Thinking and Talking about Arts and Culture in Southeast Asia

Weekly S.E.A Radar: Anti-Duterte’s protest art at SONA; Thai literature reaches English readers

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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.

Kelantan-born Roslisham Ismail, or better known as Ise, was a Malaysian contemporary artist that created accessible works with a keen global outlook and strong local perspectives … traits that shaped his unique career. Photo: Filepic

Malaysian contemporary artist Ise dies aged 46
Star 2

Contemporary artist Roslisham Ismail, or better known as Ise, whose artistic practice spanned social relations across generations, cultures, class and geography, died of health complications at Kuala Lumpur Hospital on July 23.

Born September 1972 in Kota Baru, Kelantan, Ise was often regarded as a global traveller and one of Malaysia’s hardest-working artists with an international reach.

A big part of his career, after he graduated with a fine art degree from UiTM Shah Alam in 1997, was spent improving his craft and exhibiting abroad.

His foreign art residencies and fellowship awards, which began in the early 2000s, included cities like New York, Tokyo, Sydney, Seoul, New Delhi and regional stints in Jakarta, Singapore, Ho Chi Minh City and Bangkok.

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Ancient Javanese script. (Shutterstock/Illustsee)

Ancient and traditional Indonesian fonts available to download on ‘Aksara di Nusantara’
The Jakarta Post

A modern way to access the cultural heritage of Indonesia has been introduced by the creators of Aksara di Nusantara (ADN), a website from which people can download different fonts for various traditional languages.

Brought together by social media, this community of Indonesians interested in our archipelago’s traditional languages has developed a modern way to share these ancient scripts.

The team behind ADN, which met through a Facebook group in 2015, is made up of people who admired the many different scripts and languages that still exist or once existed in Indonesia. At that time many Facebook groups emerged, specifically discussing each of these scripts.

ADN then took the initiative to create their own Facebook page that displayed a collection of all these scripts and their characters.

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Ms Julia Gabriel leaves a strong legacy in early childhood education with her trademarked teaching methodology: EduDrama.PHOTO: ST FILE

Education centre founder Julia Gabriel, 67, dies after long battle with cancer
The Straits Times

SINGAPORE – Education centre founder Julia Gabriel, a well-known figure in early childhood education, died early Monday morning (July 22) after battling cancer for more than 10 years.

She was 67.

Ms Gabriel, a British citizen who is a Singapore permanent resident, opened the Julia Gabriel Speech and Drama Centre for children in 1990 to provide a different learning experience for children.

Her son Mark Gabriel, 44, a director and senior teacher at the centre, told The Straits Times on Monday: “She was an incredibly caring and sensitive mother, somebody who was always there for me and my sister, always encouraging and inspiring us.”

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Politically-charged works by street artists like such as Alexface have received international acclaim (Credit: Alamy)

The five most creative cities in the world?
BBC

More than 8 million people live in this chaotic city of concrete and neon that is rife with political tension. Through rap, graffiti, contemporary art and photography, Thai creatives are increasingly fighting back against censorship. A new generation of artists and curators are gathering the courage to speak out in new and subversive ways, and have found their voice by creating an anti-dictatorship arts movement. The collective Rap Against Dictatorship’s music videos criticise the Thai government, and have notched up more than 50 million views on YouTube, while the politically-charged works by street artists like Alexface and Headache Stencil have received international acclaim.

 

Asia Magazine, 1998, 107 x 122cm, collage _ acrylic on canvas. Photo: New Straits Times

Pushing the boundaries of pop art
New Straits Times

WHAT do Marilyn Monroe and Campbell’s soup have in common? Besides being part of American culture, they were both subjects of iconic artworks created by Andy Warhol, the legendary New York artist whose name is synonymous with Pop Art. No discourse on visual art in the 20th century can be complete without mentioning Pop Art and its major influencers such as Warhol, Jasper Johns and Roy Lichtenstein.

This art movement surfaced in the UK and US around the late-1950s during a flourishing period of post-war consumerism. Challenging the traditions of fine art, pop art embraced imagery found in popular culture easily relatable and accessible to the masses. Famous personalities and mass-produced commercial items are often depicted in pop art; in fact any images that bombard the public via television, advertising, magazines, comics, product designs and the like.

While pop art made its impact felt in the West and earned recognition by the art world, the same cannot be said in Malaysia. When Perak-born Ahmad Azhari Mohd Nor, better known as Jeri, emerged on the local art scene with his melange of vibrant, bold and graffiti-like pieces, little did he realise that his style would make him Malaysia’s own pop art legend. The late artist dared to push boundaries and provoke thought at a time when Malaysians were inclined towards more conventional expressions of art.

Tristan Fewings/Getty Images

Indonesia’s Screenplay Bumilangit Plans ‘Gundala’ Superhero Franchise (Exclusive)
The Hollywood Reporter

Prolific Indonesian hit-maker Joko Anwar is preparing to take Hollywood’s superheroes on at their own game with a franchise based on characters who have thrilled the world’s fourth most-populous country across the past 50 years.

Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter at the third edition of Malaysian International Film Festival, Anwar said the “characters represent the hopes of Indonesia” and include 500 Indonesian comic book characters created since 1954. “It’s about time we saw some of Indonesia’s comic book heroes up there on the big screen,” Anwar said.

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“The Book of Institution” by veteran artist Aung Myat Htay (Hnin Si | Frontier)

History, culture and consciousness: the art of Aung Myat Htay
Frontier Myanmar

Visit the latest exhibition at the Myanm/art gallery and you’ll immediately be confronted by needles lined up on a table, behind which are four stone slabs – a dark red crust filling the etchings on their surface.

The crust is dried blood, which was part of the performance art presentation by veteran artist Aung Myat Htay at the July 6 opening of the exhibition, “Consciousness of Realities”, which runs until July 28 at the gallery, located in the Urban Asia Centre on downtown Yangon’s 48th Street.

Born in Mandalay in 1973, Aung Myat Htay was exposed to art in his childhood when he helped his father to cast bronze statues. He later graduated from the National University of Art and Culture in Yangon with a fine arts degree.

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STANDING BY. A syokoy Duterte effigy is set to be burned at the United People’s SONA held at Commonwealth Avenue in Quezon City on July 22. Photo by Samantha Bagayas/Rappler

In Photos: Art means uprising at the SONA 2019 protests
Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte’s fourth State of the Nation Address (SONA) was held on Monday, July 22. At the same time, various groups took to the streets to voice out their opposition to Duterte’s administration.

Protesters got creative, making protest artwork that called attention to various political and social issues. A lot of the pieces were centered on the issue of sovereignty in the West Philippine Sea, and the administration’s relationship with China.

The issue of sovereignty came to a head in June, when the Philippine fishing boat Gem-Ver was sank by a Chinese vessel in the West Philippine Sea, endangering the lives of the 22 fishermen on board. In response, the government downplayed the incident, and at doubt on the account of the Filipino fishermen.

For instance, artist collective UGATLahi made an an effigy depicting Duterte as a syokoy, a Philippine mythological sea creature. The effigy shows the Duterte-syokoy touting a gun, a bag of money, and the Chinese flag, and was made to represent Duterte selling out the West Philippine Sea.

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Photo via Urbanist Hanoi

Limebócx: The Hanoi Duo Combining Hip-Hop, Beatboxing and Traditional Đàn Tranh
Urbanist Hanoi

As avant-garde as they are eclectic, Limebócx consists of two members. Trang Le (aka Chuối) shares vocal duties and arranges most of the band’s string instruments. As seen while she’s performing, Le is flanked on all sides by her guitar, bass and the traditional Vietnamese instrument known as the Đàn Tranh. While onstage, she effortlessly switches back and forth between all of them numerous times during the course of any given song.

Not to be outdone, Nguyen Huy Tuan supplies the rapping and beatboxing. As the band’s percussive backbone, Tuan commands the BOSS RC-505 Loop Station, which is a small device that records snippets of the band’s performance in real-time. The sounds are then digitally repeated and layered over other instruments and vocals. This is what culminates together to create the band’s unique tapestry of percussion and sound.

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Reproductions of works by Thai contemporary artists accompany the poems and short stories in the first edition of The Bangkok Literary Review. © Nikkei montage/source photos courtesy of The Bangkok Literary Review/River Books/Feminist Press/Two Lines Press

Found in translation: Thai literature reaches West
Nikkei Asian Review

BANGKOK — For years, the Thailand sections of Bangkok’s English-language bookstores have been dominated by a colorful yet shallow mixture of popular and academic history, travel guides, coffee-table cookbooks and expatriate-penned thrillers that amplify the country’s less-savory aspects. What they have sorely lacked, in other words, is Thai voices.

Slowly, however, that is changing: From an earthy bildungsroman to an unremittingly lyrical love story, contemporary Thai literature in translation is making its presence felt as never before.

“Bright” and “Arid Dreams,” by Duanwad Pimwana, one of Thailand’s most acclaimed female authors, were released in English in the U.S. in April. Both were translated by Mui Poopoksakul, a Berlin-based former lawyer who is also behind cult author Prabda Yoon’s two English-language short story collections, “The Sad Part Was” and “Moving Parts,” which were published by the U.K.’s Tilted Axis Press in 2017 and 2018, respectively.

Together with two-time Southeast Asian Writers Award winner Veeraporn Nitiprapha’s “The Blind Earthworm in the Labyrinth,” released by Thai publisher River Books in late 2018, these titles have brought the number of translations of Thai novels in the past two years to a grand total of five.

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