Mella Jaarsma’s The Landscaper (2013)
Photograph: NGA

Weekly S.E.A. Radar: Galleries leave Art Fair Philippines; Khmer classical dance gets LGBTQ+ update

ArtsEquator Radar features articles and posts about arts and culture in Southeast Asia, drawn from local and regional websites and publications – aggregated content from outside sources, so we are exposed to a multitude of voices in the region. Here’s a round-up of content from this week, scoured and sifted from a range of regional news websites, blogs and media platforms, and brought together in one article for convenient reading.

Photograph from the Official Facebook of Art Fair Philippines

10 of Manila’s top galleries break away from Art Fair Philippines

If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the parking lot. And that’s exactly what a select group of Manila’s established galleries are set to do, if talk is to be believed: they’re not joining the 2020 edition of the annual Art Fair Philippines—or as some people call it “Art in the Parking Lot”—and are forming their own yearly art event.

Yesterday, the movers of these ‘renegade’ art spaces met at the ArtInformal gallery in Makati to discuss a possible joint statement. According to insider sources, the breakaway group is composed of the above-mentioned ArtInformal, along with Finale Art File, West Gallery, Drawing Room, Mo_Space, Blanc, Duemila, Mabini 1335, Underground and Vinyl on Vinyl. The group is now being called the Breakaway 10, or the SM 10 because they are reportedly moving into Hans Sy territory, the SM Aura in Taguig, expectedly a change of atmosphere from the Ayala Center parking building, The Link, the Art Fair’s address since its inception in 2012.

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Mella Jaarsma’s The Landscaper (2013) features in Contemporary Worlds: Indonesia at the National Gallery of Australia. Photograph: NGA

‘Blasphemy’, rebellion and dissent: the artists bringing modern Indonesia to Australia
The Guardian

In 2018, Meiliana, a Chinese Indonesian living in Sumatra, was jailed. Her crime? A complaint to a neighbour about the volume of the call to prayer at her local mosque.

Meiliana, who is Buddhist, was released last month on parole. Yet the fallout over the case remains. Not only did her objections lead to an anti-Chinese riot and the burning of several Buddhist temples in a country still riven by ethnic tensions; it reveals the damaging reach of Indonesia’s controversial blasphemy law.

Now the debate has made its way to Canberra – through art. In Wall of Tolerance – one of 50 plus works currently showing in Contemporary Worlds: Indonesia at the National Gallery of Australia (NGA) until October – a brick wall is peppered with gilded brass ears.

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Tourists line up to take photos with the famous Little Children on a Bicycle mural by Ernest Zacharevic at Lorong Armenian in Georgetown. — Picture by Azrol Ali

Ernest Zacharevic blames his art for turning once-quiet heritage street in Penang into ‘circus’ 
Malay Mail

GEORGE TOWN, July 2 — Lithuanian artist Ernest Zacharevic’s iconic Children on Bicycle mural along Armenian Street had brought so much changes to the street that the artist today commented in dismay over the gentrification his art had brought while contemplating painting it over.

The artist, in his Instagram post of the faded mural and the crowds waiting to pose next to it, lamented that the street was not the same as it used to be when he first moved there.

“Myself and many others blame my work for Armenian Street being a centre of tourist route in Penang and honestly, I’ve been contemplating of simply painting over it in hopes to put an end to that circus,” he wrote in his long emotional post on the changes wrought on the street.

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Why Prumsodun Ok founded Cambodia’s First Gay Dance Company in His Living Room
Dance Magazine

How do you respectfully preserve a dance tradition that is more than 1,000 years old while recontextualizing it for 21st-century audiences? Perhaps no one has done it so well in recent memory as Prumsodun Ok, the founder of Prumsodun Ok & NATYARASA, Cambodia’s first gay dance company.

Ok, a Long Beach, California, native whose parents were Cambodian refugees, not only restages traditional works of Khmer classical dance but also uses the stories and vocabulary of the ancient style to create new works that center LGBTQ+ characters and perspectives. In the process, he’s helped to revitalize and bring global attention to an art form that was nearly wiped out with the vast majority of its practitioners in the Khmer Rouge genocide of the late 1970s.

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The cosplay role-playing craze – where enthusiasts imitate characters from anime series, comics and video games – has been growing in popularity in Malaysia Photo: AFP

Malaysia arrests 3 Japanese cosplayers in festival raid
Japan Today

Three Japanese women and a Spanish man have been arrested in a raid on a Malaysian cosplay festival for participating without the proper permits, immigration authorities said Tuesday.

The role-playing craze — where enthusiasts imitate characters from anime series, comics and video games, many drawn from Japanese pop culture — has been growing in popularity in the Southeast Asian country.

The four foreigners were taking part in the ‘Geek Summit’ on Sunday hosted by the city of Shah Alam, outside Kuala Lumpur, when immigration officials raided the event following a complaint.

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Heritage: After making its premiere in Singapore 15 years ago, I La Galigo will be performed in Jakarta at the Ciputra Artpreneur theater in July. (Courtesy of Bali Purnati /Fendi Siregar)

Airlangga Komara: The man behind the majestic costumes of ‘I La Galigo’ 
Jakarta Post

The world of showbiz is certainly as far removed as can be from the dull grittiness of reality, this much is certain. In every artistic production, every aspect is made grander, exaggerated for flair and dramatics, including the costume department.

On a world-class production, one would expect every stitch and thread – even on the extras’ costumes – to be perfect.

Such can be seen in I La Galigo, a musical theater production derived from the Bugis epic creation Sureq Galigo.

After making its world premiere at the Esplanade Theatres on the Bay in Singapore in 2004, the Robert Wilson-directed I La Galigo has traveled around the world before coming back home to Jakarta for a four-day performance at the Ciputra Artpreneur theatre from July 3 to 7.

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Dancer PERA will be presenting a performance addressing toxic masculinity in today’s society. Photo: Ian Skatu

Immersive theatre show surrounds itself with gender issues of the day

Issues of gender and sexuality have become major talking points with Malaysians today. However, it seems that frank discussion about such issues is often regarded as taboo.

This is what local theatre group I’M Entertainment is out to change. Its latest show The Human Exhibit: Sex And Gender is an edgy meeting point between gallery-based exhibition and performing arts showcase.

The performances, pieced together like a journey, will feature contemporary dance, bharatanatyam performance, spoken word, theatre and film. Each will touch on themes such as gender roles and stereotypes, love and intimacy, hyper-sexuality and pansexuality, masculinity and femininity.

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Love, Money and Obligation looks at the phenomenon of Western men marrying women from northeast Thailand’s Isaan region. Photo: AfP

The Thai women who marry Western men: lessons from one village in northeast Thailand in Love, Money and Obligation
South China Morning Post

Well-researched and easy to follow, Patcharin Lapanun’s Love, Money and Obligation: Transnational Marriage in a Northeastern Thai Village is a powerful reminder of how interconnected the world has become – and how love can develop between people from completely different backgrounds.

Though a work of academic anthropology, based mainly on Patcharin’s PhD research, the book is still highly readable. It clearly and sincerely describes the communities in the Isaan region of Thailand, the women who inhabit these spaces, and the Western men who share their lives with them. Patcharin’s meticulous examination of the lives of Thais in one village, where some women have chosen to marry foreign men, makes for a fascinating read.

Patcharin’s central argument is refreshing, in that she does not want to bend the evidence to fit any narrative that denies women the chance to express their sexuality.

Ms Angelita Teo will become director of the Olympic Foundation for Culture and Heritage from Oct 1, 2019. BT PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

Singaporean to head The Olympic Museum in Switzerland
The Straits Times

SINGAPORE – National Museum of Singapore director Angelita Teo will become the first Singaporean to helm The Olympic Museum in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Ms Teo will leave the National Heritage Board, which she first joined in 2002, on Sept 21 and become director of the Olympic Foundation for Culture and Heritage from Oct 1.

She will succeed Mr Francis Gabet at The Olympic Museum, which was inaugurated in 1993 by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and houses exhibitions and programmes related to sport and the Olympic Games.

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A still from “Sunday Beauty Queen,” a documentary directed by filmmaker Baby Ruth Villarama. Screenshot from TUKO FILM PRODUCTIONS/YOUTUBE

Filipino filmmakers invited to be part of The Academy
CNN Philippines

Manila (CNN Philippines Life) — Filipino filmmakers Ditsi Carolino, Baby Ruth Villarama, and PJ Raval are now part of the 842 newly invited members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS).

AMPAS is the governing body behind the Oscars in which members get to vote for winners of the annual awards show. AMPAS also announced that half of the new members the group invited were women and 29 percent of the invitees are people of color. In 2016, AMPAS was criticized for having nominees that are mostly white, sparking the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite.

Carolino is best known for her documentaries “Mula pabrika hanggang Fukuoka” and “Bunso: The Youngest”; Villarama’s most notable work is “Sunday Beauty Queen,” for which she won the Gawad Urian award for Best Documentary in 2017; and Fil-Am filmmaker Raval is known for the 2018 film “Call Her Ganda.”

About the author(s)

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Kathy Rowland is the Managing Editor of, a registered charity that she co-founded with Jenny Daneels in 2016. The site is dedicated to supporting and promoting arts criticism with a regional perspective in Southeast Asia. Kathy has worked in the arts for over 25 years, working in the areas of critical writing and arts advocacy, with a special interest in media platforms for the arts. She is the Project Lead for ArtsEquator’s Southeast Asian Arts and Culture Censorship Documentation Project, launched in 2021. She has written extensively on censorship of arts and culture in Malaysia. She was a member of the International Programme Advisory Committee of the 8th World Summit on Arts and Culture, 2019.

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