This Sunday, something very special is happening in Scheltema. If you’re into cool numbers, that is. Febuary 2nd, or 02-02-2020, is a palindrome: it’s exactly the same read backwards and forwards, approachable from all angles. There’s something beautiful in there, and that’s exactly why composer and musician  Lam Lai decided to create a 26-hour long global art event in its honor.

On your website, it says you want different artists to give ‘an artistic response to the once-in-a-lifetime date’.  What was your own artistic response to it?

‘I think it was mostly the idea of seeing the world from space. If you position yourself outside of  the globe, then you can see what is down there, like a spaceship. Another interesting thing is the time zone aspect. We all live in the same world, but we use a different kind of time. So when I designed this program, I imagined entering a time zone, as seen from above,  and seeing the same thing happening all over that time zone, like fireworks. And that’s very fitting to me, since this date is so beautiful, and fireworks have this happy, celebration effect. Obviously these are my ideas, I don’t want to impose them on all the people performing.’

And there are quite a lot of people performing. Two years ago, when Lam found out about the special palindrome date, she started asking around to see whether other artists were just as excited about the string of twos and zeroes as she was. Now, she has managed to set up a worldwide event, with over 30 acts and performers. Basically, the idea is that everything is happening at the same universal time of 20:20 (ha!), but available for streaming in all national time zones  as well, over the course of a 26-hour period. Like flying from one new year’s eve party into the next.

So what can we expect to see here in Scheltema this Sunday?

‘On the one hand, we will be streaming all programs online, from the first to the last. And then on the other hand, here in Scheltema, we have multiple live performances by Paul Koek, Liesbeth Vreeburg, The New European Ensemble and myself, among others, ranging from classical music, electronic music, and theatre. The performances start around 11:50, and end on Monday morning in a big global finale at 9:15, local time.’ The important thing to take away from all this timey-wimey stuff, says Lam, is that the local national time stamps are not actually that important: ‘We live in such a global time, and people travel a lot. Maybe you were born in one place but then you grew up somewhere else, and you live in one city but then you work in another. We are so much more flexible than our parents, and I want to address that as well, that we don’t really stick to one place anymore.’

And you didn’t stick to one place yourself...

No! I grew up in Hong Kong, studied music at the University of Hong Kong, then moved to The Hague to study at the Koninklijk Conservatorium. I graduated in 2016 and became one of the ‘Ontdekkingen’ artists-in-residence at Veenfabriek in Leiden in 2017, where I started to combine music with theatre.  

Let’s say you had a spaceship, or 2020 vision (see what we did there?), is there anything you would like to see changing? Any hopes or dreams for the future?

I think there is a fear, from me, especially now with the viruses and the fires, that everyone is becoming isolated, despite all this globalization.

Is that going to be a problem for projects like this? Or can art be the solution?

Mostly,  I think this project is a perfect representation of what our world is like right now:  through streaming, we can see artwork without going out of the house. But is that healthy, and normal, or is it because we actually cannot go out? Because outside, there is disaster? Do we need to start realizing that this is our future, that we will be inside much more anyway?  So there are questions to explore there. On the other hand, in terms of the artists, I realized while talking to you that the whole project is demonstrating the power of, how should I put this…the power of union. That if we all do something on our own and we contribute it like this, through projects like this, that’s it’s still going to be one big thing we can do together.  And in that respect, social media can go so far, and it also shows how much we CAN do.

And people CAN go out on Sunday to come here!

Yes! We cannot predict the future anyway, so let’s just get lost, and embrace this world-wide, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, that you will never be able to watch live again!

Tickets available at the door at Scheltema €15 (normal) €10 (students). PLEASE NOTE: cash only!

Have you already been to a museum that day? Then you can use your museum ticket to enter for free.

Is your birthday on Sunday? Then you can also come in free of charge!

For more info and timetable click HERE.

Lam Lai | Netherlands is made with the support of Gemeente Leiden, Scheltema Leiden, Veenfabriek, New European Ensemble and Sonolab

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