FIGHT! PALAST #membersonly by PENG! Palast. © Photo by Rob Lewis.
M1 Singapore Fringe Festival kicks off in January with a stellar line up of performance and contemporary dance works surrounding the theme of Art & Skin. The Festival runs from the 4th to the 15th of January, in addition to performances everyone is welcome to join in the different activities the Festival has on offer.
We catch up with Festival Director, Sean Tobin in a brief interview to discuss the line up for the festival and Tobin’s journey with M1 Singapore Fringe Festival, as well as partnerships across Singapore and the process the fringe team establishes with the artists from a proposal stage to the performance day.
First of all, we would like to know about your journey with the festival and what has changed since your leadership started?
It’s been wonderful, a real honour. The highlights for me would be firstly in how I have grown in my working relationship with the M1 Singapore Fringe Festival team, who do such amazing heartfelt hard-work. Secondly, I would say my relationships with the local and international artists have been mutually enriching.
I’ve been getting an increasing understanding of the needs of our local independent, emerging and mid-career artists and the challenges that come with creating new innovative work, ensuring it is well developed and well received.
Setting up and nurturing meaningful, sustainable partnerships with institutions like Centre 42 have made a very significant difference. This has been one of my main focuses in leading the festival: how to ensure our local artists and local works can grow strong and feed back into the artistic terrain.
The theme for this festival is very specific, even if one can branch out and creatively respond to your stimulus. Do you find that perhaps having a theme for the festival limits the artists to the work they would normally produce, or is it a negotiation that stimulates both artists and prepares audiences for what’s to come out of a creative process?
It is a natural question to ask. There is an art to selecting a theme so that it’s neither superficial or restrictive. I have been choosing themes that can invite a range of different explorations.
The key is to programme the selection in such a way that the works form a kind of conversation with one other. I try to choose a range of artists and works that will bring different perspectives and voices to a dynamic theme.
I think it makes the festival experience richer for artists and audiences, as we see connections between works, and many meaningful conversations are formed within and beyond the festival.
The festival stands out for a series of contemporary dance performances. Following Da:ns Festival and M1 Contact Contemporary Dance Festival what is that your curatorial work is adding to the ever expanding scene of contemporary dance in Singapore?
Usually, we have a smaller component of dance work, keeping in mind we run quite soon after M1 Contact Contemporary Dance Festival. Also, the dancers and dance works we feature are more into the realms of performance or are highly theatrical. Often the dance works are international, but not as established and high profile as the companies and works you would see in Da:ns Festival. That said, in this coming Fringe, we are featuring a comeback performance from our local dance darlings Ah Hock and Peng Yu.
Can you please describe to our readers what is that sets your festival apart from the other festivals in Singapore?
Good question. We have a lot of festivals, and many of them come and go.
One thing that sets the M1 Singapore Fringe Festival apart is that we have been running for quite a long time. Another is that our work has a very consistent balance of local and international work. The theme makes us unique too, although SIFA does that as well (with increasing investment in the thematic frame in recent years under Kee Hong and Keng Sen’s direction).
I would say our works tend to feature smaller scale and more intimate works, works that are quite exploratory and idiosyncratic in nature, from new to mid-career artists who are quite independent in form and approach.
Last but not least, we would like to know how do you develop a relationship with the artists and the festival. Not necessarily how you choose the artists you work with, but the negotiation and work both parties undergo from the moment one is selected to present work, until the moment in which the audience sees the performance.
Together with the team, my approach in working with the artists varies according to their needs. I try not to impose, but also to be available if they want feedback or input. Some artists feel the need and value to have me sit in rehearsals and previews, or to meet up and discuss challenges or problems, while others work quite independently. Regardless, the M1 Singapore Fringe Festival team puts a lot of work into supporting the development and realisation of the work.
M1 Singapore Fringe Festival runs from the 4th to the 15th of January across different venues, full listings here.