Art fest enters HDB flats

Art fest enters HDB flats
Local artists (from far left) Shane Mardjuki, Zaliha Hamid, Kumar, Koh Chieng Mun and Sharul Channa will perform in four HDB estates.

Following its well-received boutique inaugural edition last year, the Singapore International Festival of Arts will be traversing the heartland this year, with several performances that go right to audiences' doorsteps.

In its second year under festival director Ong Keng Sen, the $7-million festival has unveiled eight of its 19 main season shows, which seem to appeal to both mainstream and niche audiences.

These eight productions include a band of travelling comedians led by Kumar who will visit several Housing Board estates, as well as the T'ang Quartet's collaboration with Singapore-born, British pianist Melvyn Tan, which will see performances on period instruments such as the harpsichord.

Themed Post-Empires, the main festival season will run from Aug 6 to Sept 20, with 19 shows spread out over seven weekends.

The O.P.E.N., its pre-festival public engagement initiative, will run from June 17 to July 4 and feature more performances this year, as well as its usual film screenings, exhibitions and talks.

With this edition of the festival taking place in Singapore's Golden Jubilee year and starting just ahead of National Day on Aug 9, its works examine the various facets of what emerges after empires, such as colonial regimes, dictatorships and communism.

This year will also see the premiere of more than 10 local commissions, each costing $400,000 on average to produce.

Ong says: "It's quite a diverse season because we're trying to match what is happening locally with the international perspective."

While there are some shows that promise to be crowdpleasers, the programming is no less cerebral than before, with the shows for the main festival falling into four main clusters - Transformations, Archives, Post-Empires: What Remains After?, and Play With Post- - that all interrogate the main theme.

In the Transformations category, the festival looks at the transformative power of individuals. Popular stand-up comedian Kumar, for instance, will be invading four HDB estates with a group of comedians and performers, including Sharul Channa, Koh Chieng Mun, Zaliha Hamid and Shane Mardjuki.

Ong says: "I think the stand-up comic is the best way in which issues are unpacked, in a very friendly way. And the conversations start people thinking about how we actually live in Singapore, where we're very cramped in our public space and social landscape."

Ordinary living rooms will also be transformed in Open Homes, where the festival will work with the People's Association to convert the living rooms of HDB flats into intimate, cosy theatre spaces, retaining the "open house" feel of a communal gathering during festivals such as Chinese New Year, Hari Raya Puasa or Deepavali.

Archives presents various productions inspired by archives or which interpret the archives in wildly different and exciting ways.

One example is the Arts Festival's mini 16-day dance festival within a festival titled Dance Marathon - Open With A Punk Spirit!, which will be hosted at an unconfirmed heritage site.

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