The Substation

The Substation
Profiles Singapore

Address: 45 Armenian Street, Singapore: 179936
Contact: Samantha Segar
Email: [email protected]
Phone: 6337 7535
Open hours: 10am to 7pm (office hours)

How is the project operated?
The projects organised by The Substation are non-profit.

How long has it been in existence?
The Substation is the first non-profit multi-disciplinary contemporary art space in Singapore since 1990. This year, we are at our 29th year.

What was your motivation?
Through The Substation’s annual artistic themes, it intends to expand, leads and support cultural conversations in Singapore, engaging the general public to the full possibilities of contemporary art in shaping public discourse.

“SAD Bar,” The Substation, 2018.

Number of organizers/responsible persons of the project
The structure of organisation is divided into two; operations department and artistic programming team. The operations department is led by the General Manager who manages the team of part-time accountants, facilities manager, venue hire coordinator, and two technical officers. The artistic programming team is led by the Artistic Director who works with the Head of Programmes, and two Programme Managers with the support from interns and project-basis marketing consultants.

How are programs funded?
The Substation is an independent, non-profit institution that relies on multiple funding sources for its operations. Those consist of a combination of private and government grants, venue rental income, and private foundations/donations.

Who is responsible for the programming?
Programmes at The Substation are divided into venue hire programmes by external parties and internal programmes. Internal programmes (shaped by the overarching theme) are organised and managed by the programming team, which consists of the Artistic Director, Head of Programmes, and the two Programme Managers.

Number and average duration of exhibitions/events per year
Approximately half of the year is dedicated to internal programmes. With three to four exhibitions (duration 2-3 months per exhibition) in response to a yearly overarching theme, and approximately four accompanying events for each segment, such as panel discussions and film screenings.

Post-Museum. “Bukit Brown Index #132: Triptych of the Unseen”, 2018. (Performance for Virtual Reality (VR) component of installation work). As part of “Deathsong” for “Cities change. People die. Everything you know goes away.”

What kind of events are usually organized?
Every year, The Substation presents an overarching artistic theme that informs the exhibitions, programmes and initiatives for the year. Each of these programmes explores in greater detail the questions posed by the artistic theme and the societal issues surrounding these questions.

These programmes, for example: in 2018, the overarching theme is Singapore’s Heritage in which the programming team has invited artists of different backgrounds, professionals of their own fields and researchers to propose artworks / events in response to the theme. In total, there will be 3 different programmes under this theme.

Each programme usually consists of one main exhibition which will accompanies with panel discussions, film screenings, theatre productions, artist talks, and guided tours. This year, The Substation has introduced an event titled SAD (short for Substation After Dark), which is a themed-party organised in response to the particular topic of discussion for the month as well.

Besides these programmes, under this year’s theme, we have organised competitions such as The Substation Insta-Film Competition and The Substation Writing Competition to engage practitioners of different backgrounds on how and why heritage is a political and emotional topic for the public.

At the same time, we have also launched a year-long printmaking initiative called HandJob, where eight Associate Printmakers respond to different facets of heritage through the means of printmaking, the project exposes the grittiness, spontaneity, and sheer splendour of this infinitely adaptable medium. 20 limited edition prints produced by each of our Associate Printmakers and these signed artworks will be HandDropped at mystery locations across the island every month.

How is your programming determined?
In 2017, Discipline the City addressed how architecture and design are co-opted to organise and control space–and by extension–the city’s inhabitants.

In 2018, Cities change. People die. Everything you know goes away., addresses how heritage and its discourse shape the city through conservation and nostalgia.

In 2019, Stupid City will address how the triumphalist narrative of Smart City influences urban life through data, algorithms, and surveillance.

Min-Wei Ting, “I’m Coming Up”, 2016 & Hayati Mokhtar, “No. 55, Main Road”, 2010. (Installation view). “Deathsong”, Curated by Alan Oei, 2018. The Substation. As part of “En Bloc, or Buildings Must Die” for “Cities change. People die. Everything you know goes away.” Photo: The Substation.

Do you accept proposals/submissions?
Participation in our internal programmes is by invitation only. Occasionally we provide venue support for artists whose works may response to the overarching theme, however, they may not be part of the core programming calendar.

What is your artistic/curatorial approach?
Through our programmes, the artistic and curatorial approach is to posit cultural questions which engage the public and expose them to the full possibilities of contemporary art practices in shaping larger conversations about Singapore.

What idea are you most excited about for the future?
We look forward to our 30th anniversary as it will be an important milestone for The Substation in this current arts ecosystem in Singapore.

Images courtesy of The Substation. This profile has been published in partnership with Temporary Art Review