ArtsEquator’s Southeast Asia 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. In the weekly Southeast Asia Radar, we publish a round-up of content that have been scoured and sifted from a range of regional news websites, blogs and media platforms.
Here is this week’s Southeast Asia Radar:
A Study of Myanmar’s Totalitarianism and People’s Resistance
The Irrawaddy, Myanmar
What puts Myanmar in the world’s news headlines?
The brutal military crackdown on the pro-democracy uprising 32 years ago? The Saffron Revolution led by Buddhist monks in 2007? Or the latest Rohingya exodus in 2017?
In one sense, numbers are important for news headlines, but what lies hidden behind the numbers and what occurs after visible moments of mass movement cannot keep the news media’s attention for long. While reporters pay attention mostly to the numbers or prominent figures, many voices behind the immediate facts are rarely heard.
The recent four- volume set of books by Alan Clements, Burma’s Voices of Freedom (World Dharma Publications, $28.95), fills that gap of missing voices from Myanmar. Clements’ rich knowledge about Myanmar’s plight under authoritarian rule, his study and practice of the Buddhist tenets, and his dialogues with the country’s different communities make his books invaluable.
Eisner-nominated Malaysian artist Reimena Yee blurs the line between history and fantasy
Malay Mail, Malaysia
KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 8 — Malaysian illustrator, writer and designer Reimena Yee has a touch of the Fae. No, there are no pixies or goblins in her family tree (not that she knows of) but her whimsical illustrations evoke fairy tales and distant lands we travel to only in our dreams.
Originally from Kuala Lumpur and based in Melbourne, Yee is the much-lauded author of The World in Deeper Inspection, a webcomic, and the upcoming graphic novelisation of the Alexander Romance, the curiously titled Alexander, The Servant & The Water of Life.
Yee’s latest work, Séance Tea Party, has already been drawing rave reviews, with critics delighting in her renditions of figures historical and mythological alike. Clearly Yee’s artistic influences are varied
“I’m inspired by the world and all that contains within. I love history and art history, and the things people have made with their hands across civilisations. I love science, because it teaches me how the world works, and that there is so much to pursue and be fascinated by, whether it’s the small or big things.”
Business Times, Singapore
IT was only last year that Nelson Mok opened the Singapore office of Endeavor Content to find Asian film and TV content to produce and sell to the rest of the world. Endeavor Content is a global leader in the development, financing and sales of film, TV, theatre and audio content. Its high-profile projects include the hit TV series Killing Eve and Normal People.
Mr Mok, 44, started out selling movie posters at Pacific Plaza in the late 1990s, before becoming a distribution, development and financing expert for various local companies such as Golden Village and mm2. Since joining Endeavor Content in 2019, he had rapidly executed his ambitious region-wide plans – until the scourge of Covid-19 started to surface around the world.
His first release was Taiwanese horror film The Bridge Curse, based on a Taiwanese urban myth made popular by campus students. The film reached No 1 at the country’s box-office in February 2020, fuelled by “a largely teenage audience who was, back then, a little less worried about the pandemic than older folk”, says Mr Mok. The Bridge Curse grossed an impressive US$2 million and Endeavor Content recently announced the shooting of a sequel next year.
Saigoneer Bookshelf: ‘Other Moons’ Aims to Amplify Voices of Vietnam’s Wartime Writers
Why must we continue talking about war?
Modern Vietnamese society can reductively be understood as forward-looking. The young population largely concerns itself with emerging, global styles, trends, influences and economics and, on the whole, shows little interest in dwelling in the painful experiences of past generations. In contrast, the west seems preoccupied with seeing Vietnam only in the context of war, never missing an opportunity to cite current tourist hotspots as former battle sites or produce countless combat-obsessed works of film and literature from an American perspective. Lost somewhere in this dichotomy, however, are the Vietnamese voices who are concerned in preserving previous experiences. Vietnam’s post-war writers dutifully explore the tragedies they witnessed and translating them into English helps rectify many of the ignorant mindsets, prejudices and misconceptions outsiders have of Vietnam.
Other Moons, released by Columbia University Press earlier this year, is a collection of 20 short stories written by Vietnamese authors and originally published in Vietnamese between 1967 and 2014. The book was edited and translated by Quan Manh Ha, a literature and ethnic studies professor at the University of Montana who was born and raised in Da Lat, and Joseph Babcock, a writing professor at the University of California, San Diego.
Bangkok Art Biennale vows to defy pandemic
BANGKOK — Hope is a rare commodity in the art world right now, with entire gallery and artist ecosystems under threat and key fairs and festivals, from Art Basel Miami Beach to the Venice Biennale, postponed until 2021, or later, on health, financial and logistics grounds.
Against this glum backdrop, the Bangkok Art Biennale — opening at three venues on Oct. 12 and six more on Oct. 29 — is pulling out all stops, promising “a line-up of 82 world-renowned artists from 35 countries in five continents, who will elevate and energize the Thai art scene with over 200 artworks.”
At moments during a careful media campaign there has been talk of obstacles, trial and error, and social distancing measures. Among other glitches, a halt has been put on plans to physically bring in dozens of international artists before and during the three-month event, due to Thailand’s strict border control measures to curb the COVID-19 pandemic.
Artist Spotlight: Kantapon “Gongkan” Metheekul Tells Us the Hole Truth About His Dreamy Depictions
Prestige Online, Thailand
With his wistful, dreamy, cartoon-like depictions of teleportation and metamorphosis, Thai artist Kantapon “Gongkan” Metheekul has been capturing the attention of the art world both at home and abroad.
It’s not often that every one of an artist’s paintings is sold on the very first day of an exhibition, but that’s exactly what happened last month when Gongkan unveiled his most recent works at River City Bangkok’s RCB Photographers Gallery – making it quite clear that this cool 31-year-old is decidedly “hot” right now.
Entitled ‘Pollution’, the show runs until October 4, 2020, and features eight paintings and one video piece by Gongkan, alongside a series of florals self-portraits by photographer Naraphat Sakarthornsap. In addition to these individual works, the pair collaborated on an installation centrepiece that incorporates vibrant purple orchids, as both artists have an affinity towards using flowering plants to illustrate certain themes in their artwork. So, why the decision to work together?
ArtsEquator’s Southeast Asia Radar is compiled every week. All sources and credit belong to the original publishers and writers. Click here for past editions of Southeast Asia Radar.
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About the author(s)
Nabilah Said is an award-winning playwright, editor and cultural commentator. She is also an artist who works with text across various artforms and formats. Her plays have been staged in Singapore and London, including ANGKAT, which won Best Original Script at the 2020 Life Theatre Awards. Nabilah is the former editor of ArtsEquator.