A beginner’s guide to Singapore International Festival of Arts (SIFA) 2022
What is it?
The Singapore International Festival of Arts (SIFA) is an annual event that gathers some of the best works in Singapore and from around the world, across theatre, music, dance, film, and visual arts. It is billed as the city’s pinnacle performing arts festival, and has a storied history, having been first launched as the Singapore Festival of Arts some 45 years ago in 1977.
The latest edition centres on performance and creation in the physical and online space – a direction informed by the overarching theme The Anatomy of Performance. While the theme will remain consistent for the next three years of SIFA, each festival will have a different subtitle that brings the programming into focus. This year’s subtitleis ‘Ritual,’ which invites audiences to contemplate our shared social rituals through various perspectives offered by the performances.
Why was it created?
As unlikely as it may now seem, Singapore was described as a “cultural desert” in the 1970s and 1980s. The festival was created as part of efforts to expose Singaporeans to art in its many forms as well as nurture interest in the arts, helping to grow the city into the vibrant arts hub that it is today.
SIFA 2022 anchors this year’s national arts calendar and its red, green, and blue visuals are a homage to the festival’s original colours from 1977.
When is it?
SIFA 2022runs from 20 May to 5 Jun. Book your tickets now.
Who is featured?
Both local and international artists, as well as collaborations between them. On the international front, artists include British-born Australian science fiction artist Lucy McRae, who will premiere her performance film Delicate Spells of Mind at the festival and experimental musician Holly Herndon, whose upcoming performance at SIFA 2022 will mark her first-ever concert in Asia.
Closer to home, the line-up includes Singaporean photographer Sean Lee, who be exhibiting his kaleidoscopic images of flora and fauna at The Arts House, and Singaporean performance director Ong Keng Sen, who will bring his interpretation of Oscar Wilde’s play Salome to Victoria Theatre.
Where is it held?
Commissions will take place across multiple venues, including at historic premises such as The Arts House and Pasir Panjang Power Station, and idyllic and unusual locations like Pulau Ubin. More notably, the digital realm is now also a stage, with an entire layer of festival programming taking place virtually.
How can I navigate it as a newcomer?
For someone to whom SIFA is less familiar, figuring out how to go about the festival can seem daunting. Here are some tips on how to make the most out of a first-timer experience.
1. Know before you go
There is a wide variety of performances at SIFA 2022 across the music, film, visual arts, dance, theatre, and fashion genres. Get an idea of what’s on offer by arming yourself with the festival guide. It’ll help you get an overview of the festival, and also identify commissions that pique your interest. Alternatively, check out the six must-sees that we’ve compiled for you to learn about some of the most notable acts.
2. Bundle it, and spread it out
There’s plenty to take in at the festival, which is held over a little more than a fortnight. But several commissions will be available through SIFA On Demand, even after 5 Jun.
Festival commission film Delicate Spells of Mind will be screened daily from 20 May to 10 Jul, while recordings of three live performances will be screened from 20 Jun to 10 Jul, through the lens of filmmaker Tang Kang Sheng.
Each show is $15, but a bundle of four is available for $25.
3. Get it live
CREATION is the layer of SIFA’s programming that surrounds new commissions and works across various live spaces. There are lots to choose from: from an orchestra performance that highlights Southeast Asian culture; a reimagined version of a character from an Oscar Wilde classic play set in the social media age; to a concert that gets you thinking about music and technology by incorporating human and AI voices.
4. Try something beyond the typical
Exploring the arts is as much about what interests you, as it is about discovering the new and unfamiliar. SIFA X – the ‘off Broadway’ of SIFA – is where you can venture off the beaten path and seek out more alternative performances. The micro festival within SIFA 2022 is held at Goodman Arts Centre (21-28 May) and Aliwal Arts Centre (27 May-4 June). Both the exhibitions and performances are free.
5. Get a new digital, virtual experience
The arts have, over the years, been reimagined digitally, and the virtual arena has been ushered in with greater urgency with the COVID-19 pandemic. SIFA 2022 has a new virtual venue in the form of LIFE PROFUSION.
It runs parallel to the festival and features over 50 artists across five content portals: +DREAM, +EAT, +READ, +GROW and +DISCUSS. There are bite-sized performance pieces, as well as artist talks that are designed to help expand and deepen the flow of ideas.
6. Immerse in it – literally
Box invites audiences to join in this extraordinary three-hour journey through the sites and scenes of Pulau Ubin.(Photo source: SIFA)
There’s nothing quite like giving ourselves completely to the appreciation of something and letting our senses experience it all. You’ll be able to do that through ubin, a walking tour that is part theatre, part collective experience.
Over three hours, you can leave behind the bustling city and get intimate with Pulau Ubin, soaking up the stories and sites of this once thriving kampong.