Writing Our Worlds: The Arts House Turns Seven!
17 March 2011 – The Arts House is turning seven this March on a literary pivot – to become a multidisciplinary arts centre with a literary focus. To kick off the celebrations, The Arts House will organise an Open House on 26 March, and launch a series of literary initiatives this year centred on the theme, Writing Our Worlds.
Since its inception in 2004, The Arts House has always been a home to books, writers and book lovers. It has supported many forms of creative writing, as well as showcases of multidisciplinary works based on or inspired by texts. In 2005, The Arts House opened Earshot Café and Bookstore as a dedicated platform to promote local authors and artists. It co-organised the yearlong Writing Residency with the National University of Singapore (NUS) from 2004-2006. It was home to the Singapore Writers Festival in 2007 and 2009, and launched the inaugural Asian Festival of Children’s Content in 2011. At the first Asia on the Edge festival in 2008, it presented a literary programme that featured female Asian writers. In addition, the former Parliament House has hosted countless book launches and readings over the years, most notably with the Singapore Book Club and Children’s Book Club. One key highlight was the launch of the book in 2009, Men In White, in the former Parliamentary Chamber that was graced by Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew.
Says Mr William Phuan, Director of Programmes and Marketing at The Arts House: “It’s a natural progression for us to move towards a literary arts focus. We want to continue to do what we are good at: Be a multidisciplinary arts centre that encourages and facilitates cross-pollination of different art forms, but now with a greater emphasis on the use of text as a starting point.”
The Arts House aims to be a catalyst in the literary scene on two fronts, adds Mr Phuan. The first is to boost the level of appreciation of literary works, especially local works. The second is to encourage content creation through creative writing, in particular across the four main languages. “We believe we are in a very good position to achieve these aims,” says Mr Phuan. “We have the right space and environment to be the home to literary activities, and we are working with strong, committed partners like the National Book Development Council of Singapore and NUS.”
To mark this new direction, The Arts House will organise an Open House on its birthday on 26 March, and roll out a slew of initiatives throughout the year, all centred on the theme, Writing Our Worlds.
“We want to celebrate the art of writing, not only as a solitary act, but as a communal activity too,” says Mr Phuan. “We want to encourage the expression of ideas and stories through language and words, which in turn may be turned into other art forms like theatre, music or even film. We envision The Arts House to be the place where ideas meet words, which will hopefully spur more learning and sharing of our different ideas and worlds.”
The Open House will boast a full day of activities that are free to the public. From book launches and talks to workshops, street art painting, hip hop poetry jam and interactive theatre, the public will be able to take part in various activities that are inspired by literary arts and have fun with this art form. One key highlight is the exhibition featuring the award-winning editorial cartoonist Heng Kim Song, Heng On The World, who has been blazing a trail in the world of journalism and cartoons with his caricatures about the state of the world. The exhibition, running from 22-26 March, will be his first in Singapore in more than 10 years. For more information about the Open House activities, please refer to Annex 1.
At the same time, The Arts House will be launching a series of major initiatives this year, in addition to its regular literary arts programmes. For instance, together with the NUS University Scholars Programme, The Arts House will re-establish the Writing Residency, which will now be open to writing talents from all over the world. In addition, from 26-28 May, the Asian Festival of Children’s Content will be back for the second year with even more content and programmes for industry professionals, teachers and parents. In September, The Arts House will organise the first Translation Symposium in Singapore, which aims to develop and explore the potential of the field of translation, especially across the four main languages. In October, TAH will again work with the National Arts Council to be a key programme partner of the now annual Singapore Writers Festival. For more information about the literary initiatives, please refer to Annex 2.
“We are very excited about this new direction and all the programmes that we are planning,” says Mr Phuan. “We want to open up the House to all writers, illustrators, educators, artists, kids and families – in fact, everyone – so that they will call it their home. This is where they can share their stories and ideas through words. Indeed, we invite everyone to come to The Arts House and create and write their worlds.”
The Arts House at the Old Parliament
Occupying the almost 200 year old building that was Singapore’s first Parliament House, The Arts House since its opening in 2004 has been offering its visitors a broad spectrum of activities ranging from contemporary arts & entertainment events to lifestyle options, at the same time playing an active role in the Singapore arts and creative scene. From 2011, The Arts House will focus on the development of Literary Arts in Singapore while supporting and presenting programmes and events that aim to give a wider and multi-disciplinary experience. For further information, please visit www.theartshouse.com.sg.
For media queries, please contact:
Executive, Marketing and Communications The Arts House (Managed by the Old Parliament House Limited)
1 Old Parliament Lane, Singapore 179429
Tel: +65 6332 6903 Fax: +65 6336 3021
Writing Our Worlds - Open House activities
Heng On The World - The Cartoons Of Heng Kim Song
Gallery | 22-29 Mar | 10am – 8pm
For the first time in over 10 years, the award-winning cartoonist Heng Kim Song will be staging only his second solo exhibition in Singapore, presenting a selection of his works culled from the past two decades. His editorial cartoons have long been a staple in our local newspapers, critiquing the world’s affairs through an Asian point of view. His cartoons entertain and provoke – usually both at the same time – but more importantly, educate. His works have been used as teaching materials in schools, where students are encouraged to write essays on them.
Meet The Artist: Heng will be at The Arts House at 3pm on 26th March to meet the audience and share about his works.
When God is a Customer
Chamber | 25 Mar | 8pm | By invitation only
In this contemporary theatrical experience based on Indian Bharatanatyam, choreographer/dancer Priyalatha Arun has set the dance to poems on erotic devotion from India (1st – 17th century A.D.) and China (3rd – 6th century A.D.). The poems articulate the relationship between the devotee and her god in terms of intensely imagined erotic experiences, expressed in bold but also in delicately nuanced tones. This performance is a special preview of the full-length work from 1-2 July at The Arts House.
Meet The Characters
Living Room | 26 Mar | 4.30pm Performed by The Young Arts Academy, this interactive performance features young talents who will inhabit wonderful, eccentric and colourful characters from Singapore’s literary works. Audiences are invited to follow them as they wander through the House and ask them questions about their life and experiences. Formed in March 2011, this group of artists from 13-17 years old come from a diverse range of backgrounds. Most of them are beneficiaries of The Business Times Budding Artists Fund (BTBAF).
Chamber | 26 Mar | 6pm
Within the confines of the historic Chamber, two opposing teams of six members each will duke it out in this literary hip hop battle! Through a combination of words and music, these young talents will strive to impress a live audience in the battle for supremacy, “mediated” by Sheikh Haikel, Singapore’s pioneering hip hop recording artiste and founder of Soul Theory Studios. Accompanied by DJs, lyrical dance performances and a panel of distinguished judges from the literary and music industries, Lyrical Parley promises an evening full of fireworks and creative action!
Man/Born/Free: Writings on the Human Spirit from Singapore Book Launch
Living Room | 26 Mar | 11am
Man/Born/Free is an exciting initiative to commemorate the relationship between Singapore and South Africa as extended through the Spotlight Singapore in Cape Town event, which took place from 16-19 March. This literary anthology testifies to the social reflections of generations of Singaporean writers and their inquiries into issues of freedom, equality, humanity, and hope. The selection brings together works originally written in English, Chinese, Malay, and Tamil across almost six decades of Singaporean life. The launch will feature Gwee Li Sui (editor of the anthology) and writers Ng Yi-Sheng, Elangovan, Yeng Pway Ngon and Anuar Othman.
Singapore Shifting Boundaries - Social Change In The Early 21st Century Book Launch
Chamber | 26 Mar | 2pm Singapore Shifting Boundaries aims to depict the richly textured and nuanced fabric of social life in Singapore in the early 21st century, as Singaporeans live in a blur of shifting boundaries where past, present and future co-exist. Thirty-six commentators, artists and activists of different ages and backgrounds, including Alfian Sa’at, Quah Sy Ren, Jean Chong, Chua Beng Huat, Haresh Sharma, Lucy Davis, Glen Goei, Kenneth Paul Tan and Tan Pin Pin share their views in stimulating and compact pieces that come in a variety of literary forms, including essays, commentaries, reflections, poems, dialogues, novel and script excerpts, blog entries and presentations.
‘A’ Is For Achar, ‘L’ Is For Love Book Reading
Living Room | 26 Mar | 2pm
Accompanied by noted musician Shane Thio on piano, award-winning dancer/choreographer/writer Tammy L Wong will read excerpts from her upcoming first book, ‘A’ is for Achar, ‘L’ is for Love. As her 94 year-old Popo’s health takes an unexpected turn, Tammy finds herself returning back to her grandmother’s kitchen, in search of the Peranakan foods of a childhood spent growing up in Popo’s house. Her motive is simply to reclaim these foods, particularly the seven dishes Popo makes every Chinese New Year, so that when her grandmother eventually passes on, Tammy can continue this culinary tradition for her family, and claim for herself, her Popo for always.
Community Art/ Workshops/ Tour
Street Art at Old Parliament
The Arts House outdoors | 26 Mar | 11am – 6pm
Street artists and communities from all over are descending upon the Old Parliament, as they seek to transform the open space of The Arts House into a work of art! In this street art community project led by Social Creatives, a local social enterprise, the hoarding surrounding The Arts House becomes a blank canvas for the artists and public to paint their thoughts and words. Drawing inspiration from excerpts from If We Dream Too Long by literary pioneer Goh Poh Seng, widely recognised as Singapore’s first novel, they will interpret his words and express their own creativity on the mural.
WOW Free Workshops
Blue Room | 26 Mar | 11am – 2pm (every hour) From drawing your own world, to custom-making your own book and bookmark, these workshops will help you craft and make something that you can proudly call your own.
Draw A Better World | 11am During the 60-minute session, an artist will bring you on a tour of your imagination through doodling using the methods of renowned TV artist Oistein Kristiansen. You will learn some quick doodle techniques, like adding eyes, objects and background / theme. Make Your Own Book | 12pm Bookmaking artist Eriko Hirashima will teach one of the oriental binding techniques to create your own book from scratch. Bring along your scrap paper to recycle! A Personal Bookmark | 1pm Stamp your imprint on a personalised bookmark, as a handicraft artist will show you how to design and fabricate custom-made bookmarks.
A Storyteller’s Tour Of The Arts House
The Arts House | 26 Mar | 11am – 2pm (every hour)
Have you walked the Walk of Shame in the former Parliament House? Do you know that the Tudor Rose leading to the Central Tower was carved from the remnants of the Victoria Tower in Britain’s Houses of Parliament? Do you know that the bronze elephant statue was a gift from King Chulalongkorn of Siam? Learn about these nuggets and more, as storytellers from the Storytellers’ Circle take you on a tour of the almost 200-year-old building.
Major Literary Initiatives
The following are some of the key initiatives that The Arts House will launch this year*:
The Arts House/NUS Writing Residency 2011
August 2011 to July 2012
The Arts House and NUS University Scholars Programme have re-established the yearlong Writing Residency, which is now open to writing talents from all over the world. The Writing Residency aims to nurture emerging talents and encourage the creation of new literary works. The programme will also encourage discussion and interaction between the selected writer and students and writers in Singapore. The call for applications will go out in end March, and the residency will last from August 2011 to July 2012.
Asian Festival of Children’s Content
Organised by The Arts House and the National Book Development Council of Singapore, the Asian Festival of Children’s Content celebrates exciting new ways to engage, educate and empower the world’s children on a global stage through uniquely Asian content. The four key programmes for the second edition of the festival are: Asian Children's Writers & Illustrators Conference, Asian Children's Publishers Symposium, Asian Children's Media Summit and Asian Primary and Preschool Teachers Congress. Registrations are now open and more information can be found soon on www.afcc.com.sg.
Sept 2011 (Dates TBC) This inaugural three-day event will be the first of its kind in Singapore. The Translation Symposium aims to promote the development and explore the potential of the field of translation. The event seeks to generate wider appreciation of literary works and writing in the four main languages of Singapore, while developing new areas for the literary scene.
Singapore Writers Festival
Organised by the National Arts Council (NAC) with The Arts House as a key programming partner, the Singapore Writers Festival goes annual this year to showcase even more of the world's major literary talents as well as new Asian and Singapore writing. In the last edition in 2009, a total of 136 writers from more than 22 countries were featured in activities ranging from readings, meet-the-author sessions, panel discussions, film screenings, exhibitions, and music performances. Established in 1986, the SWF has since hosted writers like Neil Gaiman, Ma Jian, Taichi Yamada, Su Tong, Tash Aw, Alexander McCall Smith and David Mitchell amongst others.
The World Voices series features authors and poets from around the globe who are invited to share their perspectives on literature through the unique lenses of different cultures. The Arts House has played host to writers like award-winning Sri Lankan poet Vivimarie VanderPoorten, as well as Francis Tanglao-Aguas and Xu Xi, who were here as part of the American Writers Festival last September. Upcoming writers include acclaimed South African-born Australian poet John Mateer on 8 April.
New Word Order
New Word Order seeks to profile brave new literary voices, who range from up-and-coming local writers to writers who have devised new, exciting ways of working with text and words. Featured artists have included Benjamin Chow, a young performance poet who infuses poetry with music. In April, we will feature Pooja Nansi, a teacher and poet who transforms poetry in surprising ways. *All full press releases for the programmes above will be sent out closer to the above-mentioned dates.