The Substation Town Hall

From Wikicliki
Jump to: navigation, search

Week 1 Town Hall: 1 March 2016, 7.30pm, Substation Gallery


  • carpark
  • bench
  • 3 streams
  • "nostalgia" (erm seriously? 25 years of nostalgia last year not enough meh)

audio/notes/transcriptions coming soon

Notes made before the first town hall

Compiled 29 Feb 2016. IMPORTANT NOTE: the content in this page is not mine only but has been edited/compiled from various recent discussions with a number of other artists/art workers and also from other shared google docs. Some of the ideas have been reworded in my words. It was difficult to grasp the enormity of it all the issues so i thought it would be beneficial to divide it into questions on different levels. I have reorganised and typed it out in the hopes of just providing some useful starting points for thinking about The Substation.

Questions about the Future for The Substation

Big picture / Meta-substation


The day to day running of an art space


Artistic decisions

The Board's role needs to be clarified to the public
  • Is it due for an overhaul? The current board has been in place for a long time. It left The Substation without an Artistic Director for 9 months in 2015. Rarely has one seen an arts organisation left without direction for so long, to the point where everyone including the artists become very concerned about its fate or whether it would close down. Does the board really still care about The Substation? How can it prove it?
  • Can there be more public transparency in how the board operates? It is currently like a black box - many artists who have worked with The Substation sometimes don't even know who it is on its board. Even some of us who thought we knew, actually didn't realise that members of the board had stepped down or had reduced their involvement with it.
  • Accountability and connection with the artists of today - are the board in touch with the needs of artists today? Do they see what is happening on the ground in the arts today, in order to allow them to make the best executive decisions and advice for The Substation?


  • Who owns The Substation? Reason stands that it should be the artists who feel ownership of The Substation, yet in reality the building is owned by the government (arts housing), and all of its higher executive decisions are made by its Board, whose ministrations largely remain opaque to the artists within its space. The Board tasks the artistic director to make artistic decisions which affect the community within it. But ultimately if the artists themselves feel powerless to decisions being made on their behalf, they may not be able to exercise ownership over the space.

Labour and Fair remuneration for artists and artworkers:

  • With a so-called lean team at hand, where do they draw the distinction between artists as practitioners and artists as part time staff?
  • Fair pay for staff: The staff of The Substation are key to its running, it is their passion for their jobs and professionalism which makes it what it is, yet they will end up working extremely long hours with very little remuneration. This potentially makes it very hard for the team to do its best when met with personal pressures as well as work pressures. The staff (starting from the Artistic Director, General manager, programmers, techs, operations, finance, everyone else) need to be receiving a pay at market rate.
    • Question: What is the kind of of time and energy investment is the current AD going to be able to put in? (What are the other hats that he juggles? Is he planning on putting some other commitments aside to focus on The Substation? Will he disclose more on his other commitments and make a statement on this?)
  • At the interest of creating programmes with artists, how are artists compensated fairly? And how do we address issues of rights of the programme?

Open season and sub season (Current AD has proposed a clear division within the year with an Open and Sub season as distinctly seperate)

  • What are its parameters?
  • Will there be continuation of Partial Support or Venue Support?: In the past, many artists who did not get full support for their projects were sometimes helped by partial substation venue support, which helped make a lot of projects possible. Under the open season, will there still be partially supported events like in the past?


  • Can the emphasis really be about process when one is trying to talk about producing a 'blockbuster' in the same breath? Experiments and process-oriented practice do not and cannot be expected to always result in a work with instant polish, much less at the end of a residency of less than a year / less than half a year.

The Public Voice

  • Why release a document under the name of Substation which represents the current AD's unmediated voice of management? BACKGROUND / EARLIER PROPOSAL MAY 12 2015 - By Alan Oei This is not a text that all artists know how to read. It is not in the language for the masses, but looks like a document for upper management. Why release it wholesale?

Artist Residency - how to define zones of contact?

  • idea for a residency programme potentiates the regional/international reach of the substation. What are the conceivable circulations and cycles of practice that the substation envisions in the next three years? What zones of contacts are privileged (SEA? Asia Pacific? Pick and mix?) What are the kinds of considerations that go into artist selection?

Inclusivity of communities

  • What role would The Substation take on with regards to pushing and defining its margins of inclusivity with regards to the different arts communities that look to Substation as a space to present work. for instance, to have a place (not to be a place) for a community like the punks, young theatre groups and art collectives, musicians and independent dancers / choreographers.

Cabinet of Curiosities (Current AD has proposed a "cabinet of curiosities". details are still forthcoming)

  • Do we really need such a cabinet of curiosities? Are there really any real curiosities, or will they have to be invented? There are concerns that "quirky" plans like cabinets of curiosities in an art space perpetuates a false pretense of looking at so-called "unique" objects. Trying to make an artefact sound "quirky" or "weird" just emphasises its so-called "individualism" and self-importance, rendering it unable to provide any acute reflections on society itself. All the audience will get out of it is: "Oh! art is weird!"...

Difficult questions - how to define how difficult?

  • The Substation's direction now seems to be one that encourages artists to deal with "difficult questions" and think critically about society at large, and to reassess perhaps the stakes artists have in society. Difficult questions, surely, will include issues the state will not be willing to confront including operation coldstore, operation spectrum, josef ng, lack of democracy, 377a, labour rights, human rights, queer communities, capital punishment just to name a few. Will substation be ready to support artists who wish to deal with these concerns?

Broad questions - how broad?

  • the focus on tackling one big question a year - limitations of conventional thematic approaches - how to be timely or keep that sense of continuities accruing to events over time?
  • why not let the currency of ideas materialise in process of working alongside the artists? by doing big questions sometimes it ignores the sometimes small detailed actualities of being in our lived reality.
  • how does the space intend to allow for more timely discussions to arise in response to events or changes?

See also