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  • UNITE Editorial

NUS Arts Festival 2019: A Peek And Preview

Updated: Jan 8, 2020

The steady beat and sine curves of a 4-chord pop song. The methodical beauty and measured symmetry of a painted face. The game theory of a military strategy that turns the tides of war. The neat yet messy (il)logic of love. At the soul of all those things is mathematics, which permeates our universe, falling into place and coming together at the core of every field, whether art or science, love or war.

This month, A Game of Numbers, a festival by Centre For The Art, seeks to peek behind the curtain, to reveal the intricate connections, the complex beauty, the logic yet emotion, of mathematics’ marriage to art. Look forward to the story of love(s) and the cosmos in “A Disappearing Number”, the musical exploration of “Variations and Variables”, and mathematical discovery of culture in the danced dialogue “BEHALF”.

This is perhaps an apt time for a NUS math festival- after all, with the rise of bitcoin, coding and data analytics, math is coming more and more to the fore of our world. Yet it remains misunderstood- as technical and difficult, as merely abstraction and equations. A Game of Numbers seek to change that perception. In these upcoming events and experiences, math is more than equations. Math is more than a sum of its numerical parts. Math is instead a pattern of the universe, and a beauty of life. As festival director Mary Loh explains, you don’t have to be “good at math”- the festival invites all to simply “see things from a different perspective and be open to another way of thinking about the world”

A Disappearing Number

A Game Of Numbers will feature a whole exciting lineup of events up until 23 March. Coming up really soon is the headlining “A Disappearing Number” on 15 March, a staged performance that, through its dual love stories, weaves a tale of the pattern of life, of the collision and combination of past and future. With a focus on the love between Ruth, a math professor, and Al, a businessman, this play thinks on the vast universe above us, but also on the flesh-and-blood among us (and not among us). The performance promises to be rich to the senses, with live tabla music by Nawar Mirajkar, and stunning lighting by Suven Chan. Directed by the award-winning Edith Podesta, this play itself has also won the 2007 Critics’ Circle Theatre, Evening Standard, and Laurence Olivier awards for Best New Play, so this is one star-studded show that is not to be missed.

Variations and Variables

Also coming up on 15 March is “Variations and Variables”, a musical experience where chamber music is expertly manipulated, tinkered with and re-arranged, by musicians Abigail Sim and Loh Jun Hong. In this performance, the sounds of violin and piano are methodically re-invented, and ceaselessly transformed in their tempo, their beat, and their soul. Adding to this emotional experience is artist Yanyun Chen, who adds a whole other visual dimension to the ever-shifting performance, synergising her elegant art with the novel music. Whether you are a current lover of chamber music or not, be sure to give it a chance and check out this multi-sensory spectacle that’s coming soon.


And for dance enthusiasts, look out for “BEHALF” on 22 and 23 March, a danced dialogue that explores the cultures and structures of Taiwan and Thailand, where East meets West, and where tradition meets the modern. What does it mean to be, to live in a society in flux, in transition, in change? How do we discover ourselves, in a place where identity, culture, even the language, may seem mixed up, a jumble of its parts? What then, can math tell us about who we are, how to be, and where we all belong? What can it tell us too, on a smaller and closer level, of the student and the teacher, of the father and his son? Be sure to catch this insightful performance by HORSE Dance theatre, who have flown in all the way from Taiwan.

If you can’t make it for any of those events, worry not-- the festival has many other smaller events, including a film screening of “The Man Who Knew Infinity”, and the hinese drama “The Child Who Loved Numbers” (for more information on these events, click here). We also recommend that you sign up as a Friend of CFA to get festival discounts and special invitations.

Do you have a Game of Numbers festival event to recommend? Be sure to tell us more in the comments section!

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