Art Radar speaks with Linda de Mello of National Arts Council about the new DISINI festival in Singapore.

DISINI is a curated festival featuring a series of events, art exhibitions and public engagements until 30 September 2018.

MASH-UP, 'Nenas Estate', 2017. Image courtesy the artist and NAC.

MASH-UP, ‘Nenas Estate’, 2017. Image courtesy the artist and NAC.

Spurred by its locale, DISINI borrows its name from the Malay adverb ‘di sini’, meaning ‘over here’. The festival takes place at Gillman Barracks, Singapore’s contemporary arts cluster and is its inaugural visual arts festival, organised by Chan + Hori, in partnership with the National Arts Council. DISINI launched on 26 January 2018 in conjunction with Art After Dark x Singapore Art Week 2018.

As explained in the event’s press release,
The festival celebrates the precinct’s rich heritage as a former military barracks as well as its current role as Asia’s leading contemporary arts cluster. It is the region’s first large-scale and ground-up visual arts festival, comprising a series of public programmes, outdoor artworks and exhibitions by home-grown, regional and international artists.
 Maya Rochat, 'A Rock is a River' (detail), 2017. Image courtesy the artist and NAC.

Maya Rochat, ‘A Rock is a River’ (detail), 2017. Image courtesy the artist and NAC.

Linda Dorothy de Mello, Director of Sector Development (Visual Arts) at the National Arts Council says:

In 2017, Gillman Barracks commissioned its first public art showcase, LOCK ROUTE, during Singapore Art Week 2017. LOCK ROUTE was very well-received by artists, tenants and visitors alike and we have since been on the lookout for other exciting collaborations and partnerships at Gillman Barracks. Gillman Barracks is proud to host DISINI. As the only dedicated visual arts precinct in Singapore, we are pleased to collaborate with Chan + Hori on DISINI which provides a platform to support homegrown and international artists and enables visitors to come together and experience the visual arts in a unique way.

Felipe Pantone, 'Chromodynamica for Singapore', 2018. Image courtesy the artist and NAC.

Felipe Pantone, ‘Chromodynamica for Singapore’, 2018. Image courtesy the artist and NAC.

Anon Pairot, 'Flag from No Country for Tomorrow', 2017. Image courtesy the artist.

Anon Pairot, ‘Flag from No Country for Tomorrow’, 2017. Image courtesy the artist.

DISINI’s Artistic Director is Khairuddin Hori of Chan + Hori Contemporary in Singapore. Hori adds about the nine-month long festival:

Gillman Barracks is the ideal partner and venue for the inaugural edition of DISINI. From outdoor art to new curatorial commissions, there is an invigorating line-up of visual arts programming at DISINI that we hope will inspire more people to engage with the arts at Gillman Barracks.

DISINI will be split into five main parts with highlights including outdoor artworks located across the precinct, an iconic architectural pavilion (the DISINI Pavilion), as well as various public programmes, exhibitions and curatorial-led showcases. Art Radar spoke with Linda de Mello to find out more about the festival.

Dawn Ng, 'Pinball', 2017. Image courtesy the artist and NAC.

Dawn Ng, ‘Pinball’, 2017. Image courtesy the artist and NAC.

Gillman Barracks has gone through some hard times in the past, but it has picked up business again now. How would you say the complex has benefited from the development of the Singapore art scene as a whole and the opening of new important institutions like the National Gallery Singapore?

As an integral part of Singapore’s visual arts ecosystem, Gillman Barracks has benefited from and grown alongside Singapore’s visual arts scene as a whole. For instance, its twice-yearly signature open house Art After Dark has become a must-visit event. The flagship edition held during Singapore Art Week (SAW), Singapore’s annual celebration of the visual arts, is especially popular among art enthusiasts keen to enjoy a night of contemporary art in the precinct. The 2017 SAW Art After Dark drew over 9000 visitors to the precinct in one night.

The development of Singapore’s arts scene and the opening of new institutions such as the National Gallery Singapore have also encouraged audiences to further explore Singapore’s other diverse art offerings, including Gillman Barracks. The National Gallery is home to the world’s largest collection of Southeast Asian modern art. Its permanent and special exhibitions on Southeast Asian art have drawn many local and foreign visitors, raising the profile and appreciation of works by Southeast Asian artists. In the last few years, several galleries in Gillman Barracks have also presented more solo and group exhibitions of Southeast Asian modern and contemporary artists. Such complementary efforts have strengthened Singapore as a regional pivot and destination for Southeast Asian art.

In 2017, Gillman Barracks staged a highly successful public art showcase, LOCK ROUTE, for the first time. During its six-month duration, we witnessed how the public art enlivened the precinct and attracted visitors to further explore the galleries as well. This year, Gillman Barracks is proud to host DISINI, a ground-up visual arts festival organised by Chan + Hori in partnership with Gillman Barracks, featuring home-grown and international artists such as Dawn Ng (Singapore) and Felipe Pantone (Argentina/Spain), and providing unique experiences for visitors.

Maya Rochat, 'A Rock is a River' (detail), 2017. Image courtesy the artist.

Maya Rochat, ‘A Rock is a River’ (detail), 2017. Image courtesy the artist.

 Maya Rochat, 'A Rock is a River', 2017. Image courtesy the artist and NAC.

Maya Rochat, ‘A Rock is a River’, 2017. Image courtesy the artist and NAC.

Singapore can be considered the art hub of Southeast Asia. What would you say are the most important aspects that have contributed to its ascent in the region?

Over the years, the National Arts Council has made headway in our goal of developing Singapore as an arts hub, where quality content is produced and delivered via a dynamic arts ecosystem, to an engaged audience which appreciates the arts. Singapore is also in a unique position, surrounded by Southeast Asian countries with rich history and culture, which creates opportunities for intercultural dialogue and regional collaborations. Singapore’s arts landscape is also becoming more diverse and distinctive – not only is there an increase in the number of arts activities available, but also in the quality of works created.

Our visual arts scene is especially vibrant, with strong interest from and developments across the public and private sectors. Our institutions such as the National Gallery Singapore, Singapore Art Museum, STPI Creative Workshop & Gallery, the NTU Centre for Contemporary Art, as well as Gillman Barracks, are places where audiences can experience the best of visual arts from Singapore, the region and other parts of the world. Platforms such as the Singapore Biennale and Singapore Art Week connect our arts community with their international counterparts, providing opportunities for exchange and experimentation.

We believe in the growth potential of Asian art, and Singapore’s geographical location can serve as the international platform to access Southeast Asian art. Our key international platforms such as Gillman Barracks are also instrumental in helping Singaporean artists connect with, and be inspired by international artists, as well as establish links with the global art market. At the same time, the government’s commitment in building a robust arts infrastructure, from our museum ecosystem, art education institutions to logistics infrastructure, has helped position Singapore as a credible arts hub for the region.

Nabilah Nordin, 'glup plunc glerp thint than nurp earm tinn gamp shtert', 2017. Image courtesy the artist and NAC.

Nabilah Nordin, ‘glup plunc glerp thint than nurp earm tinn gamp shtert’, 2017. Image courtesy the artist and NAC.

Are there plans to develop the Gillman Barracks further?

Gillman Barracks celebrated its fifth anniversary in 2017. After five years, the visual arts precinct has found its stride and is moving along at a steady pace. In addition to being a destination for collectors, it is also a precinct with broader offerings that cater to the general public and art lovers. It also serves as a centre furthering the development of critical thought and new practices in the visual arts. For the future, Gillman Barracks will continue working with our partners to further grow the art industry in Singapore, raise exhibition and curatorial standards, as well as enhance visual arts literacy via our tenants’ quality exhibitions, and education and outreach efforts.

MASH-UP, 'Nenas Estate', 2017. Image courtesy the artist and NAC.

MASH-UP, ‘Nenas Estate’, 2017. Image courtesy the artist and NAC.

Focusing on the festival at Gillman Barracks, what is the aim of the nine-month event?

DISINI aims to support home-grown, regional and international artists, and bring the visual arts to a wider audience through different touchpoints i.e. the DISINI Outdoor Sculptures, an iconic outdoor pavilion and other programmes. As the festival runs until 30 September 2018 with a refreshed line-up of programmes, we hope visitors will keep coming back to experience the various facets of the event, as different experiences await them with each visit.

DISINI also provides a platform to build capabilities for the art industry, by engaging young local artists and practitioners such as curators, programmers, project and technical managers, to elevate their professional abilities.

Orkibal, 'Hati dan Perasaan'. Image courtesy the artist and NAC.

Orkibal, ‘Hati dan Perasaan’. Image courtesy the artist and NAC.

What are some of the highlights of the festival that we can be looking forward to?

Visitors can expect a series of public programmes, outdoor artworks and exhibitions from 26 January to 30 September 2018. The iconic outdoor pavilion developed by local, independent fashion collective, MASH-UP, will serve as the heart of the festival. The DISINI Outdoor Sculptures, curated by Artistic Director Khairuddin Hori, will feature seven visually arresting outdoor artworks, including a mural by renowned street artist Felipe Pantone (Argentina / Spain). A second wave of public artworks will be launched in March 2018.

In June 2018, visitors can look forward to two new exhibitions as part of the festival: “Breaking Waves”, a series of new curatorial commissions by Chan + Hori, as well as “From the Artist’s Studio”, a showcase of long publicly unseen artworks by acclaimed Malaysian artist Latiff Mohidin. There will also be a variety of performances, workshops, tours and events held at the pavilion and across Gillman Barracks during the festival’s nine-month duration.

Lugas Syllabus, 'Catch Yourself If You Can', 2017. Image courtesy the artist and NAC.

Lugas Syllabus, ‘Catch Yourself If You Can’, 2017. Image courtesy the artist and NAC.

Are you planning to hold more festivals like DISINI at Gillman Barracks after this inaugural one?

Gillman Barracks will continue to programme events. This festival is a public and private partnership between Gillman Barracks and its tenants and supported by various government agencies. We continue to welcome ideas and proposals for collaboration with  interested parties – whether current tenants, creative businesses or visitors – to achieve our shared vision of establishing Gillman Barracks as a vibrant contemporary arts precinct.

C. A. Xuan Mai Ardia


DISINI runs from 26 January to 30 September 2018 at Gillman Barracks, Blk 9 Lock Road, Singapore 108937.

Related Topics: Southeast Asian art, art festivals, art districts, interviews, events in Singapore

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By Brittney

Brittney is a writer, curator and contemporary art gallerist. Born in Singapore and based in New York City, Brittney maintains a deep interest in the contemporary art landscape of Southeast Asia. This is combined with an equally strong interest in contemporary art from the Asian diasporas, alongside the issues of identity, transmigration and global relations.

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