Art For All
Artists from Singapore and the United Kingdom shared their experiences of fostering social inclusion through the arts at the Arts and Disability Forum 2016 in Singapore.
BY AUDRINA GAN
PHOTO SINGAPORE INTERNATIONAL FOUNDATION
UK artist Claire Cunningham sharing her experiences and the insights she gleaned from them during the Arts and Disability Forum at the National Gallery Singapore.
he Arts and Disability Forum 2016, organised by Singapore’s National Arts Council in collaboration with the Singapore International Foundation (SIF) and British Council Singapore, was held at the National Gallery Singapore from March 29 to 31.
It brought together artists, healthcare practitioners, and professionals from the social service sector and arts and cultural organisations. The participants from Singapore and the United Kingdom shared their experiences and views on how art can effect social change by challenging society’s deepest assumptions about disability.
UK artist Claire Cunningham, who spoke at the forum, hopes to change the perception that disabled people are not as productive and skilful as the able-bodied. Cunningham, who was born with osteoporosis, is known for using her crutches in multi-disciplinary performances that encompass dance, puppetry, video and animation.
“There are talented and open-minded individuals (in Singapore). If they are strongly supported, disabled voices will be able to lead and more role models can emerge to inspire disabled children, helping them to understand their right to both discover and fulfi l their own potential.”
Claire Cunningham, UK artist
She says: “My impairment is part of me and shapes how I encounter the world. While the impairment can create difficulties, it has also made me thoughtful, good at problem-solving and given me unique skills in working with crutches to create dance and other art forms.”
To illustrate how she uses her craft to foster a more inclusive society, Cunningham cited one of her works, Guide Gods, a theatre performance which looks at how different faiths view disability. Apart from ensuring that a broad range of perspectives is represented in the performance, she also sought to make the show accessible for those with hearing and visual impairments by integrating captions and audio descriptions. Audience members were also encouraged to interact with one another during a tea session after the performance.
Cunningham hopes that there will be more projects, like Guide Gods, which create opportunities for disabled and able-bodied performers and the general public to meet in an inclusive space, enabling long-term sharing and learning.
She says: “There are talented and open-minded individuals (in Singapore). If they are strongly supported, disabled voices will be able to lead, and more role models can emerge to inspire disabled children, helping them to understand their right to both discover and fulfil their own potential.”
Singaporean Quek Ling Kiong, resident conductor of the Singapore Chinese Orchestra as well as music director of the Singapore Youth Chinese Orchestra, shared his experience promoting inclusion through music.
He led The Purple Symphony, Singapore’s first orchestra comprising able-bodied and disabled musicians, last year in its performance at The Purple Parade, an annual gathering that supports inclusion and celebrates the abilities of people with special needs. The Purple Symphony also performed at the 8th Asean Para Games in Singapore last year.
Quek says that the music scores had to be arranged, like changing the tempo of the pieces, to ensure that everyone could play the songs. He also had to adapt his conducting style to cater to different needs.
He says: “Some of our visually impaired members told me that they can’t see me but they can sense my presence from the breaths I take, so I try to breathe deeper whenever I’m performing with them.”
Quek, who credits music for transforming him from a rebel to a disciplined person, says: “I want to share this wonderful art with more people and show that music can help bring people together.”
THE ARTS AND DISABILITY FORUM 2016 IS PART OF SIF'S ARTS FOR GOOD INITIATIVE.
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