Experience an audio-guided walking trail along Singapore’s historic Waterloo Street.
Waterloo Street is a smorgasbord of sensory experiences, from Hindu and Buddhist temples coexisting side by side, to old uncles and aunties hawking religious paraphernalia, shaded by their New Moon abalone umbrellas, and stalls offering acupuncture services, amongst other things. The energy generated by the residents and visitors of the street overflow into the nearby Stamford Arts Centre, itself a historic building—it’s housed a number of schools since the 1920s—that today is home to various traditional arts groups in Singapore. This vibrant nexus was where I found myself last weekend, on a preview of Artist’s Block, an audio-guided trail by ArtWave, organised by Arts House Limited.
Audio content house ArtWave conceptualised this trail to find the connections between the spaces and studios of Stamford Arts Centre, the artists that occupy it, and how the location and history of the Centre inspire and impact their creative processes. What’s unique about this trail is how it gives participants the rare opportunity to visit the inner spaces of four arts groups, which are normally not accessible to the public, and get a close-up experience of the intricacies of their specific crafts – from the eclectic chamber music of Ding Yi Music Company, to how P7:1SMA draws from Malay traditions in its contemporary practice, the richness of Indian classical dance of Shantha Ratii Initiatives, to the vibrant Chinese opera from Traditional Arts Centre.
To take part in this audio trail, you are required to download the Echoes app on your phone, to access the tour’s audio aspects. However, what sets this trail apart from other audio tours is how it has weaved in the environment of the surrounding Waterloo Street, as well as specially curated live experiences within the individual artist studios into the trail. In fact, right at the beginning, you are asked to take a step outside the Centre to soak in the atmosphere. Later, at another point during the trail, you are invited to stop at a vantage point and look out towards Waterloo Street, while an artist explains how the view inspires his art and the company’s process. This ties in with ArtWave’s aim of wanting participants to “know more about the artists themselves, their hopes, their wishes”.
In designing this trail, it is evident that ArtWave has worked closely with the four artists-in-residence, not only including audio interviews with the artists into the tour, but also live visual and interactive elements, which helps to convey the energy and spirit that these artists themselves experience and exert, whilst practising their art.
For example, as practitioners of traditional Chinese chamber music, Ding Yi invites you to experience the euphoria that accompanies the sheer physicality of the rhythm of the music that they play. The practitioners of Traditional Arts Centre impress upon you the importance of attention to detail – evident when you listen to their interviews while viewing their elaborate opera costumes at the same time. You can picture in your mind’s eye, the focus of the practitioners, putting on their costumes and their makeup, layer by layer.
In the studio of dance company P7:1SMA, you might find yourself moving in ways you haven’t done for a long time, stretching your limbs (and vocal cords!) and trying your hardest to break a piñata the artists have set up. Separately, Indian dance practitioner Shantha Ratii cleverly incorporates a saree as she invites you to imagine the many generations of Indian women engaging in this centuries-old ritual over the years. If you are in luck, you might also witness the dance teacher in her element, teaching her craft to her students. ArtWave hopes that these experiences will help visitors feel as though they’ve “taken a tiny step into the world of each of these artists”.
In our own ways, we do have more of a connection to the traditional arts than we realise. In 45 minutes, we are led to various artist spaces, getting to meet them and seeing their crafts up close. It encourages a deeper appreciation of the day-to-day efforts that go into preserving and practising art, which are easy to take for granted by audiences when we are so often separated from the performers by a stage in a theatre. Here, these boundaries are eradicated, and through experiencing the combination of both live and recorded music, audio interviews and in-person sharings, live sights and experiences in the very spaces these artists create in, we are better able to understand why some are so deeply drawn to practising art, and appreciate their immense love for the craft.
By the end, the trail succeeds in making us be part of the synergy that propels the artistic process, hopefully inspiring us to take that creative energy onwards as we go about our day. As I melted back into the activity of Waterloo Street at the end of the tour, what stood out to me was the distinct vitality of these artists, flowing back out to the street in easy harmony.
Artist’s Block by ArtWave runs over two weekends, 26-27 February, and 5-6 March 2022 at Stamford Arts Centre.. Multiple sessions are available on all days, with each session running for approximately 45 minutes. Tickets cost $6. This trail is both stroller and wheelchair-friendly.
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