Saturday, 19 July 2008

It's Art Lah!

DavidSingapore tries pretty hard to create an international art scene and the latest is a series of evening events called The Night Festival. It kicked off last night at the National Museum, opposite the NUS campus at the end of Orchard Road, next to the YMCA.

Performed by an Italian troupe, Studio Festi, apparently famous for extravagant, outside public performances, they performed their Dancing Sky routine. Take two cranes and park stage left and right. String wire between with pulley to suspend performers and props. Then play music, shine some lights and pull ballet dancers in flowing robes across in a sequence of routines. It's billed as a "specially designed display of light and aerial acrobatic routines". I believe my description suffices.

The programme listed a 9pm start, with a repeat at 11pm. By 9:05pm there was already signs of trouble. The exceptionally happy announcer lady (speaking only in English) kept asking people to clear the traffic junction at the end of the closed road between the museum and the NUS grassed area. Some of the performance used the road and so had to be cleared. Problem one. People are stupid and distrust official communication channels, especially when they might lose their prized vantage point. Problem two: there was nowhere for them to go as the entrance to the grassed area was congested with more people unwilling to move.

The event security had black outfits with the word Security in yellow on the back (it's curious how little paraphernalia you need to create a sense of authority). The police were out on the road side. The PA lady's pleadings became tinged with desperation and at one point the restive crowd managed a half-hearted jeer. One of the large clutch of amateur photographers, a chirpy but world-weary philosopher summed up the debacle in one short observation;

"You see, no minister; crowd control like shit."

25mins late, the performance started well. Girl in white on a wire dancing with a bloke in black tux with her flying off and circling around. I was impressed enough to try and snap a picture. The next act was girl on a wire going left and right waving her arms, interacting with a model sailing ship, on a wire. The music started as Nessun Dorma, suddenly cut to a Maria Callas-like aria right after the Vincero! big hit ending of ND, then suddenly switched back to ND for another big hit finale. It sounded as jarring as my awkward description.

Next up was another girl on a wire, a piano (not real) on a wire, and some other stuff. I stopped watching. Let's just say this was no Cirque du Soleil. Just before I gave up and went home, they had big helium balloons tethered to strapping, bare-chested Italian stagehands, with ballet dancers suspended underneath on wires, being dragged through the crowds. The Merlioness registered some interest.

To be honest, my main memories of the event are the geeky banter between the amateur photographers comparing their hand-held Japanese supercomputers and the exhibit in the museum. We were sat directly in front of the door and inside was a 25' copy of Michelangelo's David rendered in deep red chintz. Sitting on the grass in front, he was only visible waist down through the arched doorway creating an interesting visual effect with the security staff in back silhouetted against this enormous red example of maleness. It was a hit with the ladies with head-scarfed Muslim ladies snapping pics with a delighted titter. You see? art can be exciting.