T:>Works Artistic Atelier

Message from our Artistic Director, Dr. Ong Keng Sen

Photo credit: Jeannie Ho

T:>Works Artistic Atelier supports a mid-career artist or creative who is looking for new challenges to their work. As part of our vision of thought leadership amongst artists, it is pertinent not to limit this capacity development. In a country where artists are seen as vendor suppliers by government funding agencies, it is important to insist that artists are primary to generating public discourse, debate, and enriching the public life of our citizenry. Without engaged artists in the public sphere, we are all the poorer as a nation, destined to lag behind in a governance style dominated by control at all costs, fear of innovation and difference.

I was convinced after our work in the international alternative universities/artist residencies programme, The Flying Circus Project, and rebooting the Singapore Arts Festival as Singapore International Festival of Arts (SIFA), there was an urgent need to reduce the infantilisation prevalent in Singapore. The trend to simply concentrate on emerging artists and not planning the career paths of mid-career artists may result in a lack of sustainability in the ecosystem of the arts. Further the absolute dearth of care for mature artists, who have pioneered the contemporary arts in Singapore (circa mid 1980s), may lead to a brain drain and the collapse of collaboration between citizen and government in the future potentialities of Singapore.

The hallmark of the Artistic Atelier is that the mid-career artist or creative is encouraged to develop carte blanche their trajectory for three years. T:>Works commits our artistry, our engagement resources, our intellectual care to the Artistic Atelier. Instead of demanding the mid-career artist or creative to become part of the company infrastructure, we value their independence outside of our structure, to lead their own creative team to fruition. T:>Works collaborates rather than controls the narrative.

T:>Works began this new direction in 2019 with the invitation to Noorlinah Mohamed to begin a festival platform, focused on engagement and listening specifically to communities. Noorlinah continued the trajectory of the O.P.E.N. pre-festival of engagement from SIFA into T:>Works Festival of Women or Not Ordinary Work, N.O.W. We were honoured to support her journey and hope this will continue into our collaborative Artistic Atelier with Brian Gothong Tan.

I have known Brian since inviting him to Ho Chi Minh City to participate in The Flying Circus Project in 2007. In 2008, we collaborated deeply and joyfully in the creating Vivien and The Shadows in Carolina Performing Arts, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA. These TheatreWorks (the former name of T:>Works) projects built up our trust and we continued working together in different formats: Bertolt Brecht’s Good Person of Szechwan for Landestheater Linz, European Cultural Capital 2009, the 2015 SIFA commission of The Incredible Border Crossers in Palais de Tokyo in Paris, and in 2016, his own SIFA commission sited within Ron Arad’s installation at Gardens by the Bay. So we are no strangers in collaboration and I am very happy to welcome him to this parallel artistic utopia, the paratopia of T:>Works Artistic Atelier.

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