The Intimate Critic: Acts of Companionable Criticism in Singaporean Performance

Loading/Unloading (2022) by P7:1SMA (Image credit: Hariz Bakri for P7:1SMA); Corrie's bio (Image Credit: Geraldine Kang)
29 Sep 2023 03.00 PM - 04.30 PM Alumni, Current Students, Industry/Academic Partners, Prospective Students, Public
Organised by:
Cheryl Julia Lee

The presentation looks at the figure of the performance critic in 21st-century archipelagic Southeast Asia and how the role of the critic and the relationships and labours they engage in might offer us new insights into how criticism is appropriated and subverted from its western lineages, and how it is practised in syncretic ways in Singapore and across the Southeast Asian region. In this talk, I consider how a companionable criticism might form part of a larger ethics of care in criticism. I suggest that the act of criticism is in fact a practice of care work that is often rendered invisible or dismissed. This caring criticism is undergirded by the long-term commitment of the critic to the well-being of the artistic ecology they are embedded within. Through the figure of the companion-provocateur (pendamping-pengganggu) derived from informal performance discourse in Indonesia, I look at how critics adjust for various intimacies and proximities, where intimate companionship is then not something to be shunned or avoided, but can instead be seen as a competency to be cultivated. I look at how this concept might be adapted to the critic’s role through practice-led case studies of “embedded criticism” with Singaporean arts companies and platforms, such as dance company P7:1SMA, the intercultural festival Southernmost, and the youth theatre festival M1 Peer Pleasure.

Corrie Tan is a performance scholar, critic, dramaturg and facilitator working at the intersection of care ethics, collaborative performance practices, and new articulations of performance criticism and arts writing in Southeast Asia. She is often invited into projects where she can be a critical companion and co-thinker, and has worked with artists and platforms such as SouthernmostTactility Studies and P7:1SMA. A practising arts critic for almost 15 years, Corrie has written regularly about performance for outlets such as The GuardianArtsEquator and The Straits Times. She is currently completing her Ph.D. in Theatre and Performance Studies on the joint doctoral programme between King’s College London and the National University of Singapore. She is also the incoming artistic director of the Asian Dramaturgs’ Network, and Senior Lecturer in the School of Fine Art at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts, where she is co-leading Singapore’s inaugural Master of Fine Art programme (first intake August 2024 with the University of the Arts Singapore).