Another orbit around the sun and January has graced us with its presence again. But forget New Year’s resolutions — for art enthusiasts in the Little Red Dot, this month means that Singapore Art Week 2023 has arrived.
With an abundant programme of over 130 innovative and immersive events responding to the theme of ‘play’, this year’s edition promises something for everyone. You’ll be treated to events that not only bridge art, design, and technology, but also offer opportunities to experience art in new, unexpected environments.
As Singapore Art Week 2023 only runs from 6 – 15 January 2023, let us help you make the most of your time by highlighting six events that you definitely should not miss this month.
1) S.E.A. Focus
With Tanjong Pagar Distripark primed as the new arts hub to see and be seen at, it’s no surprise that S.E.A. Focus 2023 has returned to the industrial estate for its fifth edition. Helmed by STPI— Creative Workshop & Gallery, the platform strives to unite both established and emerging talents under one roof, while introducing new and familiar audiences to the best of contemporary Southeast Asian painting, sculpture, and installation.
While art fairs tend to conjure up impressions of tired feet and art fatigue, we’re pleased to learn that the S.E.A. Focus’ programme consists of a tightly-curated list of 25 new and returning galleries from the region. This means that you can take ample time to soak in whatever work catches your eye, rather than sprint through the fair in a frenzy.
This edition’s curatorial theme a world, anew proves hopeful as it reflects on how the region might envision new possibilities, foster bold dialogue, and develop novel ways of creative expression post-pandemic.
Says Joyce Toh, Head of Exhibition for S.E.A. Focus, “The last two editions of S.E.A. Focus involved imaginative ways to present art through hybrid measures such as S.E.A. Focus Digital and 3D virtual tours. Last year also saw the explosion of interest in NFTs, and how blockchain technology could connect with the conventional art world. We have a fantastic partnership with Tezos that explores that. This year, there is the big return and hunger for the real-life physical experience of art. At the same time, there is a calibration of the NFT space as we see crypto creative communities crossing over into the physical realm, and vice-versa.”
Accompanying the main event are thought-provoking panel discussions, public education programmes, and region-wide activities hosted by the fair’s partners. One collaboration that caught our eye was OFF Focus – Fringe Film Programme. Held at everyone’s favourite indie cinema The Projector and curated by Objectifs – Centre for Photography and Film, this series of artist videos and films promises to shed light on the practices of some of the region’s most distinguished practitioners, such as Rirkrit Tiravanija, Mella Jaarsma, and Tada Hengsapkul.
S.E.A. Focus 2023 will run from 6 – 15 January 2023 at Tanjong Pagar Distripark. Click here to purchase tickets.
2) Lines in Space by Tiffany Loy @ Art Outreach
For those who have taken up some form of weaving or sewing during the pandemic, this one’s for you.
Local textile artist Tiffany Loy’s site-specific commission Lines in Space will take centre stage at Art Outreach Singapore’s new location at 5 Lock Road, Gillman Barracks. Dramatic longitudinal warp lines will hang across the purpose-built exhibition space, turning the room into a loom as Loy will weave weft threads over and under them.
Blending the artist’s interest in weaving and sculpture, the immersive installation invites audiences to explore and reconsider their perceptions of space. While studying at the Royal College of Art, Loy became intrigued by “the idea of creating an extremely light textile that had more space than material.”
This developed into Lines in Space, which Loy sees as “an early attempt at conceptualising my work in a spatial context.”
Eve Hoon, the Director of Programmes & Partnerships at Art Outreach tells us that a sense of curiosity and exploration drives Loy’s works. This is evident in Loy’s process studies, which include her experimentations with the technique, scale, and medium of textile art, which will also accompany the work. Reflecting her training in industrial design in Singapore and textile-weaving in Kyoto, we’re sure the showcase will offer a brilliant, holistic understanding of the artist’s creative journey.
As for what Loy is keen for audiences to take away from the installation, she says, “I hope the pieces in this show stir a sense of curiosity in the visitors. [They can engage in] the experience of looking at something very closely in order to make sense of it – tracing the lines with their eyes, and indulging in the very act of looking [and] observing.”
P.S.: while you’re at Art Outreach Singapore’s new location, be sure to check out the reference library there. It was started in memory of the late Tan Boon Hui, who had worked with Art Outreach Singapore on the organisation’s IMPART Art Prize.
Lines in Space by Tiffany Loy will run from 4 – 22 January at Art Outreach Singapore, 5 Lock Road, Gillman Barracks. Click here to learn more.
3) Let’s Play Ball ! – Art That Fits in Your Palm by Knuckles & Notch
Let’s Play Ball ! – Art That Fits in Your Palm by Risograph printing and publishing studio Knuckles & Notch is sure to take you back to your childhood. This immersive experience offers a fresh take on the ‘Gachapon’ capsule vending machines that many of us grew up seeing in shopping malls.
Knuckles & Notch’s Co-founder & Studio Manager Goh Yun Jin Marl hopes that by re-imagining ‘Gachapon’, visitors will be excited to relive a time in their lives that was synonymous with play. While prizes from traditional ‘Gachapon’ capsule vending machines included miniature toy figurines, Knuckles & Notch’s take on the machines will offer limited edition artist objects and collectables instead. This way, you’ll be able to take home unique souvenirs designed and created by 10 visual artists from a variety of practices, such as cartoon creators highnunchicken (who you might have seen on Instagram!), Singapore photographer and artist Calvin Chow, and Ng Yin Shian, a.k.a Bungle Jym.
A penchant for analogue lies at the heart of the event, as also reflected in the accompanying Risograph printing workshops. According to Goh, these offerings will enable audiences to “understand and fully appreciate each artist’s creative process and artistic journey.”
Let’s Play Ball! – Art That Fits in Your Palm will not only leave you hankering for the good old days when analogue technology reigned, but will also encourage you to reconsider the playful forms that art can embody. Summing it up, Goh shares that the studio hopes to inspire visitors to view art as an experience at their fingertips instead of an abstract entity, while also reminding them that play can be found in simple acts such as the cranking of a ‘Gachapon’ machine.
Let’s Play Ball by Knuckles & Notch will take place from 6 – 22 January 2023 at Knuckles & Notch / Chaos Gallery, 261 Waterloo Street, #02-25.
4) Third Wheeling by Awkward Party
If you’ve ever been caught awkwardly alone with a canoodling couple, you’re probably wondering what an experiential installation titled Third Wheeling has to offer by way of entertainment. Discomfort is certainly on the menu in this interactive ‘speed dating-style’ dining experience by lifestyle studio Awkward Party. Taking the all-too-familiar experience of awkwardness as a starting point, Third Wheeling opens the floor to creative re-imaginings of how we relate to one another through communal dining.
Conceptualised by fashion designer Rachael Cheong and visual artist Sheryll Goh, Awkward Party is an evolving lifestyle studio which aims to “spark uncomfortable conversations between the art world, cultural tastemakers and the masses” through food. The project grew out of their shared fascination with all things loud, dramatic, and more specifically, Singaporean kitsch — think chair socks, early 2000s function-room gatherings, “Good Morning” Whatsapp stickers, Angry Bird plushies, gingham and satin… the list goes on.
Goh explains, “Speed dating shouldn’t be limited to romance, [and] we secretly think everyone can do with a new friend or two. Whether you’re outgoing or shy, there’s something for everyone at Third Wheeling. Our mission is to get people inching out of their comfort zone just a little more than usual.”
The event features a “spicy” option, Goh tells us, if you’re looking for a serendipitous encounter and to be matchmade with a mystery pair. With the “non-spicy” option, you’ll get an experience that’s “just a twist on the usual get-together with mates.”
In collaboration with Artichoke, a Middle Eastern-inspired kebab and mezze bar nestled in the heart of Singapore’s arts and cultural district, Third Wheeling invites you to partake in a disruptive floor-to-ceiling installation. Goh reminisces:
“Artichoke is also a special place to me – [it’s] where I saved up for my first ‘fancy’ meal, dined in a group of 5 after the first circuit breaker lifted..[I’ve] celebrated birthdays there and dined solo.”
Be prepared to work for your food, as the limited edition menu will be hidden within the installation, which will feature larger-than-life centrepieces made out of unassuming objects like cutlery, tablecloths, utensils, and candelabras. Third Wheeling is ticketed at $75/pax, but for those who aren’t able to secure the limited slots for the dining experience, fret not! The installation will be displayed in its “lived-in” state for all audiences.
Third Wheeling by Awkward Party will take place on 10 & 11 January 2023 at Artichoke, 161 Middle Road. Book your tickets and learn more about the event here.
5) Islands Time-Based Art (ITBA) Festival
Islands Time-Based Art Festival (ITBA) is an artist-initiated festival that spotlights practices which are transitory and ephemeral. In tune with the old adage, “No man is an island,” the festival aims to cultivate connections between clusters of ideas and diverse art forms. These include performance art, dance, sound art, theatre, live improvisations, and more.
The theme for this year’s edition, “Just in Time”, resonates with the sense of being displaced into a different, almost elastic sort of untimeliness, and of being thrust into the urgent precarity that we’ve all experienced over the course of the “ever-cascading crises which face us today”.
ITBA 2023 calls on artists to respond to how we are “creatures of time.” It brings home the idea that “as much as we share it, kill it, find it, use it, take it, and need it…time is never truly ours.”
The festival will be held at Centre 42’s Blackbox and Rehearsal Studio, with artist interviews, and a series of artist-run workshops by practitioners such as SLN & Schizophrenic Wonderland, Pat Toh and Aiwei Foo, amongst others. If you’ve always been curious about movement, noise, or experimental electronic music, the workshops will be a good chance to engage in experiential exercises and creative activities. Embracing unconventional, multidisciplinary art forms, ITBA 2023 looks to be an exciting platform to welcome the flux of time.
Islands Time-Based Art (ITBA) Festival runs from 7 – 15 January at Blackbox Rehearsal Studio, 42 Waterloo Street. Click here for details of the individual performances and how to sign up.
6) ARTWALK 2023
After two years of being held in online and hybrid formats, the multidisciplinary arts festival ARTWALK returns in full force this coming January. In its ninth edition, the festival aims to amplify the vibrant “echoes” of culture and tradition reverberating across Little India and Katong-Joo Chiat. ARTWALK offers participants the chance to delve into the living histories of these familiar spaces with a slate of varied art experiences that range from installations and murals to workshops, food tours, and performances fusing music, dance, poetry and theatre.
Says Milenko Prvacki, Senior Fellow, LASALLE College of the Arts who curates and spearheads ARTWALK:
“The metaphor of an echo reminds us that our culture is in constant flux. So what I hope visitors take away from ARTWALK is that through contemporary art and expression, we can find ways to echo—to pay tribute to, and to draw inspiration from—our cultural heritage. This is how we can preserve traditions, but also how our culture can keep growing and evolving in the years to come.”
If you’re looking to indulge your palate, Rachel & The Rempah Runaways, a dinner theatre experience, and Kim Choo Kueh Chang’s Peranakan Boutique Tour both sound tantalising. Veteran storyteller Kamini Ramachandran will also be sharing more about the Tamil harvest festival Pongal, which coincides with the end of SAW 2023, through traditional boiled-rice dishes. If you’re one for the crafts, try your hand at stamp-carving with Artefakts (@artefakts.sg), or learn more about the colourful art of rangoli with workshops by Vijaya Mohan.
Alternatively, if you’re looking to explore the area on your own, be sure to check out murals by Zulkarnaen Othman, better known by his moniker ZERO, Soph O (@waywardclouds), Laurie Maravilla (SPAZ), and Mural Lingo. Video installations by Urich Lau, and a soundscape woven out of “the echoes of Singapore’s past” will be up too. There will also be showcases by students from LASALLE across a range of specialisations — dance, broadcast media, fashion design and textiles — that respond in one way or the other to the cultural environment.
Singapore Art Week runs from 6 – 15 January 2023. Click here to find out more.
Feature image courtesy of LASALLE College of the Arts.
This article is produced in partnership with the National Arts Council. Thank you for supporting the institutions that support Plural.