Saturday, June 30, 2012

Singapore Arts Festival 2012

When it comes to art, Singapore has plenty of places, museums, exhibitions and events that celebrate the arts. You can even find public artworks and public sculptures when you're in public. In today's article, I'll cover one of Singapore's long-lasting arts event which is known as the Singapore Arts Festival. The Singapore Arts Festival was founded in 1999 and it's also organised by Singapore's National Arts Council. Every year, the Arts Fest will have different themes so for this year, its theme is Our Lost Poems. I did not check out the paid performances and exhibitions of the Arts Fest but I did check out the Festival Village.

The Festival Village is a 'village' which is temporarily located at the Esplanade Park. All the performances and events taking place here at the Village are free and there are a lot of things to see and do. This year's Arts Festival started from 18th of May all the way to the 2nd of June. I came on the 1st of June and there were many performances I watched which I will tell you more about it later. Getting there was quite easy. I took the MRT to Esplanade Station and used the CityLink Mall underpass. The sign showed the Esplanade Park so I went up the escalator and saw three signs pointing to the direction of the Festival Village after reaching the exit.

Before I move on to the events and performances at the Festival Village, let's take a look at some of the permanent sculptures and historical structures at the Esplanade Park. First, I saw the Tan Kim Seng Fountain, then there's the former Indian National Army monument, the Cenotaph (not pictured) and last but not least, the Lim Bo Seng Memorial. All these are important in the history of Singapore and if you're a history buff, feel free to come to the Esplanade Park to read the plagues and check out the historical monuments available here. Do note that they're permanent and they're not part of the Singapore Arts Festival.

The very first picture that you see at the top of the article is a part of the Festival and the venue was known as the Black Box. Sorry for not taking a picture of the front view because the back view looked more interesting than the front. The Black Box is where classes and workshops were held as well as film screenings and works of theatre and music. The Black Box is not publicly open but registration is required to get a seat for the workshops available.

The picture that's just right above, as you can see, is known as the Festival Bar. The Festival Bar serves up different selections of Argentinian grilled food and a wide variety of alcoholic drinks provided by Salta. There is also Quiznos, a popular American submarine sandwich chain, that serves up a variety of hot and toasty submarine sandwiches. Diners have the option to dine indoors and enjoy the air-con or dine outdoors where they can enjoy the fresh air and watch performances that are happening at the Main Stage.

Just like the Festival Bar, there is also another eating establishment which was located just adjacent to the Bar. It's called the Festival Cafe and it's a combination of Tully's Coffee and Cold Stone Creamery. The Festival Cafe is also the venue for the Bridge Cafe Project in which seniors, adults and young adults will sing and dance and serve food to the customers. The inspiration for the Bridge Cafe Project is said to be gotten from Tokyo's Oyujai Cafe. Google that up if you want to find out more. What's unique about this cafe is that there is a rooftop seating available so you can have your food and desserts while enjoying the fresh air and the beautiful city views.

After checking out the Black Box and the temporary food establishments, I watched my very first Singapore Arts Festival performance. It's called "The Young Ones! Performance Showcase". This performance happened every day from the first day of the festival to the very final day. Each day, different groups of students from various schools perform on stage with different plays everyday. The one I watched was called Lost and Found by the Tampines Primary School Drama Club. I can't fully remember what they were performing but I recalled something about a psychic, kachang puteh and someone that's missing. Their English was so fluent and they even used some words that I have never even heard of in my life. It was a great performance. My problem was that, I stood on a big pile of sand near the Main Stage and there were small teeny tiny clumps of sand stuck in my sandals which was really uncomfortable. Still, I say kudos to the Tampines Primary School kids for being brave performing in front of big crowds.

Speaking of children, the Singapore Arts Festival also has some activities lined up for children too. There is a space allocated for children and it's called the Kids Arts Village. The Kids Arts Village has various workshops and activities for children to participate and most of them were free. Unfortunately, I couldn't join for obvious reasons. Some of the activities include Splash Art, Spooky Stories and the most interesting one, UV Art. Why is it interesting? Well, I saw one room where the room was dark and air-conditioned which was pretty obvious that it's for the UV Art activity. Imagine if you were to be in a dark room creating art that's brightly lit with the help of Ultra-Violet light. Isn't that just cool? I still couldn't join because of obvious reasons, unfortunately.

Visitors did not have to worry about getting lost because there were plenty of directional signs like this one pictured above. There were also plenty of Singapore Arts Festival staff which they call Festival Ambassadors, to help guide visitors around. Most of them were also carrying the Singapore Arts Festival printed guide and they'll give it to you if you ask politely. Plus, the Festival Village was quite small so it was easy to navigate and find my way around. Each exhibit also will show what performance will be taking place and what were the time slots.

Here I came across the Wrestling Ring and the Open Lawn performance venues. You may wonder why is there a wrestling ring in the first place, right? I'll give you more information about that later on. There is also the Open Lawn. If you look closely behind the sign, you can see a lot of urns on display. Why are there so many urns? Well, just like the Wrestling Ring, I will give you more information on that later on.

Like I said earlier, navigating around the Festival Village was not a problem because of the directional signs that can be found almost everywhere around the park. However, an Information Booth was also available for those who still wanted more help and want a copy of the brochure. The Information Booth was also the place to get tickets for paid performances and there was also a big map board along with a big board showing the events that will be happening at the Festival Village.

Just right beside the Information Booth is the Esplanade Bridge and right underneath the Esplanade Bridge was the Singapore Arts Festival's flea market which was called the Public Garden Flea Market. At that time, a lot of stalls have not opened yet while some were already waiting for customers way before the official start time. Flea markets are great places to get bargains on clothes and it's a great place to get handmade gifts.

Here's the brochure of the Singapore Arts Festival with lots of useful information along with a programme guide and synopsis about the performers who will be performing at the various stages at the Festival Village. On the other hand, there was also an ice cream stall selling blocks of Wall's branded ice cream for about $1 per block. I got the Peppermint flavour with wafers on. Mmm... simply delightful. There were also some cold drinks on sale too at the ice cream stall for those who want to get something cold and cooling in Singapore's hot weather.

Remember the picture of the Wrestling Ring just now? This is what it's for. There's an actual wrestling match performance here at the Singapore Arts Festival's Festival Village. This wasn't a regular wrestling match because it did not involve professional wrestlers. Instead, they were just regular performers who were part of the Arts Festival. It's actually not a real wrestling match as the performers were just playing around and pretending to wrestle because it's actually supposed to be a humourous wrestling match. The performers were the Merlion versus Haw Par Villa.

The Merlion wanted to take down the Rochor Centre because she wanted it to be replaced with an expressway (true story but doesn't involve the Merlion). An old man (another performer) was upset and wanted someone to wrestle with the Merlion. If the opponent won, Rochor Centre will not get demolished. If the Merlion won, the centre will have to be demolished. If you were at the match, you will definitely get it. It was fun and humourous and I totally would like to see it again if it's possible.

Another free performance that I watched was Dream Country - A Lost Monologue. Earlier, I showed you the picture of the urns at the Open Lawn. Well, here it is. Just right after the wrestling match, I head to the Open Lawn to view this performance but they were still rehearsing and still got another 30 min before the show opened. While waiting, I tried to find a seat as there were still plenty of seats available around the Open Lawn.

When I say seats around the Open Lawn, I really meant picnic mats. Yes, you saw that right, picnic mats. What's cool was that audiences sat down on picnic mats to watch the performance which was something that I have never done before (with the exception of having picnics with friends). I'm not entirely sure if it's possible to eat here as I saw nobody doing that at that time. It was still a little bit awkward to be sitting on the picnic mats on top of the grass. Also, while waiting, thankfully there was free WiFi available. I was quite surprised to find WiFi in the middle of the Esplanade Park but I realised that the WiFi was from the nearby Asian Civillisations Museum AKA Empress Place. They have such strong WiFi connectivity.

I also saw these buildings from the nearby Central Business District brightly lit. You can see the Maybank Tower, the UOB Tower and the OCBC Tower standing tall, proud and brightly lit. It was really a beautiful sight.

Sorry for the not-so-clear pictures as there was a huge spotlight in my direction. According to the director of this performance, Dream Country is supposed to be something to do with dancing and having fun with a journey of self-discovery, dreams and hopes. It's too sophisticated for me to understand what the synopsis is but nevertheless, I really enjoyed the performance.

Basically, Dream Country involves a group of young women donning some strange clothing having fun and dancing around. They hid themselves in the urns which were filled with water. Their legs spread out first and they slowly came out of the urns. After that, they played around with the water that's in the urns. They use the water and splash themselves, the other performers and sometimes, at the audience. Thankfully, I did not get wet as I was watching them from a distance. They even had sacks that's on the stage floor and used them to whack the urns. Weird but true. There was even one sack that was accidentally thrown into the audience maybe because one of the performers accidentally threw it violently. It was very entertaining and lastly, they all stood on top of the urns as seen from the photos above. It was such a great performance and I totally enjoyed it a lot. Rehearsal must be a pain for them.

Overall, the Singapore Arts Festival was a great event. It showcased performances about the arts and most of them were free. I did not attend any ticketed performances but I did attend the Festival Village in which there were tons of free performances. After I watched the Dream Country performance, the Bridge Cafe Project as mentioned earlier, already started and there were various performers dancing to popular songs like LMFAO's Party Rock Anthem. Even from the outside, it was still as entertaining and the performers were very humourous. Unfortunately, the Arts Festival will not be taking place next year as they'll be taking a break but not to worry, the Festival will be back in 2014. If you're an arts fan or if you just want to watch out-of-ordinary free performances, the Singapore Arts Festival is a great Singapore event to watch out for.

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