NUS festival to showcase synergies between the arts and academia

Lending a spark of difference to this year’s NUS Arts Festival is an inaugural collaboration with the NUS College of Design and Engineering. What sets this Festival apart from others is the use of interdisciplinary education and research to drive the creation of artistic works, prompting reflection and broadening thinking on today’s issues.

NUS Arts Festival 2022: Shades of Light(ness) will run from 18 to 27 March, involving over 400 student artists, professional arts practitioners, leading researchers and thought leaders in NUS. Through a range of dance, music, theatre performances, film screenings, panel discussions and art installations, audiences will be invited to contemplate the multiplicity of light, one of the most powerful forces known to humanity.

“The synergies between science, technology, and the arts are often overlooked,” said Professor Aaron Thean, Dean of the NUS College of Design and Engineering.

“By bringing together creative elements from a technological perspective, we hope to interpret contemporary societal experience and generate inspirations for all of us. This collaboration between NUS Centre For the Arts and our College expresses our aspiration to further the spirit of interdisciplinary learning and research,” he added.

Expressing interdisciplinary education through the arts

In Living Company brings together four Electrical Engineering students embarking on their final year project on how plants respond to different light conditions in identifying optimal growth conditions. Their findings are expressed through an installation that repurposes old electrical appliances into light-controlled planters, challenging viewers to reconsider these everyday items and better appreciate their place, purpose, and beauty in our everyday lives.

Responding to this piece of art in a Festival segment titled Musings, Dr Padma Chirumamilla, Assistant Professor in the Department of Communications and New Media, reflected, “What does it mean, then, that the decadence of consumer electronics might be made otherwise… into a repository of care, whether we turn monitors into planters, or dream up ways of being with each other that might make our present (and future) conditions more liveable?”

Developed under the guidance of Professor Hong Minghui, Director of Optical Science and Engineering Centre (OSEC) in NUS, and visual artist Ryf Zaini, the installation will be open for viewing at the University Town Stephen Riady Centre Anteroom, Level 2 from 18 March to 17 April.

Tak Lurus, or “not straight” in Bahasa Melayu, is a short film showcasing an interdisciplinary collaboration between a group of Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering students and street dancers. The final year students worked on developing an “invisibility cloak”, using lenticular technology that bends and distorts light rays. The light-altering abilities of this project are interpreted and incorporated into a mesmerising dance performance by NUS Dance Blast!, a collegiate club based on street dance and open choreography.

Year 2 Nursing student Isabelle Joy, dance captain of NUS Dance Blast! shared, “The experience has been an eye-opening one and it feels like we are brewing magic from scratch. Seeing the dance item come to life with the use of the ‘invisibility cloak’ created by the team of Engineering students has put us on the edge. Even after numerous runs with the invisibility cloak, it always manages to leave us in awe every time.”

Tak Lurus premieres online on 17 March, and will be screened before the films in the Light and Shadow Festival programme at The Projector.

The progress of developing the Festival’s art installations can also be tracked through the X:LAB page (pronounced “cross-lab”), which follows the student artists’ process of discovery, trial, and error. X:LAB hopes to inspire more adventurous souls to take up the challenge of interdisciplinary learning increasingly needed to grapple with today’s complex world.

Exploring the relationship between light and humanity

Student artists also step out of their comfort zones and draw on different art forms in their performances. Thanmai embraces different art forms of dance, poetry, and visual arts to bring the Festival to a close on the evening of 27 March.

The final work of the late Mrs Santha Bhaskar with NUS Indian Dance, this performance explores the complexities of human’s physical and spiritual relationships with light in its many forms. Be enthralled by NUS Indian Dance as they reflect on the metaphysical and physical qualities of light and what it means to us as humans.

Visit the festival website to find out more about the many performances, films, writings, and art installations that make up NUS Arts Festival 2022: Shades of Light(ness).

NUS Arts Festival 2022: Shades of Light(ness) is generously supported by Bowen Enterprises Pte Ltd and Kewalram Chanrai Group. The Festival is also supported by the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth’s Cultural Matching Fund, and RB Capital.