s like. Whether it’s going to be crazy. I think all of us can’t wait for it to unfold.
P.S. You can see more of Malvina’s art at Malvinatan.com!