Good night, art

Some arts institutions here are going over to the dark side - in a good way.

The Singapore Art Museum, Peranakan Museum and The Arts House are among the museums and arts venues now keeping their doors open into the wee hours of the morning, with alcohol, late night grub and DJs spinning the latest beats. Unlike at a regular nightclub, you can view an exhibition on the premises or watch a spoken-word performance.

Earlier this month, the Singapore Art Museum hosted The Courtyard, an arty music party, with W Hotel. Featuring the likes of former Zouk DJ Aldrin on the decks, the event was attended by more than 1,300 people. Last month, the Peranakan Museum's Peranakan-themed Secret Party, with a DJ and pop-up cocktail bar, was cancelled due to the haze.

Next week, however, The Arts House will up the ante with an overnight series of text-based performances organised by the Singapore Writers Festival. What I Love About You Is Your Attitude Problem is a 12-hour event that will start on Nov 6 at 7pm and end on Nov 7 at 7am. Tickets cost $50 each and include dinner, supper and a nasi lemak breakfast on the lawn of The Arts House at 6am.

Playwright-actor-director Huzir Sulaiman, who curated the programme, says the event is "not so much site-specific as it is nightspecific".

Performances deal with "the intimacy, anxiety and calm of a long night", he adds, and "the fluctuating energy levels and bio-rhythms of the audience" are factored into the night's line-up. For example, the more energetic types might enjoy the DJ set from 3 to 6am, during which DJs Kiat and Intriguant from audio-visual collective Syndicate will deconstructhip-hop lyrics.

"We wanted to do something different this year," says Singapore Writers Festival director Yeow Kai Chai, of having an overnight programme in the festival for the first time since it started in 1986. Organisers say ticket sales "are encouraging".

An even longer arts event is 24 hrs@ACM, the 24-hour party at the Asian Civilisations Museum to celebrate the opening of its new galleries after a nearly year-long revamp. To take place from 7pm on Nov 14 to 7pm on Nov 15, it will include activities such as dancing to Asian beats, morning taiji and children's art sessions.

Museums after dark are not anew concept in Singapore. The annual Night Festival, organised by the National Museum of Singapore since 2008, sees museums in the Bras Basah and Fort Canning areas staying open until 2am, turning culture vultures into night owls.

Given the success of the festival - it attracted 600,000 visitors this year - arts institutions here are not afraid of exploring bolder and more experimental initiatives.

The Singapore Art Museum also organises museatSAM a few times a year. The late-night affair in its courtyard features local DJs and musicians such as Analog Girl and is attended, on average, by about 600 people. It is slated to take place again during Singapore Art Week in January.

With its buzzy after-hours party, the art museum hopes to dispel the notion that contemporary art is "inaccessible and elitist".

Ms Lynn Sim, head of the museum's marketingand communications, says: "It also gives time starved museum-goers another reason to visit the museum."

Meanwhile, arts enclave Gillman Barracks, in contrast to its reportedly sluggish day-time visitorship numbers, has been drawing crowds after dark.

Its popular Art After Dark series, which started a year ago, attracts about 3,000 people on average. Galleries stay open till as late as 11pm and there is live music as well as stalls selling food and drinks. Art After Dark has proved so popular, a day version called Art Day Out! was introduced in July. The next edition will take place on Nov 7. Gillman

Barracks runs either of these events on a bi-monthly basis.

Art After Dark was conceived to "create an enclave-wide night experience" and highlight tenants.

Mr Low Eng Teong, director of sector development (visual arts) at the National Arts Council, says: "It caters to art enthusiasts who are seeking an alternative Friday night destination after work."

The council, which developed the enclave jointly with the Economic Development Board and JTC Corporation, says it is "very encouraged by the increase in visitorship and buzz about Gillman Barracks" brought about by Art After Dark.

For the ArtScience Museum, night programming is one way to attract the attention of arts lovers.

Ms Honor Harger, executive director of the museum, says: "Singapore's art ecosystem is thriving and so is the demand for interesting art events."

The museum introduced the monthly night programme Art-Science Late in May last year, with the hope of being "the next chillout destination for visitors as they wind down ahead of the weekend". It features performers from the art, technology and science genres, in keeping with its areas of focus.

The edition on Nov 19 will feature a dance performance related to the museum's upcoming exhibition about experimental particle physics, Collider. The museum declines to reveal audience figures for Art-Science Late, saying instead that it sees "strong support from art and culture enthusiasts who attend our events regularly".

Audiences are welcoming these after-dark events.

Mr Nelson Wu, 31, who works in the accounting industry, says he enjoys Art After Dark at Gillman Barracks, which he attended recently with his partner, Ms Cynthia How.

"The fact that we can appreciate art pieces at night intrigued us. We enjoyed the mix of music, hipster snacksand booze with art," he says.

Regular clubber Rod Hesh, 25, who had never been to the Singapore Art Museum prior to attending The Courtyard party, describes the art institution as "not my usual Saturday night destination".

The payments professional is looking forward to attending the event again. "The party combined all the elements I had hoped to experience during a night out with my friends and I can't wait for the next one," he says.

nabilahs@sph.com.sg

Art Day Out! at Gillman Barracks
Where: Gillman Barracks, 9 Lock Road
When: Nov 7, 2 to 8 pm
Admission: Free
Info: www.gillmanbarracks.com

24hrs@ACM
Where: Asian Civilisations Museum,1 Empress Place
When: Nov 14,7 pm to Nov15, 7 pm
Admission: Free
INFO: www.facebook.com/asiancivilisationsmuseum

ArtScience Late
Where: ArtScience Museum, 6 Bayfront Avenue
When: Nov 19, 8 pm
Admission: Free
INFO: www.facebook.com/ArtScienceMuseum

What I Love About You Is Your Attitude Problem
Where: The Arts House
When: Nov 6, 7 pm to Nov 7, 7 am
Admission: $50 with dinner, supper and breakfast
Info: The event has an R18 rating. Go to www.singaporewritersfestival.com

There are 24 performance events, some taking place concurrently. Here is a suggested route:

7 - 7.45 pm at Chamber:Start with Drawing A Reading: A Different Sky. Actress Julie Wee, arts educator and actress Noorlinah Mohamed and travel show host Anita Kapoor will read from novelist Meira Chand's A Different Sky over 12 hours, while artist Jimmy Ong interprets their words visually.

7.45 - 8 pm at British Council Gallery: Check out 12 Easy B*****s (After Seven Easy Pieces by Marina Abramovic) by drag queen Becca D'Bus.

She will present a dozen 15-minute vignettes, based on seminal performance art pieces, every hour till 6.45am.

8 - 8.30 pm at US Embassy Screening Room: Watcha series of videos by artist Oon Shu An titled #UnicornMoment2: The YouTubeWalk, created with collaborators from multiple genres.

8.30 - 9 pm at The Blue Room: The night is still young, so have a relaxed dinner with dishes such as nasi briyani and chicken curry.

9.15 -10 pm at Foyer: Bond with audience members through Speed Hating. It is like speed dating, except you share what you dislike with the other person.

10 - 10.45 pm at Living Room: Ease into the night with poet Cyril Wong's Love Songs, as he shares poetry and music related to love and loss.

11 - 11.45 pm at Living Room: Watch a reading by playwright-actor-director Claire Wong of Escape To Batam, recounting the adventures of her father and uncles onthe Indonesian island of Batam during the Japanese occupation.

Midnight - 12.45 am at Living Room: Mr Kenny Leck, founder of independent bookstore BooksActually, presents Singaporean History X, sharing his journey as a bookseller in the challenging books business here.

1 am at The Blue Room:Tuck into a supper of bee hoon and Malay kueh.

1.30 - 2.30 am at The Japan Foundation Play Den: Make some noise with electronic duo.gif (say "dot jif") in a participatory audio and visual experience, Shadows And Sounds.

3 - 4 am at Living Room:Poet Pooja Nansi reflectson her past using poetry, music and storytelling in You Are Here.

4 - 4.45 am at Porch: Dream-like dance and poetry readingThe SwanPrince by poet Jennifer Anne Champion.

5 - 5.45 am at Porch: The Worst Singaporean Play Ever by improv artist Luke Vijay Somasundram.

6 am at Porch: Have breakfast on the lawn while enjoying live-looping and musical improv performance The True Meaning Of Dawn by musician Kailin Yong.

6.45 am at British Council Gallery: You have made it. Celebrate with the last of the 15-minute vignettes by drag queen D'Bus.You might even get a hug.


This article was first published on October 30, 2015.
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