From The Straits Times    |

Photo: Singapore Night Festival


The Singapore Night Festival, which runs from tonight till Aug 26, celebrates its 10th anniversary with something old and something new. In this edition, there are the usual attractions that draw the crowds every year to the Civic District into the wee hours: breathtaking projections over handsome old buildings, aerial performances, circus acts and museums with free entry and extended opening hours.

One of the festival’s usual highlights, Night Lights, an exhibition of photogenic light installations, will have 13 exhibits. These include stoic projections of faces on the iconic banyan tree on the grounds of the National Museum called The Tree That Blinked; and illuminated mannequins that visitors can have a dialogue with called Les Hommes Debout (The Standing Men) at the Singapore Art Museum.


Photo: Singapore Night Festival


But there are also new touches, such as new bicycle trails and bikes to borrow for free. The pick-up and drop-off points for the bicycles, which can be borrowed using an identification card, is at the National Museum. They are available from tonight till Aug 23 and for those aged 18 and above. Another new element to the festival is a more user-friendly schedule. Unlike in previous years where there were major performances on both weekends, this year, all performing acts are consolidated into one extended weekend on Aug 24, 25 and 26. “This allows our festival audience to take the time to enjoy the light art installations during the first weekend without feeling the need to rush around to catch specific acts,” says festival director Angelita Teo, 45, who is also director of the National Museum.Since its inception in 2008, the Night Festival has grown to become a key event on the cultural calendar in Singapore.


Photo: The Straits Times, Ong Wee Jin


Attendance has grown from 60,000 people in 2008 to more than 500,000 last year. Organisers are expecting a similar turnout this year. The festival grounds span all the way from Cathay Green and Chijmes to Armenian Street and Waterloo Street, with five zones in total – the National Museum, Armenian Street Main Stage, Cathay Green, Singapore Management University and Singapore Art Museum. There will be bag checks at various entry points at the festival grounds, such as at Cathay Green, so visitors are encouraged to pack light and go early.

Ms Teo has been working on the festival since its first edition in 2008, first as part of the organising team and later heading the entire event. She says she is proud of how far the festival has come. “We have all grown with the festival, which has since become Singapore’s largest outdoor performing arts festival, a keystone in the region’s calendar of arts and culture events, and a world-class platform for local and international artists.”


Photo: The Straits Times, Ong Wee Jin


To mark its history, a range of returning acts from over the past decade will take the stage during the festival. These include home-grown acts such as professional wrestlers, pole dancers and percussion troupe Bloco Singapura. “Every returning local artist shares a personal relationship with the festival. They have helped push the envelope for artistic and creative expressions and have grown alongside us in their own capacities,” says Ms Teo.

“In bringing back these artists, we want festivalgoers to re-experience the ‘wow’ factor they felt when they first saw these acts.”




1. Warping the facade of the National Museum

Convulations By EZ3KIEL (France)

Photo: The Straits Times, Ong Wee Jin


Where: National Museum of Singapore facade, 93 Stamford Road

When: Today to Aug 26, 7.30pm to midnight

In this spectacular projection mapping performance, a “skin” made out of stones will warp and morph the facade of the National Museum of Singapore, creating new organic forms for the building. Titled Convolutions, the seven- minute work combining technological precision and poetic images is one of the show-stoppers of the Singapore Night Festival. It will loop continuously after dark with two-minute intervals for all nine days of the event. The piece is by Frenchman Yann Nguema, 43, a multi-disciplinary artist who combines musical, graphic and software design skills.

He has made such large-scale projections in countries such as France and Canada. The three-man band Ez3kiel, which he founded 23 years ago, typically provide the electronic soundtrack to the visuals. For his Singapore work, he is adapting an iconic piece called Evolutions that was projected on Cathedral St Jean in Lyon, France, as part of the Fete des Lumieres (Festival of Lights) last year. The visual display, where the projected images gave the illusion of the church’s facade rippling like water or its contours melting and disintegrating, was meant to visualise the “perpetual construction of the cathedral”, he says.

For the National Museum, which is squatter than the tall cathedral in France, he had to adapt the display lengthways to fit the 11.5 by 72.5m dimensions. The Singapore project also has some new visuals, including a new colossus of a lion. It requires three points of projection, as well as a festival first – lasers. Nguema says his work is about “mixing the architectural reality with a virtual projection”, adding that he combines the real museum with a virtual one.


2. Follow your nose

Nostos: Records of the self | Aesop (Singapore)

Photo: The Straits Times, Ong Wee Jin


Where: Gallery 10, National Museum of Singapore, 93 Stamford Road

When: Today to Sunday and Aug 25 and 26: 10am to midnight; Monday to Thursday, 10am to 10pm

In this atmospheric, dimly lit installation, visitors encounter 10 large bowls filled with water and essential oils, namely bergamot, sandalwood and olibanum. They are encouraged to lean in and take in the scents, which were developed by Australian skincare label Aesop for the Singapore Night Festival. The exhibit’s title, Nostos: Records Of The Self, refers to the Greek word nostos, which is a theme used in Greek literature to signify a homecoming or return.

“The festival’s theme is celebrating 10 Magical Years, so it’s important to acknowledge the milestone,” says a spokesman for the company. “As scent is the language of memory, creating scents to mark the occasion seemed a fitting tribute.” Bergamot is said to have a calming effect while sandalwood boosts memory.

To heighten the scent, each bowl is illuminated by a series of light bulbs, creating a dim environment that reduces visual stimuli. The heat emitted by the bulbs also warms the essential oils. A maximum of 20 visitors are allowed in at any one time.


3. Send in the clowns

Globe By Close-act Theatre (The Netherlands)

Photo: The Straits Times, Ong Wee Jin


Where: Cathay Green (field opposite The Cathay, 2 Handy Road)

When: Thursday to Aug 26, 8 to 8.30pm, 10.30 to 11pm

Immerse yourself in a child’s perspective of the world in this performance by Dutch street theatre company Close-Act. Titled Globe, the 30-minute show features circus performers as well as projection-mapping onto the facade of a huge globe-like structure. Aerial dancers will also perform around and within the globe-like structure while roving actors mingle with the crowd. Close-Act Theatre founder Hesther Melief says: “We hope the audiences will immerse themselves and see the performance through their own eyes, instead of through the lens of their phone cameras.”

The troupe performed at last year’s Singapore Night Festival in a show called Invasion, which took place on the lawn of the National Museum. The aerial show included crane-suspended giant prehistoric creatures, live singing and performers on stilts. “When performing in another country, it is always a challenge to gauge how the audience will react to our performance and make sure that the technical aspects go according to plan,” Melief says. “Our performance last year was great and we would hope for the same this year.”


4. Drumming up enthusiasm

Armenian Street Carnival Bloc, Bloco Singapura (Singapore)

Photo: The Straits Times, Ong Wee Jin


Where: Main Stage, Armenian Street When: Aug 25 and 26, 7.30 to 8.15pm

Where: School of the Arts, 1 Zubir Said Drive When: Aug 25 and 26, 9 to 9.20pm

About 50 drummers will be working their way down Armenian Street as part of a street carnival in the Singapore Night Festival. They come from 10-year-old home-grown percussion troupe Bloco Singapura, which is performing for the seventh time at the festival, which started in 2008. Its set comprises energetic perfomers, with drums strapped to their waists, beating out rhythms inspired by passionate carnivals in the states of Rio and Bahia in Brazil.

From the street, Bloco Singapura will join its youth arm, Novobloco, as well as local singers Trisno Ishak and ZulFadhli Othman on stage. Joining Bloco Singapura in the night’s line-up are other local acts including Peranakan performing group Peranakan Sayang and a joint presentation by Flamenco Sin Fronteras and Nawaz & Friends, which combines Spanish flamenco and the Indian classical dance form of Kathak.

As a troupe, Bloco has performed at events such as the National Day Parade and Chingay, but the Singapore Night Festival remains an important platform for it as it was one of the earliest stages where the group performed. Bloco’s founder and director Syed Ahmad, 41, says: “The Singapore Night Festival’s support and belief in us and our growth as an arts group is remarkable – that is what keeps us passionate about performing at the festival again and again.”


This article was first published at The Straits Times, 18 August 2017.