‘Substation 2.0’ to keep up the fight for independent art in Singapore

The entrance of the arts center on Armenian Street. Photo: The Substation/Facebook
The entrance of the arts center on Armenian Street. Photo: The Substation/Facebook

An underground arts powerhouse that enriched Singapore for over three decades isn’t ready to call it quits despite losing its signature venue.

The Substation team announced today that new blood will take over the reins after their farewell to the famed 45 Armenian Street building that’s played host to everything from punk gigs to experimental exhibitions since 1990. While they have yet to find a new home for what’s being called “Substation 2.0,” a new team led by Artistic Director Raka Maitra and General Manager Serene Yap will guide the way.

“The Substation has always championed independent artists and in doing so, has created a space for new kinds of art works in Singapore,” Maitra said in the announcement. “We remain committed to being an incubator of new talents and presenting works that inspire and create dialogue.”

The new team will spearhead a shift from venue space to a company focused on providing regional creative opportunities and collaborations. 

“The Substation’s purpose over the next few years will be to re-establish and redefine The Substation as the home for independent artists in Singapore, independent of our original building, while expanding our collaborative partnerships locally and in the region,” said the incoming chair of its new board, Wahyuni Hadi.

The announcement came a day after pandemic pain put the squeeze on a farewell event set for Sunday. It comes four months after the team announced that it was calling it quits because they did not want to share the space with new tenants being brought in by the National Arts Council after many years as the sole inhabitant.

The arts house, known for its experimental art events at the venue for 31 years, said they took into account proposals sent in by the public who refused to accept the closure. It supported their decision to remain as an independent arts company.

“While the decision to close is one The Substation Board collectively made and believed was the right thing to do, we also acknowledged that many in the community felt otherwise and sought an opportunity to drive The Substation forward,” the team wrote online.

Substation 2.0 will be focused on “developing original programming” by mentoring independent artists, having “meaningful engagement” with the arts community and making their mark in Southeast Asia through collaborations.

The new team which will take over by next month comprises art experts from diverse backgrounds, including chairperson and film curator Wahyuni Hadi, who coproduced the hit local film Ilo Ilo. Other board members will include playwright Bryan Tan and composer Joe Ng.

In the next months, the arts hub will continue applying for grants from the National Arts Council and planning its return.

Other stories you should check out:

Singapore’s National Day postponed: MINDEF
Substation’s final farewell spoiled by pandemic party pooper
United in grief, Singaporeans mourn slain teen student
Cancel National Day? Some Singaporeans’ say this isn’t time for a party


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