The George Town Festival (GTF), an annual festival held in Penang’s capital, George Town, in honour of the city’s designation as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, has served as a catalyst that has paved the way for the city’s art scene to grow tremendously into a vibrant and colourful landscape since 2010. In 2021, returning for its 12th edition, members of the public can look forward to a wide range of online programmes that would be presented in an exciting and brand new way from 10th - 18th July 2021, which includes short film and docudrama screenings, virtual projection mapping, audio-immersive theatre, digital theatre, concert, sharing sessions, workshops, and much more.
This year’s Festival was originally slated to return as a hybrid festival, integrating traditional forms of on-site entertainment together with modern virtual elements. However, due to the announcement of a total countrywide lockdown to curb the spread of COVID-19, all physical programmes have been tentatively postponed until further notice. As of now, festival-goers will still be able to take part in the Festival’s online programmes.
Additionally, due to lockdown restrictions that have been imposed in most countries, international artists would not be able to physically attend the Festival. However, a silver lining remains as GTF has curated the “G-Short” Short Film Festival. The film festival was curated to encourage the local and international film communities to create short-form and original films, unleashing their limitless creativity and innovation to tell stories in new and different means. Through the open call, GTF has received 697 submissions from 37 countries worldwide. GTF believes that this is a much-needed platform where both local and international creative talents would showcase their works at the Festival, which could lead to more collaborations among them in the near future.
Prior to the pandemic, the public was mainly exposed to the arts through physical means. However, due to these unprecedented times, many arts and cultural practitioners had to take to online means to share their work, thus showcasing their perseverance, resilience and originality. This further proves that the creative sector is well able to thrive with groundbreaking and innovative presentations even when facing unexpected challenges. In response to the challenges faced, this year, festival-goers will be experiencing the arts scene in a brand new, reimagined way as GTF will be presenting works in extraordinary means. For instance, audiences can indulge in an audio-immersive theatrical experience in “IMAGINARIUM” brought by Out of the Blue Theatre Company. In this entertaining and cathartic audio-immersive experience, “IMAGINARIUM” acknowledges the limitations of lockdown and welcomes all of us to escape the confines of our spaces and follow them into the impossible.
There is also the “BODY X The Culprit” digital theatre production presented by BODY X Productions, a pioneer in site-specific immersive-interactive murder-mystery in Singaporean theatre. “BODY X The Culprit” allows audiences to be involved in the solving of a murder mystery and experience it as if they were living in the physical space. Shot entirely on a mobile phone, the show requires audiences to observe evidence, watch the crime scene as it happens, discuss with other fellow online investigators and vote for the murderer - it is the first interactive-immersive digital theatre ever presented on Zoom!
Last but not least, there is also the “Lights On” virtual projection mapping installation programme which showcases George Town’s diverse cultural and historical landscapes through pulsating lights and swimming patterns projected onto a small mockup of the heritage city. “Lights On” is accompanied by two main components: a one-month-long virtual residency programme, where six residency artists will be selected to create their micro projection mapping designs under the guidance of professional advisors and curators and the virtual exhibition which will showcase the residency artists’ designs, which will be projected onto a micro mockup of the heritage city of George Town.
On top of that, during the pandemic, GTF continues to support artists through the “3 x 3” art residency and group exhibition which offers an opportunity for homegrown creative talents to be supported while remaining in their studios/workspaces safely, allowing them to create when lockdown restrictions are in place this July. “3 x 3” is accompanied by two main components: a one-month-long art residency programme and a physical group exhibition. The stay-at-home art residency programme will fund emerging visual artists who are currently based in Malaysia to create an artwork that can be fitted into a space measuring only 3 metres x 3 metres. Meanwhile, the physical group exhibition showcasing the residency artists’ artworks created during the residency period will be held in George Town, Penang in 2021.
In addition to the “3 x 3” art residency and group exhibition, GTF has initiated “Arts to Your Doorstep”, a digital marketplace. The three-month-long collaborative campaign seeks to support homegrown artists by promoting and selling their artworks online while galleries and art spaces are closed during these trying times. Art lovers in 14 countries and regions, including Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong, South Korea, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and more, can purchase the exquisite creations of artists via the Festival website from July to September 2021.
While the pandemic has, undoubtedly, dealt a heavy blow to the arts events and festivals organisers, GTF truly believes that they can always draw on the power of the arts to maintain and keep spirits high. There is clearly a growing appreciation for the arts in Penang and this enables people to recognise the state as an innovative city, enhancing the cohesiveness among creativity and the people, reimagining and recreating the city with not only the heritage and food but also with creativity as a strong base and profile to elevate the people. This helps to ensure that there will be greater civic participation in the long run which would keep GTF, an arts and culture festival in Penang to continue with the relentless support given by members of the public.
George Town Festival 2021 is a project by George Town World Heritage Incorporated (GTWHI), organised by TLM Event, endorsed by the Penang State Government and fully supported by the Penang State EXCO for Tourism and Creative Economy (PETACE), City Council of Penang Island (MBPP), and Penang Global Tourism (PGT).
For more information on George Town Festival and the programmes that will be carried out, please do visit www.georgetownfestival.com.
This content is provided by The George Town Festival
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