As the newly appointed fifth generation Artistic Director, Alan Oei believes that The Substation is at an appropriate point in its development to benefit from a re-examination of its artistic vision and mission in light of arts developments since the early 2000s.
Oei points out, “while we have clearly been joined by many other venues for the arts — not only is there now a brand new and better infrastructure, other artists and arts groups have also found their own homes amidst a plethora of independent spaces — a more urgent question is what sort of role The Substation plays in the arts today.”
Refocusing its original vision, Oei reflects: “Kuo Pao Kun’s dream isn’t only for The Substation to be an open, experimental, and plural space for artists; ultimately, it’s for Singapore to become such a place, and that our artists would have a larger role in shaping our cultural conversations.”
“Singapore is going through change and some uncertainties. This also means that we, as a people, have an opportunity to come together in shaping our future. At The Substation we hope to, through the arts, take on the big cultural questions that affect us, as a nation and as individuals.”
In the coming months, The Substation will look to strengthen and focus its cultural legacy with a number of changes. Firstly, it will move to a yearly thematic programme, exploring smaller, and experimental shows, as well as workshops that will culminate into a larger presentation exhibition. Secondly, as an organisation and venue, it will streamline and redefine its core capabilities, transitioning gradually from a venue rental and programming site to a research and developmental space for artists.
Expanding the mission of this multi-disciplinary space to include other voices — writers, historians, economists, geographers, engineers — The Substation is creating non-project oriented residency and developmental programmes that can provide a home, a space, and an inspirational point of connection between these specialised fields.
To inform, support and move forward in new directions, The Substation will be organising a series of focus groups with the arts community before finalizing and launching its programme initiatives. The focus groups will provide a deeper understanding of The Substation’s role within the arts community.
Oei says, “The Substation is very dear to many of us who have had our first encounters with art here. We know where we want to go, but how do we get there? We can’t do it without the arts community.”