About NUS Arts Festival

NUS Arts Festival 2022: Shades of Light(ness) invites you to contemplate the multiplicity of Light – one of the most powerful life forces known to humanity. Light itself has long fascinated the human mind, and is a source of inspiration for artists, philosophers and scientists alike.

Da Vinci’s invention of a drawing technique called “sfumato” and his assertion that “no substance can be comprehended without light and shade” strongly suggests that human perception must embrace not just light, but the shades in light to be complete. It is this light(ness), or quality of light, which the artists in this year’s NUS Arts Festival plumb for meaning and motivation in a greater search for answers to navigate the dark, complex, and uncertain post-COVID world we presently live in.

The 17th edition of NUS Arts Festival steps into the limelight once again, with 21 performances and events in live and hybrid formats. The much-anticipated flagship event on the NUS Arts calendar has established itself as a unique collaboration between student artists, professional arts practitioners, as well as leading researchers and thought leaders in NUS. This year’s edition continues the festival’s unique approach in using interdisciplinary research to drive the creation of artistic works that prompt reflection and broaden thinking on issues pertinent to this generation. Ultimately, the festival aims to encourage positive change and action that will impact communities around us.

Sharon Tan

NUS Centre For the Arts

A very warm welcome to NUS Arts Festival 2022: Shades of Light(ness) – which NUS Centre For the Arts is once again proud to present. 

We live in a world grappling with uncertainty. Now, more than ever, society is challenged to look beyond black-and-white paradigms, and contend with the shades of grey in-between. This ever-expanding liminal space demands that we use a wider variety of cognitive “lenses” to bring focus and make sense of a multi-hued, multi-faceted world. In that regard, this year’s festival theme is most apt, as is our multi-disciplinary creative approach which brings together student artists, professional arts practitioners, as well as leading researchers and thought leaders in NUS to explore how the arts can help us better appreciate and negotiate ambiguity.

To that end, we open the festival with NUS Dance Synergy’s Incandescent - A City That Never Sleeps, a work that investigates the disappearance of stars in Singapore’s night sky. In a city with one of the highest light pollution levels in the world, this work probes the effects of our contemporary urban lifestyle, asking if it embraces or disrupts the symbiotic relationship between the environment and our human bodies.

We also see this in works like Bodhi - The Awakening by NUS Indian Instrumental Ensemble. Directed by Cultural Medallion recipient T Sasitharan, the work fuses Indian classical music with theatrical elements, reflecting on the duality of light and darkness, and the transitions between light and darkness in the journey towards enlightenment. 

Another work utilising the metaphor of light to explore ambiguity and uncertainty is Blackout by NUS Stage. Directed by award-winning theatre-maker Chong Tze Chien, this dark comedy looks at a man’s odyssey through the fractured recesses of a dark, forgotten past, as he struggles to make sense of the conflicting stories about who he is.

In this iteration of the Festival, we have been most fortunate to partner the College of Design and Engineering (CDE) for a series of thought-provoking and visually arresting installation works. Somewhere in This Fog of Memory explores the mind of a person living with dementia, putting the viewer in the place of someone constantly grappling with a slippery reality; In Living Company challenges the norms of our disposable economy, using light to show how discarded objects can give rise to new life. A Close Eyecounter - a collaboration with visual artist Ryf Zaini - uses simulated LiDAR technology in an interactive installation that questions how our physical vision determines what we can see, and how we take our natural quality of eyesight for granted.

Of course, NUS Arts Festival would not be possible without the hard work, courage and creativity of our students and artistic directors. Their passion, resilience, and creativity have really shone through during these dark and uncertain times.

We are also deeply grateful for the continued support from NUS creative partners, such as our long-standing partnership with the Department of Communications and New Media, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. We are also particularly privileged to extensively partner the College of Design and Engineering for the first time, and we believe that this fusion of the arts and engineering will be particularly illuminating. 

Our thanks also for the continued support of our donors: Bowen Enterprises, Kewalram Chanrai Group, and the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth’s Cultural Matching Fund. Their generous support has been invaluable in keeping ablaze our students’ passion for the arts.

I sincerely hope that you will enjoy NUS Arts Festival 2022: Shades of Light(ness) - may the many performances, installations, and films bring light into your life.

Professor Aaron Thean

Dean, College of Design and Engineering,
Festival Creative Partner

It is heartening that our staff and students have come together to help bring about creative works for NUS Arts Festival 2022: Shades of Light(ness). The synergies between science, technology, and the arts are often overlooked. Thus, it is significant that in this collaboration, the relationship between technology and art are explored. By bringing together creative elements from a technological perspective, we hope to interpret contemporary societal experience to generate inspirations for all of us. This collaboration between the CFA and the College of Design and Engineering expresses our aspiration to further the spirit of interdisciplinary learning and research. Hopefully, it will excite us to look at art and engineering differently. I look forward to further opportunities where we can work with CFA and other partners to explore the synergies between art, design, and engineering.

Professor Audrey Yue

Head, Department of Communications and New Media,
Festival Creative Partner

The NUS Department of Communications and New Media (CNM) is delighted to be the Creative Partner of the 2022 NUS Arts Festival, for the second year in a row. The Arts Festival is our University’s annual showcase that brings together diverse works of local and international art from established, emerging and student artists. It is also an exemplary platform for communication. Through the symbolic power of representation, the creative arts are significant to cultural expression. From the traditions of the festival to the metaverse of new media, the Arts Festival is both the medium and message of communicating the issues that shape our contemporary society. This year, CNM will launch our new Master of Arts in Arts and Cultural Entrepreneurship Programme and enroll our inaugural cohort of students. With this programme, we hope our Department and University will continue to enhance the skill sets and produce students as future leaders of change in the arts and culture sector.

This year’s theme to the festival—Shades of Light(ness)—is especially poignant. The shades of light(ness) have always underpinned the production and reception of arts and culture. Since Enlightenment where the humanism of creative arts has not just cathected but democratized the development of knowledge, arts and culture have always captured the vicissitudes and complexities of modern everyday life. From the invention of the camera as a light-machine to the new media light projections that converge people and place, the light-based entertainment of arts and culture has opened new experiences of seeing, feeling and becoming, fostering novel understandings of self and other, individuals and groups. For some, light congeals and strengthens togetherness; for others, light obscures and accentuates distinctions. The power of light, and its capacity to illuminate and hide, elucidates its Janus-face as the source and destination of bright hopes and dark nights. As we oscillate these conflicting accents and emotions, especially across the past two years of the COVID-19 pandemic, we yearn for the light at the end of the tunnel and also stand in solidarity with all the cultural venues that have yet to fully open and the unemployed artists who are overshadowed by the virus and its might. As we honour the ritual of communication, we must also celebrate the carnivalesque of festival.

Dr Kamalini Ramdas

Department of Geography, NUS,
Festival Faculty Advisor

This year’s NUS Arts Festival theme Shades of Light(ness) is apt for several reasons. Light is a symbol of hope and possibility. It signifies clarity and divinity. It can also mean weightlessness, ephemerality and new beginnings. More than two years into the pandemic we find ourselves looking for new ways of living and being together. There is a sense that we need to reimagine our lives even as we struggle to make sense of challenges and seemingly unless disruptions.

Just as light takes form when it meets an obstacle or surface, the pandemic has shed light on new ways of appreciating health, wellness and community. We have become more appreciative of the moments when we are able come together to commune and socialise. The arts have continued to serve as our beacon during this time. This year’s programme calls for us to reflect on questions such as, “What is darkness and light? What does the space where they meet reveal about identity, subjectivity and community? How can I get close to the power and beauty of divine light? What is occluded in ‘empty’ or obstacle-free spaces?”

In 2022, let us embrace the light generated by the arts and the succor it gives us. Come experience, joy, hope and possibility through dance, theatre, music and film. Come embrace light, lightness and darkness in all their glory.