Artist collective calls M1 Singapore Fringe Festival 2018 out for compromising programming through self-censorship

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By Phyllis Lee

Prior to the official press conference for the M1 Singapore Fringe Festival 2018 today (Oct 10), artist collective The Glory Hoes released a media statement accusing the festival of censorship.

This comes after their event was cut from the festival’s programming and brochure collateral abruptly – long after its participation in the Fringe had been confirmed.

Organised by The Necessary Stage, the festival revolves around the theme “Let’s Walk”, which comes from the title of a series of street performances by Singaporean contemporary artist Amanda Heng. The festival will take place from Jan 17 to 28 next year.

The Glory Hoes is an artist collective that holds a monthly series of interactive queer film experiences at The Projector.

They were invited to propose a response in conjunction with the 2018 festival theme, and had planned for a screening of American documentary film Paris is Burning. The 1990 film showcases New York’s drag and transgender ball scene in the 1980s, and is rated R21 by the Info-communications Media Development Authority (IMDA).

As an event held in conjunction with the Fringe, the screening did not get any funding from the festival. In return, it was supposed to be featured in the festival’s brochure in a section entitled “In Conjunction”.

However, The Glory Hoes were informed that their event would be censored from brochure via a phone call on Aug 21.

In their statement, The Glory Hoes said members of the Fringe team had cited the controversy surrounding the festival last November, when two of the festival’s shows were withdrawn after being denied ratings by the Info-communications Media Development Authority (IMDA) due to “excessive nudity”.

They added that the Fringe team were “afraid that the inclusion of this event in the programme could be spun to look like ‘the Fringe is celebrating the LGBT lifestyle’ and that M1 has expressed that their continued funding of the Fringe is predicated on 2018 being a year free of controversy.”

“The M1 Singapore Fringe and The Necessary Stage are enacting this censorship, not to protect a public, but to protect a corporation, a corporation that is not even funding the event to begin with,” they said.

Outside of the festival, The Glory Hoes present Paris is Burning (1990) will still take place at The Projector in 2018.

In response to the statement, The Fringe stated: “Given the Fringe’s recent circumstances and experiences in 2017’s edition, the organising team is taking special care not to have a recurrence of a furore where works presented are taken out of context by smaller, possibly less discerning groups of people.”

The Fringe revealed that they had also discussed the possibility of presenting The Glory Hoes at a future edition of the festival.

“As a festival, we are constantly trying to negotiate the positions of the audience, the sponsors and the artists we are presenting. We always have to adopt a gradual, strategic approach, paying close attention to what’s happening on the ground,” the Fringe said.

Other works that were withdrawn from the Fringe line-up in the past were due to reasons such as funding, permissions, licensing, logistics, and professional differences.

The festival added that M1 has been an “exemplary sponsor who has been supporting
challenging and socially-engaged works” throughout the years, and had “not interfered with the Fringe’s programming”.

It then promised to continue engaging in dialogue and discussion with audiences and artists alike.

“The Fringe will continue to ask probing questions in whatever we choose to present and advocate for diverse representation and constructive dialogue. We will always work towards covering as wide a ground as possible, so that our programming choices allow us to highlight issues that have been neglected before.”