Returning from 19 May, the Festival expands on the Anatomy of Performance with an eclectic line-up of local and international works
Organised by Arts House Limited (AHL) and commissioned by the National Arts Council (NAC), the programme line-up for the 2023 edition of the Singapore International Festival of Arts (SIFA) was revealed this evening by Festival Director Natalie Hennedige. Returning from 19 May to 4 June 2023 with the title The Anatomy of Performance – Some People, this year’s Festival marks the second year of Hennedige’s three-year tenure as Festival Director. The Festival will return to the live stage in 2023 with four newly commissioned productions and 11 invited international presentations, while continuing to keep its digital presence with a new series of writing and animated art.
Exploring different perspectives and human experiences
Helming the direction for SIFA 2022-2024, Hennedige has defined a three-year arc intended to bring focus to performance and creation in the physical and online space, with the recurring title – The Anatomy of Performance, accompanied by a changing subtitle. The first subtitle in 2022 – Ritual – invited audiences to consider shared social rituals echoed in performance. Returning with a new subtitle – Some People, SIFA 2023 is an invitation for audiences to come together and open their hearts to each other’s perspectives in the space that art defines. SIFA 2023 invites audiences to meditate on the spectrum of the human experience and to find their personal response in works that encompass those who grieve, transform, remember, dominate, disappear, feel, prevail, linger, shimmer, observe, reclaim, endure, dare, and transcend.
The Festival will exist across three platforms, CREATION, featuring 15 unique presentations including festival commissions and invited works, LIFE PROFUSION, SIFA’s parallel virtual entity, and SIFA X, a platform for experimental expression.
Festival Director Natalie Hennedige says, “This year’s Festival is an invitation to meditate on the spectrum of the human experience. We live in this world, but we do not experience the world in the same way – our pathways differ depending on the given, or imposed circumstances. SIFA 2023 will feature prominent local and international artists on our physical and virtual platforms responding to the festival title across diverse artistic formats. SIFA 2023 intends to inspire reflection on the depth and diversity of human experiences and how we can find empathy and expand our worldviews by taking in performance.”
An avenue to inspire unique creations
SIFA 2023 is committed to being an avenue for creating progressive and original works that express contemporary complexities and possibilities in performance. The Festival continues to be a catalyst for creative intersections between international and local artists across different disciplines through specially commissioned works.
This year’s Festival commissions include:
- Co-directed by Asian-American composer Huang Ruo and Singapore performance maker Brian Gothong Tan, music theatre piece ANGEL ISLAND is based on the nearly 100-year-old verses written on the walls of the immigration station on Angel Island in the middle of the San Francisco Bay area.
- Investigating intersections between humans and other-than-humans in REALM OF SILK, Canadian multidisciplinary artist Sougwen Chung debuts their latest creation for SIFA, as silk becomes the chrysalis that harbours metamorphosis, and the silkworm acts as a metaphor for transformation. Singapore master cellist Leslie Tan will join Chung on stage in this debut performance.
- THE SCHOOL, a promenade-style participatory performance experience powered by a trio of local performance-practitioners, Jean Ng, Li Xie, and Joavien Ng, brings audiences on a familiar yet unusual journey back to “school”.
- Australian-born artist Edith Podesta collaborates with Singapore filmmaker K. Rajagopal for POMPEll, a multi-media theatre performance inspired by the lives impacted by the sudden destruction and rediscovery of the city of Pompeii.
Invited works from across the globe
With more international borders open in 2023, the Festival has invited prominent international artists to present dynamic works giving unexpected dimension to Some People. These works include reflections on the vast range of human experiences across mediums and genres.
International invited works include:
- WE WILL SLAM YOU WITH OUR WINGS by Australian artist Joanna Dudley, a video and sound installation comprising 7 screens, representing a series of 19th Century imperialistic portraits replaced by images of young girls aged between 8-16 years, imagining the world anew.
- Taiwanese artist Joyce Ho’s spatial mixed media installation, A DAY, 2023, lays its foundations in perceptions of the familiar, dailiness and everyday situations inviting audiences to be present in the moment, participate and observe.
- £¥€$ (LIES) by Belgian theatre company Ontroerend Goed transposes the world of high finance into a game-like setting, offering a captivating glimpse into the recesses of human behaviour when faith in money and markets begin to wane.
- CUCKOO and LOLLING & ROLLING, two thought-provoking works by South Korean Performance maker and music composer Jaha Koo that touch on linguistic imperialism and isolation in South Korean society.
- Japanese artist Toshiki Okada presents NEW-ILLUSION a series manifesting chelfitsch’s innovative theatre style EIZO-Theater, where reality and fiction blur into each other and life-size projected images of a man and woman begin talking about a play set in the theatre.
- Australia-based circus performance group Circa, presents HUMANS 2.0, an acrobatic performance that fiercely celebrates what it means to be human as the performers find redemptive power in strength.
- In MATERIA, Italian artist Andrea Salustri presents a remarkable performance of object theatre that explores the possibilities of polystyrene as it comes alive and becomes the protagonist of the events on stage.
Sheer physicality conveying complex human emotion
This year’s Festival will move into new realms of performance with pieces that explore fluid notions of Some People.
Conveying messages with pure physicality, the pieces charged with dance movements include:
- BLKDOG by Olivier award-winning UK dance artist Botis Seva, an emotionally charged, genre-defying blend of free-form antics and hip hop that delves into notions of inner-city coping mechanisms, portraying depression and the ultimate hunt for acceptance.
- South Korean choreographer Hyerim Jang’s ABYSS, an elegy expressing the sorrow of human emotions through dance, presented with an all-female cast.
- American-based choreographer-dancer Muna Tseng now in her 70th year and having emerged from the feverish New York Downtown 70s arts scene creates ME, YOU, THEN, NOW where we are invited to join her as a young artist weaving her web of identity within the urban mythology and at present with her meta-meditations on making new art today.
New presentations on familiar SIFA platforms
In 2023, SIFA X embraces alternative expression and carves out platforms to nurture new writing and performance works-in-process. Setting the stage at Singapore’s iconic nightclub CÉ LA VI, SIFA X presents LOVE DIVINE featuring artists SUKKI (formerly Sukki Singapora) and Daniel Kok & Luke George in a display of burlesque, vaudeville, and rope performance-installation. Centre 42’s, THERE IS NO FUTURE IN NOSTALGIA presents a suite of new performances drawing inspiration from Arthur Yap’s 1971 poem of the same name, dramatising the rapid sweep of Singapore’s urban development. Works include a lecture performance by Robin Loon, Casey Lim and invited artists drawing on Centre 42’s archival of theatre in the 90s, double bills of new plays by writers Ahmad Musta’ain Khamis, A Yagnya, Rachel Chin and Danial Matin, and a special edition of Centre 42’s ongoing Headline Acts Series, an evening where writers present short dramatic pieces in response to archival headlines. SIFA X in collaboration with BIPAM – Bangkok International Performing Arts Meeting, and George Town Festival co-produce INTERMISSION featuring Thai veteran folk music artist Champa Saenprom and Thai contemporary dancer Vidura Amranand, with Thanapol Virulhakul’s unique choreographic lens, reflecting Thai artistry and cultural nuances over generational divides.
SIFA’s virtual platform LIFE PROFUSION will continue to exist as a parallel virtual entity in relation to the live festival experience, creating a space for artists to create in a way that speaks to the digital imagination and aesthetic. This year, artist MOJOKO will present PRIVACY, a series of animated digital works that relate to privacy in the digital sphere and writer Hong Xinyi will present prompt: PLAY, creative responses by a range of contributors, to SIFA 2023’s offerings.
Sim Wan Hui, Director of Programming and Producing at Arts House Limited, said: “As Singapore’s pinnacle performing arts event, the Singapore International Festival of Arts appeals to diverse audiences by bridging powerful artistic voices with distinctive festival experiences. With the resumption of travel and opening of Singapore’s borders, we are pleased to present invited works by renowned international artists alongside new creations and collaborations by and with our established Singapore talents that capture one’s imagination with compelling stories and engaging performances that hold contemporary relevance.”
She added: “In Natalie’s second year as Festival Director, the Festival continues to provide a platform for creative exchange, showcasing remarkable performance pieces from Singapore and beyond, presenting great artistic experiences by world-class artists and art collectives that push and expand the possibilities of performance. Through the Festival’s diverse and nuanced offerings, we hope to inspire audiences to explore the world from the different lenses of Some People involved in SIFA 2023.”
Chief Executive Officer of the National Arts Council, Rosa Daniel, says, “The Singapore International Festival of Arts (SIFA) is a key event on the cultural calendar that presents the creativity and dynamism of the performing arts scene. By bringing quality arts experiences to places where Singaporeans live, work, and play, the Council hopes to create a distinctive city that is iconic, cultural, and inspiring. As we continue with our local and international engagement efforts in co-developing the next national strategic arts roadmap, we hope that audiences enjoy and appreciate the performing art season here in Singapore with the Festival and look forward to a stronger, more cohesive and connected society bonded through the arts.”
Early bird tickets for SIFA 2023, which offer audiences savings of 15%, go on sale from 22 February 6pm till 31 March 2023, 11.59pm here.
Singapore International Festival of Arts 2022 Programme Reveal Event opening by Edith Podesta, writer, theatre maker and choreographer
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