Electronic Art in Malaysia 3

Apa sebenarnya kemampuan sesuatu kejadian seni itu, dan apakah kewajipan seniman yang menguruskannya?
What are the affordances of an art event, and what are the obligations of the artist in managing these?

In the late 1990’s Hasnul and continued the work of the late Ismail Zain in laying the theoretical and the practical ground for new media in Malaysian art. We did this as we worked together at the Faculty of Applied and Creative Arts, Universiti Malaysia Sarawak over a period of about 5 or 6 years. While we have exhibited together in Relocations 2008 in Singapore, curated by Roopesh Sitharan, and shared the occasional speaking platform, we have not worked together since. We have, in fact, barely kept in touch kept in touch in the conventional sense but somehow, we are completely connected in the core of our beliefs in terms of the purpose of art, the meaning of art and of the role of the artist in society.

Traces, Legacies, and Futures’ is a live-streamed conversation on electronic art between Hasnul Jamal Saidon and Niranjan Rajah, mediated by Ropesh Sitharan. The event is hoisted online by  Muzium & Galeri Tuanku Fauziah, Unverslti Sains Malaysia.

Synopsis:
The practice of art is contextual in that it is responsive to, or critical of, the time in which it is performed. Especially a work of art that invites us to foresee the possibilities to come, akin to a message that tries to teach (some say warn) future generations. In this sense, an artist is not someone who mimics the ordinary for a palatable outreach, but who is ready and willing to use their talents to challenge norms and shift perceptions. This casual conversation with Hasnul and Niranjan probes such significant efforts of ‘shifting’ in their art practice – what we have come to refer to as ‘new media art’ today. It will address the diversity and the various trajectories in their practice that have substantially contributed to the ongoing conversations about art, culture and technology in our lives today. Indeed, it is hoped this conversation on past ideas, expressions and arguments by them will help preserve their legacy and launch critical inquiry into the future of electronic art in Malaysia as these ideas find their way to the relevant institutions. 

Traces, Legacies, and Futures’  will take place at 9pm (MYT) on 30 September 2020.
It will be accessible on -WEBEX https://usm-cmr.webex.com/usm-cmr/j.php…
Facebook Live https://www.facebook.com/mgtfusm

Electronic Art in Malaysia

‘Traces, Legacies, and Futures’ is a live-streamed conversation on electronic art between Hasnul Jamal Saidon and myself, mediated by Ropesh Sitharan. It will take place at 9pm (MYT) on 30 September 2020. It will be accessible on –
WEBEX https://usm-cmr.webex.com/usm-cmr/j.php?MTID=m585257ea2a05c62ab28b4bf9b1484530
Facebook Live https://www.facebook.com/mgtfusm

Synopsis:
The practice of art is contextual in that it is responsive to, or critical of, the time in which it is performed. Especially a work of art that invites us to foresee the possibilities to come, akin to a message that tries to teach (some say warn) future generations. In this sense, an artist is not someone who mimics the ordinary for a palatable outreach, but who is ready and willing to use their talents to challenge norms and shift perceptions. This casual conversation with Hasnul and Niranjan probes such significant efforts of ‘shifting’ in their art practice – what we have come to refer to as ‘new media art’ today. It will address the diversity and the various trajectories in their practice that have substantially contributed to the ongoing conversations about art, culture and technology in our lives today. Indeed, it is hoped this conversation on past ideas, expressions and arguments by them will help preserve their legacy and launch critical inquiry into the future of electronic art in Malaysia as these ideas find their way to the relevant institutions. 

Dovzhenko’s Mammoth Sunflowers

In Alexander Dovzhenko’s last silent film, his masterwork titled Earth (Zelmya) 1930, a tragic and violent narrative of the Soviet collectivization is set within a lyrical rural mise-en-scène and realized in profoundly poetic cinematography. In one of its many shots extolling the Ukrainian landscape, is featured the Mammoth (Russian) Sunflower. Apparently this glorious, or perhaps even monstrous, anomaly was cultivated in Russia and was brought into North America in 1880. It produces a single golden flower that grows up to 10″ across and is filled with edible seeds.

The Mammoth Sunflower is no innocent incident of nature. Being ‘man-made,’ it occupies the space between nature and culture. Despite its beauty, however, it is no mere vanity, it is a food crop. I suggest that, in Dovzhenko’s Earth, it is the perfect or complete symbol. It represents, the ethos of the narrative, at the same time, standing for nature per se as well as for its cultivation, its industrialization and even its collectivization, in the course of human civilization.

Incidentally, Dovzhenko is the only early Soviet era director whom the great Andrei Tarkovsky cites as a predecessor, “If one absolutely needs to compare me to someone (in Soviet cinema), it should be Dovzhenko. He was the first director for whom the problem of atmosphere was particularly important.” It must be said, in the context of this notion of ‘atmosphere’, that Tarkovsky himself eschewed the ‘symbol’ in cinema, and spoke instead of a more open and less intentional cinematic ‘image’ which he defined in terms of the notion of the metaphor, “A symbol contains within itself a definite meaning, certain intellectual formula, while metaphor is an image. An image possessing the same distinguishing features as the world it represents. An image — as opposed to a symbol — is indefinite in meaning. One cannot speak of the infinite world by applying tools that are definite and finite.’ (Interview Le noir coloris de la nostalgie with Hervé Guibert in “Le Monde”, 12 May 1983 )

In my own view, symbols are as malleable and as variable as the mind and worldview of a given viewer or community of viewers. As such Tarkovsky’s dichotomy, essential though it is to our understanding of art, is not an inevitable duality. An image must, in my understanding, contain many symbols that come forth as the viewer, or artist, determines, or designs. If, like Tarkovsky, the viewer finds that the ‘image’ satisfies in its latency, then it will be left unread and no symbol will arise. However, perhaps as a result of having more of an intellectual than a poetic inclination, I see symbols in all images. I see them even as I relish the ‘atmosphere’ of Tarkovsky’s own indefinite images! I suggest that, in art, the question – ‘image or symbol,’ is less about the essential quality or nature of the work and more about the perspective of the viewer or the approach of the artist.

This Sunflower was grown by Jane Frankish on our allotment in the plot shared by members of the Jonathan Rogers gardening collective in Mount Pleasant Vancouver, Summer 2021.

https://www.thedigitalfix.com/film/dvd_review/the-dovzhenko-war-trilogy-zvenigora-arsenal-earth/
https://www.smartgardener.com/plants/289-sunflower-russian-mammoth/overview
https://koboiproject.com/2020/07/26/tarkovsky-monument-4-2/
http://www.nostalghia.com/TheTopics/Symbols.html

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 Keling Maya
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

1 Keling Maya

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

0 Performance
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
13 Dochakuka
14 Post-tradition
15 Philosophia Perennis

Art, Life, Sacrifice

In the documentary on the making of his film ‘Nostalghia’ (1983) titled ‘Voyage in Time’ (1983), Andrei Tarkovsky is asked to give some words of advice to young film directors. He addresses ‘cinema’ as a serious art and so, here, I recall his advice as it might apply to the broader category ‘art.’ The following restatement is fundamental my understanding of the true purpose and nature of art, and to the proper ambition of the artist –

  1. Do not separate your art from the life you live.
  2. It is required to contribute your own self to your art.
  3. Be morally responsible for what you do while making your art.
  4. Art requires sacrifice of your self.
  5. You should belong to your art, your art does not belong to you.

Parodists and Patriots 3

1. The question of artistic intention.
2.The question of artistic license.
3. The question of interpretative license.
4. The question of interpretative intent.

Hey QT Dont Fuck with Bruce Lee 4

In response to an earlier post in this series which referred to Bruce Lee’s ‘Lost Interview’, my friend, veteran Malaysian journalist and art writer Ooi Kok Chuen commented, “Bruce Lee is much misunderstood after all these years where he is seen as a supreme martial arts fighter. … his cult brand of Chinese martial art is more than stunning physical manoeuvres. It’s a philosophy, a discipline of the highest order, and on top of it all, a way of life.” Indeed, this philosophy/discipline was embodied in what I would call a post-traditional fighting system that Bruce called Jeet Kune Do. The Jeet Kune Do system seems to acknowledge the plurality of traditional forms while unifying then in a praxis.

In the interview Bruce Lee explains this praxis in terms of the relationships between martial arts, acting and life, “… all types of knowledge mean self-knowledge … [my students] want to learn to express themselves through some movement, be it anger, be it determination or whatsoever … to show … in combative form, the art of expressing the human body … it might sound too philosophical, but its unacting acting, or acting unacting. I mean, here is the natural instinct, and here is control. You are to combine the two in harmony … The ideal is unnatural naturalness or natural unnaturalness … ultimately, martial art means honestly expressing yourself … You have to keep your reflexes, so that when you want it, it’s there! When you want to move, you are moving. And when you move, you are determined to move …”

Another friend Hugo Moss, co-founder of Michael Chekhov Brasil responded to the same post by noting that Bruce lee’s praxis echoes that of Michael Chekhov (1891-1955), a Russian actor, director and teacher whose approach to actor training, rehearsal and performance continues to inspire artists around the world. Hugo notes that Chekhov posits the same “polarity of being in controlling and releasing yourself 100% free in the moment. It’s the creative process of meaningfully living ‘the tangible/material world’, ‘the cosmos/possible’ and ‘oneself’ in equal measure/harmony. yes there’s a polarity … In the creative act there is part of it which is a “doing” in the traditional sense, but then there is a “getting out of the way” and allowing the creative moment to flow … [and] that flow [is] this threefold consciousness – ‘Material World’ + ‘Cosmos & Imagination & the possible’ + ‘Self’, [with] our gesture unifying the first two.”

In the light of the profundity of Bruce Lee’s contribution, Tarantino’s project seems frivolous at best and at worst, a folie.

image: https://www.goalcast.com/2017/07/20/top-20-inspiring-bruce-lee-quotes/

https://www.thestar.com.my/authors?q=Ooi+Kok+Chuen

https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=1185&v=bNFfG541MYY&feature=emb_logo

https://www.tapatalk.com/groups/bruceleelivestributeforum/the-lost-interview-t2209.html#p10190

http://www.moss.com.br/hugo-moss/

http://www.michaelchekhov.com.br/en/quem.html

Hey QT Dont Fuck with Bruce Lee 1

I have loved Quentin Tarantino for his Reservoir Dogs and for Pulp Fiction and I have forgiven him for many a tedious and pretentious flic on the podium of these two groundbreaking works. More significantly, I have given him, and his celluloid surrogate Samuel L Jackson, licence to skate thin ice with regard to the ‘N word’. I gave this M_ _ _ _ _ R F _ _ _ _ _ R license on the basis that his oeuvre was A _ T; because rigid political correctness is tedious and damaging to culture, and even to the justice it purports to prompte; because I believed that Quentin’s ‘heart’ was in the right place on the questions of race in America; and most of all because ‘perhaps I did not get it yet’ but that ‘maybe I would on the next viewing’! Now, after viewing the jaded and reactionary Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (just once is all I could possibly bear!), I have clarity, and a correction to make – I was wrong! Quentin was wrong, QUENTIN IS WRONG! … Hey Academy of Motion Picture Arts … Dont give the C _ _ _ _ _ R an Oscar! It will only confirm your ensconcement in that quintessential, or should I say Quentinessential Americana of racism! … Kabali Da!

Image: https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/entertainment/tamil/movies/news/Rajinikanth-Kabali-meets-Bruce-Lee/articleshow/53961587.cms

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZxfXTQnmZaA

Dari Pusat Tasek 9

I am deeply moved by what Hasnul Jamal Saidon has written about the Dari Pusat Tasek show at Percha Art Space, Lumut Waterfront. (Dec 2019 – Jan 2020) in his Kebun Jiwa Kebun Jiwa Halus blog. Our time together in Malaysian art was short but very productive. I believe, however, that beyond our notable collaboration in developing electronic art in Malaysia, we forged an understanding of art that transcended materials media and market. You could say we both had a common interest in the metaphysical and the ethical aspects of art and of life in general. In recent years, Hasnul has developed his ethical concerns in terms of notions of belas (compassion, charity, love). I want to thank Hasnul, for an intimate and penetrating review which goes to the at the heart of the Koboi Project. He has written about my work with the insight of a friend, of a fellow practitioner as well as that of an astute critic and theorist of art. Hasnul has reached beyond the complex play of signs of the Koboi Project, to suggest the presence of the very simple belas that he has been developing in his own practice. Please visit – https://hasnulsaidon.blogspot.com/2019/12/baliklah-koboi-dengan-ayahanda-bonda.html?fbclid=IwAR1Q3DCfH1wh8Z4z_LCBvZPfUujjXkRN6N2ELuylArrJAIcNpKENI6visM