Early Internet Art in Malaysia 11

Between 1997 and 1998 Dr. Raman Srinivasan of Chennai and I collaborated to build, theorize and install a virtual temple on the Internet. The Temple was built in VRML in Chennai and located on a server in Sarawak. It was presented to the international interactive arts community in a paper titled Sacred Art in a Digital Era: Or the Internet and the Immanent Place in the Heart at the 2nd Consciousness Reframed conference at the University of Wales College in Newport (not available online).

The VRML temple was based on sketches of the Hridayaleeswarar temple, an existing physical structure in Thirunindravur about 20 miles from Chennai. According to the Sthala Purana or founding legend of the temple, it was in fact erected by the great King Kadavaraja based on the proportions of what was initially a virtual temple built in devotional meditation by the sage Poosalar. Some years after our project ended and the website was taken down, I returned to the VRML model to make a 3D print of its central Icon, Lord Shiva Nadaraja. This image was sent to Chennai from Vancouver where it was consecrated by Srinivasan’s father and used in domestic worship.

At the heart of this project was the integration of the traditional and the technological relationships of the real to the virtual. There was first, in the sthala purana, a movement from myth to physical architecture and then, in our VRLM/Internet project, from the actual architecture to the virtual model and, finally moving from the VRML model to the physical 3D print. This work was grounded in the belief that as the World Wide Web makes the Internet globally accessible, it must become a medium for the living sacred traditions of the world.

I went on to develop a framework for the rapprochement of digital technology and sacred tradition in papers like the following –


http://www.immersence.com/publications/1999/1999-NRajah-full.html

https://web.archive.org/web/20030106042915/http://www.uoc.edu/artnodes/eng/art/rianan0302/rianan0302.html

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Godspeed Dear Jason 3

koboi

In this, the last of 3 posts remembering Jason Avery, I want to reflect on Jason’s role in bringing me within the fold of the Burning Man community in terms of my own growing awareness of the Festival.

In the late 1990’s I was based at the Universiti Malaysia Sarawak and was very much part of the global Internet art scene. Once, I was in Los Angeles for a conference and I met Mark Pesce who was a progenitor of desktop VR (Mark had been among those who spearheaded the standardization of 3D on the Web). As we socialized one evening, I was surprised to find him espousing the virtues of what sounded to me like a neo-pagan gathering in the desert. This was the first time I had heard of the Burning Man festival (Mark would, in 2003, pen a stinging critique of the cultification of the festival … but that is another story).

Some years later, in 2006 – 07, as faculty at the School of Interactive Arts and Technology, Simon Fraser University, Canada, I supervised an MA dissertation titled ‘The return of the gift society: Traditional relations of exchange and trust in contemporary technological society’. My student, Efrat Ben-Yehuda was a burner and, as I helped her frame her thesis in terms of traditional and technological discourses, I learned about the lived experience of the festival. I was enthralled but still not drawn towards participating in the event .

Then, as outlined in my previous post, following my reunion with Jason in 2017, I was educated, encouraged, entreated, enlisted and eventually enabled to come to the festival, bringing along both my art and my family. Just as an artist must be able to visualize the work in order to realize it, a community builder must imagine the society he or she wants to bring into fruition. Jason was just such a builder. He envisioned how my art would align with the festival and, beyond my own wildest imaginings, he saw how joining [The Camp With No Name] as a family would would be a rewarding experience for us. Jason enabled both a wonderful family experience as well as the production of the Anugraham series of the Koboi Project.

‘Anugraham’ means ‘grace’ and this work celebrates the gifting ethos that informs the Burning Man Festival, the sense of giving as receiving, that Jason knew so well.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mark_Pesce

http://tripzine.com/listing.php?id=mcburners

https://sfu-primo.hosted.exlibrisgroup.com/primo-explore/fulldisplay?docid=01SFUL_ALMA21160741050003611&context=L&vid=SFUL&lang=en_US&tab=default_tab&query=any,contains,the%20return%20of%20the%20gift%20society

https://www.facebook.com/groups/340397416356816/posts/444141185982438/

RIP Jeganathan Ramachandran 3

Although we have communicated over the Internet quite recently, the last time I saw Jega in person was about 20 years ago! I remember visiting his place with my wife, Jane. We had a great conversation about art, religion and culture. Jega told us about his time in India, inspiring stories about learning from masters of traditional arts and sciences as well as demoralizing tales about Indian attitudes and customs around caste. We spoke on the metaphysical understanding of the world from an Indian perspective and also of the social conditions and the position of Indians in Malaysia.

We spoke of the extrinsic oppressions experienced by Indians in the Malaysian political equation and of the detriments that are inherent within the community. It is in this light that I want to highlight the work pictured above titled ‘The House Slave’ (2001) that was included in Bara Hati Bahang Jiwa. This image was painted in response to the suffering experienced by an Indian woman, a friend of Jega’s, who was caught in an abusive domestic situation. It serves as a symbolic reflection on the plight of women caught in the patriarchal failings of Malaysian Indian society. Many Malaysian Indian women suffer a threefold oppression – those of race, class (or caste) and gender. It is as revealing of Jega’s broad and polyvalent practice, as it is of the sacred ontology that, while he operated within the sacred Shiva/ Shakti tradition, his art was most progressive in its representations of gender in secular society.

On a more mystical or uncanny note, I recall how he quietly did reading of Jane’s face (Samudrigham) during our visit, and then, suddenly came out with a statement that she was a very healing person. There was some literal truth in this observation as, while it had been a long time before, Jane had worked as a nurse but we did not take this to be what he meant. As I had felt before, when I received the portrait of me he had made using the same interpretive technique, I felt uncomfortable. While I live within deeply metaphysical sense of reality, and while I am critical of the narrow-minded scientism that dominates the contemporary scientific world-view, I look at all sacred, magical and mystical knowledge as interpretations of signs and symbols patent or latent in creation. I rarely take such propositions as “Jane is a healer” to be intrinsically or literally true. Still, as the years have gone by since our last meeting, and as I have continued to live my life with Jane, I can not deny that there was truth in Jega’s vision. Indeed, I no longer question the reality of what he saw and read at that moment!.

Rest in Peace Jega. Long may your spirit resonate!

Image: https://www.afkcollection.com/gallery/artist/jeganathan-ramachandram

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 Keling Maya
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

Post Traditional Praxis 4

drs

Event: Tradition as a Measure of the Contemporary Dialogue Session /
Speakers: Dr. Simon Soon, Niranjan Rajah and audience! /
Date: 17th March 2018 /
Time:  2 pm to 4.30 pm /
Venue: Piyadasa Gallery, Cultural Centre, Universiti Malaya /

In this Dialogue Session we will explore the life work of the scholar and author Durai Raja Singam form personal, communal, national and international perspectives.  We will then go on to discuss the role of tradition in the contemporary art and social life of the nation. Pictured above in his habitual work attire in the later years of his life, the ever so modest Dr. Singam held two honorary Doctorates (awarded by the University of Jaffna and the Banaras Hindu University). He was as fluent in the contemporary lingua franca of international scholarship as he was steeped in Hindu tradition, Durai Raja Singam’s lifework is the epitome of a post-traditional praxis.

 

Post Traditional Praxis 2

rememberingThe dialog session titled Tradition as a Measure of the Contemporary: Towards a Post Traditional Praxis in Malaysian Art, takes place on 17th March 2018 from 2 pm to 4.30 pm at the Piyadasa Gallery/ Cultural Centre, Universiti Malaya.  Presenting the lifework of work of Dr. Durai Raja Singam, the session will go on to explore the place of tradition in contemporary Malaysian art and life. To what extent do contemporary art and theory engage with the forms and values of tradition. Are traditional forms meaningfully conceived in isolation from the theories of modernism and postmodernism. Given our national culture and life, wherein diverse religious paradigms coexist, we need approaches that art that unpack and explore the deeper meanings of tradition and as a contemporary or a post-traditional practice. This dialogue is a part of my installation at the Piyadasa Gallery titled The Gift of Knowledge  Installation Commemorating the Person and Work of Durai Raja Singam (1904-1995) which is a part of  ALAMI BELAS – KL BIENNALE 2017, Bali Seni Visual Negara.

Image: https://artklitique.blogspot.ca/2017/12/kl-biennale-ii-gift-of-knowledge.html