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:
Eating Ambok: Folktales and customs of the Water Festival
Phnom Penh Post
The Water Festival aligns with the date of the full moon in the Khmer lunar calendar month of Kadeuk (or Kartika in Sanskrit) when the rice crops in paddy fields are ready for harvest.
Besides being a staple food in the Kingdom, rice also plays an important role in the festival, with coconut and banana rice snack Ambok sold throughout the festive period.
As the Water Festival (Bon Om Touk in Khmer) approaches, motorists who pass through a stretch of National Road 6 in Kampong Thom province’s Kampong Svay district will notice busy villagers cooking Ambok and selling it along the road.
Kampong Thom provincial governor Sok Lou told The Post: “Besides Kampong Svay, other places such as Baray district also produce Ambok, but none are as well-known for the snack as Kampong Svay.”
This year, Ambok has been placed under the spotlight by Prime Minister Hun Sen. He has called on the public to enjoy the traditional snack together on November 9 “for the protection of the nation, religion and King”.
Thailand’s Creative Industry Chimes In On Where Technology Is Taking Art
In the worlds of art and design—last bastions of human creativity—tech is coming into play, revolutionising classical forms of expression. Thailand Tatler talks to four individuals in the local creative scene to discuss the future roles of digital innovation in the field of art
Linda Cheng, River City Bangkok
Increasingly across the globe we are witnessing a tech-driven shift that aims to augment the ways in which we experience art. Are traditional museum visits and standing in front of an original chef d’eouvre admiring the artist’s brush strokes becoming a thing of the past? For Linda Cheng, managing director of River City Bangkok gallery, combining technological innovations with art exhibitions isn’t just about adapting to a rapidly changing world but also about enhancing the accessibility of art to a wider mass of people.
Are audio books the new thing?
Audio books were popular, even before the rise of podcasts. However, in Myanmar, there are only few such books available in Burmese. Listeners have to browse social media in the hope of finding content in their own language, which are often produced by amateurs.
The Weekend recently stumbled on the application “Shwe Nar Sin” (golden listening) which offers an array of audio material. It already has some 250,000 subscribers.
“The audience here thinks that narrating in a monotone is kind of boring since Myanmar people are used to radio drama which involves conversations among several characters,” said Win Htut Han, head of the business department of Bagan Innovation Technology which released the application. “We hope to publish books in various formats –physical, electronic and audio.”
Shwe Nar Sin has also developed Wun Zinn and the Bagan keyboard.
Their Shwe Nar Sin app currently offers a selection of hundreds of books, with 3 to 6 such chapters per book, lasting from 10 to 45 minutes. Since its release, the company has been publishing 50 new chapters for their books each week.
A contemporary reinterpretation of Shakespeare’s ‘The Tempest’ returns to the stage
Options The Edge, Malaysia
In March, when the KL Shakespeare Players (KLSP) staged its latest show, one thing in particular stood out from past productions. It was not one of the company’s well-known “Demystified” works, which provide narration in contemporary English to help weave scenes together and clarify Shakespearean expressions.
In fact, a name attached to the production piqued our curiosity — David Glass. The American-born, UK-based theatre maker, known as a pioneer of physical and visual theatre, has worked with some of the biggest names on stage and on the silver screen, actresses such as Emma Thompson and Gong Li for instance.
He was here in Kuala Lumpur to conduct several workshops and connected with KLSP founders Lim Kien Lee and Lim Soon Heng. They discussed a collaboration and Glass was keen, except not in staging a Shakespeare play.
A Literal Poetry Slam
Have you ever imagined poetry and pro wrestling in the same sentence? It is two art forms that might seem worlds’ apart but Sing Lit Body Slam, an upcoming poetry-cum-wrestling show, aims to prove otherwise. We chatted with one of Singapore’s fastest rising spoken word poets, Irie Aman, and Cruiserweight Champion Val “Showtime” Senan from local wrestling promotion Grapple MAX to get their thoughts on what promises to be a verbal and physical showdown.
What are the parallels between poetry and wrestling?
I: I had no prior experience to wrestling before this. But as I looked at the wrestlers’ rehearsals and have them explain the performance aspect of it to us, I realise it was kind of stupid to think of them as separate. Art shouldn’t have boundaries. If you can put poetry and wrestling together, you can put anything. It’s really the limits of your imagination that is holding you back.
V: In a way, wrestling is physical theatre at its finest. What really made me interested in this collaboration is that you physicalise the words that the poets are speaking. I don’t think there’s something like this before so it’s fresh. For wrestlers, we like to tell stories, but for this case it was more of how can we bring the poetry to life.
A Spanish film production is featuring pre-colonial Filipino hero Lapu-Lapu. But he’s a villain.
Yet another animated film for children has come under fire for its depiction of historical controversies.
Just last month, Dreamworks’ Abominable was censored in the Philippines and pulled from theaters in Vietnam and Malaysia after depicting the South China Sea as China’s property through the use of the nine-dash line.
This time, Spanish producers Filmax International and Dibulitoon Studio’s Elcano & Magellan: The First Voyage Around the World is being accused of slandering Philippines’ national hero Lapu-Lapu by depicting him as a villain.
According to Filmax, the film follows Elcano and Magellan who embark on a journey in 1519 to reach the Maluku Islands in search of spices and aromatics.
With Debut Album ‘Họa Âm Xưa,’ Saigon Soul Revival Brings Back Old-School Cool
Formed in 2016, Saigon Soul Revival is known for their electrifying covers of pre-1975 Vietnamese music. The 60s and 70s were the old era of nhạc vàng in Saigon, when lounges were filled with the dulcet tones of Hung Cuong, Mai Le Huyen and Hoang Oanh.
For decades after the 1970s, the popularity of nhạc vàng plummeted as Vietnam turned to other genres like American pop and hip hop in the 1990s and 2000s. The rise of Mandarin-language pop culture dominated the 2000s and well into the early 2010s. But something has changed in the past few years. As a batch of young listeners grow into adults with decent disposable income, the power of nostalgia drives them to the tunes they’ve been familiar with since they were young: nhạc vàng hits of their parents’ generation.
This vintage trend has spread across cultural strata, from fashion and interior design to film, but the most prominent retro influence is in music, as evidenced by the prevalence of bolero songs on air and musical acts like Saigon Soul Revival. The five-piece band’s background is as diverse as can be, but they all share the same fascination with this era of Vietnamese music.
Centering the Equator in Global Conversations About Art
Among the various biennials and triennials, the Biennale Jogja, in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, has set itself apart with its curatorial focus and timely, urgent artworks. Under the artistic direction of curator Alia Swastika, the Biennale brings together a new cohort of curators every two years to contemplate artistic production along the equator. Positioning the equator as central to global conversations about artmaking — in spite of whether or not these geographies are perceived as “central” to the mainstream arts world — the Biennale has, over its last five iterations, explored the specificities of art being made there.
This year, the Biennale focused on art from Indonesia and Southeast Asia with curators Akiq AW and Arham Rahman from Indonesia, and Penwadee Nophaket Manont from Thailand at the helm. They delivered a complex, multi-layered exhibition that lives up to its claims of centering artists working “on the periphery,” inviting many artists who live outside Indonesia’s artistic hubs to spend time in Jogja (shorthand for Yogyakarta, often spelled Jogjakarta) to make work on-site in advance of the exhibition.
Sra’ Art: A commercial art hub for photography and painting
Phnom Penh Post
Pha Lina has exhibited his photos in France, Japan, and Spain through his photography career spanning 10 years. However, he has only sold 15 photos during that time due to the limited number of suitable spaces to display his work.
Lina told The Post: “As a photographer, I think what we need is not only an art exhibition space but also an art commercial hub that gathers people to appreciate photography and purchase the pieces of art.”
He is back in the Kingdom to showcase his photos about the illegal exploitation of kro nhoung, a luxurious wood, in the Photo Phnom Penh Festival.
The Photo Phnom Penh Festival celebrates its 10th anniversary this year. The event is being held at the commercial contemporary art gallery Sra’ Art, which had its grand opening last Friday.
The exhibition – which unveils the work of 40 artists, including 13 Cambodian photographers – will continue until November 26.
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.