chapter  3
16 Pages

‘Awaken the Dragon’

Participatory art-making and the grassroots in authoritarian Singapore
WithJason Luger

This chapter explores the networks involved in the landscape of the artistic grassroots, state arts policy nexus, the Singaporean 'heartland' and how these encounters are played out upon/within the urban environment through the lens of the 'Awaken the Dragon' festival. It briefly outlines Singapore's 'cultural turn' and the context of the artistic grassroots in the city-state. Singaporean paradox clearly demonstrates the careful reading necessary of artistic criticality and its agents and networks in Singapore: 'forum theatre' contains distinctly radical potential, and has its origins in Marxist movements in South America – yet the way it has been co-opted, used and deployed by the authoritarian state means that it now falls under the state umbrella as a tool for nation-building and social harmony. As a participatory grassroots activity that brought thousands of Singaporeans together, 'Awaken the Dragon' succeeded in a way that many top-down arts initiatives have failed to do.