Photo insert: Titled ‘Top of the World’. by Singapore Artist Jaxton Su, oil painting on canvas, 40 inches x 30 inches, with frame.
By Teresa Teo Lay Yan
Should Art or the Arts be viewed as a creative journey or process, rather than as deliverables or an end product? In light of learner’s and audience’s art experiences and our accountability to stakeholders, funders and investors, would a product/result oriented process be good enough to measure the outcome? Most often than not, when it comes to accountability, the deliverables or end product does become the most important factor to justify our spending, at least in the Singapore context.
Why? It’s because ‘product/ outcome oriented process’ is easier to measure and is more tangible and result oriented to inform funders, investors and stakeholders. Art or the Arts being intangible and more ‘process oriented’, it would then mean that there is a dichotomy between the process and the outcome, especially if we were to use a product or outcome-based approach. After all, it seemed logical to justify funding and hold us accountable for arts spending based on the end product or result. Given that a product or outcome based approach is also often used for measuring the effectiveness of our education system (exam results/grading), skills and jobs development (skills learnt/ increase in earnings), transport system (reduce breakdowns/ disruptions in service) or the environment (carbon footprint level), etc. which have their fair share of challenges and are going nowhere.
As a pragmatic society, the Sciences, Info Technology, Research and Development in Medical Sciences tend to thrive above Art or the Arts. Hence, the pragmatism residing in people’s mind-set remains their inner voice. Someone once told me that to be involved in the art business in Singapore, I really needed to have ‘deep pockets’. I somewhat agree and disagree with this person. It is because we see Art or the Arts as the preserve of the elite, we neglect its sole purpose unless we view it from a broader perspective, which is to enrich lives and cultures or our nation as a whole.
Not everything can be measured based on deliverables or end product. Art or the Arts is one good example that is more process oriented, full of diversity and more fluid in nature. It is also intangible and a large part is based on human experiences through the creative process, which makes it even more challenging to quantify. Hence, we need to discover a fine balance if we truly hope to use Art or the Arts as an effective vehicle for human development and growth. It has to first start with the artists themselves, the evaluators, the researchers, the policymakers, the stakeholders and funders behind the art scene.
I am not advocating that we make changes for the sake of changing when everything is still working fine. However, some things need re-thinking and re-constructing to move forward or have new ways of thinking and doing to improve for the better. To make that bold step forward, it does take certain amount of risks and courage. The people who hold the key or have the power to make changes will have to exercise their boldness and be able to take risks not just calculated risks, which is inevitable. If we don’t try, we never know. The last thing is to let the ‘Kiasu’ culture (meaning fear of failure) sets in and has the better of us.
Lee, J., 2016. Arts and Disability in Singapore. IPS Commons: Where Minds Meet. Available at: https://www.ipscommons.sg/arts-and-disability-in-singapore/
Ho, O., 2017. Why is state funding needed for our arts scene to thrive? The Straits Times, Primer, July 24, 2017. Available at: https://www.straitstimes.com/opinion/why-is-state-funding-needed-for-our-arts-scene-to-thrive
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’.