This January, the very first visual arts festival will be launched at Gillman Barracks! Organised by Chan + Hori, in partnership with the National Arts Council, DISINI officially opens tonight in conjunction with Art After Dark x Singapore Art Week 2018.
“Visual arts has always been periphery to most of the major festivals here in Singapore,” Chan + Hori curatorial director Khairuddin Hori says. “So we thought to ourselves why not put it at the forefront of one instead?”
Taking inspiration from Gillman Barracks’ rich history and surrounding area, DISINI takes its name from the Malay adverb ‘di sini’, literally translating to ‘over here’. It is also the region’s first ever large-scale and ground-up visual arts festival. Taking place over 9 months, the festival will comprise a series of public programmes, outdoor artworks and exhibitions by home-grown, regional and international artists.
During the media preview held on Wednesday, Khai led members of the media on a tour to view the outdoor artworks set up around the area. From an outdoor restroom fitted with a paint splashed facade to strange outdoor creatures popping up from underground. One of these works is Pinball, by local artist Dawn Ng. A giant 5 metre tall billboard in disco hues, this is actually one of over 300 works Dawn created over a year as a response to questions she was posed to by an Israeli child psychologist she was working with. Said Dawn: “Initially, the words and responses I came up with were meant to be given as a gift to my daughter when she turns 35, the age I am today, as a means of reflection in describing the landscape, food, poetry, fiction and basically, being a woman in Singapore.” Other works from Dawn’s series will be on display at Chan + Hori in Gillman Barracks.
One of the highlights of the outdoor art works is undoubtedly the DISINI Pavilion. Designed by local independent fashion collective MASH-UP, the pavilion will act as the heart of the festival, as an amphitheatre for gatherings, talks, workshops and performances. Painted in pastel hues and sporting kitschy images inspired by pop culture, from pink pineapples to mermaids to even quotes from Katy Perry, the pavilion is a millennial’s Instagram dream, with almost no need for a filter to catch a good shot.
Said Nathanael Ng, 1/3 of the six-year old collective: “Khai approached us about three months ago, and we were surprised because we hadn’t actually done architecture before. Khai said that he didn’t want to work with architects, and try something new by working together with fashion designers and poets.” The MASH-UP Collective has also been actively working in theatre as well, providing clothes from their collections and styling for shows ranging from One Thousand Millennials Crying to even Munah and Hirzi Live: Curtain Call.
DISINI opens tonight with a massive opening party. Titled HERE/NOW, in conjunction with Gillman Barracks’ regular Art After Dark programme, the party will be a ticketed event that lasts from 9pm all the way to 6am the next day. Highlights of the party include performing art pieces from artists such as ‘Pope Alice’, the moniker of Australian artist Luke Roberts as he becomes alien pope from outer space in The Divine Cosmos, and performances from local musicians such as .gif and Darker than Wax. As for Art After Dark, the event will last from 7pm till late, and comprise activities such as a live durational performance from Indonesian artist Melati Suryodarmo and SEA STATE 9: Proclamation, a new exhibition from artist Charles Lim’s ongoing acclaimed SEA STATE project.
Said Khairuddin Hori: “I’ve always liked highlighting these up and coming artists, and I can proudly say that I helped ‘discover’ some of them. Maya Rochat, for instance, I found in a small gallery in Paris and I told my boss and the next thing we knew she was invited to a show in the Palais and now she’s becoming quite hot in Europe. I like helping these artists build their careers, but even when I’m doing this, I don’t like holding ‘ownership’ over these artists. Some curators can be very possessive, but I’m just happy to give them a platform to shine.”
On what he wants people to walk away with after visiting DISINI: “I want them to be inspired and see possibilities. DISINI should not be just about the physical sculptures. What you see is not the end, you can activate the space, from the pavilion to the other exhibits, over the next 9 months it’s about opening your mind and letting DISINI sow the seeds of new ideas.”
DISINI runs from 26th January – 30th September at Gillman Barracks. Admission is free. However, the opening party HERE/NOW on 26th January is ticketed. For more information and tickets, visit their website here