Thursday, March 29, 2018

Celebrating Arts & Disability in Asia Pacific

I recently had the pleasure to attend the 2018 Arts & Disability International Conference and True Colours Festival in Singapore. The event, presented by UNESCO and the Nippon Foundation, was organized by VSA Singapore in partnership with the National Arts Council Singapore. It was quite a celebration of Asian Pacific artists with disabilities and featured artists from Cambodia, Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Japan, Singapore, Thailand, India, China, and Micronesia, as well as Canada, Scotland, New Zealand, and Australia.

One of the takeaways for me was this definition of creativity: Creativity is taking something that exists and turning it into something that doesn’t. If you think about an artist like Picasso, he took the techniques used for painting realism and created a new form, cubism. One of the groups that fits that description is the Digital Orchestra of Drake Music Scotland. They play music using such apps and equipment as ThunbJam, SoundBeam, Brainfingers, and Wowee. I was amazed by the vast capabilities of these digital resources and know that the argument “Is this orchestral music?” will soon be as active as the “Is a photograph art?” conversation of several years ago. You can hear one of their compositions, a tribute to a band member who has passed away, in the video below:

Here I am trying out one of the Sound Beam instruments during the Drake Music Scotland presentation.

Another takeaway was given to me by Alirio Zavarce of No Strings Attached, Australia: Be open to all possibilities, inside in and outside out. Be true to the art form, but flexible in your approach and methodology. You have one job. Make it look good. And look good indeed did their world premiere of “I Forgot to Remember to Forget,” a multimedia journey through memory and memory loss. There was also a very touching work in progress presented by Very Special Theatrics Singapore and No Strings Attached, “My Home is Not a Shell.” This piece was developed in response to the invasion of their tropical island city by numerous glass and metal high-rise buildings of commerce and finance. Conceived and developed over a 23-hour rehearsal process, the story was well-developed and very touching. I could relate to their sorrow as I also mourn the loss of my native Austin to the facades of progress and finance.

My traveling companion Jeannine and I with Alirio on the first day of the conference

A final takeaway was shared by Adrian Anantawan, a violinist I have had the opportunity to perform with through Inclusive by Design with VSA Massachusetts: The greatest accommodation is acceptance. This was evidenced every day in every way at the True Colours Festival Village, Concert and Conference. There was so much more food for my senses than I can mention here including Epic Arts Cambodia, Kate Hood of Raspberry Ripple, and Slow Label Japan. I am lingering in my memories, refreshing at the well of creativity. Thank you Singapore for showing me and the world your True Colours.

One of my real pleasures was getting to know Sokny Onn and the Epic Arts Cambodia dance troupe.

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