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Tan, KS., Tan, P., 2016.

Celebrate the Extraordinary: 8th ASEAN Para Games Opening & Closing Ceremonies performances and associated outputs

Output Type:Performance
Dates:3/12/2015 - 9/12/2015

Commissioned by Sport Singapore and overseen by Singapore's Ministry for Culture, Community and Youth, Celebrate consisted of two large-scale multi-media performances that opened and closed the Games. Associated outputs included films, music compositions and programme booklets in Braille.

Philip Tan was the Ceremonies' creative director. I was commissioned by Tan, my long term collaborator since 1999, to perform two roles. As Visual Director, I led a team of 40. I conceptualised and produced large­-scale film installations for the performances. As Communications Director, I led a team of 5. I strategised communications between Philip, the stakeholders and the outside world through for instance press conference. I also led the creation of content and design for the official programme booklets, and developed the dramaturgical direction and contents of the performances

Charitable and deficit models of disability were dominant in Singapore and Southeast Asia. Negative attitudes were prevalent, held even by the commissioners.

Celebrate countered this with its inclusive and celebratory approaches and aesthetics (above). Drawing on the social model and lived experience of disability, my research around the entanglement of art and sport since 2009, and inspired by the 2012 London Paralympics' Superhuman campaign, Celebrate championed the message of celebrating the mental and physical capabilities of all people. The performances were of 'professional' quality, blending function with form. Live captioning and live interpretation were introduced to the Games for the first time. Sign language was worked into dance moves.

We recruited and collaborated with international 75-person creative team which included professionals who were as disabled and non-disabled, students from SEN and tertiary educational institutions, and emerging talents and retirees.

I introduced a pedagogical model of 'mentoring relays' and paired people as 'buddies' (above). This enabled a multi-directional teaching and learning workflow between people of diverse capabilities and backgrounds.

Celebrate planted a seed to transform understanding around disability in Singapore and Asia. It was applauded as 'spectacular' by Singapore Prime Minister (below), game-changing by the Singapore Association of the Deaf, and praised in local and regional media. Leading negotiations with the Ministry for Culture and Youth in Singapore, I successfully defended our aesthetic and ideological visions.

Celebrate widened understanding of 'disability arts' and 'community arts', which were traditionally relegated/packaged for 'mainstream' audiences as 'outreach' or 'educational' programmes.

Live signing is increasingly common in high-profile events in Singapore. A commissioned film was in the Official Selection of three international film festivals. I became Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy with Celebrate as a case study. My findings fed an award-winning research project #MagicCarpet.

The ASEAN Para Games are the Paralympics for countries of the Association of South East Asian Nations South East Asia (ASEAN). In the 8th edition in Singapore, 2015, the Games welcomed 3000 athletes and officials from 10 nations.