Prologue 2020 Begins The Arts House’S Calendar Of Programmes With A Voyage Through Cities Real, Invisible, And Imagined
Singapore, 3 December 2019 —The Arts House, Singapore’s home for the literary arts, will be lit from both within and without. Following a successful inaugural edition in 2019, Prologue is where Singapore's literary arts centre begins the year with a sampler of various house programmes that will go on to form its annual calendar of events. Held in conjunction with National Gallery’s Light to Night Festival which coincides with Singapore Art Week, the façade of Singapore’s oldest colonial building will be woven into the larger canvas of the civic district through spectacular digital art projections, and The Arts House is where stories of the city will resound and reside from 10 to 19 January 2020.
Responding to Italo Calvino’s novel Invisible Cities, this year’s edition brings two weekends of intimate multidisciplinary performances, installations, and interactive activities that grapple with our evolving sense of urbanism. Alongside the unveiling of Nuraliah Norasid’s newly commissioned sonnet “The Roadmaps of Districts”, join us as we trace the relationships between cities new and old, past and present, real and imagined.
In a time where societies often present themselves through the language of world cities and global metropolises, Prologue echoes Invisible Cities in its excavation of urban landscapes and imagined communities. Framed through a fictional dialogue between explorer Marco Polo and emperor Kublai Khan, Calvino’s novel forms the nucleus of this year’s programming as the festival examines the constructedness of cities as expressions of memory, desire, loss, and ineffable facets of the human condition.
Arts House Limited (AHL) CEO Sarah Martin says, “Prologue not only provides audiences with a taste of what they can expect to see at The Arts House in 2020, but also signifies The Arts House's position as a home for the literary arts. Through its vibrant array of multidisciplinary programmes, Prologue expands the possibilities of how people perceive and experience the written word. Taking the cue from Light to Night Festival's overarching theme of "Invisible Cities", Prologue will explore the relationship between people and places, and how our perceptions of the metropolis are shaped by personal memories and shared social histories. Our programmes, which range from literary arts to music and visual arts, will probe the construct of a "city" – real and imagined – in different ways: as sensorial experiences, gritty realities, and intricate mindscapes.”
“The Arts House, housed at the Old Parliament House, is an iconic building rich in history and infused with endless possibilities for the future. Prologue 2020, curated by Alicia Chong from our programming team, invites us all to enjoy the poetry of cities possible and real, at this unique building and location” adds Rupert Thomson, Head, Artistic Programmes (AHL Venues).
As you venture beyond The Arts House, let the logic of the city unfold into a world of whimsy with open books, the signature highlight of Prologue. Bringing back two visual dioramas to The Arts House Lawn, this year’s edition takes inspiration from the magical realism of Haruki Murakami’s “Kafka on the Shore” and “The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle”. Created by Ly Yeow and Tell Your Children, and co-designed and built by The Merry Men Works, these larger-than-life installations bring to life the otherwordly landscape of Murakami’s fiction.
Soundscapes of the City
As sound and noise layer upon each other to form the rhythm of a city, Prologue invites audiences to consider sound as a cipher of urban expression.
A language of freedom and improvisation that emerged from the streets, jazz in the hands of local quintet Varsha both creates and disrupts. Returning to The Arts House after a successful performance at the 2019 Singapore International Festival of Arts with a new performance entitled Impulse, listen to their unique fusion of rock and Indian classical music as they perform material from their upcoming EP. Expect bold re-arrangements of classic jazz standards in an eclectic combination of English, Tamil, Telugu, and Hindi.
Sound translates into motion in Note for Note: Stop, Look & Listen. With the overarching theme of motion, 16 poets lend their words to a collage of poems that attempt to decipher, describe and define the city. Spoken word converges with a sonic landscape as they are read alongside an intimate performance blending city sounds with music, meditating upon the city as speed, scene, and sound.
In the second instalment to Goddesses of Words, an ensemble of prominent local Indian actresses gather their voices in response to the words of local poets Pooja Nansi and Deborah Emmanuel. Spearheaded by writer-director Grace Kalaiselvi, catch this devised theatre work featuring impassioned female voices in the face of a frenetic urban society that often erases and effaces. This work-in-progress showcase will echo and lead into Textures, The Arts House’s celebration of Singapore Literature coming up in March 2020.
Politics of the Urban Space in The Chamber
Continuing the sonic strains of the city, By Candlelight: Beethoven’s Fidelio presents a special 1-hour adaptation of Ludwig Van Beethoven’s only opera. In celebration of the composer’s 250th birthday, this performance will feature an ensemble of some of Singapore’s finest young singers including David Charles Tay, Felicia Teo Kaixin, and Jonathan Charles Tay. They will bring to life the compelling story of a woman who disguises herself as the titular Fidelio to infiltrate a prison and rescue her husband who is being kept as a political prisoner. Performed in the Chamber, this special edition of The Arts House’s regular classical music series hearkens back to its erstwhile title as “The Old Parliament House” in an exploration of prisons as invisible cities of their own.
In the second weekend of Prologue, British-Nigerian contemporary artist Yinka Shonibare CBE, RA will also activate the Chamber with an immersive, site-specific installation that takes us across time and straits. Entitled Justice For All, Shonibare’s interpretation of British sculptor F.W. Pomeroy’s Lady Justice has her adorned in various permutations of the batik print including his signature Dutch wax batik print. Subverting traditional and national iconographies, Shonibare reconfigures her into a pseudo-symbol that stands juxtaposed against the backdrop of the Chamber—the heart of Singapore’s oldest colonial building. This installation is presented by the Asian Art Institutum, together with The Arts House and Stephen Friedman Gallery, London, as part of Singapore Art Week.
Cities Real and Invented, Spliced Through Time
Segue into 19th Century Vienna in our Beethoven Listening Party that will immerse you into the world of Ludwig Van Beethoven, one of the world’s greatest composers. Embark on a journey into the city of Baroque through Beethoven’s life, music, and discover how his work still resonates throughout the songs and sounds of today. As you delve into recordings of his most important compositions, wander off into the balmy Singaporean night with an acoustic imprint of Vienna on your mind.
Two roads diverge; one leads to a city of the dystopian future, and the other to a city of the disillusioning past. This edition of A Novel Idea places audiences at the proverbial crossroads as they cast their vote between John Steinbeck’s “Of Mice and Men” and Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale”. Watch as Samantha Scott-Blackhall directs the stellar cast of Janice Koh and Daniel Jenkins in a dramatic stage reading that will transport audiences either to the bleakness of Steinbeck’s Californian landscape in The Great Depression, or Atwood's fictional totalitarian republic of Gilead that treads close to reality.
Returning us to a place closer to home, Marjorie Doggett’s Singapore: A Photographic Record gives us an unvarnished glimpse of Singapore as seen through the lens of pioneering local woman photographer, Marjorie Doggett. Best known for her work as an animal rights advocate, Doggett’s expeditions as a self-taught photographer has taken her all over Singapore as she documents the cityscape and architecture of 1954-57. In this exhibition, curator Edward Stokes draws upon a his newly compiled photo book of the same name as well as Doggett’s own 1957 publication “Characters of Light” in a series of photographs that capture the city in a tableau of an era.
Periphery of the City
Claim your corner in our Reading Room, a space for some quiet and exploration of the imaginative kind. Filled with a library of books and cosy furniture to relax with, the open page is all it takes to transport you to cities of myriad dreams and realities.
Take some of these adventures home with you from the Pop-up bookstores by Booktique and Closetful of Books. Whether it’s Sing Lit, one of the classics, or a work featured in our programmes, each book holds the promise of a destination unmapped and untold.
There’s also something for the little ones! Children become the architects of their own city in Future Cities—Printmaking for Kids. In this drop-in printmaking workshop, embark on an imaginative journey into the future with sea-painter and arts educator Ly Yeow. Whether it is a sprawling city of towers or an amphibious urban archipelago, explore and create cities yet to come as childlike imagination turns into vivid reality.
For the complete list of programmes for Prologue 2020, please refer to the accompanying programme booklet. More information is also available at https://www.theartshouse.sg/programmes/prologue/. Members of the public can also join the conversation at www.facebook.com/theartshouse and www.instagram.com/theartshouse.
Venue: The Arts House, 1 Old Parliament Lane, Singapore 179429
Dates: 10 to 19 Jan 2020
Time: 7pm till late
Admission to the festival grounds is free. All programmes are free unless otherwise stated.
(The Marjorie Doggett’s Singapore: A Photographic Record exhibition runs from 14 November 2019 to 2 February 2020. The open books: The Worlds of Haruki Murakami installation will be up from 6 January to 3 February 2020.)
For images, please click here.
For more information, please contact:
Arts House Limited
T: +656435 0240
M: +65 9274 7553
Arts House Limited
T: +65 6435 0176
M: +65 9180 7776
About The Arts House
Occupying the almost 200-year-old building that was home to Singapore’s first parliament, The Arts House continues in the distinguished tradition of this gazetted national monument and now plays a key role in the country's arts and creative scene. The Arts House at the Old Parliament, as it is affectionately referred to, promotes and presents multidisciplinary programmes and festivals within its elegant spaces. It focuses in particular on the literary arts, celebrating the works of written and spoken word artists from Singapore and beyond.
The Arts House is run and managed by Arts House Limited. For more information, visit www.theartshouse.sg.
About Arts House Limited
Arts House Limited (AHL) is a not-for-profit organisation committed to enriching lives through the arts. AHL runs The Arts House, a multidisciplinary arts centre with a focus on literary programming located in the heart of Singapore's Civic District; manages Goodman Arts Centre and Aliwal Arts Centre, two creative enclaves for artists, arts groups and creative businesses; and presents festivals through the arts centres. AHL presents the Singapore International Festival of Arts, the annual pinnacle celebration of performing arts in Singapore commissioned by National Arts Council.
AHL was set up in 11 Dec 2002 as a company limited by guarantee (CLG) under NAC and was formerly known as The Old Parliament House Limited. It was officially renamed Arts House Limited on 19 Mar 2014.
organized in conjunction with Light to Night Festival 2020
10 – 19 January 2020
Prologue is an annual festival organised by The Arts House in conjunction with National Gallery Singapore’sLight to Night Festival, which coincides with Singapore Art Week. Over the two weekends, The Arts House is transformed into a space where stories from Singapore and beyond are shared and experienced through words.
invites audiences to experience a variety of programmes across different disciplines in intimate sessions, providing a space for them to slow down and get up close and personal with artists, stories, and words in this bustling city.
In the 2020 edition, which will take place from 10 – 19 January, Prologue will take inspiration from the theme of “Invisible Cities” and feature special/new editions of programmes from our regular calendar such as By Candlelight and Note for Note alongside programmes that we have been cultivating like A Novel Idea.
Note for Note: Stop, Look & Listen
10 Jan 2020
8pm – 9pm | 10pm – 11pm
Free with registration, with the option to secure a seat for all 3 sessions at $5
16 poets lend their words to a diverse collage of poems that decipher, describe and define the city. In three unique sets, the poetry will be performed with musicians who will map a sonic landscape that blends city sounds with music. Each set follows a broad theme of motion, considering the city as speed, scene and sound. Here is rush hour and rest, reasons to linger in the lee of buildings or trespass down unfamiliar roads. Stop, Look & Listen is curated by Marc Nair and directed by Cherilyn Woo.
Reflections by Varsha
11 Jan 2020
8.30pm – 9.15pm | 10pm – 10.45pm
Free with registration, with the option to secure a seat at $5
Join Indian jazz-fusion band Varsha as they present material from their upcoming EP as well as their unique arrangements of classic jazz standards. Since their debut in 2014, Varsha has been pushing the boundaries of traditions with its synergy of styles, from jazz, classical Indian and popular Indian music. Come and enjoy an evening of exciting improvisations and virtuosic music-making.
Performed in English, Tamil, Telugu, Hindi.
By Candlelight: Beethoven’s Fidelio
10 & 11 Jan 2020
9pm – 10pm
In celebration of the 250th birthday of composer Ludwig Van Beethoven, catch this special 1-hour version of Beethoven’s only opera, Fidelio, performed by a cast of some of Singapore’s finest young singers. Composed in various stages between 1805 and 1814, Fidelio tells the story of Leonore, who disguises herself as the title character in order to infiltrate a prison where her husband has been kept as a political prisoner, in the hopes of rescuing him. Subverting the traditional “rescue opera” of the 18th century with a female lead character, Beethoven’s opera resonates with us today as a portrayal of the triumph of love over injustice in the invisible city that is a prison.
Performed in German with English surtitles.
A Novel Idea: Of Mice and Men VS The Handmaid’s Tale
17 & 18 Jan 202010am – 10pm
(2) Exhibitions and Installations
open books: The Worlds of Haruki Murakami
6 Jan – 3 Feb 2020
The Arts House Lawn
open books returns to The Arts House lawn with two new colourful dioramas which take inspiration from the magical realism of Haruki Murakami’s Kafka on the Shore and The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. Created by Ly Yeow and Tell Your Children, and co-designed and built by The Merry Men Works, experience the dreamy and fantastical landscapes of Murakami’s fiction, as seen through the eyes of visual artists, with these whimsical works.
Marjorie Doggett’s Singapore: A Photographic Record
14 Nov – 2 Feb 2020
10am – 10pm
Organised by The Photographic Heritage Foundation, this exhibition records the work of the pioneer local photographer, Marjorie Doggett. From 1954-57, camera in hand, Doggett explored Singapore. She recorded its cityscapes and buildings with striking images and detailed texts, many of which have not been seen before. Doggett saw the risks that progress, despite its benefits, posed for Singapore’s historic buildings, and her work later contributed to a growing awareness of heritage conservation.
Justice for All by Yinka Shonibare CBE, RA
13 Jan – 30 Jan 2020
10am – 10pm
Inspired by the architecture and history of the Chamber at The Arts House, acclaimed British-Nigerian contemporary artist Yinka Shonibare CBE, RA will create a new site-sculptural installation, titled Justice for All. This site-specific installation is presented by The Asian Art Institutum, together with The Arts House and Stephen Friedman Gallery, London.
Film Screenings of Un Ballo in Maschera and Odile & Odette by Yinka Shonibare CBE, RA
13 Jan – 30 Jan 2020
As an accompaniment to Justice for All, the Asian Art Institutum will also be screening two films by Yinka Shonibare. The first film, Un Ballo in Maschera (2004), reframes the story from Giuseppe Verdi’s opera of the same title, which explores the assassination of King Gustav III of Sweden in 1792, through the medium of dance. The second film, Odile & Odette (2005), was made in collaboration with the Royal Opera House, and re-imagines a classical episode from Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake, where the lead roles Odile and Odette engage in a close dialogue of gestures and movement.
(3) Other Activities
Future Cities - Printmaking for Kids
10 & 18 Jan 2020
7.30pm – 9.30pm
Free with registration, recommended for kids aged 4 - 12
Embark on an imaginative journey into the future with sea-painter and arts educator Ly Yeow and design your very own urban landscape filled with floating and towering cities in this drop-in printmaking workshop for kids. Come explore and be young architects, we will create cities yet to come!
10 – 19 Jan 2020
Sit back, relax, and browse a selection of local and international books in these cosy nooks.
Pop-Up Bookstores by Booktique and Closetful of Books
10 & 11, 17 & 18 Jan 2020
7pm – 11pm
The Arts House Porch
Drop by and browse our pop-up bookstores, specially curated by Booktique (10 & 11 Jan) and Closetful of Books (17 & 18 Jan), featuring a selection of Sing Lit titles, classic literary works, as well as books featured in Prologue’s programmes.