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(Above) Models extraordinaire captured by Saillard in Models Never Talk.
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(Above) Fernandez's Square Root references ancient Mexican designs.
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Perhat Khaliq (above) a member of the minority Uyghur community in Xinjiang, China, will sing his heart out at the Victoria Theatre next month.
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Senyawa from Jogjakarta creates avant-garde music using Rully Shabara's versatile vocals (left) and Wukir Suryadi's homemade instruments.
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(Above) Transgender hustlers are captured with only an iPhone 5 camera.
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Experimental director Lewis Klahr tells a story using cut-outs.

Open season

The OPEN, a pre-festival of the Singapore International Festival of Arts, ups its game with an unusual selection of events this year. Ex-fashion models, grungy rock stars and a six-hour film trilogy are just some of its headliners. Here are BT Lifestyle's favourites.

Fashion and provenance

Models Never Talk
July 7-9, 8pm,
72-13, Mohamed Sultan Road

Dances and Ceremonies: Spring/Summer 2017
June 30
72-13, Mohamed Sultan Road

A Conversation with Carla Fernandez
July 1
72-13, Mohammed Sultan Road

FASHION isn't something you'd expect from an arts festival. But next month's The OPEN, the pre-festival of Singapore International Festival of Arts in August, is expected to draw fashionistas with its intriguing take on clothes, elegance and the world of style.

Top on its list of fashion events is a too-cool-for-school performance art piece titled Models Never Talk. Here, seven former top models who used to rule the catwalks of Europe stand on stage and recall their experiences working with France's greatest couturiers. Names will be dropped, intimate details will be dished out.

The seven models include Jean Paul Gaultier's favourite Christine Bergstrom, Yves Saint Laurent's ex-muse Amalia Vairelli and model-filmmaker Anne Rohart. The other four beauties - Charlotte Flossaut-Mairet, Axelle Doue, Violeta Sanchez and Claudia Huidobro - were also famous faces in the 1980s and 1990s, wearing clothes for Thierry Mugler, Rei Kawakubo, Madame Gres and other major designers.

Paris's notoriously iconoclastic fashion curator Olivier Saillard conceived the show. He says: "(I'd first imagined) a journey with models whose suitcases would be empty, but filled with memories. These models' memories formed the basis of this work."

Each woman, dressed simply in black and white, then recalls "the personal story behind the dresses closest to their hearts, using gestures as well as words. They might use a hand to sketch the outline of a collar, to trace the design of a jacket on their body or the precise shape of fabric," says Saillard.

Although it is the clothes that are written about, purchased, celebrated and archived for posterity, the models' gait and gestures are also important reasons that a piece of clothing becomes a runway success: "Rather than brands or labels, what fascinates me is each person's ability to inhabit his or her own wardrobe. The fashion industry doesn't focus on this aspect of clothing . . . And no fashion museum can preserve these models' movements, which is the legacy of this performance."

Another fashion iconoclast taking centre stage at The OPEN is Carla Fernandez, a Mexican designer who combines indigenous traditions, contemporary design and social enterprise to reinvent Mexican ready-to-wear while supporting its artisans and communities.

Fernandez says: "We believe tradition is not static and fashion is not ephemeral. We believe that only radical design will prevent the extinction of craftsmanship."

Her Dances And Ceremonies: Spring/Summer 2017 fashion show features her "Square Root" designs. She explains: "Pre-Hispanic fashion is made out of only squares and rectangles. When the Spanish came, the indigenous garment makers tried to copy the tailored clothes their conquerors were bringing, but they kept using squares and rectangles - and this is what I call 'The Square Root', which is the square of the Mexican patterning and the roots of the traditional pattern of Mexican clothing."

"So you could have a pair of pants and even if they're stitched you can see they're made from squares and rectangles. You see an amazing skirt which doesn't have a geometric silhouette - but once unstitched, you may have 7 or 8 metres of very long cloth."

Fernandez will not only stage a fashion show, she will also give a talk about her designing techniques and philosophy the following night.

For a single ticket price of S$45 from Sistic, you get access to all 43 events.

For more details, go to sifa.sg


Finding their own voices

Perhat Khaliq
June 23 & 24, 8pm
Victoria Theatre

Senyawa
July 7,8,9, 6.30pm to 11pm
Old Kallang Airport
Part of the night extravaganza Club Malam

PERHAT KHALIQ should not exist. Not as a Chinese-Muslim rock star whose gravelly, soulful voice sounds like a cross between Leonard Cohen and Joe Cocker.

Not as a member of the minority Uyghur community in Xinjiang, China, whose music is bridging the divide between Muslim Uyghurs and Han Chinese who have clashed for centuries. Not as a breakout star of China's nationwide singing contest The Voice of China where he made Chinese audiences sit up and reconsider their impressions of Uyghur Muslims, long viewed by the government with suspicion.

But Perhat does exist, and he's coming to Singapore with his band Qetiq next month. They will perform a set of songs at Victoria Theatre which includes original compositions as well as traditional Uyghur folk tunes which have been turned into rock songs.

For doing the latter, conservative members of the Uyghur music scene have criticised him. But he says: "If you stop at each criticism you get in life, you will never achieve anything. I do my own music; you can call it rock, folk or anything else. I just express myself and my ideas. If I like to sing a song, no one can stop me."

His two-night Singapore concert at Victoria Theatre will be his first Asian gig outside of China. Anyone holding a ticket to The OPEN gets free admission into the concert, but you have to register online at sifa.sg first to get a seat (and tickets are going fast).

That same ticket will also give you admission into Club Malam, a hip after-dark party at the Old Kallang Airport, which features music duo NADA, graffiti artist Speak Cryptic and performance artist Mark Formanek, among others.

The one act that diehard music fans should check out at Club Malam is Senyawa, an avant-garde rock band from Jogjakarta that combines musical traditions from Indonesia with new experimental sounds.

The musical duo comprise vocalist Rully Shabara and instrumentalist Wukir Suryadi. Rully's singing voice ranges from guttural growls to banshee-like screaming, accompanied by Wukir's strange musical instruments which he made from bamboo and farm tools.

Rully says: "As kids growing up in the 1990s, Western culture and music are rooted in us as much as traditional and local music. So our roots are both traditional and Western. But when we started making music, we decided to make the sounds that don't sound like the music we like. In fact, if we sound like something you've heard before, it's not intentional."

Like Perhat Khaliq, Senyawa is also unique to the scene it grew up in. But its progressive sounds have earned them worldwide fans and collaboration opportunities with other experimental musicians such as Tatsuya Yoshida, KK Null and Melt-Banana.

Rully says: "When you're making non-mainstream music, it's hard to find appreciation from the local scene alone. Performing in Singapore gives us a chance to broaden our audience base further. We can't wait."

For more details, go to sifa.sg


Incisive and edgy works of indie cinema

FOR the third year running, film curator Tan Bee Thiam has selected an eclectic array of 23 indie films for The OPEN. Here's our pick of the most intriguing titles:

The Bacchus Lady
July 7, 7.30pm
The Projector, Golden Mile Complex

South Korea is seeing a bizarre phenomenon of prostitution among elderly women. In the past, mothers and grandmothers could rely on their children to support them in old age. But as younger generations of Koreans become selfish and obsessed with the consumer culture, older women are forced to turn tricks just to survive.

Such women are called Bacchus Ladies. Their modus operandi is to approach men selling Bacchus, a popular Korean energy drink, and subsequently offer them sex services.

E J-yong's sensitive and well-measured film The Bacchus Lady is the first to highlight the problem and stars 68-year-old actress Youn Yuh-jung in the titular role.

Sixty Six
June 26, 9pm, 90minutes
The Projector, Golden Mile Complex

Experimental director Lewis Klahr is a collage artist who makes short films not with human actors but with character images cut out from old advertisements, comic books and magazines. He juxtaposes these images and cut-outs and animates them very minimally to narrate short melodramas about men and women.

Astonishingly, some of his stories are able to evoke Greek myths and Douglas Sirk's Technicolor weepies. In the seven-minute long Helen of T, for instance, a series of images of young women gradually giving way to older ones, spliced with images of dying flowers, comment on the impermanence of physical beauty.

Helen of T is included in Sixty Six, a collection of his short films made between 2002 and 2015. It's a wonderful summation of his mid-career aesthetics and a perfect introduction to anyone unfamiliar with his unusual practice.

Tangerine
July 8, 7.30pm, 88min
The Projector, Golden Mile Complex

Sean S Baker's hit film Tangerine is shot entirely on a low budget using the iPhone 5. The film garnered several awards at festivals and received a 97 per cent "thumbs up" rating from review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, with 129 film critics praising it.

The reason for its commercial and critical success has as much to do with its technical bravado as its dynamic aesthetics and subject matter: Tangerine follows two transgender sex workers (played by real-life transgender actresses Kitana Kiki Rodriguez and Mya Taylor) as they navigate their dreams of happiness, romance and a fulfilling life.

Its unabashed take on the lives of transgender women makes it one of the most daring films on the subject.

Ticket holders to The OPEN can watch any or all of the films, provided they register for a seat on sifa.sg