Time Out Singapore: ‘Lit Up Singapore 2013’ Preview

One of the hippest events on the indie literary arts calendar is back. Gwen Pew speaks to Marc Nair, local spoken word poet and one of the main guys driving the whole event.

A performance from Lit Up Festival. Image courtesy of Word Forward.

A performance from Lit Up Festival. Image courtesy of Word Forward.

19 Jun 2013: 

How did Lit Up begin?
Lit Up was started in 2009 by Word Forward. Chris Mooney-Singh and Savinder Kaur, the directors, envisioned an emerging writers and performers festival. This was the form of Lit Up from 2009 to 2010. Starting in 2011 and carrying on to 2013, Lit Up began to take on a more multi-disciplinary form, and incorporated visual art into its line-up. The focus also shifted from overseas artists to local artists, as we began to see the need for a platform to support and provide opportunities to young and capable artists.

What will be different about Lit Up this year?
This year, Lit Up pushes the envelope of collaboration in both the visual and performing arts. This year’s Visual Arts program includes a cross-disciplinary segment, Tête-à-tête. It brings together three pairs of artists who primarily work in different mediums. This dialogue – between poet and painter, photographer and sound artist, graphic designer and installation artist – will be presented at the exhibition. For the performing arts, we have Echo, a multi-disciplinary devised performance incorporating poetry, music and movement as well as a regional collaboration for one of the key performances, ‘She Walks Like A Free Country.’ This spoken word show brings together seven female poets from Singapore and Malaysia.

Tell us more about the theme of ‘Progression’ – why was it chosen and how will it be portrayed?
I chose ‘Progression’ as the theme for Lit Up 2013 because it felt like a word that was timely in the context of Singapore’s push to raise its population to 6.9m by 2030 as well as the slew of fractures, whether socially or infrastructurally, that has risen of late. Economic progression seems viable but is not without its fault lines. So I was interested to see how ‘Progression’ is applied in art, and how artists would interpret both positive and subverted notions of ‘Progression’ in Lit Up.

How do you decide the line-up and events of the festival?
A majority of the performances and visual artists were approached for this year’s festival. We felt that a curated approach is still necessary as we don’t have the resources to put out an open call. We also had some artists approach us to request to be featured in Lit Up. We accepted based on the quality of their work and relevance to the theme for this year. Most if not all of the invited artists are creating work specially for the festival, and we are very excited to present such a huge body of work.

How is the festival structured?
The festival operates holistically across a number of spaces. The majority of the performances are at Aliwal Arts Centre, although we do have talks and video installations at Orita Sinclair School of Design. Visitors to Lit Up will be able to attend back-to-back performances as well as take the time to walk through the visual arts gallery, featuring 13 installations.

Are there any highlights at the festival that should not be missed?
Everything at Lit Up is important! But it really depends on your taste. If you want interactive activities, workshops take place on both Saturday and Sunday mornings. We also have a great line-up of bands playing on Sunday evening as part of The Sarong Party, the closing event for Lit Up 2013. Our headline acts are Mosaic, a play by Joel Tan, and She Walks Like A Free Country. However, there are numerous smaller plays and performances that you should check out as well.

Focussing on the spoken word scene in Singapore – has it changed a lot over the past few years?
The spoken word scene has burgeoned over the past few years. For many years, there was only Poetry Slam to hold up the flag of spoken word, together with the occasional performance by visiting poets. But in the last couple of years, a number of both curated and open-mic events have sprung up, like Destination Ink, Singapore Arts Salon and Speak, and all these help to encourage and grow the scene by providing more avenues for writers to share their work.

Do you think Lit Up has contributed to that change?
Lit Up has always had the word at the core of its existence. Whether written or performed, we aim to centre every performance and exhibition around this ethos. Many of the artists involved in running and performing in various open-mic events are also part of Lit Up, and we hope to give them greater exposure and opportunites to further their craft. Additionally, the National Poetry Slam, which has been held annually at Lit Up, is also a key event that in many ways reflects the continued emphasis on the power of the spoken word.

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