Documenting the Performing Arts in Singapore
Work in Process is a project to document the rehearsal process of performing arts groups in Singapore using photography, video and interviews. This project was initiated by Tan Ngiap Heng in 2011 as personal research. In 2012 He started a collaboration with LASALLE College of the Arts to formalize the project as an archive. Work in Process has been made possible by the National Arts Council and the Research Committee at LASALLE College of the Arts.
Work in Process aims to provide insight into the practices of performing artists in Singapore, the breadth of the work being staged and understanding of how the performing arts have evolved in Singapore. It will also provide insight into the conditions under which performing arts groups are operating, and the themes that are inspiring art-making processes in Singapore. The collection is added to every year by at least six productions, and can be accessed by arts practitioners and researchers to the long-term benefit of the Performing Arts.
Selection Criteria and Panel
All productions selected for documentation are locally produced and contemporary, with priority given to original Singaporean work. In the first two years, productions were chosen solely by Tan Ngiap Heng. In 2013, the productions to document were selected by a panel including Edith Podesta, Noor Effendy Ibrahim and Stephanie Burridge.
The project is led by Tan Ngiap Heng, Aubrey Mellor and Malar Nadeson.
The archive consists of documentary photography, written notes on the process, printed material from companies, rehearsal videos and audio interviews with the artists.
Material in the archive is provided strictly for research purposes. The copyright of the material remains with the creators of the work. For any use of the material, permission must be sought from the creators and the relevant arts company.
A Personal Introduction by photographer Tan Ngiap Heng
“As a photographer, a creative, for over ten years, I spent time learning the basics of my craft and polishing it. And now I am trying to deepen my own practice, the process of art creation remains a challenge for me; how does one get inspiration, experiment and hone one's craft to express inner truths? As a photographer taking publicity and full dress rehearsal photographs for performing arts groups for over ten years, much of my photography is influenced by techniques and aesthetics used in theatre and dance productions. It was natural that I wanted to start documenting theatre and dance rehearsals.
It is inspirational to see other creatives at work: how people set out their artistic goals and find creative solutions to produce a performed event. In the rehearsal period there are sparks of brilliance which are not intellectually comprehensible or directly translatable to photography, but they provide fuel for new ideas and ways of thinking. And there is also a lot of practical information about how people collaborate creatively. For example, a musical involves much more than the artistic director and the performers; there is the music director, the movement and dance director, the set designer, the costume designer, the lighting designer and the production team; all work together to create the production. This diverse group of people use language, diagrams, gestures and examples to communicate and share ideas - all important knowledge in collaborative art projects.
As I documented various productions, I came to realize that such knowledge was valuable to other artists and the public. I also realized the limitations of photographic documentation: it fails to give the context of the photographs. With this in mind, I initiated a collaboration with LASALLE College of the Arts to help involve researchers to take notes on the rehearsal process and conduct interviews with the creators of the productions. LASALLE now archives the material, making it available to anyone interested in the process of art creation.”