Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Chapter One: Loomings

It's the night before FCP, and our menagerie of artists is still flying in from each one's respective international timezone. But I've promised to update daily so I'll grab this op to expand a little on what I understand of TheatreWorks ideology.

Over the past decade, the Singapore government's been consciously reinventing Singapore as an "arts hub" - one of those London/Paris/Tokyo/New York cities where a citizen/tourist/expatriates can delight in immersion in Culture. There's hence been a largely successful effort to expand audiences for theatre/music/visual arts/dance/indie film/literature. The National Arts Council calls it "audience creation", as if we were moulding you guys out of clay or subatomic aether.

Now, the problem with having "audience creation" on your agenda is that you're suddenly beholden to market demands - you've gotta avoid alienating your viewers too much, you've gotta work within time constraints to create a finished international-standard product at the end of the day. This makes it that much more difficult to experiment.

You've gotta remember, the Singapore theatre scene of the 90s was chock-full of experiments - forays into forumtheatrepanAsiandevised- polyglot10minuteplaysitespecificBrechtiangaysexalternativepolitics fiestas that played to small but dedicated communities. Most theatremakers would agree that the drama scene's gotten rather less experimental since then.

Luckily, the folks at TheatreWorks somehow got very good at applying for international grants, so they wouldn't have to be beholden to this system. Aside from a few ra-ra shows like "Geisha" or "Sandakan Threnody" or "Diaspora", artists working with TW get the leisure to do personally-motivated work with little or no demand to be populist - tickets for their smaller shebangs are priced at $8, $5 or free or by-invitation-only, so there's no need to get into a tizzy if no-one comes to watch. What's important is the process.

The problem - and I speak as if KS only mentions one problem - is that one company alone doesn't set the tone for the culture. We want a Singapore - hell, we want a world - where people are open to new ideas, to new cultures, to new coincidences of contact.

Which is why FCP (atgreatexpensetothecompany) is FOC: anyone can call ahead and attend the events for free. And I really do believe the average TanAhKow in the street should be curious enough to want to witness feminist underwater nudie dancing by Julie Atlas Muz or revisionist silentmovie spinning by DJ Spooky. I'm a Warholite: I believe everyone should like everything.

KS has told me that he's no longer sure FCP is right at home in Singapore: maybe it'd have more of an impact stationed permanently in Vietnam, where the emergent culture is hungry for anything new. I told him he oughta go ahead and move the circus tent a little; maybe it'll make us on this island a little hungrier for his kind of art.

The week to come is a compromise: first we'll be occupying Singapore, then off to Ho Chi Minh City. To prepare for the trip, I'm reading the novels of Duong Thu Thuong and studying some elementary Vietnamese, because I do want to know more.

I am curious. Come be curious with me.

Seeya at the opening.

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