The Substation is Singapore’s first independent contemporary arts centre. We caught up with Marketing Manager, Chelsea Chua to find out more.

The Substation Singapore
The façade of The Substation.

The Substation was founded in 1990 by the late Kuo Pao Kun, a luminary and one of the most highly regarded figures in Singapore’s art scene.

Kuo Pao Kun
Founder of The Substation, Kuo Pao Kun, with The Substation during renovations in 1990.

The Substation is a multi-cultural, multi-disciplinary arts space that serves a diverse community of arts and cultural workers and practitioners in Singapore. It is strongly supportive of innovation and experimental works, placing tremendous value on vigorous, critical and challenging approaches to artistic practice. Throughout the year, it presents a wide range of artists and programmes, from the traditional arts to local rock bands; established visual artists to young poets; publications to international short film festivals; experimental theatre to seminal conferences on Singapore arts and culture. Over the years, The Substation has worked with some of Singapore’s most critically acclaimed arts practitioners and cultural workers.

During the early years of its founding, The Substation was a pioneer arts space in Singapore. It played a key part in almost every arts event or development of significance. The Substation’s founding became a key inspiration for significant developments in the local arts scene such as the emergence of professional theatre companies, new writing in theatre, and a new generation of visual artists inspired by new practices and ideas promoted by artists and groups.

Monster Cat
Singaporean rock band Monster Cat collaborating with sound artist Kai Lam during a Tribal Gatherings session early in 2012.

Since then, Singapore has seen a surge in the number of arts venues and arts groups, together with a growing international interest in ‘Asian’ contemporary arts. As the arts scene matures, The Substation remains committed to nurturing local voices in Singapore arts and culture, and supporting diversity and development in the arts. It continues to be an incubator for emerging and established Singaporean artists, and is known for its experimental, innovative programming. It is also a gathering point for the arts community, the public, communities and people from different language streams and cultures; a place where young artists and arts groups can have their start; a space for critical discussion; and most importantly, a place where artists are given time and space to develop the critical rigor needed to create their work.

The Substation Moving Images
The Substation’s Moving Images organizes the annual Singapore Indie Doc Fest. Spanish director Luis Sanchez Elba visited this year’s festival and gave a post screening talk.

Its core programmes seek to support emerging and established artists, experimentation, inter-disciplinary research and community outreach. These include Open Call, an incubation platform for emerging artists to present works in visual art, sound art and performance, Tribal Gathering, which focuses on music experimentation between local musicians and artists, and Moving Images, Singapore’s first year-round film programme dedicated to showcasing short, experimental and documentary films. The Substation also has an Associate Artist Research Programme, where local art practitioners are invited to undertake a two-year residency where they are provided with curatorial, financial, administrative and operational support to develop interdisciplinary art research and practice.

The site of The Substation, as its name suggests, was previously a power sub-station. The building is centrally located in Singapore’s civic district, and houses Singapore’s first black box theatre, a gallery, a dance studio, Random Room and two multi-function classrooms.

The Substation can be found at 45 Armenian Street, Singapore.

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