Early Internet Art in Malaysia 12

desktop VR
virtual reality
Niranjan Rajah pictured during a session as guest at the CyberForum, Art Center College of Design, Pasadena in 2000

One of the highlights of my days as an early Internet artist in Malaysia is being invited as a guest at Michael Heim’s (author of The Metaphysics of Virtual Reality) virtual world Cyberforum as a guest in 2000. Other speaker that year were leaders in the field – Cliff Joslyn, David Weinberger, Howard Bloom, Francis Heylighen, Bruce Damer, William J. Mitchell, Lev Manovich, Carol Gigliotti, Brenda Laurel, Katherine Hayles, and Peter Lunenfeld, so I was really excited at being invited to participate.

Even with my high expectations the session was not a disappointment. Michael’s pioneering Virtual Worlds Theory and Design team began hosting chat interactions in avatar worlds at the end of 1999. with the aim of researching the dynamics of these spaces as sites for the exchange of ideas about digital technology. I was both a speaking subject and an object for observation in this encounter. Among the outcomes of this research for Michael Heim was an important paper about what he calls ‘flow; in virtual world interactions. The paper was titled The Feng Shui of Virtual Reality. I myself gained great insights about web based virtual reality and the nature of immersion. I incorporated a desktop VR representation of the installation, when La Folie de la Peinture (1998) was presented at the Substation, Singapore in a show titled, Layers … Reality … Memory in 2001. I also incorporated these ideas into a paper titled From the Aesthetics of perceptual Objects to the Metaphysics of Interactivity which was presented at the 15th International congress for Aesthetics in Tokyo. This paper won an Asian Scholars Award from the International Aesthetics Association and the Japanese Society for Aesthetics (this paper is not available online).

CyberForum was built in Active Worlds and was accessible using the Eduverse 3D browser. Active Worlds, was an early Virtual Reality community on the web that let users builtd, visit and chat in 3D worlds in millions of square kilometers of virtual territory. The log of my CyberForum session is available on the Wayback Machine.






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

Bumi Larangan

zulkifli dahlan inviteThe official opening of an exhibition of the hitherto unreleased drawings of Zulkifli Dahalan was held on the 17th of May at the National Art Gallery, Kuala Lumpur. This exhibition was curated by Nur Hanim Khairuddin who kindly included an essay by myself in the catalogue. After I had completed and submitted my essay to Hanim, I was alerted to Hasnul Jamal Saidon’s extended review of the then newly released film Arrival on his Jiwa Halus Blog. The review was titled THE LATE ARRIVAL OF NON-LINEARITY: A NON-OBJECTIVE REFLECTION ON THE MOVIE “ARRIVAL” and was written as a series of three letters to the films director. I was delighted to find that Hasnul had chosen to conclude PART 3 of this innovative series by citing my own application of Keith Critchlow’s ideas on geometry in my essay on Sulaiman Esa for his Petronas Gallery retrospective Insyrah. Indeed, in Islamic geometry,  the extension from point to line to plane, and back again, carries the allegory of space into that of time. The non-spatiality of the point in geometry and the bindu in Tantra are indifferent from the intemporal consciousness of the Sufi Ibn al-wakt or ‘son of the moment’. Beyond my superficial delight in finding my name at the ‘point’ of closure of Hasnul’s marvellous serial letter, I was profoundly moved by the fact that after nearly two decades with only occasional contact, our inner rhythms seem to be in perfect synchronicity. You see, Hasnul had appraised Arrival in terms of abstraction, geometry and the Islamic ideas of Shirik (interdiction against life-like representations or concentrations), Tawhid (multivalent singularity) and Fitrah (the original state of man). And I, in my newly submitted catalogue essay, had attempted to interpret the figuration and humanism of Zulkifli Dahlan in exactly the very same terms.