Let’s Look at the Festival Guide 2016 #4: SIFA Shares

Ng Yi-Sheng

August 9, 2016

If you grabbed your copy of the Festival Guide early, you might not know anything about SIFA Shares, i.e. the lineup of extra talks and screenings and exhibitions that have been tagged on to the festival at the last minute. (They're included in the latest edition of the guide—download it here.)

These events are positioned as secondary attractions, compared to the grandeur and spectacle of the main program—but if you’re like me, you might be missing the intellectual ferment of The OPEN, and the idea of meeting with artists to discuss their craft on weekday nights just might tickle your pickle.

2 Films, by Milo Rau and International Institute of Political Murder (IIPM)
15 August, 7pm, Screening Room @ Arts House

Rau is the same guy who’s doing Five Easy Pieces: a documentary theatre piece about a paedophile’s trial, performed by kids. And I expect it’ll be pretty interesting, learning about the context the work we’ll be seeing.

But man oh man, the program will be heavy—The Moscow Trials, about his ruckus surrounding his show trial for Pussy Riot, is 86 minutes, and Hate Radio, about his work on the Rwandan genocide, is 55 minutes. This is gonna be rather intense for a Monday night.

A Talk by Stefan Bläske: The New Artistic Trajectories of Milo Rau/IIPM
16 August, 7pm, Victoria Theatre Dance Studio, Level 3

Turns out IIPM doesn’t just consist of Herr Rau: Bläske is the dramaturg of the group. But I don’t quite understand why it’s him, rather than Rau himself, who’s speaking about the work of the group. Is Rau unable to attend? Or is he just really bad at English? Can’t we arrange for an interpreter who understands Schwitzerdeutsch?

The Kula Ring: Aesthetic Considerations of Sharing and Exchange, curated by Alfons Hug
14 August to 4 September, 72-13, debuts 14 August 7pm

Keng Sen spoke about this a couple of months ago: turns out he attended an art event in Germany that recalled the gift-exchange traditions of the Trobriand Islands—red shells passed clockwise between islands; white shells counter-clockwise. An alternative ritual to capitalism.

And now we’re doing the same thing in Singapore. Eight artists and art collectives: Donna Ong (Singapore), Newell Harry (Australia), Post-Museum (Singapore), Renata De Bonis (Brazil), Reynier Leyna Novo (Cuba), Roslisham Ismail (Malaysia), Samuel Herzog (Switzerland) and Thomas Rentmeister (Germany). We’re getting a little exhibition of the gifts, plus a performance created by Keng Sen.

I’m gonna admit right now that I don’t really get this. The idea of using Oceanic gift-giving as a global economic system seems ridiculously twee, and so all-inclusive that it seems more suited to a Montessori kindergarten than a festival of postmodern art. Maybe I’ll respect it when I see it?

Kabuki Demonstration: The Art of the Onnagata, by Kazutaro Nakamura
30 August, 7pm, 72-13

Nakamura is a kabuki artist (a member of a multi-generation family of performers!) and he specialises in female roles, aka onnagata. We’ll be seeing him in Sandaime Richard. Isn’t he a cutie?

There’s part of me that’s rolling my eyes at Keng Sen’s nipponophilia—he’s been doing Japanese-inspired work since Broken Birds in 1995!—but it’s good that the artist will be explaining the craft to us. We may be addicting to subverting tradition, but we should know the basics of that tradition before we monkey with it.

In Conversation with Ron Arad
6 September, 7pm, 72-13

… and the last event in SIFA Shares will be meeting the designer of 720˚, the video installation stage made out of 5,600 silicon cords hanging in Gardens by the Bay.

I didn’t really say much about this installation in my previous posts (I did note that Brian Gothong Tan’s new film Tropical Traumas will be shown there), because it’s just a high-tech mechanism for spectacle. Hard to say anything about ideology or cultural encounters here, unless I want to say something about the fact that Arad is Israeli. (That’s a political minefield; I’m only going there if it’s directly relevant.)

Anyhow, the programme says that films will be showing from 2 to 17 September, which means that we’ll have an idea of what Mr Arad’s work looks like before we meet him. But although the schedule of films is supposed to be up online, there’s nothing there, currently.

How can you do this, SIFA? It’s two days to the Festival!

The suspense is unbearable! I do hope it lasts. 

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  • 2016