Thursday, December 1, 2011

Art Brings Education to Life

Void: Utopia by Lim Shengen at SAM

The M1 Singapore Fringe Festival returned for its seventh year from 5 to 16 January 2011. Organised and curated by The Necessary Stage, the festival featured interactive events and artistic exchanges. It showcased over 20 works and performances from artists of several genres from 10 countries all over the world. These include dance, theatre, music and visual arts. The festival’s line-up included ticketed performances as well as free admissions to special exhibitions.

However what differentiated this arts festival from any other is its original concept to examine how art can be used as a tool to educate. “Identified for its ability to impart knowledge, art can be used to acquire new perspectives and insights to what people already know, especially for the youths,“ said Melissa Lim, Festival Manager.

However, not only can art educate, it can also be used to indoctrinate, especially when there is a lack of active engagement and discourse, both of which are elements crucial to the process of education. Shahrin Latif, Project Management Director explained: “The process of art creation can also be informed and educated by the interaction with audiences and communities, and through the Festival's works, we will also look at how artists experience learning processes as they create art.”

The M1 Singapore Fringe Festival ushered in the brand New Year by officially opening with the exhibition, two Fringe Highlights from India and

Singapore, one of which is Achinto Bhadra’s Another Me: Transformations from Pain to Power which offers a glimpse into the stories of female and child survivors of abuse and abandonment.

Another Me: Transformations from Pain to Power

The other highlight is School of Hard Knocks by home grown collective, the little dröm store, which celebrates the much-loved and remembered playgrounds of yesteryear.

School of Hard Knocks

These two highlights successfully struck a cord with youths. Tina Wong, 22, university student felt very strongly about Achinto Bhadra’s Another Me as she thinks that this documentary really touches the hearts of viewers. “It definitely promotes awareness amongst people, especially youths, of the unpleasant side of people’s lives in another part of the world that we are not exposed to and to me this is how art and education becomes one,” She shared.

Darryl Tay, 21, polytechnic student also expressed his appreciation for the highlights: “School of Hard Knocks is particularly close to heart for me. Playgrounds were like our schools when we were young, a place to learn about life and to let our imagination run wild.”

Something About Education But Not Exactly by Leung Chi Wong - Installation at Esplanade

The 2011 festival was held at several venues, namely, Esplanade – Theatres at the Bay, National Museum of Singapore, Singapore Art Museum, The Substation, The Arts House and ION Orchard. It also featured its strongest Asian line-up yet, with artists from Japan, China, Singapore, and, for the first time ever, India and Korea. Several works also made their first ever appearance in the festival, with four works making their Asian premieres and 10 works their world premieres.

There were also seven new local commissions, among them was the new play by two former TNS collaborators Sean Tobin and Natalie Hennedige, “What Did You Learn Today?”.

“I was really captured by the play which is about the darkness and tenderness of teaching and learning. I find that the theme is well brought out through the actors’ way of communication with the audience and it made me feel that I’m not only enjoying art but also learning through it,” expressed Jaslyn Tay, 19 Polytechnic student. In line with the theme of the Festival, there will be a special segment entitled Back to School, featuring a selection of works that deals with the concept of education in school or engage educators and students as part of its creative process.

“Not only was the M1 Singapore Fringe Festival 2011 a platform for art that provokes and inspires, it also seeked to enlighten and exhilarate and this is how art can bring education to life,” said Alvin Tan, Artistic Director of The Necessary Stage.