The Programme’s goal is to explore the running of The Substation using a co-operative model in order to surface answers to the following research questions:
How do we contextualise openness and plurality within the arts landscape in Singapore?
How can a site, or a public space such as The Substation, exercise these values of openness and plurality?
How the terms of engagement between various stakeholders in a space be co-authored?
How might a co-operative model function in a Singaporean context?
The Programme will take the form of a co-operative inquiry lasting from August to February involving 10-12 core participants (including two Programme Managers from The Substation). The core participants will meet weekly for sharings and discussions between August 2016 to January 2017, during which the group will determine the terms of engagement for co-operative usage of The Substation, pertaining to programming and content development.
By February 2017, the core participants may open up membership in the co-operative to other artists based on the terms of engagement previously generated. The co-operative will plan the programming of The Substation’s various venues for the month of February and carry out these programmes with the support of The Substation’s venue manager and this project’s Guest Producer.
The Substation is in a moment of crisis. Significant tension and anxiety was created in the 9 months of lack of transparency for the arts community leading up to the appointment of the Artistic Director. This was exacerbated by the lack of communication and consultation when the Artistic Director finally came on board. This crisis, which led to a high level of engagement and interest in The Substation, in fact reflects a significant amount of difficulty within the arts and cultural landscape in Singapore. In other words, the arts communities’ anxieties about The Substation are in fact indicative of the structural conditions of artmaking in Singapore.
The Substation’s programming for the year 2016-2017 aims to interrogate our own site and history but also point towards bigger questions, as well as push others to ultimately look at themselves too and the cultural landscape that shapes our artmaking and reception. The Substation intends to create live experiments and alternative models that can push the conventional understanding of an arts space. Through a process of creating a sequence of limited time, real-time, alternate realities, we wish to move beyond arguing from positions, but coming together to examine how these alternative models or ‘case studies’ worked or failed.
We wish to explore a co-operative model in order to examine the following topics:
- Openness and plurality
- Alternative models of operation for an arts space
The research questions are as follows:
1. How do we contextualise openness and plurality within the arts landscape in Singapore?
2. How can a site, or a public space such as The Substation, exercise these values of openness and plurality?
3. How can we co-author the terms of engagement between various stakeholders in a space?
4. How might a co-operative model function in a Singaporean context?
The Programme will take the form of a co-operative inquiry lasting from August to February, organised in collaboration with a guest producer and a researcher/documenter. The Programme should be co-owned by the participants, with The Substation Programme Managers as co-participants. Through a rigorous process of knowledge-building and sharing from Aug-January, the participants will determine the mechanisms for co-operative programming of The Substation space in February.
A open call will determine the preliminary group of participants in August. This core group (of roughly 10 participants excluding The Substation Programme Managers and guest researcher) will convene once a week at The Substation to share knowledge, refine understandings and build social bonds. Each meeting may take a different format, such as guest lectures, small group discussions or reading groups. The format of each meeting will be framed by the guest producer or the participants themselves. Meetings should be open to other interested participants who may or may not be interested in the implementation of the co-operative model in February. The co-operative should firm up the terms of engagement for the co-operative usage of The Substation (pertaining to programming and content development) by December.
All sessions should be documented, and notes and resources shared amongst participants after each session.
Selection criteria for participants
Participants should come from diverse fields and backgrounds to ensure plurality of perspectives.
Sep – Dec 2016: Research process
Dec – Jan 2017: Confirmation of terms of engagement; planning / preparation of programmes
February 2017: Implementation of programmes
 “In co-operative inquiry a group of people come together to explore issues of concern and interest. All members of the group contribute both to the ideas that go into their work together, and also are part of the activity that is being researched. Everyone has a say in deciding what questions are to be addressed and what ideas may be of help; everyone contributes to thinking about how to explore the questions; everyone gets involved in the activity that is being researched; and finally everybody has a say in whatever conclusions the co-operative inquiry group may reach. So in co-operative inquiry the split between ‘researcher’ and ‘subjects’ is done away with, and all those involved act together as ‘co-researchers’ and as ‘co-subjects’.” Taken from Reason, Peter & Heron, John. ‘A Layperson’s Guide to Co-operative Inquiry’, http://wagner.nyu.edu/files/leadership/avina_heron_reason2.pdf