Centre 42 presents a collection of new performances devised by its resident artists and invited guests. Titled “there is no future in nostalgia,” after Arthur Yap's iconic poem about the fatigue of urban renewal, we invite artists to consider the tensions between new and old, the technocratic and the civic—and consider how they come to bear on the art of theatre-making.
SIFA-X: there is no future in nostalgia comprises: The Vault, with pieces drawn from practitioners' memories of theatre in the 90s; Studio, a series of staged readings of new short works by our resident playwrights; and Headline Acts, an open-format event where writers present short dramatic pieces in response to archival headlines.
“there is no future in nostalgia”
In this rich poetic irony lie three gazes: the “nostalgic” turn towards an imaginary past, the inevitable gaze towards “the future,” and an ambivalent survey of the present.
In the present, we see time bend: the past is marked only by transition and absence, and the future begins to inscribe itself wherever the eye turns. Change—inevitable, violent, necessary— brings transformation and newness but, as Yap wryly suggests of the technocrat’s giddy futurism, all of this is something we have already seen before in “various variations & permutations”.
“There is no future in…” is a technocratic construction, the kind of urban planning logic that renders cigarette-sellers, cooks, trishaw riders, and washer-women functionally useless. Nostalgia, in this technocratic frame, is a similarly “useless” emotion.
But, Yap suggests, nostalgia can be a richly productive, even subversive, space: this poem exists, doesn’t it?
After all, what do we do with these feelings: of loss, absence, even grief? Nostalgia keeps the dead alive, and expands our sense of time beyond the technocratic. And in an ironic turn, we have also seen how the technocrat, in trying to appear human, has weaponized nostalgia, or a form of it, for his own dubious purposes. As citizens of a developmental state, we are familiar with these dynamics: how the relentless pursuit of progress results in the suppression and functionalization of the human.
But how do we resist? Yap proposes a gentle possibility: remembrance, and art.
The provocation Yap offers is manifold: how might the soft human dimension, made of functionally useless materials—art, grief, delight—survive within the technocratic? How do we deploy nostalgia productively, maybe even politically? How might we use organic, nonhuman, spiritual, even supernatural, frameworks to resist the technocratic, and maybe find something approaching freedom?
This series of theatrical responses invites artists to do what performance does best: digest time into the live moment in the hopes of finding truth in between the borders of the past, present, and future.
It is an invitation to explore the archive to understand ongoing or disrupted trajectories. It is also an invitation to create work that meditates on the tension between the imagined past, the crisis-stricken present, and the devastated future.
~ Joel Tan, Artistic Director for SIFA-X: there is no future in nostalgia