A Manisfesto for The Arts

Town Hall on Manisfesto for The Arts

March 17, Sunday, 2-4pm

Emily Hill, 11, Upper Wilkie Road, Singapore 228120.


Dear members of the arts community,


The National Conversation [Our Singapore Conversation (OSC)] that has been going on consigns the arts to the periphery of Singapore society and life – that is, if it discusses the arts at all. A group of us from the arts community feel that, despite some deep misgivings about the conversation, from the motive behind it to its processes and outcomes so far, we need to make some sort of intervention to focus attention on what we think is really important. To keep silent is to be deemed irrelevant.


To this end, we have drawn up a draft Manifesto for the Arts, a document that outlines the principles and values that we think are not just important to the arts but also to Singapore, not just relevant to the National Conversation but also for the long term. Please see below.


More work and discussion needs to be done on the draft. Hence, we are calling a town hall meeting of all artists at the above date and time to dispute, support or generally discuss the Manifesto.


Arts NMP Janice Koh also has arranged a discussion to be organised by the National Conversation Secretariat to take place on April 13, 9am to 2pm (venue to be finalised).


Besides artists, other people in the creative area will also be invited.  We hope that the Manifesto will be the basis, or at least a starting point, for this conversation. At the event, you are of course free to bring up any issue, including questioning the National Conversation itself.


We hope to see on at the town hall!




Terence Chong

Janice Koh

Kok Heng Leun

Kuo Jian Hong

Jasmine  Ng

Sasitharan Thirunalan

Alvin Tan

Tan Tarn How

Audrey Wong

Tay Tong




A Manifesto for the Arts


(I) Intro


Basic material needs such as food, housing and security are important, but they are not theultimate aim in life. Human endeavour is about achieving a rich, emotional, intellectual and spiritual life. Hence what matter most are not material things, but the love of our family and friends, freedom to pursue knowledge and other goals, and culture and the arts.


Culture, of which the Arts is its highest expression, gives meaning to all our endeavour. It reflects who we are, how we see the world, and how the world sees us.


(II) The Manifesto


1.     Do not attempt to define Art.


Art has no necessary and sufficient. What is artistically necessary and sufficient for one community may not be for another. 

2.     Art unifies and divides. 


Art draws us together and reveals universal truths. However, Art can also unveil differences and contradictions. We should not just celebrate the former while demonising the latter. Art provides the canvas on which our diversity can be expressed and encountered, and our differences debated and appreciated. It is this process of conflict and contest of ideas that offers us alternatives.


3.     Art is about possibilities.


Art allows us to examine our way of life, to make sense of it and to question, and to transform ourselves.  It allows us to imagine new possibilities and to evolve or even re-make our culture.


Art-making requires independent thinking, freedom of expression, risk-taking and experimentation. Art has no enemies except ignorance and prejudice. 



4.     Art can be challenged but not censored.


Everyone has a right to be delighted by, indifferent to or repulsed by to Art. But no one has the right to deny another the right to decide for his or herself.



5.     Art is political


Art comes from and speaks to life. It therefore should inform all aspects of policy and politics that affect our way of life. Art enables perspectives and offers alternatives, keeps us uncertain and doubtful to our benefit, and warns

us of the hazards of moral certainty.


Art is the seat of the aesthetic experience, but it is also part of our human engagement with landscape, architecture, ritual and many other social and cultural activities.





Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s