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:
How Indonesia’s most innovative filmmakers portrayed society and culture through 70 years
Jakarta Post, Indonesia
The evolution of the Indonesian film industry is marked not only by its economic development, but more importantly by the contribution of the country’s best filmmakers.
In a chapter of my book, Cultural Specificity in Indonesian Film: Diversity in Unity, I highlight some of Indonesia’s most innovative and culturally significant films and directors over the past 70 years.
Since the nation’s independence Indonesian cinema has gone through three main periods – the Sukarno era, the Suharto New Order, and the post-reform era – in parallel with the rise and fall of the country’s changing regimes.
The birth of modern Indonesian cinema
Within months of the international recognition of Indonesia as an independent nation at the end of 1949, Perfini – a company formed months after the creation of the new nation – was addressing issues raised during the struggle for independence.
Essential reading according to art historian and curator Carlos Quijon, Jr.
Lifestyle Inq, The Philippines
“I am a fan of re-reading. I find it interesting to revisit what the version of me when I first read something obsessed over or found worth remembering. I keep going back to a hardcopy of Italo Calvino’s Difficult Loves, a collection of short fiction. I last finished it last month. My copy is the 1984 translation, which had in its jacket an amusing line drawing of two people leaning into each other, back against back, their heads fusing into one disproportionate blob. I got my copy from an online seller of books and on its title page is a dryseal of one Marinchi Enage from Makati City. It is a very old copy: the pages of the book bloom with rust and the jacket has small tears.
“There are underlined passages in my copy although I do not remember if I was the one who penciled them. Perhaps it was Marinchu, but I won’t be surprised if it were me. In one story about a near-sighted man, Marinchu underlines: ‘All this newness, however, only underlined and made more recognizable what was old.’ I am near-sighted and I am a man. There is a strong case to be made about me underlining this passage.
Bangkok Post, Thailand
Like other cities across the world, Bangkok has been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. As a result, people have been falling into depression over the past several months. So, in order to bring the cheerful spirit back, the Creative Economy Agency is joining hands with a crowd of new-wave and veteran artists in the “Colour Of Charoenkrung” project to revitalise Thailand’s old commercial hub.
Along the alleys, the walls of classic shophouses, hip cafes and historical buildings are being covered with 30 colourful murals, visual art illusions, typography and art installations that illustrate the unique lifestyle along the Chao Phraya River and the cultural diversity of the neighbourhood where Buddhist temples have stood alongside Chinese shrines, churches and mosques for over a century.
Charoen Krung, Thailand’s first road, was built during the reign of King Rama IV. As a result, the area instantly became a lively community of sea merchants arriving from China, Portugal, India and France.
The Moon, the Accomplices and Friends with Benefits: An Interview with soft/WALL/studs
No Man’s Land, Taiwan
Note: Invited by NML Residency and Nusantara Archive Project, Esther Lu conducted an interview with members of the Singapore-based collaborative project soft/WALL/studs via a Zoom meeting in 5th July 2020. Five of the members joined this conversation, including Luca Lum En Ci, Johann Yamin, Marcus Yee, Shawn Chua and Kamiliah Bahdar, to walk around varying reflections on their active practice and collaboration in and beyond the art world. (This interview is also a part of 2020 Nusantara Archive: Piracy, Radiowave, & Bubble project, supported by NCAF.)
Esther Lu: Maybe we can start this conversation by introducing soft/WALL/studs’ origin, like how it began and how you met each other.
Luca Lum: soft/WALL/studs (s/W/s) began in 2016 with four artists: Kenneth Loe, Weixin Chong and Stephanie J. Burt, and myself. We started renting the space as a studio space for ourselves; the studios provided by state-run National Arts Council Arts Housing, where you had to sign on for a few years with stipulations, was not an option – some of us had planned to leave Singapore in a year, and we wanted to avoid over-dependence of state structures. The original set-up had a lot of the elements that remain today, like the libraries, which was started as a way to share resources. As I recall, a lot of the ideas for the project space element came from Kenneth, and was meant to be an extension of generosity that flowed out of having our own studio space, and of not delimiting a studio space to simply a place of production, or separating it from other possibilities of use. Around that time there was a dearth of independent spaces running in Singapore; many events were “pop ups”, and it felt like the awareness and imagination around what supports art-making, had cramped. The scene to me felt overtly centralised and formal, dominated by institutional or commercial ventures, and that very clearly affected the kinds of projects and lives that were supported, limiting rhythms and visibilities.
With livestream technology, Malaysian theatre is no longer limited by distance or location
The Star, Malaysia
Online theatre in Malaysia is definitely going to be a long-term fixture, especially since livestreaming gives more theatre works here the opportunity to attract an audience abroad.
Shafeeq Shajahan and Hannah Shields, founders of Malaysian-British theatre group Liver and Lung Productions, definitely think this is a way forward. During the movement control order (MCO) period, they uploaded two productions Sepet The Musical and Malaya Relived: The Penang Riots on YouTube.
These two musicals, based on “completely Malaysian” subject matter, attracted viewers from Britain, New Zealand, the United States and Canada, among others, with overseas viewers making up 35% of the online audience.
“This level of relevance and engagement is unprecedented. Like all industries, it is critical that theatre catches up with the new world order. If digitisation and technology paves the way for a more accessible evolution of theatre-making, we welcome it with open arms, ” says Shafeeq, 27, via email.
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.