Singapore artists plan to put banned works online

Date Tue, 12 Dec 2000

Originally published at Reuters

By Amy Tan SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Literature and art works snipped and banned by Singapore's censors may soon be archived online in their full glory by a group of local artists. Artists will submit their material to the site, which will carry accounts from other parties such as government agencies to give a balanced view. "This initiative is not meant as an affront to the authorities," Alvin Tan, artistic director of local theatre group The Necessary Stage (TNS), told Reuters. "We must...begin some kind of dialogue, interaction and even a draft mechanism for effective action instead of sitting there and complaining," Tan said. The Internet-based catalogue of censored work is the brainchild of TNS and the Singapore Internet Community, an online group which focuses on current affairs. It is set to launch in March. Singapore typically censors publications, films and art work deemed to have excessive amounts of sex and violence, references to drug use and subjects which could cause religious or racial intolerance between the Chinese, Malay and Indian communities. Local artists renewed mutterings of discontent after "Talaq", a play about violence in an Indian Muslim marriage, was banned in October on the grounds it would offend religious sensitivities. "Talaq" was published with the help of the government in 1999 and had been performed twice. Its script may be among the first works archived at the site. The question of how the site will be able to show banned works without flouting the ban itself will have to wait until the government has a look at the finished product. The Singapore Broadcasting Authority has already issued a somewhat circular statement that Tan and his colleagues will have to abide by Internet regulations that run roughly along the same lines as the censorship rules. But the government-run National Arts Council (NAC) is positive about the site. "We hope that it will promote understanding and meaningful dialogue on artistic freedom and responsibility," an NAC spokesman told Reuters. Tan said a panel would oversee the presentation and ensure artists were not submitting works just to stir up interest. "The aim of this project is to document censored art works so there is easy access to researchers and those who want to study the cases and understand the complex nature of censorship over time in Singapore," he said. Several prominent groups, including TNS, also plan a "No Arts Day" on December 29 to "voice general concern at the treatment of the arts and the disregard for integrity of art in Singapore".