Thinking and Talking about Arts and Culture in Southeast Asia

Weekly S.E.A. Radar: Starchitecture in the Philippines; Thong Lor’s erotic art museum

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ArtsEquator Radar features articles and posts 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.

The issue with starchitecture is the opportunity it creates for ‘star power’ to reinforce the perception that architecture is predominantly about artistic form. And not about how well it can weather wear and time, or how it serves to ease the everyday of its denizens. Illustration by JL JAVIER

How the celebrity culture in architecture affects how we build our cities
CNN Philippines

Manila (CNN Philippines Life) — The cult of celebrity is as synonymous to Pinoy culture as a cappuccino is to a latte — same same but different, but really just the same. It is what propels our noontime viewing habits, political inclinations, the success of the millennial business model, and the comfort of over two million OFWs around the world (I mark myself guilty).

Unscathed from this fixation is the industry of architecture, of which I am a member. Though not as pervasive as it is on global media, the term “starchitect” describes one such “celebrity architect.” It is essentially a buzzword wittingly invented to mark architects whose work have reached a certain status or awareness among the general public.

In the Philippines, I would say we have a few — or at least, a typical roll call of names that we associate with contemporary architecture in the Philippines. These names are those spread across glossies, often attached to larger, landmark projects, and captioned alongside with other persons-about-town. I have met many of them, been in a number of events with them; all of them admirable in the successes they have achieved for our profession. [Read more…]

A children’s theater society, Sanggar Jagad Kahyangan from Wonosobo, delivers a musical performance during the three-day SALAHATEDU 2019 event, which took place in the Central Java Cultural Park (TBTJ), Surakarta, Central Java, from April 21 to 23. (TJP/Stefanus Ajie )

Local, foreign performers enliven World Theater Day celebration in Surakarta
The Jakarta Post

Indonesian and international theater performers gathered to celebrate World Theater Day at SALAHATEDU 2019, which took place in Surakarta’s Central Java Cultural Park (TBTJ) from April 21 to 23.

During the event, 26 theater societies from several cities such as Surakarta, Surabaya, Jakarta and Yogyakarta performed their works alongside performers from Malaysia and Singapore.

Visitors were also able to attend acting and directing workshops, as well as a talk show and literature readings during the event. [Read more…]

The oldest printed Quran in Southeast Asia is showcased at Palembang Literary Week. (JP/Yulia Savitri)

Palembang Literary Week showcases Southeast Asia’s oldest printed Quran
The Jakarta Post

A literary exhibition in Palembang, South Sumatra, showcases classic works of literature spanning from the earliest history of the region, as well as archipelagic Indonesia as a whole.

The oldest printed Quran in Southeast Asia, alongside several ancient manuscripts, became the centerpiece of the exhibition, dubbed Palembang Literary Week, which will run until Sunday at the Palembang Grand Mosque.

Throughout the week, visitors will be able to trace the region’s literary history from the days of the once-gargantuan Sriwijaya Empire, right up to the post-independence era of early Indonesia. [Read more…]

ON DISPLAY: A sculpture is seen in one of the exhibition rooms at the Kamavijitra erotic art museum in Thong Lor.

Thong Lor sex museum hangs out the green lantern
Bangkok Post

Most passersby walking under the bustling Thonglor BTS station and past the mufflerless tuk tuks speeding by will probably miss this place. Hidden behind a row of newspaper stands and food carts sits what appears to be an unassuming Bangkok cafe: The Green Lantern.

While the first thing to come to mind might be a famous Marvel superhero, the cafe’s owner, 40-year-old Watjanasin Charuwattanakitti, associates it with something very different; the green lanterns that Thai brothels used to leave outside of their doors to indicate that they had paid taxes, before the profession was outlawed in 1960.

“They call it the red lantern district, because they see it in the movies. But in Thailand actually, we used the green one,” said Mr Watjanasin. The Green Lantern cafe plays host to the Museum of Sex — an exhibit that opened in December, devoted to the history of eroticism and the sex industry in Thailand. [Read more…]

 

Wat Rong Khun (the White Temple) in Chiang Rai, Thailand (Photo: Amanda Silberling)

Reimagining Abandoned Buddhist Temples as Unconventional Art Spaces
Hyperallergic

CHIANG RAI, Thailand — In Thailand, it’s not uncommon to hear the chanting of the monks as you wake up on a Sunday morning, or to walk past a hoard of saffron-robed novices on your way to the market. Buddhism is a cultural undercurrent across the mountainous Southeast Asian nation. Thousands of temples define the country’s urban and rural landscapes, decorated with magnificent golden stupas and multi-tiered, pointed roofs. Almost ninety-five percent of the Thai population is Buddhist, but as the country becomes more metropolitan, fewer people choose to pursue a monastic lifestyle. With this slow, yet steady decline, some communities abandon their temples to merge with others nearby. Usually, these deserted temples remain dormant, decaying without government funding for their upkeep. But some Thai artists have pioneered a way to repurpose these once-religious structures into life-long art projects that are sacred in their own right. [Read more…]

Photo by Sebastia Galbany

[Photos] Playing Beneath Galvanic Skies in an Isolated Laos Village
Urbanist Hanoi

I left Nong Khiaw and began a demanding drive down a dirt track, trying to find a village I’d only seen on satellite images on Google Maps. It lay nestled right on top of a distant peak.

In Phongsaly Province, in the mountainous climes of northern Laos, isolated villages dot the landscape for miles, connected only by dirt roads that lead through the jungle, and which form the only way of transport for local people. It took me around three hours to get there.

When I arrived, a few kids were standing around, but they were scared and ran away when I turned up. I parked my bike and walked across the village. As I did so, kids’ faces started popping up from windows and out of corners. [Read more…]

Reamker Retold Through Decades-Long Photo Collection
VOA Cambodia

The 466-page photography book of mural paintings, temple carvings, and traditional masked dance performances took photographer Arjay Stevens 22 years to finish.

German scientist-turned-photographer Arjay Stevens arrived in Cambodia in 1996 before the celebration of the annual Water Festival. Along the way from the airport, he came across Touk Ngor, a long colorful racing dragon boat which is used in the festival boat races. Stevens jumped out of the car to take a photo—that was his very first picture of Cambodia.

“That was how everything started,” he said, referring to his fascination with Cambodian culture.

Like any visitors touring the Royal Palace over twenty years ago, Steven set his eyes on the mural paintings engraved on the walls of the Silver Pagodas. He took interest in the Battle of Lanka and became interested in the story of Reamker.

[Read more…]

 

Khairi (left), the artistic director of theatre company Anomalist Production, and writer/spoken word poet Jamal, agree that the “Pohlithik” show is about finding your voice and fighting for what’s right. Photo: The Star/Yap Chee Hong

Theatre show underlines importance and power of free speech in student life
Star2.com

The energy and power of student mobilisation through numerous grassroots campaigns is undeniable. However, where student activism in Malaysian is concerned, there are some quarters who feel that such youth-related movements still lack focus and direction.

There is still much work to be done to find a unifying voice on campuses across the country.

Khairi Anwar, the artistic director of Shah Alam-based theatre company Anomalist Production, is boldly taking up the topic of student activism in the upcoming play Pohlithik, which opens at Blackbox @ Damansara Performing Arts Centre (DPAC) at Empire Damansara in Petaling Jaya on April 24.

[Read more…]

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