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Today: Shows with nudity are disguising lewdness as art

Tam Wai Jia (1st December 2016)

Over the years, the arts scene in Singapore has grown. Many people have enjoyed internationally acclaimed theatre productions from overseas, contributing to the rich cultural tapestry Singapore boasts.

Unfortunately, a number of shows in the coming M1 Fringe Festival have disguised themselves as art, with the veneer of challenging existing ideals of sexuality, while indiscriminately promoting lewd content. Such art, disguised as being provocative, glorifies perversity instead.

I echo the sentiments of the majority of pro-family Singaporeans and commend the Info-Communications Media Development Authority’s (IMDA) decision to disallow performance lecture Naked Ladies and interactive piece Undressing Room to be performed in their current form, due to excessive nudity (“Two plays at upcoming M1 Singapore Fringe Festival exceed R18 rating: IMDA”; TODAYonline; Nov 25).

Good art is often thought-provoking and, at times, controversial, especially when shedding light on marginalised subjects. Some of the other shows delve into complex issues without disrespect — Artist Talk by UK artist Liz Atkin, speaks of her difficult struggle with her mental and skin disorder; Under My Skin, by Singapore based Italian director Alessandra Fel, explores the complex journey of motherhood.

As a medical doctor, regular arts consumer and an author/illustrator of four books which have been used by the National Youth Council to inspire youth, I am aware of the power of using art as a vehicle to bring about positive change in our community. Art has the potential to challenge existing paradigms and provoke action for social good.

While art can challenge conventional norms for the greater social good, it should not be an unrestrained licence to promote lewdness, in the name of artistic progression. To do so is disrespectful and damaging to a nation’s cultural and social fabric.

The M1 Fringe Festival seeks to shed light on fringe issues, but this should be done with due consideration for social mores and public decency. It takes greater ingenuity to create art that conveys meaningful messages in ways that are socially and culturally sensitive to the context of a community, than merely for entertainment and shock value.