• Convolutions by Ez3kiel is a projection mapping performance warping and morph the facade of National Museum of Singapore.
  • Nostos: Records of the Self by Aesop offers a scent experience.

The city at night

World August 23, 2017 01:00

By Anjali Raguraman
The Straits Times
Asia News Network

6,825 Viewed

The Singapore Night Festival returns for its 10th year with popular acts from the past as well as exciting new performances



THE SINGAPORE Night Festival, which kicked off last weekend and continues through Saturday, celebrates its 10th anniversary with something old and something new.

In this edition, there are the usual attractions that draw the crowds every year to the Bras Basah-Bugis precinct into the wee hours: breathtaking projections over handsome old buildings, aerial performances, circus acts and museums with free entry and extended opening hours.

Convolutions by Ez3kiel is a projection mapping performance warping and morph the facade of National Museum of Singapore. 

One of the festival's usual highlights, Night Lights, an exhibition of photogenic light installations, has 13 exhibits.

These include stoic projections of faces on the iconic banyan tree on the grounds of the National Museum called “The Tree That Blinked”; and illuminated mannequins that visitors can have a dialogue with called “Les Hommes Debout” (The Standing Men) at the Singapore Art Museum.

Another new element to the festival is a more user-friendly schedule.

Unlike in previous years where there were major performances on both weekends, this year, all performing acts are consolidated into one extended weekend running from tomorrow through Saturday.

“This allows our festival audience to take the time to enjoy the light art installations during the first weekend without feeling the need to rush around to catch specific acts,” says festival director Angelita Teo, 45, who is also director of the National Museum.

Since its inception in 2008, the Night Festival has grown to become a key event on the cultural calendar in Singapore.

Attendance has grown from 60,000 people in 2008 to more than 500,000 last year. Organisers are expecting a similar turnout this year.

The festival grounds span all the way from Cathay Green and Chijmes to Armenian Street and Waterloo Street, with five zones in total – the National Museum, Armenian Street Main Stage, Cathay Green, Singapore Management University and Singapore Art Museum.

To mark its history, a range of returning acts from over the past decade will take the stage during the festival. These include home-grown acts such as professional wrestlers, pole dancers and percussion troupe Bloco Singapura.

From tonight through Saturday from 7.30 to midnight, Ez3kiel from France offers a spectacular projection mapping performance, a “skin” made out of stones that warps and morphs the facade of the National Museum of Singapore, creating new organic forms for the building.

Nostos: Records of the Self by Aesop offers a scent experience. 

Titled “Convolutions”, the seven- minute work combining technological precision and poetic images is one of the festival’s show-stoppers.

In an atmospheric, dimly lit installation, visitors to Gallery 10, National Museum of Singapore, encounter 10 large bowls filled with water and essential oils, namely bergamot, sandalwood and olibanum.

They are encouraged to lean in and take in the scents, which were developed by Australian skincare label Aesop for the Singapore Night Festival.

The exhibit’s title, “Nostos: Records of the Self”, refers to the Greek word nostos, which is a theme used in Greek literature to signify a homecoming or return.

Bergamot is said to have a calming effect while sandalwood boosts memory.

To heighten the scent, each bowl is illuminated by a series of light bulbs, creating a dim environment that reduces visual stimuli. The heat emitted by the bulbs also warms the essential oils.

A maximum of 20 visitors are allowed in at any one time.

About 50 drummers will be working their way down Armenian Street on Friday and Saturday nights as part of a street carnival. 

They come from 10-year-old home-grown percussion troupe Bloco Singapura, which is performing for the seventh time at the festival, which started in 2008.

Drummers from percussion troupe Bloco Singapura march down the street to a rousing beat. 

Its set comprises energetic performers, with drums strapped to their waists, beating out rhythms inspired by passionate carnivals in the states of Rio and Bahia in Brazil.

From the street, Bloco Singapura will join its youth arm, Novobloco, as well as local singers Trisno Ishak and ZulFadhli Othman on stage.

Joining Bloco Singapura in the night’s line-up are other local acts including Peranakan performing group Peranakan Sayang and a joint presentation by Flamenco Sin Fronteras and Nawaz & Friends, which combines Spanish flamenco and the Indian classical dance form of Kathak.

As a troupe, Bloco has performed at events such as the National Day Parade and Chingay, but the Singapore Night Festival remains an important platform for it as it was one of the earliest stages where the group performed.

Bloco’s founder and director Syed Ahmad, 41, says: “The Singapore Night Festival's support and belief in us and our growth as an arts group is remarkable - that is what keeps us passionate about performing at the festival again and again.”