Book Launch - Making Visible the Invisible: Three Decades of the Singapore Arts Festival





Making Visible the Invisible: Three Decades


of the Singapore Arts Festival


by Venka Purushothaman



Commissioned by the National Arts Council to commemorate the 30th Anniversary of the Singapore Arts Festival, Making Visible the Invisible is the first attempt to document the genesis and the growth of the Arts Festival over the last three decades. Written by Mr Venka Purushothaman, the book, which comprises three parts, looks at how this juncture of the Festival’s 30th anniversary makes it an opportune time to revisit its milestones, examine its impact in nurturing the Singapore cultural scene and its leadership role as an international arbiter of taste.


As Ms Goh Ching Lee, Director of the Singapore Arts Festival, muses in the prologue of the book, ''What, then, is the impact of the loss of a festival?'', the centrality of the Singapore Arts Festival to the development of the local arts scene and the fostering of a sense of cultural identity has been the imperative for it to re-brand itself successfully as an international festival with a strong Asian contemporary feel.


Come and witness the launch of this seminal work as artists, arts administrators, media, academics and other industry players gather to celebrate the iconic, homegrown Singapore Arts Festival.


Part 1: Arts, Culture and Policy: Singapore Arts Festival examines the Festival's role in cultural production against the changing context of a developing Singapore and globalisation. Besides detailing the development of the Festival over the years, as helmed by different festival directors and how their programming visions have shaped the Festival into a ''bold and progressive festival'' today, the writer poses questions relating to the sustenance, value and ideals of the Festival. The questions extend to topics that have cropped up over the last few years in the media, such as the continued relevance of the Festival and the dynamic negotiation of cultural entrepreneurship with festival viability and its function in forging a cohesive national identity.


The second part of the book, Mapping the Festival evokes a renewed focus, with its sampling of photos from past productions and signature moments in the Festival’s history while Part 3: Vox Vocis gives voice to the stories of past participants of the Festival, which, for some of them, was their debut platform catapulting them into the next stage of arts development. Various arts managers and personalities involved in the steering of the Arts Festival as well as international festival directors and players also contributed anecdotes. The book ends off with a timeline that marks the Festival’s milestones.


Making Visible the Invisible is one of several initiatives to celebrate the Singapore Arts Festival’s 30th Anniversary. The others were launched earlier in June this year: the Singapore Festival Orchestra (serving as the Festival's resident orchestra), platforms for nurturing local talent (Forward Moves, Full Frontal, Festival Fantasia) and the signing of a strategic alliance between the Singapore Arts Festival and Edinburgh International Festival.


About the Author

Venka Purushothaman started a relationship with the Singapore Arts Festival as an audience member, a young liaison officer for the artist Marcel Marceau in 1996, an associate director of marketing in the 1999 Festival, to being a representative in various programme committees. Today, he is a member of the Arts Festival’s steering committee. Venka is Pro Vice-President (Development) and Dean, Faculty of Performing Arts & Integrated Studies at LASALLE College of the Arts, Singapore. His teaching and research interests include the creative industries and cultural policy in Asia and Singapore, and business planning for the arts. Prior to academia, Venka worked with various not-for-profit and for-profit arts and cultural organisations in Singapore. He continues to work with the arts community through representation in funding and policy-making bodies, and his writings on visual arts and theatre. His publications include Narratives: Notes on A Cultural Journey, Cultural Medallion Recipients, 1979-2001 (2002) and Salleh Japar: Gurindam dan Igauan (2004).


This book launch is part of the Singapore Writers Festival 2007.