ArtScience Museum Future World

[dropcap size=small]H[/dropcap]eard of artainment? It’s a fashionable term to describe the combination of art and entertainment. Typically it requires active interaction, participation and/or immersion. And there’s usually a big element of technology involved. Many art lovers no longer wish to be passive observers seated and clapping during a live arts event. They want to roam in a well-designed digital art playground, engage in a high-tech fusion of cinema and live performance, and partake in a discussion that would determine how the story ends.

The evidence speaks for itself: When M1 Fringe Festival 2020 opened its ticket sales three months ago, the first shows to sell out were the immersive theatre ones. The most talked-about attraction at the ArtScience Museum is the Future World exhibition, where digital images on the walls constantly shift and transform in response to the visitors. And various museums frequently invite visitors to become part of large-scale art performances.

Melissa Lim, the M1 Fringe Festival’s executive producer, says the shift has to do with the technological revolution: “Technology has become so ubiquitous and accessible today – you could easily do a livestream on your cell phone, or pick up app-building skills online. Technology provides opportunities to break out of the tried-and-tested modes, as well as to play with other forms or manifestations of ‘realities’… Artists are naturally excited by the possibilities, while audiences are more accustomed to technology and willing to try out new things.”

In recent years, Ms Lim has seen a threefold increase in proposals from artists wanting to create immersive, interactive and participatory works for the festival. Some of them being staged this month are Café Sarajevo, a historical excavation which equips audiences with a headset and goggles so they can travel to Bosnia with the actor; and Secretive Thing 215 which sends you instructions on your cell phone to go out alone on the streets of Bras Basah-Bugis to discover the story embedded within the milling crowds.

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Esplanade’s The Studios 2020 season similarly sees artists venturing into the realm of immersive theatre. Bryan Gothong Tan’s Lost Cinema 20/20 blends live action with several cinema screens as audiences roam the dream-like space to shape their own experience of the work. It resembles, in a way, our own habit of surfing the Internet and burrowing into information rabbit holes.

Esplanade’s programmer Lynn Yang says: “Art has always wanted to recreate and reflect the world in which it is situated, and often attempts to do so by captivating the audience in ways that make them perceive their surroundings differently… Immersive work is an extension of that artistic impulse to get audiences to suspend their disbelief and be transported to another world.”

In the next decade, expect your real-life art experiences to be as virtual, participatory and rich as your online experiences.

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This article was originally published in The Business Times.