Early Internet Art in Malaysia 10


In 1999 Hasnul Jamal Saidon and I founded the pioneering Eart ASEAN Online portal which, as the text on the homepage used to say, was an “interactive resource for electronic art in Southeast Asia. This site consists of a comprehensive Database of new media art including profiles of artists and samples of artworks, a Journal dealing with the historical development of electronic art in South East Asia, theoretical and critical issues related to the use of electronic media in the visual arts as well as reviews and analysis of electronic artworks, a Forum for online discussion as well as Links to related websites worldwide and a space for developing and hosting Webart by Southeast Asian Artists.”

The Webart  section of Eart ASEAN set out a criteria for web art and a theory of how online art works might be integrated within the physical infrastructure of offline world. Integrating Peter Anders notion of cybrid space, which involves the complete coalescence of the virtual and the real, and Jochaim Blank’s problematization of the presentation of net projects in physical space, I outlined a curatorial agenda for our own ‘Cybrid Spaces.’ The call for submissions read – “CYBRID SPACES aims to promote the assimilation of the Internet into Southeast Asian art practice. More specifically CYBRID SPACES will facilitate Internet art works and projects that engage with the various institutional and physical spaces of mainstream Southeast Asian art. CYBRID SPACES will work with artists (offline and online) in the region bridging communication gaps in the arts infrastructure of the region. CYBRID SPACES invites projects proposals (send to eartasean@hotmail.com) from artist practicing in the region”.

This first presentation under this rubric was a set of web works that explored this new ontology. These were all works, that featured in the Virtual Curation exhibition at the Ipoh Arts Festival and they were linked via the curatorial essay I wrote for that event. This was the inaugural presentation of CYBRID SPACES and many of the works, particularly Ting Ting Hook’s Tortoise Zone, exemplified the proposed agenda. Sadly, there were no further presentations in this section as, having given it our all for a couple of years, both Hasnul and I moved on to other things.

It must be said, in this regard, that the Eart ASEAN Online portal was clearly ‘ahead of its time.’ This was both, the measure of its success and the cause of its ultimate failure. The project may have arrived at a time when the Malaysian electronic art scene was too well rooted in the analog realm to envisage the benefits of virtual community (this was well before the advent of social media) and dissemination. Also, it seems that the majority of those becoming involved in the new media were more in tune with industry and, although we had incorporated the the applied dimension of the arts into our programme and welcomed them, we could not induce much participation. Most significantly we had set out the geopolitical framework of ASEAN for the project and most of the states involved – Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand, Brunei Darussalam, Viet Nam, Lao PDR and Myanmar and Cambodia would take some years before gaining the Internet infrastructure and capacity to participate. Nevertheless, Eart ASEAN laid out the theoretical framework and exemplified the social networking and platform development any such endeavor would have to involve, even today.

https://web.archive.org/web/20011115023154/http://free.freespeech.org/eartasean/index.html

https://kathryn23.wordpress.com/2010/10/26/cybrids/

https://web.archive.org/web/20021231121635/http://free.freespeech.org/eartasean/html/webart/cybrid.html

https://web.archive.org/web/20020103051608/http://free.freespeech.org/eartasean/html/webart/virtualcuration.html

https://web.archive.org/web/20120305183403/http://www.fortunecity.com/westwood/gucci/369/index.html

Early Internet Art in Malaysia

I am honored to be featured in a keynote by Associate Professor Hasnul Jamal Saidon at the 6th ICACA (International Conference on Applied & Creative Arts), Faculty of Applied & Creative Arts, UNIMAS, 18 August 2021. Hasnul generously describes the work I did at the Universti Malaysia Sarawak between 1995 and 2002 as a very important legacy with regard to Internet art and online art in Malaysia. He describes me as the pioneer of Internet art in Southeast Asia and the forerunner in the region of critical engagement in the context of the shift from offline to online art. He notes that my The Failure of Marcel Duchamp/ Japanese Fetish Even! (1996) is the first Internet art work in Malaysia and that I curated the first online exhibition in Malaysia at the 4th Ipoh Arts Festival (1999). I am happy to be remembered and would like to return the recognition by noting that Hasnul is himself a pioneering contributor to electronic art in Malaysia through his early forays into video art, video installation art and his own critical and theoretical writings. Beyond our individual contributions, I believe that it is what we achieved together, by way of curating the 1st Electronic Art Show (1997) and the founding of the Eart ASEAN Online (1999) portal, that constitutes a platform for further developments in Malaysian new media art.

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

Al-Kesah Tiga Abdul

3 abdul split

Teka teki – “Di atas langit, di bawah bumi, apa di tengah-tengahnya?” While the image I was trying to produce during my Koboi photo-shoot at Merlimau with Paiman and Hasnul was supposed to index Al-Kesah, Ismail Zain, Digital Collage, Electronic Art, Globalization, Post-tradition and a host of other referents, there is no denying the unintended match up with the characters of P Ramlee’s 1964 film, Tiga Abdul (iaitu Abdul Wahab, Abdul Wahib and Abdul Wahub – yang bongsu namanya Wahub – dialah yang berbaju putih di tengah-tengahnya!! Apa lagi di tengah-tengahnya? – Hayioh, tonotn lah wayangnya! (Clip di bawah)

http://hasnulsaidon.blogspot.ca/2018/03/al-kesah-koboi-balik-kampung.html

Film clip has been removed but the answer is still here: http://www.aninadila.com/archives/1673.html

Valayan Katti

3 abdul


The following is extracted and translated from a post titled AL-KESAH KOBOI BALIK KAMPUNG (28th MArch 2018) on Kebun JiwasHalus’ Blog – Yesterday we went to Merlimau, Melaka. Our guide was Azizan Paiman. The mission was a photo-shoot for the latest Koboi Balik Kampung series by Niranjan Rajah. Niranjan’s Koboi series plays on the problematics of a cosmopolitan identity in the context of contemporary trans-national mobility. Niranjan has taken the photo-conceptual Koboi Project everywhere, the Singapore Biennale, the Burning Man Festival and the KL Biennale. For the photo-shoot in Merlimau, Niranjan continued his discourse, this time with ‘me’ and ‘Melaka traditional house’ as ‘texts’ in his image. The traditional Melaka house refers to my teacher Ismail Zain’s digital collage dot matrix print entitled ‘Al-Kesah’ (1988). This work remains one of Ismail Zain’s most enduring intellectual legacies. “Al-Kesah” features a traditional Malay house as the backdrop for JR Ewing’s family photo (from the popular TV series of the early 80’s, Dallas). Pak Mail touches on the ‘modernization’ of the village landscape – in the context of globalization (or globa-lu-kasi, globalisasau, also gooblelibasi) connecting the impact of mass media and internationalist architecture in a semiotic and inter-textual play.

Hasnul asked me – Whats the term you use for my role in your photo bro? Am reflecting on koboi for my blog now.

I sent hasnul a hasty answer that is included in his post, and now take the opportunity to correct and elaborate on my reply – The Image (which is yet to be finalized and is not the one above) is being developed around the Tamil term valayan katti, which means pengikat dawai or person who ties wire. This is a term which, according to the ostentatiously  named author Sheikh Moinudeen Chisti Syed Abdul Kadir (is this a pen name for some other person of mischievous intent?), was “invented by Tamil estate workers but which became widely used by most Tamils including Indian Muslims to describe Malays”. In his rather informative , if controversial, posting about Malaysian Mamak or Indian Muslim identity the suspiciously illusive Sheikh Moinudeen explains, “…’valayan‘ means wire. ‘Katti‘ means to tie something. So ‘valayan katti means ‘a person who ties a wire’”. He continues, “In the early days of the rubber industry, the British tried to get the Malays to tap the rubber trees. However the native Malays had problems tapping the rubber tree in the proper manner and ended up injuring the tree, reducing the output of rubber. The British had better luck getting the trees properly tapped with the Tamils from India. Malays were then delegated the simpler job of using wire (valayan) to tie (katti) the little latex cups to the rubber tree. Hence the name valayan katti“. While this etymology is corroborated in various other online sources this term and its origins needs further confirmation.

Regardless of my doubts about the veracity of this reading of the term … it allows me to continue the approach I developed in my Telinga Keling (2000) in which I attempt to deconstruct and even to reconstruct a derogatory term that speaks to the depths of our national psyche. You (Hasnul) as a Malay are nominally the valayan-katti in my image. Then again, in electronic art days at UNIMAS,  we were both Valayan Katti – your wire carried the electronic video signal and mine, the new internet data. This brings me to the Ismail Zain reference of this image. You are his student and in a sense his heir … and me too … indirectly … Indeed, I think I can claim to be the valayan katti of Malaysian Internet art. Bringing this allegorical play into the present … despite a decade and a half of separation, given your Gemabelas and my Anugraham, we are somehow still connected or WIRED … working independently yet synchronously with tradition, compassion, physics and metaphysics. Indeed, now our network is metaphysical.

Image: http://hasnulsaidon.blogspot.ca/2018/03/al-kesah-koboi-balik-kampung.html

https://www.malaysia-today.net/2008/03/05/kimma-kurma-and-karma/

https://www.facebook.com/Gemabelas2017/

https://koboibalikkampung.wixsite.com/anugraham

Sathiavathy Deva Rajah

29314262_10156147022193232_1854508514102214656_o (1)On the 17th March 2018 I presented at the dialogue session of my Gift of Knowledge Installation at the Piyasasa Gallery. I also did a casual gallery tour with members of the audience and in the above photograph I am accompanying my mother Sathiavathy Deva Rajah as we look for acknowledgments of her contribution to the work of my uncle Durai Raja Singam whose life work is the subject of the exhibition. My mother was uncle’s favorite proof reader and language editor as she was mine in my UNIMAS days. As such she has contributed to seminal works such as Durai Raja Singam’s pioneering annotated bibliography of Ananda Coomaraswamy, Hasnul Jamal Saidon’s and my own 1st Electronic Art Show catalogue and to my essays in Insyirah: lukisan Sulaiman Esa dari 1980 hingga 2000 and Bara Hati, Bahang Jiwa.

Thanks Ma!

Image: https://www.facebook.com/dayang.kartini/posts/10156147022858232