Caring for the Soul of the Nation
General Elections and the Future of the Arts

This paper is developed by the arts community in Singapore highlighting a few issues of concern to the community. It was emailed to the various political parties on 2 May 2011, for their response.
Nurturing broad-based arts appreciation in schools, tertiary institutions and the communities 

1.    For government agencies, such as the Community Development Councils, to instil the value of culture in the lives of the people, and to raise the significance of the arts, as essential to community bonding and personal development

2.    To elevate the social status of artists among the populace and provide due recognition on familial, communal and national levels

3.    To improve the quality of arts education in Singapore, across all educational levels and in specialist programmes and institutions, not merely for the purposes of nation building, but also to cultivate critical thinking as intrinsic to intellectual and cultural progress

4.    To increase accessibility to arts performances and exhibitions, at theatres and galleries, as well as the regular promotion and support of local arts to the suburbs/non-central areas as transference of cultural capital 

5.    To fund government and non-government organisations to provide free entry (i.e. ‘open-house’) to cultural and artistic events, as part of social education and audience development

Supporting the education and further development of professional artists

6.    On arts funding processes, to increase transparency of assessment and selection, allowing for open dialogue and forum between agencies, resource panellists and artists themselves

7.    On free speech and expression, that an independent, citizen-centred organ be established to track, report and document any action, regulation or policy that  censors, curtails, restricts or impedes free speech and expression across all disciplines and forms of discourse including the arts, media and academia

8.    On the current funding terms, which encroach on artistic freedom, to remove the prescriptive and subjectively applied clauses that pre-determine artistic production, in particular, the clause that artworks supported by public funds should “not be offensive or obscene in nature or derogatory or defamatory of any third party” or the government (See Right Side Bar). These policies stand contrary to the spirit of arts creation, which is meant to produce and promote discussion, and not to be constrained by the state’s political orientation 

9.    To place emphasis on the historicization of local arts people and artistic productions through rigorous archiving, substantial and non-partisan media representation, as well as inclusion in the national education syllabuses. This should be in line with the government’s position to not only encourage and support art research, criticism and platforms for dialogue, but also to recognise the importance of artistic and academic freedom for the intellectual and critical development of Singapore

10    To conduct regular consultation and open forum sessions between government and artists in major arts policies, in areas such as the development of art precincts, the advocacy for private sector philanthropy and other pertinent issues 

11.    To increase opportunities for capacity development not only of early-career artists, but also mid-career artists on both national and international levels

Extract from the National Arts Council’s Grant Application Guidelines:

Activities Not Funded
As a public arts agency, NAC is obliged to prioritise financial support away from artistic projects which: 

(a) Erode the core moral values of society, including, but not limited to the promotion of permissive lifestyles and depictions of obscenity or graphic sexual conduct; 

(b) Denigrate or debase a person, group or class of individuals on the basis of race or religion, or serve to create conflict or misunderstanding in our multicultural and multi-religious society; 

(c) Disparage or demean government bodies, public institutions or national leaders, and/or subvert the nation’s security or stability. 

Extract from the Media Development Authorities’ Board of Film Censors Film Classification Guidelines

The acceptability of a theme is determined by its suitability and treatment i.e. The way it is presented and the context in which scenes are presented. Suitability and treatment of a theme is especially important in the lower classification levels. Films dealing with mature content (e.g. drug use, prostitution or homosexuality) would generally be classified as NC16, M18 or R21.

Films should not promote or normalise a homosexual lifestyle. However, non-exploitative and non-explicit depictions of sexual activity between two persons of the same gender may be considered for R21.

Films with dialect content are allowed on a case-by-case basis. Chinese films meant for theatrical release should generally be in Mandarin, in line with the Speak Mandarin Campaign.

Arts Engage,
Dec 22, 2016, 10:57 PM