Singapore’s contemporary art scene has been growing at a steady rate over the years, and it is evident with the increasing amount of eclectic events held in the country.

DISINI the latest visual arts festival to hit the Lion City is set to be part of the country’s art scene revolution. The festival consists of a series of events, art exhibitions and public engagements that will take place for a duration of nine months.

The festival’s name is taken from a Malay adverb, ‘di sini’ and it simply means ‘over here’. DISINI is set to launch on January 26th at the Gillman Barracks, which is currently home to leading international and home-grown galleries.

DISINI’s partnership with Gillman Barracks will kick off with an all-nighter called, Here/Now, which will be headlined by French-Canadian DJ and cult hero, Jacques Greene. The eventful evening will kick off with a selection of live acts curated by rapper, singer, songwriter and music producer, Mean.

It will be followed by a special showcase by the Darker Than Wax crew, and performances by William J and Daryl C. Camp Kilo Charcoal Club will be doing what they do best - serving the best of their grills for the day.

We had a quick chat with DISINI’s curator, Khairuddin Hori to get a full understanding of the brand’s mission in promoting the contemporary art scene in Singapore.

Contemporary art festivals is growing in Singapore right now. What do you think is the driving force behind this revolution?

Festivals appear to be offering more and more non-traditional content these days. These unique events provide first-hand experiences that cannot be replicated if viewed on video, through photos.

What was the inspiration behind DISINI?

There were two main ideas behind DISINI. One was to create a festival as a ground-up initiative, and to engage and involve members of the visual arts community itself. Secondly, it was inspired by the historical 4km2 perimeter surroundings of Gillman Barracks. This includes landmarks such as Haw Par Villa, the shrine of Radin Mas, the Church of St Theresa, Pasir Panjang Container Terminal, Sentosa, and Labrador Park.

Nine months is quite a long time to host an exhibition. What kind of displays and demonstrations will be featured in that duration?

I have to admit that it is long and challenging. For this, we planned four waves of launches, one in January, another in March, June, and the final and closing party in September. In March, for example, we will add a few more outdoor artworks to those released in January. In June, we will launch three exhibitions: one with Malaysian maestro Latiff Mohidin, and two more as a result of an open call, under a programme called Breaking Waves, for Singapore-based curators. In between, we plan to run programs that do not necessarily involve art, but are creative and insightful, such as yoga under the moonlight, food as anthropology, and theatre at the DISINI Pavilion.

What will be the highlights of the exhibition in the coming months?

Breaking Waves, which will consist of two exhibitions featuring projects by Singapore-based curators and juried by an international pool of curators, is one to look out for. We have jury members from Yokohama Art Museum, the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center and the Barbican in London. The theme given for this open call-based selection is ‘Mental Health’. Through this, we hope to have a sense of the future of curating in Singapore.

What are the main criterias that is required by participating artists?

I seek artists who are fresh, inspiring, and sincere with their craft.

Aside from the obvious of giving local artists a platform to showcase their work, what else would they be benefitting as participants?

Due to the participation of international artists, curators, and our network, all artists participating have a chance of being seen by peers from outside of Singapore. Artists that I curated last year in a similar outdoor sculpture exhibition at Gillman Barracks, entitled Lock Route, have received other invitations to showcase their work in local institutions such as the National Museum and Singapore Art Museum as well as overseas.

What is the underlying goal for DISINI? Are there already plans into turning it into an inaugural event?

Ideally, we would like other editions of DISINI to take place in other venues and cities. It is a scalable festival and who knows, in the future we might have DISINI Sentosa, DISINI Jurong or even DISINI Bangkok, Jakarta, and London even..

How will the launch event on the 26th reflect on the brand as a whole?

Most art festivals in Singapore have had a heavy focus on performing arts with some pockets of visual arts programming. DISINI is the other way round, and we would like to harness more support for even bigger and meaningful future editions.

As an example for the launch event, we have invited a line-up of local DJs to present the first all-night party, Here/Now. Alongside French-Canadian DJ and producer Jacques Greene, we are featuring the local crew from Darker than Wax and performance artists NADA who remix Malay music from the 1950s to 1980s, as well as other local acts.

The party begins at 9PM and ends only at 6AM the next morning — in time for you to have breakfast at a party before calling it a weekend. There will also be food served by our partners, Camp Kilo Charcoal Club.

DISINI will be launching its visual arts festival at the Gillman Barracks on January 26th. Find out how you can be part of the festivities here.