Indie arts fest returns with Progression theme

Artist Hafiz Osman with his installation which will be on display at the exhibtion, Lit Up 2013.

SINGAPORE - The indie arts festival Lit Up returns - and while it bade farewell to the Telok Ayer Performing Arts Centre (Tapac) last year, it is saying hello to the new Aliwal Arts Centre this year with the theme Progression.

The festival's artistic director Marc Nair, 32, tells Life! with a laugh: "The irony is not lost on us."

Lit Up has led a nomadic existence, moving from its first edition at The Arts House to various arts spaces such as the Lasalle College of the Arts and the Goodman Arts Centre.

The festival's location this year ties in with organiser Word Forward's move from the now-defunct Tapac to Aliwal in April. The non-profit organisation is dedicated to promoting creative writing in Singapore.

In addition to Nair, the festival team includes programme manager Deborah Emmanuel, visual arts curator Joleen Loh and festival director Savinder Kaur.

While last year's festival had a longer run of two weeks in tandem with Tapac's send-off, this year's fifth edition will be compacted into three days, from Friday to Sunday, of non-stop activities with a multi-disciplinary edge, from visual art installations to spoken word events.

The line-up boasts 50 artists, 30 performances and 13 works of visual art.

But the idea of Progression goes beyond simply moving forward or from place to place.

Nair says: "The idea of Progression is something that seems to be an obsession in Singapore. We are looking at Progression not just as positive economic growth, but also at the subversive side of it - the fractures, the socio-cultural explosion that's happened with the influx of immigrants."

"We're getting more and more compressed as a country, so I was thinking - where is the place of art? How does art respond to all this?"

The Lit Up line-up promises some emotionally charged responses to this question. One of the works that wrestle with Singapore's evolving social landscape is Moktar, starring Nair himself.

The experimental piece tells the story of Moktar, a foreign worker in Singapore, who talks about his journey through the language of poetry.

Another work exploring Singapore's fading physical heritage is Mosaic, by playwright Joel Tan, where three friends show up the night before one of the iconic old-school playgrounds is scheduled to be demolished. Their relationships come together and fall apart, along with the past.

Both productions will run on Saturday and Sunday evenings.

A trademark of Lit Up is its emphasis on collaborations, whether between established and emerging artists, or across genres. The visual arts programme celebrates the spirit of collaboration with Tete-a-tete, a cross-disciplinary segment which showcases three pairs of artists who work in different mediums.

One of the pairings brings together sound artist and musician Bani Haykal and photographer Geraldine Kang, who will deal with the concepts of transhumanism and insanity in their work.

One of the performance pieces, Echo, will retell the Greek myth of Echo and Narcissus through a blend of movement, music, poetry and theatre, bringing together a variety of genres.

Nair says: "What I've noticed sometimes is that in Singapore, artists tend to work in silos in their respective genres. They don't often step out and broaden their field of view, their perspectives. When you work with artists of different genres, you get challenged."

Book it - LIT UP 2013

Where: Aliwal Arts Centre, 28 Aliwal Street, and Orita Sinclair School of Design, 7 Pahang Street

When: Friday to Sunday, various times

Admission: Various prices, from free events to $20.

For a full line-up and information on how to buy tickets, go to

Info: E-mail litupsingapore@