Fight Club

Gaurav Kripalani: The Greatest Challenge is Uncertainty

Festival director of Singapore International Festival of Arts 2021 has learnt to roll with it and take setbacks in his stride.

Gaurav Kripalani: The Greatest Challenge is Uncertainty

Gaurav Kripalani’s fourth year as festival director with the Singapore International Festival of Arts (SIFA) finds him in a more contemplative mood. Covid-19 forced last year’s instalment to shelve its live performances and take the rest of its line-up digital. And despite having just half a year to pull this off — instead of the usual two years — Kripalani has put together more than 60 shows and 300 performances over 16 days. Poised to be among the largest arts festival since the pandemic hit, this also offers a glimpse into the future of the festival — where you can expect a combination of live, hybrid and digital programmes. SIFA happens 14 to 30 May.  

What are you looking forward to this year?

SIFA 2021 was programmed as a response to everything we went through during Covid-19 and the environment we live in now. While streaming performances was less than ideal, it spurred my interest in exploring 3D, interactive and responsive technologies in relation to performance. I believe this will become integral to performing arts in the future. And there’s a silver lining; people have missed the arts and are yearning to watch live performances again. But no, I’m not going to mention any favourites! 

Greatest challenge? 

Uncertainty. Travel restrictions kept changing. Shows that weren’t possible suddenly became available. In the past, artists and arts groups could confirm their attendance but now they didn’t know if they were allowed to travel at all. Scheduling was a nightmare — just before this interview, an artist told us he couldn’t make it to SIFA. But I’ve learnt to roll with it and take setbacks in stride because everyone is doing their best.    

What keeps you going? 

I draw strength from the knowledge that what we do at SIFA provides work for artists. I’ve been very inspired by artists who rose to the challenge and found new ways to express themselves. Others have left, and I don’t even know if they’d ever return to the industry — it will take years to recover. That’s why SIFA features many collaborations among local artists, to bring about deeper understanding of other art forms and to reflect a greater desire to share resources.   

What else about SIFA do you want to plug? 

Don’t forget to drop by Festival House. This year’s line-up features the themes of care, compassion and climate change. For example, there’s a healing arts component; yoga sessions incorporate meditation and journaling to bring about mindfulness, and movement and meditation workshops with a performative element. There are also mapping workshops that propose solutions to sustainability in the creation and consumption of art.   

Art direction by Catherine Wong; photography by Darren Gabriel Leow; grooming by Angel Gwee Using Chanel Beauty & Davines