SIFA 2018: The Festival House and The Outdoors

By Akanksha Raja

The Singapore International Festival of Arts 2018 takes place at different venues across the Civic District, including Victoria Theatre, its sprawling Empress Lawn, and the Esplanade Theatre.

Nestled comfortably between these locations is The Arts House, dubbed the Festival House. If SIFA 2018 were a living, breathing person, the Festival House is her pulsating heart. It comes alive with a series of dynamic events and activities across its many intimate and versatile spaces: workshops, group dialogues, film screenings, interactive multi-sensorial experiences, and more.

Beyond the Festival House, there are also several programmes taking place outdoors.

Here’s ArtsEquator’s round-up of top events at the Festival House and outdoor spaces.

Free Outdoor Performances

The must-see event that anchors activities at the Festival House is …Sodade… by Cirque Rouages, the acclaimed French aerial circus, renowned for its whimsical sets and performances. …Sodade… is a wistful fable about love and loss, nostalgia and letting go, retold by musicians performing on a set consisting of a 21-metre long tightrope stretched between two huge twin wheels. …Sodade… will be on show at the Empress Lawn on the first weekend of the Festival (27 –29 April, various timings in the evening.)

Festival House Outdoors

Riding on the themes of loss and nostalgia on the same weekend is the music performance 24 Hours in Lapa, composed by one of Australia’s trailblazing musicians Tamil Rogeon. The work is inspired by the tragic story of a man shot down by police while celebrating his 30th birthday in Rio de Janeiro. Performed together with Singapore’s Metropolitan Festival Orchestra, this 12-part dramatic symphony is shaped around Brazilian rhythms, with undercurrents of electronic music, reflecting on vice and the recklessness of youth. It takes place also at the Empress Lawn, 27 April at 7:30pm.

Another unmissable gig at the Empress Lawn is a one-man show by Cape Verde musician and dazzling guitarist Tcheka. His music draws from several unique influences – Brazilian and African pop, jazz, rock – as well as the non-musical, like anthropology and cinema. Tcheka’s style defies any easy definition, drawing inspiration from a myriad of global influences. Catch this musical chameleon at the Empress Lawn on 28 April, at 8:15pm.

Photo courtesy of Sara Matos

Concluding the festival is another free music performance, this time at Singapore Botanic Gardens, by the Duke Ellington Orchestra, which will perform songs by none other than their namesake – one of the most groundbreaking American jazz composers of the 20th century, Duke Ellington. Together with guest vocalists Alemay Fernandez and Nick Zavior, the group channels the legacy of Ellington as they bring back to life his iconic jazz numbers, in this free 75-minute concert that closes the festival on 12 May at 6pm.

Immersive Installations

SIFA 2018 also presents a few immersive art installations to liven up the stately building of the Old Parliament. One of them is the fascinating The Lapse Project by INTER—MISSION, from Singapore, located in Gallery II at the Arts House, 26 April – 12 May. In response to the increasing digitisation of our environment, this installation creates a world made of interfaces where spaces of artistic and cultural significance become editable, and can just as easily toggled on and off, appearing and disappearing at the viewer’s will. Through processes of digital manipulation, the multimedia installation ‘erases’ familiar landmarks that now serve as spaces for the arts around Singapore’s Civic District: National Gallery Singapore, National Museum of Singapore, and the Singapore Art Museum. The work explores the relationship between technology and our built environment, memory and legacy through engineering apparent “lapses” in structures, particles, text and images.

Another Singapore art installation is SKY KAVE by multidisciplinary artist Ferry and technical collaborator Rong Zhao. Locate at the Play Den from 8 – 12 May, it offers new ways of connecting with sound – it’s a music installation that’s visual and tactile. The “Kave” floor is made of platforms with tactile sound transducers—that enables the transmission of sound frequencies into physical vibrations.


Aside from art and performance, there are a variety of dialogues, lectures and sharing sessions to enhance the Festival experience. In tandem with the big Southeast Asian premieres of 1984 and Octavia E Butler’s The Parable of the Sower, there are book club discussions (26 April for 1984 led by Gwee Li Siu; 28 April for Parable led by Jason Erik Lundberg) on these shows and the novels they are adapted from, that are open to the public, taking place in the Living Room of the Festival House.

Internationally renowned director of Schaubühne Berlin’s Enemy of the People Thomas Ostermeier will be giving a talk at the Esplanade Theatre Circle 3 Foyer on the last day of SIFA – 12 May, 2pm. At 4pm, Singapore’s own prolific acclaimed playwright and artistic director of Checkpoint Theatre, Huzir Sulaiman, will also speak on disaster relief, humanitarian assistance, and the themes of mortality, faith and fragility that are shaping his preparation for Checkpoint’s 2019 Festival commission, Displaced Persons’ Welcome Dinner (working title), happening at the Festival House.

Photo by Zakaria Zainal

That’s ArtsEquator’s taster of events and activities at SIFA’s Festival House and outdoors. Sound exciting? That’s not all! Find out more about the Festival House programmes here, and the complete programme here.

This post is sponsored by Arts House Limited.

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