The Asia-Europe Cultural Festival, a celebration of the vibrant cultural tapestries of Asia and Europe, made its debut in Singapore from 22 October to 1 November 2023.
Organised by the Asia-Europe Foundation (ASEF) with the support of the European Union, this year’s festival is a testament to the power of art in transcending borders and fostering dialogue. Audiences in Singapore had the opportunity to immerse themselves in a diverse range of artistic expressions, including dance, film, photography, and music, with artists from Italy, Malaysia, Cambodia, France, Estonia, Japan, and Singapore.
Since 2018, the Asia-Europe Cultural Festival has showcased the rich tapestry of cultural exchanges between Asia and Europe, celebrating artistic collaborations, fostering dialogue, and igniting connections between two continents known for their diversity and creativity.
The festival kicked off on 22 October with the Singapore premiere of the documentary film, The Perfect Motion, directed by French filmmaker Xavier de Lauzanne. The film tracks the creation of a production by Cambodia’s royal dancers called “Metamorphosis”, and the history of the Cambodia Royal Ballet since 1906. Bringing Asian and European perspectives together, the film underscores how the the unique artistic expression of the Royal Ballet gradually became key in reconstructing and rebuilding Cambodia’s national identity. The screening, held at the Asian Civilisations Museum, was followed by a live dance performance from the Princess Buppha Devi Dance School. Xavier, along with HRH Prince Tesso Sisowath, Director of the Princess Buppha Devi Dance School, also participated in a lively post-show discussion with the audience after.
On the opening night, with the support of the Embassy of Estonia in Singapore, Estonian director and choreographer Teet Kask‘s The Golden Temple made its Southeast Asia premiere at the Studio Theatre of the School of the Arts (SOTA) at the presence of EU Ambassador to Singapore Iwona Piorko, Japanese Ambassador to Singapore Hiroshi Ishikawa and Estonian Ambassador to Singapore Priit Turk. A multidisciplinary performance inspired by Yukio Mishima’s novel “The Temple of the Golden Pavilion”, this piece is an ode to the undefined depth of the human condition. For the re-stage of the performance in Singapore, the director worked with Singapore-based cello player Robert Choi, adding a new dimension to this Asia-Europe artistic collaboration. A post show dialogue with Teet and Robert was held after, presenting an opportunity to hear questions and voices from the floor.
Find out more about the journey behind the The Golden Temple in this interview with the director Teet Kask: Asia-Europe Cultural Festival: 2023 | Interview with Teet Kask | ASEF culture360
Read the review of The Golden Temple: ★★★★☆ Review: The Golden Temple by Teet Kask – Bakchormeeboy
On 27 October, with the support of the Embassy of Italy in Singapore, the contemporary dance performance X by Italian choreographer Olimpia Fortuni and sound artist Katatonic Silentio, in collaboration with Malaysian dancer and choreographer January Low took the centrestage at presence of Italian Ambassador to Singapore Dante Brandi and several representatives from the Embassies of Estonia, Japan, Korea, The Philippines, Hungary and Poland. This captivating performance inspired by Asian shamanic traditions and Western archetypal symbols, melded together sound, body, movement, natural and artificial architectures in the enchanting atmosphere provided by the River Terrace at Asian Civilisations Museum. The night concluded with a post-show discussion, where the performers highlighted how the piece was in continuous transformation, thanks to the addition of January’s collaboration alongside the change in space and location.
Find out more about the journey behind the X in this interview with the artists: Asia-Europe Cultural Festival: 2023 | Interview with ‘X’ | ASEF culture360
Read the review of X: ANSA (Italy): Review of the Asia-Europe Cultural Festival
The final event of the festival took place on 1 November with a thought-provoking roundtable discussion titled Framing the Future: Photography’s Impact on Climate Awareness in Southeast Asia. Presented in collaboration with the Embassy of the Netherlands in Vietnam and the NOOR Foundation, this conversation brought together photographers from Thailand, Cambodia, Viet Nam and the Netherlands as well as journalists and scientists based in Singapore. The discussion explored the pivotal role of photography in shaping the narrative of climate change awareness in Southeast Asia.
ASEF LinkUp | Asia-Europe Cultural Diplomacy Lab took place alongside this year’s Asia-Europe Cultural Festival. This four-day gathering connected curators, arts managers and artists with diplomats and cultural attaches based in Singapore and the ASEAN region, facilitating the exchange of knowledge in cultural diplomacy. Find out more about what took place during the pilot edition of ASEF LinkUp here.
The Asia-Europe Cultural Festival is organised by the Asia-Europe Foundation (ASEF) and funded by the European Union, with the generous support of the Embassy of Italy in Singapore, the Embassy of Estonia in Singapore, and Casa Asia. ASEF would also like to thank the Asian Civilisations Museum (ACM) and Dance Nucleus for their support.