Of disappearing acts and Singapore arts: Interview with William Phuan

 How do you think the local arts scene has changed over the past ten years?

It has definitely become more vibrant and exciting. The cultural calendar is now crowded with performances and exhibitions all year round. Artists are also more ready to take risks, both artistically and thematically. Plus, locals are being exposed to the arts at a younger age now, especially in schools. It’s an exciting time for the arts in Singapore.

 How do you think the scene will be ten years from now?

The social and cultural fabric of Singapore is always changing. Artists will respond to these changes and create works that reflect, critique or interrogate these changes. I hope there’ll be an even greater multiplicity of voices, and more intercultural and inter-lingual practices. 

 How exactly did the “disappearing” theme for this year’s anniversary bash materialize?

We didn’t want to do the usual celebrations with pomp and flair—instead, we wanted something contemplative, but not too serious. Chong Tze Chien, the artistic director for our anchor show The Next Stage, came up with the idea of “absence”—specifically, a tongue-in-cheek tribute of an alternate universe in which The Arts House does not exist. The concept plays on our memories, and hopefully the show will make people think more deeply about the role and achievements of The Arts House. 

What books, local or otherwise, would you recommend?

The Chinese novel Art Studio by Cultural Medallion winner Yeng Pway Ngon is a monumental achievement. Confrontation by Mohamed Latiff Mohamed and The Inlet by Claire Tham are quite amazing too. Malay Sketches by Alfian Sa’at seems ripe for adaptation, while Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan is such a fun romp.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

Meeting the different artists and working with them. Their passion and unwavering faith in the importance of art is always inspiring. 

What is the greatest challenge that you’ve faced so far?

Pulling off our 10th anniversary celebrations!

The Arts House kicks off its 10th anniversary celebrations with its anchor show, The Next Page, from March 27-29, 8pm. 1, Old Parliament Lane, 6332-6900, www.theartshouse.com.sg. $8-$10.