8 picks from the dreamy, mind-bending SIFA 2022

Singapore International Festival of Arts 2022 is just around the corner, with a slate of offerings that are as multidisciplinary, dreamy and mind-bending as they are spectacular and thought provoking. ArtsEquator recommends 8 shows to catch. SIFA 2022 takes place from 20 May to 5 June 2022.

With the much anticipated upcoming edition of the Singapore International Festival of Arts (SIFA 2022) peeking around the corner, eager spectators might need help choosing from the buffet of performances which have been planned for your pleasure. The festival takes place from 20 May to 5 June 2022, and is organised by Arts House Limited. 

For the next three years, the festival is helmed by festival director Natalie Hennedige, whose reputation precedes her as the artistic director of CAKE Theatre in Singapore, known for their high-concept, experimental and spectacular theatrical works. When the first wave of programmes were first unveiled at a preview in February, observers applauded the exciting, fluid and hyper contemporary ways in which the festival merges genres, and forms, eschewing the traditional categories of “theatre”, “dance”, etc, that we have come to expect from a large-scale arts festival like this. 

SIFA 2022-2024 comes with the recurring title of The Anatomy of Performance, with the theme of Ritual this year inviting both artists and audiences to think about our shared social rituals – especially pertinent when reflecting on how the pandemic has changed our lives. The festival comprises three layers of programming: Creation, which features original commissions by local and international artists, Life Profusion, which offers programmes specifically made for the virtual stage, and SIFA X, for alternative performance offerings. 

From the initial slate of programmes, we have already spied interesting multidimensional creations by artists from Singapore and beyond. Boundaries are not a part of the itinerary, so challenge yourself with something new and wonderful  There are also early bird promos, with 20% off tickets from now till end March to entice you further. 

Here are our top eight picks that we think you should book tickets for ASAP! 

1. The Once and Future

By Singaporean filmmaker Yeo Siew Hua, featuring members of the Berliner Philharmoniker 

What do you get when you combine Singapore’s famed filmmaker Yeo Siew Hua with the world renowned Berliner Philharmoniker? You get an alluring cinematic experience that will unravel your thoughts within. Yeo Siew Hua, whose film A Land Imagined won the Golden Leopard grand prize at the 71st Locarno Film Festival, uses this “expanded cinema” form to challenge our ideas of our future world. The Once and Future explores what happens when we leave our bodies behind on earth, with our memories uploaded onto a singularity known as The Labyrinth, in a large-scale journey to find an alternative for humanity’s mass extinction. Indian classical singer Anandi Bhattacharya lends her vocals as the Artificial Intelligence.

The Once and Future runs from 3-5 June 2022 at the Esplanade Theatre. Tickets are priced at $58, $68 and $88. 

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2. The Neon Hieroglyph

By 2019 Turner Prize winner and lauded British artist, Tai Shani

Jump headfirst into a world of psychedelic visuals, vivid imagery and exotic cinematography in Tai Shani’s new iteration of her film, The Neon Hieroglyph, crafted specially for SIFA 2022. Shani unleashes the wonders of her imagination, blending esoteric history, fictional stories and fantasy to invite the audience into a hallucinatory universe. She breaks down a detailed history of ergot, a fungus said to have contributed to mass hallucinations in Europe. There are also scenes that occur in “impossible places”, from ancient caves, to ice-cream sundaes, and communist witches. To top it all off, Malaysian actress Jo Kukathas graces the screen as the narrator of this exciting voyage of a film. 

The Neon Hieroglyph runs from 27-29 May 2022 at 8pm in the Pasir Panjang Power Station. Tickets are priced at $35 with limited concessions for students, NSFs and seniors. 

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3. Delicate Spells of Mind

By Australian science fiction artist, Lucy McRae

Described also as a body architect, Lucy McRae’s work involves exploring the potential and limits of the human body. In this vein, Delicate Spells of The Mind sees the human mind as an operating system, and the audience as a spectator who is malleable and open to change. This performance film navigates two separate realms of the ‘Seeker’ and the ‘Other’. The Seeker engages in acts of care and games in an attempt to escape terror and pain, while dealing with glaring thoughts within. On the other side, the world of the ‘Other’ is filled with dancers in mocap (motion capture) suits moving in orderly organisation. As the ‘Seeker’ and ‘Other’ grapple with balance and harmony, the audience contends with questions of ethics, humanity, acceptance, belonging, and more. Ultimately, the piece is open to interpretation, and invites you to contemplate your inner psyche. 

Delicate Spells of Mind is part of Life Profusion. It takes place online from 20 May – 5 June 2022. Tickets are priced at a standard rate of $15. 

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4. Mepaan

By the Singapore Chinese Orchestra and Sarawak-based creative agency Tuyang Initiative

With the delicate harmony of the Singapore Chinese Orchestra and Tuyang Initiative comes the enchanting performance titled Mepaan. The Tuyang Initiative is an organisation that has its focal point revolving around Borneo indigenous cultures, and “mepaan” means ‘always’ in Kayan, the language of the indigenous Kayan people of Borneo. The performance encompasses the sacred rituals of indigenous tribes across Southeast Asia and features a powerful merger of indigenous music and tunes with vocal valour from artists across Southeast Asia to remind  audiences of the beauty that resides within the rainforests of this region. To further intensify the Southeast Asian influence, local designer Max Tan will create intricate nature-inspired costumes, while Singapore-based photographer Sean Lee and Sarawak-based filmmaker Harry Frederick support with a moving piece that captures nature’s finest.

Mepaan is showing from 20th-22nd May 2022 at 8pm in the Pasir Panjang Power Station. Tickets are priced at $58 with limited concessions for students, NSFs and seniors.

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5. Remotes x Quantum

By filmmaker John Torres of the Philippines and playwright Eleanor Wong from Singapore

How would life be if our world was on the brink of collapse? Playwright Eleanor Wong, well known for her expansive capabilities and wit, alongside independent filmmaker John Torres whose works are said to be poetic and anthropological, explore these dimensions in their latest work, Remotes x Quantum. Singapore and the Philippines are imagined as dystopian nations who are experiencing mass injustices. The multidisciplinary piece shows people in Singapore attempting to find meaning amidst experiencing existential crises, while the citizens of the Philippines give up control of their bodies in order to survive. The piece weaves in elements of film, poetry, sound and live theatre, examining the many ways in which people are gripped in the state of possession, in all senses of the word. 

Remotes x Quantum is showing on the 25–27 May 2022 at 8pm and 28–29 May 2022 at 4pm & 8pm in The Arts House. Tickets are priced at $35 with limited concessions for students, NSFs and seniors. 

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6. Devil’s Cherry

By Singapore/Australia-based duo, Kaylene Tan and Paul Rae

Devil’s Cherry tells the haunting tale of a couple who are on their own individual journeys of finding themselves. While roaming around Australia, they stumble upon the Devil who tempts them with promises, but will these decisions be as easy as they think? This performance allows the intertwining of gorgeous poetry and stunning theatrical presentations, a signature of renowned arts duo Kaylene Tan and Paul Rae. Devil’s Cherry boasts an impeccable group of artists, from real-life couple and veteran actors Lim Kay Siu and Neo Swee Lin, to actor Elizabeth Sergeant Tan. In the line-up also is mohiniyattam-trained Indian-Australian queer dancer Raina Peterson, with “spatial audio” by Darius Kedros and “gothic outback blues” by Australian singer-songwriter C.W Stoneking. 

Devil’s Cherry runs from 3-5 June 2022 at 7.30 pm at Pasir Panjang Power Station. Tickets are priced at $48 with limited concessions for students, NSFs and seniors. 

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7. Ceremonial Enactments

By Singapore creatives MAX.TAN, Nadi Singapura and Bhaskar's Arts Academy

Singapore’s endless diversity is celebrated in this spectacular contemporary performance that showcases the multiple cultures of the nation and its various intersectionalities. In this traditional proscenium stage performance, three cultural reenactments are displayed that depict the rich depths of Southeast Asian culture. For Act I, fashion designer  MAX.TAN delivers ANG, a piece on Southeast Asian birth traditions, inspired by his mother. In Act II, a grandeur Malay wedding or majlis persandingan is portrayed in 293NW by Nadi Singapura, led by talented musician Riduan Zalani. In Act III, an ancient dance ritual performed in Hindu temples is reenacted in Yantra Mantra, presented by Bhaskar’s Arts Academy, with delicate poetry from the 18th century Tanjore Quartet and classical compositions from Sri Muthuswamy Dhikshitar.  In the video above by Katherine Allera, see a performance of process for Ceremonial Enactments.

Ceremonial Enactments runs from 21-22 May 2022 at 7.30pm in the Esplanade Theatre. Tickets are $38, $48 and $58.

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8. Oneirism

By Singapore performing arts company, SAtheCollective

Are you afraid of the unknown? Part of SIFA X, oneirism by Singapore arts group SAtheCollective allows its audience to explore the multiple, deeper dimensions of consciousness in this mystical performance. This is a piece where boundaries, conventions and hierarchies are demolished, building on the idea of freedom and transformative experiences. Many questions arise from this piece: Who are we? What is our purpose? What are we leaving behind? oneirism is divided into two pieces – oneirism Ceremony, held at Goodman Arts Centre, is a raucous piece of transformation and life, and invites the unseen into the festivities of the evening; while in oneirism Rituals at Aliwal Arts Centre, the artists are interested in exploring the traces we leave behind and things left forgotten. Tapping into Southeast Asian rituals and influences, the piece involves sonic and visual performances from a wide range of artists including indie band Tiramisu, dance company P7:1SMA and visual artist Ezzam Rahman.

oneirism Ceremony runs from 21-28 May 2022 at Goodman Arts Centre and oneirism Rituals runs from 27 May – 4 June 2022 at Aliwal Arts Centre. Tickets are free (a $10 refundable deposit is required to secure the limited spaces). 

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The Singapore International Festival of Arts (SIFA) 2022 runs from 20 May to 5 June. There is an early-bird promo for the shows, with 20% savings for tickets from now till 10 April (extended). For the SIFA 2022 programme line-up, please click here. Some programmes from Life Profusion can already be accessed here

This content is sponsored by Arts House Limited. The money earned from paid advertising goes towards covering ArtsEquator’s running costs and paying our writers and content creators. We have a strict policy regarding which content which can and cannot be sponsored. To read more about our editorial policy, please go here.

About the author(s)

Mira Sharon is an Editorial & Marketing Assistant at ArtsEquator.

Katherine Allera is an intern at ArtsEquator.

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