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NTU to review internal processes after queer-themed performance that 'should not have been staged in public'

A queer-themed performance on Sept 29 was held in Gillman Barracks as part of a series of arts performances to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Nanyang Technological University Centre for Contemporary Art SingaporeThe university said on Thursday (Oct 5) that the drag “getai” performance should not have been held in public “given the sensitivities associated”It added that it will review its internal processes

By Loraine Lee Published October 5, 2023 Updated October 5, 2023 Bookmark Bookmark Share WhatsApp Telegram Facebook Twitter Email LinkedIn

SINGAPORE —  A drag performance staged as part of a series of arts performances to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) Centre for Contemporary Art Singapore should not have been held in public, the university said.

NTU added in a statement on Thursday (Oct 5) that it will review its internal processes following the “getai” performance titled Queer-Tai that was performed at Gillman Barracks on Sept 29.

The performance was an alternative version of the traditional heartland “getai” shows, and featured a drag queen singing and playing the trombone to the tune of evergreen National Day theme song Home. The group that staged Queer-tai, Intervention, describes itself as “a queer party collective”.

“During one of the performances, Queer-Tai, one performer was on stage in drag attire. Given the sensitivities associated with the said performance, it should not have been staged as a public event,” said NTU.

“As a higher education institution, the university maintains its policies and position to reflect widely accepted social norms and practices in Singapore. NTU will review its internal processes after this incident.”

National Arts Council (NAC) chief executive officer Low Eng Teong was the guest of honour at the event. Speaking to TODAY on the sidelines, Mr Low was asked about the significance of having arts performances with LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer) themes in public spaces.

On Sept 30, TODAY published an article on the performance, which included Mr Low’s comments. The next day, NAC issued a statement claiming that the article misreported Mr Low’s comments.

In response, TODAY released the transcript of the interview with Mr Low.

On Thursday, NAC issued another statement saying that the transcript underscores the point in its earlier statement that Mr Low’s comments were taken out of context and “inappropriately juxtaposed with other parts of the article”.

Repeating its claim that the Sept 30 article was misleading, NAC said: “The text of the article continues to cite what Mr Low said, taken out of context, as the basis for asserting that the public can expect more arts performances that touch on LGBTQ themes. This is entirely misleading and completely misrepresents Mr Low’s position. 

“We are deeply disappointed that the article misrepresented NAC’s position and misled readers on the matter, and that this was not corrected even after NAC clarified its position, and that NAC has needed to take further steps to correct the public record and rebut a blatantly misleading piece of journalism.”

The council added that it does not object to arts performances with LGBTQ themes “per se” and that it has a “clear and consistent position on how such performances can be staged”.

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