Alberta Art Gallery Event

In this conversation with Governor General’s Award winner Zainub Vergee, I contextualize her work as an artist, curator, administrator and policy maker. This discussion was hosted by the Alberta Art Gallery in conjunction with their current Governor General’s Awards in Visual and Media Arts 2020 exhibition curated by Catherine Crowston, Executive Director and Chief Curator at the AGA.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wlfymUyyDyM&ab_channel=ArtGalleryofAlberta

https://www.youraga.ca/exhibitions/governor-generals-awards-visual-and-media-arts-2020

Makkal Sevai Katchi!

1 Autokkaaran, https://koboibalikkampung.wixsite.com/momo

The Election Commission of Tamil Nadu has allotted the “Auto-rickshaw” symbol to a newly registered party called ‘Makkal Sevai Katchi,’ (MSK) which is, according to Outlook, believed to be the party floated by Tamil SUPERSTAR Rajinikanth to contest in the 2021 Tamil Nadu State Assembly elections. The article cites the lyrics Autokkaaran, autokkaaran, naalum therijna rootukkaaran (I am an auto-driver who knows all the ways) from the introductory song from his blockbuster film “Baasha” (1995).

Related Posts –

Who is Kaala dada?
Who is Rajinikanth Dada?
Abhimanyu Sir
Thalaivaa!!
Yar Nee Ayah?
Kaala Karikaalan
A Post-Traditional Polity?
Rajinikanth Glows Saffron
Gaikwad cries Jai Bhim

The above image from the series was shot in Nishi-kasai , Tokyo as a part of the Momotaro San series of the Koboi Project. This work encapsulates a performance which was hosted at the Courtyard Hiroo Gallery, Tokyo on 11th May 2018 as part of ‘Home’ in the Expanded Field.’ It explores an intersection of Indian and Japanese symbols through interactions with the visionary film critic and promoter Fumio Furuya (a.k.a Jun Edoki) and Hiroyoshi Takeda who is an artist, chef (Masalawala) and Rajinikanth fan of great renown. 

https://www.outlookindia.com/website/story/india-news-rajinikanth-names-his-party-makkal-sevai-katchi-auto-rickshaw-its-symbol/367281

https://koboibalikkampung.wixsite.com/momo

A Transversal Aesthetic

Niranjan Rajah, Zainub (Untitled), Leraian (2019). Digital Image, 50.8 x 76.2 cm Silver-Halide Dye Print.

Zainub Verjee and the Praxis of a Critical Transversal Aesthetic: A conversation with Niranjan Rajah. Alberta Art Gallery. Mon, Dec 21 at 6pm MST.

Register now on Webinarjam.

Zainub Verjee began her career in the Vancouver arts community of the 1970s, which was steeped in interdisciplinary, intermedia, and intercultural practices. Having made her mark as an emerging artist, Zainub shifted the emphasis of her work to curatorial, administrative and policy arenas.

Applying the insight, creativity and criticality of an artist, she has brought ‘institutional critique’ into the workings of the institution itself. ‘Transversality’ is a concept developed by Felix Guattari that traverses the irreconcilability of ‘pure verticality’ and ‘simple horizontality’ as it connects the different levels or layers of a structure. Giles Deleuze esteems this concept as being of political importance because it is the very basis of ‘non-hierarchical relationships.

Given the capacity of the institution to absorb and to denude art works of their politics and power, one might interpret Zainub’s movement, from art to institutional work, as the pursuit of a more effective transversal praxis.

Premised on this exhibition and taking the artworks as points of entry, this conversation will develop an understanding of Zainub’s diverse oeuvre as the manifest practice of a critical transversal aesthetic.

Zainub Verjee will be in discussion with Niranjan Rajah who is an artist, theorist, curator and academic based at the School of Interactive Arts and Technology, Simon Fraser University.

https://www.youraga.ca/events-features/calendar/agalive-ggarts-series-zainub-verjee

Lament for Anwar

Malaysia has recently been beset by an epidemic of betrayal and disloyalty in the political arena. There seems to be no penchant for integrity in the accelerating realignments of opportunity. In this never ending saga, this interminable tragedy, that is contemporary Malaysian politics, one figure stand out as a complex of qualities. A relentless fighter, a hopeless loser, beacon of hope, a focus of hatred and an object of ridicule, Anwar Ibrahim is all of these in one. He seems to be all things to all Malaysians, and while he is still the leader of the parliamentary opposition, his recent u-turn on around challenging the incumbent Bersatu-led government on the budget vote may signal an the end of his long and arduous quest to become Prime Minister.

Anwar purports to stand reform and unity over corruption and ethnocentric politics, but his past and his present actions indicate that this may just be the position he finds himself in. Anwar began as a firebrand Malay/ Islamic youth leader in the late 1960’s who was co-opted to the mainstream of Malaysian politics by Dr Mahathir Mohamed in 1982 and then dramatically ejected from his place of power in the United Malays National Organisation (Umno) and imprisoned on the basis of a sodomy conviction, arguably under the auspices of by the very same Dr M in 1993. His recent return to a place of power has, once again, been on the coat-tails of Dr. M and, once again, he has been severely let down. This recent collaboration between these two bitter political political foes was arrived at on the basis of the utter repugnance and destructiveness of the present UMNO leadership. Now, in the increasingly fragmentary and multivalent political scenario, there is some well reasoned speculation that Anwar is contemplating alignment with these very folks. As the Financial Times puts it, some might say that his journey “has been Janus-faced and opportunistic.”

The Asia Times suggests that Anwar faces such a situation today, that he might prefer to “choose to withdraw PKR from the PH coalition to stand in the general election on its own, affording him more room to negotiate with UMNO or form a new coalition with whichever parties are expedient depending on the outcome of the polls.” Disappointing though this all is from the point of view of the mandate and manifesto, I suggest that, either by reason of true conviction or pure circumstance, Anwar Ibrahim remains the best hope for a progressive and inclusive Malaysia. I am not, however, optimistic that, if Anwar pursues such a hardcore realpolitik , it will play out for the good of all the rakyat.

Related Posts –
1 Kibaran Bendera
Harapan 9
Politik Ulangan (1993 -2020)
Politik Mahathir (1998 – 2020)
Politik Melayu (1969 – ?)
Saudara Baru 2
Antara Saudara Mara 17

The above image from the from the Panji Pauh Ulong Series was shot in on the Lumut Waterfront, Perak in the course of the Dari Pusat Tasek performance presented by Percha Artspace on 25th Dec 2019. A 15 ft banner image of Anwar Ibrahim was raised on an 18ft flagstand in a performance that was loosely based on a Perak Malay cleansing ritual using cut limes. After 7 points of my body were rubbed with lime, I faced East and spat 7 times. I then threw the remains of the limes in the Westerly direction saying, “Pergi-lah semua sial jambalang daripada badan aku dan dari tubuh negara, pergilah ke Pusat Tasek Pauh Janggi (‘Misfortune and spirits of evil begone from my body and from the body of the nation, begone to the Navel of the Seas!). Water was then poured over me in order to complete the cleansing.

https://www.ft.com/content/8d5407c8-b262-11e2-8540-00144feabdc0

https://asiatimes.com/2020/12/first-notes-of-anwars-swan-song-in-malaysia/

Melaka Gateway Debacle

1 Malaca Malaca https://koboibalikkampung.wixsite.com/nuntengporta

The Melaka Gateway Project is cancelled again! According to the Edge Markets, the Melaka state government terminated their RM43 billion contract with KAJ Development Sdn Bhd. The Edge notes that this mega project had been cancelled before. In 2018, KAJ Development’ had their licence to operate the port and terminal revoked by the Federal Ministry of Transport, to be reinstated in 2019, following court proceedings. Curiouser than Alice’s Wonderland, FMT reports that Melaka Chief Minister Sulaiman Md Ali has, even after this second cancellation, pledged to continue the project, thereby providing the circumstances under which the project might be canceled yet again!

The Melaka Chief Minister is reported to have indicated that the project now falls under the state’s new economic corridor called the Melaka Waterfront Economic Zone. Sulaiman is supposed to have said, “The development will continue, but we have some technical issues that we need to fix,” which might be read as a criticism of KAJ Development. The Melaka Waterfront Economic Zone or M-WEZ which was announced on the 10th of October 2020 refers to a 15,000-acre sea reclamation area running from Umbai to Tanjung Bruas. This 22km stretch includes the area covered by the Melaka Gateway land reclamation.

Related Posts –

Melaka Gateway Update
Silting-up the Settlement 3
Silting-up the Settlement 2
Silting Up the Settlement 1
Kristang Protest
Portugues Antigo
Portuguese/ Malay Fusion
Jingkli Nona

The above image from the Kaza Nunteng Porta series was shot in the Portuguese Settlement, Melaka. I made my way out onto a rickety fishing jetty to raise my Rajinikanth flag with the Melaka Gateway development behind me, obscuring the horizon as well as the fishermen’s access to the sea. The rest of the series was shot in Belem, Lisbon at the sites of two monuments, one of which includes the depiction of the fall of Melaka to Alfonso de Albuquerque.

https://www.theedgemarkets.com/article/frankly-speaking-melaka-gateway-project-axed-again

https://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/nation/2020/11/28/rm43-billion-melaka-gateway-project-will-go-on-says-chief-minister/

https://www.theedgemarkets.com/article/melaka-develop-new-economic-corridor-will-be-game-changer

Rajinikanth’s Political Entry

According to Nikkei Asia staff writer Kiran Sharma Rajinikanth said on the 3rd of December that he will formally announce the launching of his party to compete in the Tamil Nadu state elections on Dec. 31, 2021. This leaves a very short lead time to the start of voting which begins in April 2021. The SUPERSTAR is reported to have said “It’s now or never.” Indeed, time is of the essence! As D Govadran observes in the Times of India, his fans and followers have been waiting for over 24 years.

Related Posts –
Who is Kaala dada?
Who is Rajinikanth Dada?
Rajinikanth Glows Saffron
Gaikwad cries Jai Bhim
Abhimanyu Sir
A Post-Traditional Polity?
Yar Nee Ayah?

In the above image from the Momotaro San series, Takedawala meets Koboi Balik Kampung  in Shinjuku!  I was privileged to be collaborating with Takedawala (Hiroyoshi Takeda) who is an artist, a South Indian chef, and a renown Rajinikanth fan. With his support the performance included an Auto-rickshaw as well as Mango Pachadi Dango, a Japanese dumpling with a South Indian filling, that  was especially conceived and developed for this performance.

https://asia.nikkei.com/Politics/Indian-superstar-Rajinikanth-steps-up-to-political-stage

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/rajini-finally-in-politics-promises-miracles/articleshow/79557182.cms

https://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-international/meet-japans-dancing-maharaja/article19484100.ece

13 Dochakuka

Keling Maya: Post-traditional Media, Malaysian Cyberspace and Me, presented at the Aliran Semasa Symposium, 2013, at the National Art Gallery, Kuala Lumpur.

Please Note: In this video the Japanese term ‘Dochakuka‘ is mispronounced ‘Dochakaku.’

“In the late 1990’s, as our children were growing up in Kuching, Sarawak, far from a Tamil milieu, I was always looking for ways to expose them to the sounds and images of Tamil culture. I found at the local night-market a copy of the 1995 film release, Muthu, starring Rajinikanth. I bought it for them and, to my delight, they loved it. What’s more, I found that I loved it too. Shortly afterwards, on a visit to Tokyo, I was surprised by a large billboard image of Rajinikanth in the Shibuya district. Somehow, Muthu had become a box-office sensation in Japan! Something ineffable in this icon from the notably colloquial
Tamil cinema, had enabled the film to achieve its unlikely crossover success in the equally idiosyncratic Japanese film world or nihon eiga kai. I recognized, in this anomalous crossover, the antithesis of the homogenization that was taking hold in the global arenas of contemporary art. “

The above is an extract from my essay contextualizing this project, titled The Koboi Project: diasporic Artist… diasporic Art, is included in Interlaced Journey: Diaspora and the Contemporary in Southeast Asian Art edited by Patrick D. Flores & Loredana Pazzini-Paracciani.

0 Performance
1 Introduction
2 Cyberspace
3 Model
4 Heterotopia
5 Rajinikanth
6 Heroes
7 Telinga Keling
8 Keling Babi
9 Duchamp
10 MGG Pillai
11 Pantun
12 Praxis
14 Post-tradition

14 Post-Tradition

Keling Maya: Post-traditional Media, Malaysian Cyberspace and Me, presented at the Aliran Semasa Symposium, 2013, at the National Art Gallery, Kuala Lumpur.

In a paper titled Beyond Art History* presented at the Singapore Art Museum in 1995, I called for an approach to contemporary art in Southeast Asia that went beyond the historical approaches of chronology, stylistics and teleology. Given the persistence of traditional and sacred art forms, in the face of the disruptions and displacements of colonialism, I suggested that the study of contemporary art in the region should emphasize metaphysical and social approaches over conventional art history. Then, in Vancouver, I convened the New Forms Festival conferences of 2004 and 2005 which addressed,the relationship between culture and technology in local and global contexts. These conferences were premised on a post-traditional media theory which is represented in the diagram diagram above and outlined in the text that follows.

As the 19th Century became the 20th, it seemed that the pre-modern or traditional world was being erased and replaced by the modernity. The birth and passage of this modernist view are represented in the timeline above as the Modern Worldview. Then, there was the arrival of the Postmodern Worldview, in which modernism was deconstructed, decentered and retrospectively devalued. This moment is marked, after architectural historian Charles Jencks, by the demolition of the Pruitt-Igoe complex in 1972. Postmodern fragmentation and reorientation was accelerated by the arrival of the ubiquitous and instantaneous communications of the World Wide Web.

The sociologist Anthony Giddens challenges the view that postmodernism constitutes a break from the modernism in his assertion that is is simply a tertiary development of modernism. He suggests that ‘postmodern’ is a misnomer for ‘late modern’ and posits that both categories are properly subsumed in his Post-traditional Worldview (1). While I concur with Giddens’ conflation of the postmodern and the modern, I reject his truppeting of the ‘end of tradition.’ I also oppose his characterization of tradition as being merely superstition and irrationality, something that modern society is fortunate to be released from. In my own Post-traditional Worldview (2), there is a more nuanced understanding of the ‘modern moment.’ For me, it the start of an era in which it is no longer possible to hold an insular and self-satisfied view of one’s own tradition. My ‘post-tradition’ indexes a plurality of traditions that are cognisant of each other.

I suggest that this new self-aware and relativistic sense of tradition emerged due to the sudden acceleration in the exposure of traditional peoples to the material cultures of others around the turn of the century. This heightened awareness of others occurred in the context of the integrative communication flows of colonial economies, as well as the emerging representational technology of the Cinematographie. This new post-traditional condition was first hidden behind the edifice of the modernism/ postmodernism complex. I argue that it took the startling events of 9/11 to reveal this reality, retrospectively, and the present theory is presented as part of the effort to share this vision. The destruction of the Twin Towers at the dawning of the 21st Century, marks the convulsive realization that the hubris of modernism had been just that, a Western imperialist gloss on a vibrant, even violent, post-traditional world. Indeed, a plurality of traditions have survived modernism and have re-surfaced, rhizome-like, as an array of neo-traditionalisms and fundamentalisms, reducing the once transcendent modernism to being just another tradition in the mix.

This post-traditional theory was first presented in an unpublished paper presented at the New Forms Festival conference in 2004. A summary appears in the Convener’s introduction** to the conference programme. It offers a transhistorical or ahistorical framework within which to integrate traditional, particularly sacred, paradigms with the contemporary discourses around representational and communications technologies.

* Niranjan Rajah, “Towards a Southeast Asian Paradigm: From Distinct National Modernisms to an Integrated Regional Arena for Art,” 36 Ideas from Asia: Contemporary South-East Asian Art. (Singapore: ASEAN COCI [Singapore Art Museum], 2002), 26–37.

**Niranjan Rajah, “Convener’s Passe-Partout: Developing Discursive Protocols for Media Arts in Post-Traditional Scenario” (Vancouver: New Forms Media Society, 2004), 22.


0 Performance
1 Introduction
2 Cyberspace
3 Model
4 Heterotopia
5 Rajinikanth
6 Heroes
7 Telinga Keling
8 Keling Babi
9 Duchamp
10 MGG Pillai
12 Praxis
13 Dochakuka
15 Philosophia Perennis