Theatre company T:>Works has unveiled a new international fellowship programme, PerForm, which aims to broaden artistic practices and explorations from around the world.

The programme, which has received seed funding of $1 million over three years from the Ford Foundation, will present its inaugural digital lecture by Singaporean artist Shubigi Rao on May 6.

Rao is one of six invited fellows. The other five are Ho Rui An, Jerrine Tan, Munirah Mansoor, Nurul Huda Rashid and Wong Bing Hao.

T:>Works’ artistic director Ong Keng Sen, 57, plans to invite six more practitioners from the Global South, a term referring to poorer countries in the global north-south divide, in the later half of this year.

The project will also be supported by the Cultural Matching Fund, which matches donations to eligible arts and heritage charities dollar for dollar, and additional fundraising by T:>Works.

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Ong says the international scope of the fellowship is a natural extension of what the 36-year-old company has been doing over the past decades: “The Ford Foundation has been supporting our work since the late 1990s. It’s allowed us to imagine beyond the local context.”

Thinking beyond national borders has been a part of T:>Works’ DNA since 1996 when it launched its biennial arts event, The Flying Circus Project, which brought together regional and international artists.

Just as Flying Circus united hard sciences with the arts, Ong hopes this fellowship will inspire experts from different fields to come together to share knowledge from their research and practices.

“It is imperative that we perform differently from just making art. We need to learn and figure out how to live together, once again,” he adds.

The company has also appointed a new executive director, Traslin Ong, 47, who was with the company from 1999 to 2004. She is returning to Singapore after 16 years in New York where she completed her graduate studies and worked at arts institutions including the Brooklyn Museum, Museum of Chinese in America and Brooklyn Academy of Music.

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She says: “There’s a burgeoning of the independent arts scene in Singapore and the raw energy from the groundswell is what makes me excited to be back, to be in a position to nurture that.”

Multi-disciplinary artist Brian Gothong Tan, 40, will also be joining the company to direct an artistic atelier for the next three years.

Tan, who began in visual arts and has moved into film and theatre, says: “This atelier is formalising my own work over the past 13 years.”

The first project he will present in October will be 100 Microfilms: A Dream Cycle Marathon Of Cinema, a 71/2-hour film installation which will span various locations in South-east Asia.

There will be three other projects spread over the next three years, including a paper atelier in a nod to his visual arts roots and a digital atelier.

This article was originally published in The Straits Times.

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