About the Festival

NUS Arts Festival 2021 invites you to reconnect with the potential of the arts to transport you through time and space through the power of the imagination. In the wake of a year when what was normal was suspended and there was significant time for pause and reflection, this year’s festival theme A Question of Time simply asks “How do you measure and mark Time in your life?”

In collaboration with students and staff of the Department of Communications and New Media, more than 300 talented students from 21 CFA Arts Excellence Groups with special guest artists respond boldly to the festival’s theme through more than 30 exciting events from intimate live engagements to digital offerings spanning music, dance, theatre, films, talks and visual presentations from 19 March to 16 April 2021.


Sharon Tan
Director, NUS Centre For the Arts

A warm welcome to the 16th edition of the NUS Arts Festival: A Question of Time.

With this festival, we have very quickly adapted formats, scale and approaches to the current norms, creating unique and interdisciplinary performances.

Past . Presence . Future . by NUS Dance Ensemble, fuses the art of dance theatre with the power of visual storytelling in photography and film. Featuring original composition from NUS Electronic Music Lab, it brings us on a lyrical exploration of time and how it affects our perception of reality.

Shook is a contemporary theatrical performance created by NUS Stage to give voice to youthful hopes, challenges and dreams while Kaala Chakra (Wheel of Time) by NUS Indian Dance sets in motion a philosophical dialogue on the cosmic cycle of time with visual artist Joshua Yang.

Capturing the many moments of lost time is In Search of Lost Time, the intimate micro presentation of a series of 63 performances by 21 student groups from across the university. Set in a home, the shows invite the privileged few audience onto the “stage”, for an immersive dive into the memories of the performers.

The festival also features an audio-visual installation, Sound Garden, by cross-disciplinary practitioner and NUS Alumni, Neo Kim Seng, which explores the evolution of music storage through the times. Finally, after a year of missing the live performances of the CFA Arts Excellence Groups, A Mo(ve)ment in Time serves as a cathartic glimpse into their memorable performances. This augmented-reality photo gallery presented in collaboration with NUS School of Computing will bring the thrill of performances back to life in a safely distanced manner.

As always, the NUS Arts Festival will not be possible without the hard work, courage and creativity of our students and artistic directors. Their dedication and gumption shine through during this particularly challenging period of uncertainty and constraints.

Our deep appreciation too for the strong support from our creative partners – the key being the Department of Communications & New Media, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences and the others – Department of History, Department of Geography, Department of Japanese Studies, Department of Philosophy, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences; and School of Computing.

We are also very grateful for the continued support of our donors: Bowen Enterprises, Hong Leong Foundation, Lee Foundation, Shaw Foundation, RB Capital and the Cultural Matching Fund. Their unwavering and generous support inspires us.

Thank you everyone for this collaborative effort in these unprecedented times. It is my hope that NUS Arts Festival 2021: A Question of Time will give us the opportunity to reflect not only on how time defines us, but also on how we define the times.

Sharon Tan
Director, NUS Centre For the Arts
National University of Singapore

Prof Audrey Yue
Head, Department of Communications and New Media

Arts and culture are tangible and intangible assets that contribute to the identity and vitality of our nation, university and community. Their capacity to connect us, bind our humanity and lift our spirits has never been more powerful than during our current Covid-19 pandemic times.

From online exhibitions, virtual tours to digital storytelling, artists and arts organisations have been creating novel ways to showcase their craft and engage its audiences, opening up more democratic ways of accessing and experiencing art. Arts and culture are essential to the health, education and wellbeing of our nation, university and community.

The NUS Department of Communications and New Media (CNM) is delighted to be the Creative Partner of the 2021 NUS Arts Festival. The annual Arts Festival has become a key avenue to bring together diverse art works and artists (and student-artists) from around the world and within the university in a single platform that showcases international, local, community and participatory arts. CNM shares in this endeavour through our programme of study and our social impact mission to promote communication for transformation.

CNM is a leading centre of communication and new media learning rooted in Asia and based on the principles of interdisciplinary and multi-disciplinary theory, research, and practice. It aspires to transform student, discipline, sector and society through teaching innovation, research excellence, and knowledge translation. CNM teaches communication and new media studies by integrating cultural studies, critical media studies, mass and computational communications, communication management and interactive media design. Engaging the intersections of humanities, arts, social sciences, computing, engineering, and design, CNM is the only department and programme in the Asia Pacific region to focus on critical, creative, qualitative, quantitative and computational communications research and pedagogy. This interdisciplinary and multi-disciplinary practice shares deep resonance with the arts and culture through the emphasis on the communicative functions of the medium and its creative content. Rather than simply transmit, arts and culture are communicative agents of transformation, cultivating engaged enlightened citizenry, changing cultural norms and inventing new aesthetic forms.

The theme of this year’s festival, A Question of Time, cannot be more significant. The Covid-19 crisis has radically altered our experience of time. From the compression of emergency time to the dailiness of endemic time, the question of time has opened up questions about the ontology of life, living, being, becoming and death. Many have described the pandemic year as having lost time and experiencing disrupted time. With multiple viral waves and lockdowns, time is also repeated and nostalgic. Arts and culture can play a key role in making sense of these multiple and contradictory modes of time. It can promote deep reflection and provide future inspiration of the better days to come. Creativity connects us and is vital to the strength of our resilience and recovery.

Professor Audrey Yue
Head, Department of Communications and New Media
Convenor, Cultural Studies in Asia PhD Programme
National University of Singapore

Dr Kamalini Ramdas
Festival Academic Advisor | Senior Lecturer, Department of Geography

2021 marks more than a year of living with the Covid-19 pandemic. For many of us the pandemic has certainly impacted our experience of time.

For some of us, the past year has crawled by at a snail’s pace giving us time to pursue new hobbies like baking, carpentry and knitting, or watch movies and read books we had saved for a rainy day. For others, zooming from one virtual meeting room to another has made real the chaotic and exhausting potential of time-space convergence.

Eerily, the discussion about time being a possible theme had taken place with colleagues at the NUS Centre for the Arts even before the first cases of the pandemic were reported in 2019. How could we possibly have divined this knowledge? Human fascination with time would suggest that perhaps we had time travelled or alternate versions of ourselves existing in parallel universes had somehow found a wormhole to connect with each other.

As the Academic Adviser for this year’s festival ‘A Question of Time’, I invite you to take stock of the past and present, even as you dream about the future. The programme we have planned serves to remind us that time is not only objective and quantifiable. It cannot only be experienced in terms of possibility, loss or regret. Time is relational and made sense of through the diverse complexities of our lives and the ways in which we connect with each other. This year’s programme includes talks, dance performances, music, drama and more. Each of these invite us to experience time differently and remind us that through the arts we have found a time machine that can take us anywhere we want, even in an age of pandemic.

Dr. Kamalini Ramdas
Senior Lecturer, Department of Geography
National University of Singapore
NUS Arts Festival Academic Adviser