An eclectic combination of Asian culture, design and fashion made up the visually stunning Asia On The Edge (AOTE) 2009, which ran from 24 to 27 September. Asia’s creative talents and cultural heritage were showcased at the four-day festival, organized by The Arts House and PICO.
Aptly themed “Evolution”, the festival comprised of three components: Evolution, an outdoor installation and performance; Waterways, a craft, design and performance showcase; and Jing, a fashion in-theatre experience inspired by philosophy.
Hundreds turned up for the world premiere of the festival, which kicked off with the installation-performance work Evolution at the Old Parliament Lane, just in front of The Arts House. The rear of the Victoria Concert Hall was transformed into a massive clockwork-like installation to represent the passage of time and evolution. Celebrities, such as supermodel Junita Simon, Lim Yu Beng and Tan Kheng Hua were dressed in striking costumes inspired by the recording devices of time, for example, the sun, moon and stars.
Well-known Singapore director Goh Boon Teck was inspired by the notion of time and aimed to create an outdoor installation to convey the feeling of passing time.
“Evolution is an archival tool of memories, histories and imaginations. A time piece which celebrates creativity and human spirit,” said Goh Boon Teck, the creative director of Evolution.
“Personally, I felt it was good, but I couldn’t really see the performance very well. But I have to say that the costumes were really beautiful,” said marketing executive, Lim Bih Ru, 28.
Guests were also invited to sample the various culinary delights by renowned chefs from Asia after the installation performance. The gastronomy component was part of Jing, a fashion in-theatre production that featured designs by leading lingerie brand in China, Aimer Group.
The world premiere of Jing (the Chinese word connoting “peace”) brought together fashion from Beijing, talents from the Shanghai modelling scene, respected theatre practictioners from Singapore and renowned chefs from the region to relook and challenge preconceptions about food, fashion and music.
Thai Chef Nattapong Norchoovech wanted to do just that. His menu for the festival was strongly influenced by traditional Thai cuisines but presented with a modern touch.
“Asia On The Edge to me is about moving to the future. Likewise, food must also progress with the times. Thai food has been cooked over and over again. This time, I am trying to reinvent the normal Thai cuisine with a modern touch,” said Norchoovech, who whipped up delectable delicacies like duck confit and scallop with mango puree.
“People don’t think food is important, but food is an art and an expression. I express myself through my food and it is like a journey to me,” added Norchoovech, sharing his inspirations for his choice of gourmet dishes during the festival.
AOTE was first conceived to serve as a platform for the sharing of experiences from Asia. This year, Jing was an occasion where various chefs from different parts of Asia such as Japan, Thailand, Malaysia and China could share their cultures and collaborate together.
“The best part of the festival to me was definitely being able to meet chefs from other countries and to learn from them. It is like a meeting with people of the same ideas,” said Norchoovech.
Celebrity chef Ismail Redzuawan from Malaysia agreed.
“What is happening here is fantastic because we get to know a bit of each other. I always believe food will always bring people to the table. It brings love, respect, peace and compassion. I think this region is the best place for that to be done,” he said.
The night wrapped up on a high note with the visually gripping fashion in-theatre performance, where new faces in the Shanghainese modelling scene presented the one-hour fashion show staged by artistic director Jeremiah Choy and music director Jiu Jian.
Inspired by the work of French philosopher Michel Foucault, Choy wanted to redefine the experience of the creative disciplines. He hopes that Jing will showcase beyond the immediate beauty of the design of intimate apparel or its wearer, as the genre itself has many metaphorical and symbolic functions. This best reflects Foucault’s philosophy which often challenges one to relook at concepts and notions that are often accepted as given truths.
“When we look at the mirror, who are we looking at? Are you looking at the person in the mirror, or is the person in the mirror looking at you. At fashion, we are looking at intimate apparel. Are we looking at the models or are they looking at us? We presented it through theatrical means and we are exploring the many facets of the philosophy,” explained Choy.
The models walked through the parts of the second level of The Arts House that reflected the various literature of Foucault. For example, the performers ascended the throne-like structure which created a tension between the audience and performer; a tension between watching and being watched.
“I liked the performance. It was very sensual and very different from a usual lingerie show. It really offered a unique perspective,” said Jacke Chye, the deputy director of a telecommunications company.
He continued: “I think the whole festival was about borrowing from the past but being relevant to society. It is about having heritage but putting a modern spin to things. Asia still keeps to its traditions but we’ve evolved a lot.”
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His views were echoed by Jeremiah, who summed up what AOTE was really all about.
“Using Singapore as a base, we can explore the many talents, many wonderful cultures of Asians and bringing them together to create works that relate to Asia. The world is getting smaller, and with the Internet, we begin to look at Asia in a very different light. Hence, AOTE is exploring where the boundaries are, and to keep expanding and trying to push them further. It is really an integration of all things Asian because it is collaborative in nature.” he said.