Several years ago, I went to a tiny downtown venue in New York to watch an hour-long performance by Taylor Mac showcasing one decade of popular music (he went on to create a 24-hour show featuring 240 years of popular music). Marvelling at how Taylor had brought a diverse room of people together, I wondered if this show could happen in Singapore. When I was appointed Festival Director in 2018, I felt Taylor was exactly the kind of artist SIFA should present to help bring our multi-faceted communities together in celebration.
The festival has intentionally pursued this diversity – from curating works that speak to different communities, to the breadth of artistic experiences and ideas. This has allowed us to grow our reach and stature, both locally and internationally. Since 2018, one of the most gratifying things has been the huge upsurge in audiences who have attended a SIFA show for the first time.
Over the past three years, SIFA has attracted some of the world’s most exciting and accomplished artists to our shores. Opening the 2020 Festival will be Grammy and Academy award-winning composer, Tan Dun, conducting the Singapore Symphony Orchestra (SSO), and a 100-pax strong chorus from Internationale Chorakademie Lübeck and the Singapore Symphony Chorus in his majestic six-act oratorio, Buddha Passion. On a completely different scale is Korean artist Park Minhee who offers a radical interpretation of gagok, a form of traditional Korean music, where each audience member will get to experience the performance individually.
Probably the largest show undertaken by SIFA to date will be As the World Tipped, a spectacular piece of aerial theatre that addresses the issue of climate change. Performed at The Meadow at Gardens by the Bay, this show can be enjoyed by the entire family. Another outdoor experience is Musical Swings at Cathay Green. If you would like to be part of creating art, please participate in this free installation!
As previously announced, SIFA 2020 also brings to fruition a bumper crop of new Singaporean work commissioned by SIFA, exemplifying our philosophy of facilitating our best artists to pursue their dream projects. All of the individuals behind these projects are game-changing artists in their own right.
Do join us at Festival House, which has been the epicentre of SIFA for the past three years. Come meet all the artists as well as like-minded artsgoers, attend master-classes and talks curated around each show in the festival, or just have a drink at House Pour and soak in the atmosphere of being part of our national arts festival. And of course, there is an incredible selection of films to watch, all of which are having their Singapore premieres as part of SIFA’s Singular Screens series.
Art has the power to bring communities together, even more so in challenging times. Three years ago, I said I wanted SIFA to be known for presenting work by game-changing artists from Singapore and from around the world. 2020 will see the completion of the arc we envisioned - to push boundaries and take both artists and audiences out of their comfort zone; to provoke and inspire them, but to also foster fruitful collaboration.
These past three years have been an incredible journey. As my tenure ends, I’m proud of what we have achieved for all the reasons I’ve mentioned. My gratitude goes out to our CEO Sarah Martin, to the incredible SIFA producers, and to everyone who has played a part making SIFA a success. We have built a solid foundation on which I have no doubt SIFA will continue to grow from strength to strength.