By Teresa Teo Lay Yan

The ‘manifesto’ is an ideological statement to define the place of the arts in our society. In the course of defining this 6-points framework, discussions, dialogues and rallies were held to gather views. Theatre and art practitioners, politicians and netizens were among those who participated.
Being an observer to this ‘beginning to be noticed’ art regime, I can’t help but to offer my views. Below is my post-mortem of the Manifesto for the Arts Framework 2013: ‘Point 1: Do not attempt to define art for others.

‘Art has no necessary and sufficient. What is artistically necessary and sufficient for one person or community may not be so for another.’ Agree. Art is individual and unique to every artist and country and is defined by one’s cultural, social, political and historical context. Point 2: Art is Fundamental

‘Art is not a luxury to be enjoyed only when our other needs are met but is fundamental at all times to our being fully human. Learning about, appreciating and participating in art is primary, not secondary, to both our humanity and to the advancement of society. Art provides literacy that enables us to read, interpret and critique life with philosophical vocabularies, thus giving us insight and understanding to life. Exposure to art is the right of every child and access to art the right of

every adult.’ Totally agree, especially the statement on ‘Exposure to art is the right of every child and access to art the right of every adult.Point 3: Art unifies and divides

‘Art draws us together and reveals universal truths. However, art can also unveil differences and contradictions. We should not just celebrate the former while demonising the latter. Art provides the canvas on which our diversity can be expressed and encountered, and our differences debated and appreciated. It is this process of conflict and contest of ideas that offers us alternatives.’ I beg to differ. I would prefer to put it as ‘Art unifies and appreciates diversity’ which gives a more positive outlook. Point 4: Art is about possibilities

‘Art not only allows us to examine our way of life and to make sense of it but also to question, and to transform ourselves. It allows us to imagine new possibilities and to evolve or even re-make our culture. Art-making requires independent thinking, freedom of expression, risk-taking and

experimentation. Art has no enemies except ignorance and prejudice.’ I agree to some extent but to ‘re-make’ our culture seems quite ambiguous and self-conflicting with Point 1 – which says ‘not to define art for others’. Do we ‘re-make’ our culture for the sake of re-making? For example, countries like China or India, with 5,000 or more years of civilisation and rich in their cultural heritage, who are we to tell them to ‘re-make’ their culture? Most of our forefathers were migrants from these countries. Just wondering, do we Singaporeans (those born and bred here) have an original culture to even think of re-making ourselves? Point 5: Art can be challenged but not censored

‘Everyone has a right to be delighted by, indifferent to or repulsed by art. But no one has the right to

deny another the right to decide for his or her self.’
Who represented the above views? Is it the silent majority or the louder minority or perhaps the vocal e-citizens (usually dominated by the IT savvy X and Y generations)?


I will have to disagree. Art is determined by one’s own moral values, philosophy and guiding principles and is greatly influenced by one’s cultural and religious backgrounds. For example, I will not support pornography or any suggestive work of arts of this nature. Not all forms of art are considered good art and enriching to the soul and mind and for the progress of the human race. Sometimes we have to make a stand if we need to for the sake of our future generation, even if it means to be unpopular or have no followers.


Every one of us has a responsibility to determine the type of society we hope to build or arrive at. We either get better or get worse. It really depends on how we steer the ship with great wisdom and learn from those who have walked the tough journey.

Point 6: Art is political

‘Art comes from and speaks to life. It therefore should inform all aspects of policy and politics that affect our lives. Art enables perspectives and offers alternatives, keeps us uncertain and doubtful to

our benefit, and warns us of the hazards of moral certainty.’
Yes and No. It can be apolitical and yet reaching out to a wider community for a common good.

It all depends on who is driving it and for what purpose. If it’s a politician driving it, than it may have a national agenda to fulfil. If it is a non-political social group driving it, it would mean for a social cause and thus inform policy and politics through its social action.


A well-written arts manifesto represents a nation’s voice to define the arts and its value in the societal context. It should purely be the voice by the citizens and for the citizens, to call for social change and aim to improve or enrich lives through the arts for a better tomorrow.


References Inc. (2013). A Manifesto for the Arts: Petitioning the People.Retrieved September 23, 2013.

MediaCorp Press. (2013). The Manifesto for the Arts FAQ, in TODAY we set you thinking. Retrieved September 23rd, 2013.


About the Author

Ms Teresa Teo Lay Yan is the Founder and Managing Director of Dove Doodle Pte Ltd. She writes for the Company’s blog and engages the community through the visual arts. To learn more about the author, CLICK the ‘Founder’s Profile’.