Get this. Parked on the pristine lawn of the National Museum of Singapore are some 100 individuals clothed in sarongs, who, in full public view, are rinsing themselves in bath water steeped with pomelo leaves, flowers and kafir lime. Strange? Hardly so. This peculiar act, otherwise named Mandi Bunga (Malay for flower bath), was in reality a performance piece staged last Saturday by Sharon Chin, one of the 82 Southeast Asian artists and collectives who are showcasing at the Singapore Biennale 2013.
Back for its fourth instalment, the five-month long biennale is a smorgasbord of exhibitions, performances and dialogues which meditate on a central theme of ancestry and the future. If The World Changed — as it's titled — is also a bold venture into uncharted waters, for bucking convention, it was put together not by a curator, but a collective of 27 curators from all across South-east Asia, resulting in the strongest Asian representation at the biennale to date.
Not sure which are the events not to be miss? Well, here's our picks of the festival highlights.
Memories of Overdevelopment Redux (1980-2013 version)
Dubbed as the “Father of Philippine Independent Cinema” by critics, Kidlat Tahimik is premiering his magnum opus Memories of Overdevelopment, a motion picture that revolves around Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan's slave Enrique, and his adventures circling the globe. Still a work-in-progress (as it's been for the past 33 years), the film will screen during the biennale's opening weekend and again on February 15 to help draw the festival to a close.
Get intimate with the biennale's curators as they let you in on their favourite works during these walk-through tours. With a different subject matter up for exploration every other week, the tours examine an array of stimuli based on the festival theme: If The World Changed. One tour we're particularly looking forward to is the Director's Tour conducted by Singapore Art Museum's Dr Susie Lingham on November 6, 2014.
The Mapping Series
A series of talks, lectures and symposiums led by artists and academics, the mapping series encourages participants to probe deeper into salient issues ranging from the social sciences to cultural anthropology and arts and design. Not to be missed are Digging Outside the Box: Volunteer Archaeology in Singapore by Dr John Miksic, History as Controversy by Dr Khairudin Aljunied and Sound and the City by installation artist Angie Seah.