15 07 2010

From “Future of Imagination” to “R.I.T.E.S.”

We hope to make “R.I.T.E.S.” a regular monthly event.

With that as our foremost agenda of priorities amongst a list of other fundamental concerns identified as important, but alas yet unachievable, within the limited resources it is not out of pessimism that for now what is possible is to at least make this regular occurrence happen. We went in headlong into an attempt to make performance art a regular feature in our evolving cultural landscape in our beloved land of Singapore, an island city-state considered by some to be of utopian possibilities and yet for others the ultimate panopticon where all corners of life is regulated and cultural work is not easily motivated by individualistic directions, more likely to be meticulously and firmly engineered for the sake of order and harmony of society at large.

Can we be blamed for resonating with one euphemism after another, or perhaps strutting out naïvely, with anachronistic, exaggerated idealism? Depending on one’s perception on the troubled cultural exercise or practice such as performance art within the current context of contemporary art which is in the likely tendency to be descending into fun and games along the way usually flaunted in spectacles for mass public consumption, as the paymasters have to justify the release of public funding for a more tangible, visible and desirable return.

In 2003 we decided to take up the challenge of picking up the pieces when arts funding for performance art resumed after 10 years of deprivation. In naming the international performance art event as the “Future of Imagination”, we expressed mixed feelings of joyful relief that the closed doors of bureaucracy were offering us much needed support. At the same time there remains an uncomfortable suspicion that we were enticed into becoming pawns for the stately kingdom of cultural propaganda, as support and sponsorship will always remain offered only within the boundaries of regulations and censure.

Despite it being subject to the various problematical statuses of mistaken notions, uneven discourses and presumptuous deductions, we have managed to organize and hold the “Future of Imagination” international performance art event altogether six times in seven years. It is with a conscious effort to respond to the discrepancies of the formulated format of a 4 or 5 days international festival which has increasingly proliferated around the region that we have decided that FOI be put on the shelf while we try something else in order to confront the limitations of presenting performance art in the festival format.

Not that R.I.T.E.S. is going to address all the issues but there is a desire to do something about the complacency and directionless of contemporary culture. Artists do not only participate as cultural producers in order to satisfy the customers of pleasurable entertainments and consumers of satisfying creature comforts and desires, but to also actively petition or beg for more mindful participation by those around us who care about asking where humanity is going and not just following the trends dictated by the tyranny of status quo.

Besides the intention of R.I.T.E.S. to facilitate performance art becoming a regular feature in our cultural landscape by way of live presentations, we have also identified the need to create a discursive and intellectually stimulated environment by way of talks, workshops to create the propensity to encourage reflection and educated assessments of the works seen. Documentation is a recurring concern if not an obsession amongst performance artists however it is dispersed amongst individual artists and ad hoc art groups for their own personal use. The establishment of a collective resource archival center assessable to the public for research is badly needed. A serious survey of performance art in Singapore and the region is long overdue, as the pace of change has been accelerated that it would be most advantageous for artists and audiences to look back over the years in order to further embark with current and future work.

Although we have set out with various possible action plans we must admit that our resources have not been sufficient enough to afford going beyond that of presentations on a monthly basis as the constant negotiation for a venue and making applications for the license to perform in public takes time. Hence it is fortunate that we have found an enlightened institution with parallel concerns and made tentative agreement to go into partnership with the Institute of Contemporary Arts Singapore (ICAS). For a start this helps to alleviate the need to look for a venue each month and free us from the licensing process at the same time. We are hopeful that in time to come ICAS will be helping us to fulfill the other objectives and reap the mutual benefits of enhancing our cultural scenario. We look forward towards working with making real our imagined dreams, and with concerted efforts realize together that which is rooted in the ephemeral may still speak of truths worthy of keep.



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