By now, you may have already heard that Singapore’s beloved independent arts centre The Substation will be closing for good when it returns its 45 Armenian Street premises to the National Arts Council (NAC) this July.
Citing the inability to fully return to its place of origin after NAC’s expected two-year renovations as well as financial difficulties, The Substation’s permanent departure from the arts scene comes after 30 years of championing contemporary art locally.
And if you, like us, are saddened by the impending closure, then this next bit of information may help cheer you up. ‘Cause from Mar 4-28, The Substation will be bringing back its popular arts festival—SepFest—in full swing after a six-year hiatus. The previous edition was actually held in 2015, while last year’s format was a toned down version of the usual affair.
So in what might be the arts organisation’s last hurrah, look forward to enjoying an array of thoughtful and meaningful performances which spotlight issues frequently overlooked and buried away.
First, there’s the Migrant Workers Community Museum which features artefacts contributed by members of the migrant worker community in Singapore. Curated by a group of migrant workers alongside writer Alfian Sa’at, curator Zulkhairi Zulkiflee and anthropologist Vithya Subramaniam; the exhibition aims to raise important questions like What does it mean to create a ‘place’ for those who are often marked as transient labour, whose ‘places of origin’ lies elsewhere?.
Then, during the second week of the festival, two performances will explore how Singapore grapples with social inequality and social mobility. Check out Brown is Haram, a performance-lecture by Mysara Aljaru and Kristian-Marc James Paul, which invites audiences to explore Brown narratives in Singapore through a collection of stories and experiences gathered during a series of workshops in 2019-2020.
Meanwhile, Tabula Rasa is a preview of musician Subhas Nair’s sophomore album which looks at erasure in the city and interrogates the power play in writing of our narratives.
But don’t miss out on Alternative Lessons for Women as well, as this double bill hopes to challenge gender stereotypes by presenting alternative experiences of women.
Finally, as a homage to The Substation and the 30 years of its founding, The Last Chapter, curated by Young Artist Award recipient (2000), Lim Chin Huat, offers an immersive experience to rediscover the various facets of The Substation—its people, histories, stories to even the ghosts that housed themselves over the years.
Those who want to remember The Substation in all its glory should check out this one, as audiences are invited to explore every nook and cranny of the space thanks to stories brought to life by the various characters.
So this Thursday, head down to The Substation for the returning SepFest and make some memories. It may be your last chance to say your goodbyes and participate in an arts event by the independent arts centre.
SepFest 2021 runs from Mar 4-28 at The Substation. More information available here.