Burning Questions

by Corrie Tan, Ph.D. Candidate, Theatre Studies, King’s College London and National University of Singapore

Integrity and Intimacy Panel Discussion Zoom screenshot, ArtsEquator and HowlRound Theatre Commons. The panelists are, clockwise from top left: puppet artist Maria “Ria” Tri Sulistyani (Yogyakarta), cultural critic and activist Katrina Stuart Santiago (Manila), dance artist Bernice Lee (Singapore) and moderator Corrie Tan (Singapore).

Throughout July and August 2020, the Southeast Asian arts platform ArtsEquator organised a four-part series of online talks titled Burning Questions. COVID-19 has exposed the extreme precarity of the arts sector in the Southeast Asia region, and ArtsEquator hoped to offer a space for regional voices to dialogue and discuss some of the difficult questions facing the transnational arts community during the pandemic. This panel on July 28, “Is There Still Hope for Integrity and Intimacy in Online Performance?”, investigated the various possibilities around keeping intimacy alive between artists and their audiences against the backdrop of social distancing and restrictions on travel worldwide.

The panel was facilitated by Corrie Tan, contributing editor at ArtsEquator and a third-year doctoral candidate on the joint PhD programme between King’s College London and the National University of Singapore. This panel featured three practitioners from the region: dance artist Bernice Lee (Singapore), cultural critic and activist Katrina Stuart Santiago (Manila) and puppet artist Maria “Ria” Tri Sulistyani (Yogyakarta). Questions that surfaced included: What does it mean to maintain the structural and foundational integrities (ethics, credibility, honesty) of artistic practices and cultural labour, even if the way practices now unfold may take different shapes or forms? What new intimacies of care and reciprocity might be formed?

Ria talked about her company Papermoon Puppet Theatre’s recent show A Bucket of Beetles (premiered August 2020), which incorporated barter exchanges into its ticketing framework for local Indonesian audiences who might otherwise have struggled with the financial investment of a theatre ticket. Ria also highlighted a series of Instagram Live conversations she hosted with puppeteers from around the world in a gesture of cross-border solidarity. Katrina talked about the advocacy work and food distribution she’s doing with her non-profit organisation PAGASA (People for Accountable Governance and Sustainable Action), and how her intermediary role as a cultural critic helped build a culture of trust and support in the thick of the Duterte regime. Bernice shared about her work with children as various workshops transitioned to the digital sphere, but also her long-time practice of #ghosting and how she’s been playing with the female gaze online. She also introduced her experiments with touch and the intimacy of being in domestic spaces with various branches of a collaborative long-term project called Tactility Studies (for which Corrie is dramaturg).

Through discussions of their work and current practices, the panel mapped out a sense of how intimacy and spectatorship has transformed across the cultural capitals of Manila, Yogyakarta and Singapore, and the possibilities of building expanded transnational relationships.

Corrie TAN (she/her) 陳霖靈; Ph.D. Candidate, Theatre Studies; Department of English Language & Literature; Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences; National University of Singapore; Block AS5, 7 Arts Link, Singapore 117570; corrie.tan@u.nus.eduwww.corrie-tan.com

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *