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The Sixth Liu Kang Annual Lecture | نڬري داڬڠ | 蔚為大觀: Multicosmological Modernity in 1930s Penang

September 2, 2023 @ 2:00 pm - 3:30 pm

The Sixth Liu Kang Annual Lecture | نڬري داڬڠ | 蔚為大觀: Multicosmological Modernity in 1930s Penang
Sat 2 Sep | 2pm | City Hall Wing, Level B1, The Ngee Ann Kongsi Auditorium | Free, registration required: https://bit.ly/6thLKAL

Nan Guo (南郭), a Penang correspondent for the Nanyang Siang Pau (《南洋商報》) daily newsletter, published a series of articles from 1934 to 1936 that featured Chinese businesses in Penang. Amidst the aftermath of the Great Depression, Nan Guo’s writing sought to capture the social and cultural development in the wake of a catastrophic global financial meltdown. Despite the fact that he had no training in the social sciences, Nan Guo adopted sociological methods in his reporting. Besides reporting local news and affairs, he surveyed empty houses, counted bicycle shops, observed Penang residents’ peculiar habits, talked to Penang residents from various class backgrounds and even visited art exhibitions. Through Nan Guo’s data-rich, yet reflexive writing, one gets the sense that during the early 20th century, aesthetics played a larger role in shaping one’s perception of their place in the world.
In this lecture, Dr Simon Soon will contextualise the use of the Geographic Information System (GIS) to produce a cultural map of 1930s George Town, Penang. He will explore Nan Guo’s articles alongside the paintings and activities of two of Penang’s modern artists—Abdullah Ariff and Yong Mun Sen. He will also discuss Penang’s modernity through theories of animism to highlight the island city’s multicosmological societies.
* نڬري داڬڠ is Malay in the Jawi script for “negeri dagang” or “trade country,” while “蔚為大觀” (wèi wéi dà guān) translates roughly to “exuberant vista”

About the Speaker
Dr Simon Soon completed his PhD in Art History from the University of Sydney under an Australian Postgraduate Award scholarship. His thesis “What is Left of Art?” investigates the intersection of left-leaning political art movements and modern urban formations in Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand and the Philippines from the 1950s to the 1970s. His reading and research interests span from comparative modernities to art historiography, with a focus on 20th century art in Southeast Asia. He has an interest in historical GIS and the use of digital tools in the humanities. Soon is a co-editor of “Narratives of Malaysian Art, Vol. 4”. He is also an editorial advisor to “Southeast of Now: Directions in Contemporary and Modern Art”, a new peer review journal. He is currently the Deputy Dean of Postgraduate Studies and Senior Lecturer at the Faculty of Creative Arts, Universiti Malaya.

About The Liu Kang Annual Lecture series
The Liu Kang Annual Lecture is a signature Gallery programme that is planned in partnership with the Liu Kang family. Each year, the lecture presents new research that spotlights a pivotal period of Singapore’s art history, shedding light on cultural forces and critical moments that have shaped our art.


September 2, 2023
2:00 pm - 3:30 pm
Event Category:


National Gallery Singapore
1 St Andrew's Rd, #01 – 01,
Singapore, 178957 Singapore
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