On July 5th, during a stopover on my way to Melbourne, I met three feisty young Singaporean artists at Dakota metro station. They were Tay Jia Ying, the company manager of Drama Box. Koh Hui Ling, the group’s Associate Artistic Director. And Assistant Artistic Director Han Xuemei. Hui and Han had visited ICAF in 2014 and we had agreed to get back in touch once we would be sure what the next festival theme would be. ‘Movement’ seemed a perfect fit for Drama Box, an arts organization that has been around since 2000. It makes theatre that inspires dialogue, reflection and change by providing a platform for marginalized narratives and the communal contemplation of complex issues in this fascinating but quite rigidly organized city state. In this context, the work of Drama Box – which literally and figuratively ‘moves’ – is highly relevant, as I was able to see for myself later that evening.
One of the main reasons for visiting Drama Box was to see GoLi in action. GoLi, the Moving Theatre, is a remarkable inflatable arts space that can be set up in a mater of hours anywhere you like. It thus makes culture visible and tangible in the neighbourhoods where it is most needed. Between July 5 and 10, GoLi was erected in one of Singapore’s oldest public housing estates: Dakota Crescent. By December 2016, all the residents would have to move because their flats will be demolished to make place for more modern structures. During one and a half year and more intensively in the month of January 2016, Drama Box artists and a large group of volunteers worked with local people to create material for a roaming site-specific multi-media show. Its aim was to reveal the unique beauty of this place and its residents to both insiders and outsiders and to collectively explore ideas for the future. The result – entitled Ignor-Land of Its Loss – was a very pleasant and meaningful aesthetic experience that lasted more than two hours and which brought me as close to the local reality as anything. That is the power of community art at its best. And GoLi was a highly effective (and attractive) central icon in the event.
I already look forward to bringing this remarkable inflatable venue to one of our popular neighbourhoods in Rotterdam next March. As I write this, Tai Jia Ying and her partners are working very hard to convince the Singaporean government to sponsor GoLi’s very first international appearance at ICAF-7.