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Sunday, March 28, 2010

reMAPping the Kuala Lumpur art scene

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It’s been way too long since Walski’s blogged about something non-political or religion related – something that’s been a bit difficult to do with all that’s been going on these days. But this time Walski makes the exception. He has to keep his sanity somehow…

map KL - redefining the Kuala Lumpur art scene

Yesterday, he and the Mrs spent a few hours at Kuala Lumpur’s new art hub – MAP KL, a new art space that opened its doors yesterday with a 2-day arts festival. Located just off Jalan Duta, at the not-quite-ready Solaris Dutamas hub, MAP promises to add spice and life to the city’s art scene, if yesterday was any indication.

The art space consists of two halls – White Box and Black Box – 2 floors up on the east-end lobby of the commercial development.

White Box is an exhibition hall, and currently hosts “Al Kesah / Once Upon a time in Malaysia” a collaborative art show, which officially opened yesterday, and will run until mid-April.

A view of the White Box, image hosting by Photobucket

The exhibition showcases the works of 28 artists – both established and upcoming – in a variety of media and styles. Names you may be familiar with include Wong Hoy Cheong, Bayu Utomo Radjikin, Ahmad Fuad Osman, and Hamir Soib. In addition, the works of up and coming artists, such as Samsudin Wahab, Shieko Reto, Saiful Razman, Phuan Thai Meng, Melissa Lin, Poodien, Rahmat Haron and Ilham Fadhli, are also on display.

But during the 2-day festival, White Box features a lot more than just artworks. 
(performing arts, Black Box, and more, in the full post)

The center area of White Box showcases talks and performances throughout the the festival. Walski got there at around 6:30pm-ish, while the Poetry Underground Collective was performing.

Walski didn’t stay very long – probably spent only about 2 hours or so there – but did manage to catch a very interesting and intriguing performance by the Nyoba Kan Dance Company.

The Birth, by Nyoba Kan Dance Company, image hosting by Photobucket

If you've never seen Butoh being performed before, you’ll be forgiven to think it as a distorted version of the Japanese Kabuki. Or be turned off by the name itself (which can be quite rude in the Malay slang-uage).

In reality, Butoh is a collective name for a very niche method-driven form of expressionist dance, combining the whimsy of sometimes ridiculous movement, with usually grotesque-ish makeup, but with precision slo-mo dance movements that can leave you in awe.

The Birth, by Nyoba Kan Dance Company, image hosting by Photobucket

Yesterday’s performance, entitled “The Birth” was performed by Kiea Kuan Nam and Yeow Lai Chee, and the troupe’s interpretation and reconstruction of a larger 3-part performance piece, conceptualizing the themes of creation, human desires and immaculate illusions (via MapKL’s Facebook event invite). But even if you had no inkling of what the symbolism and imagery are meant to portray, last night’s short Butoh performance was one that left the audience in awe, through the precise movements (albeit somewhat ridiculous at times), and painstakingly-perfect execution of slower-than-life routines.

One of the art pieces that caught the attention of many was a collaborative piece, mounted on a central display mobile, quite aptly entitled Opening (#1, #2 and #3).

Opening, and admirees, image hosting by Photobucket

The three-piece montage work is credited to a group of artists called Lost Generation Space, comprising of Tsuji Lam, Yeoh Lian Heng, Jyne See Yee Wen, Allen Ng Boon Chong, Eva Chan Lai Kuan, and Tan Kean Hong.

Opening #1, #2 & #3 - a collaborative art piece, image hosting by Photobucket

Black Box, located on the other side of the East foyer (on the same level), is an art space of a different kind – an experimental theater, designed to cater for around 200 people. Unfortunately, Walski didn’t spend much time there, as he got in between performances. Quite a number of acts – musical and theatrical – have been lined up for the two day festival.

Right click and save the PDF schedule & info sheet Included in the line up for yesterday were Hasan Peter and friends, Ensemble 11, and Rice Above No. 7 (organized by Joe Kidd). Today, starting at 7pm a string of artists will be performing under the umbrella name of Music Gig (organized by Jerome Kugan), and expected to be featured are Panda Head Curry, Vernadium, Tenderfist, Sharidar and Nizam.

Click on the image on the right (a thumbnail of the performance details) for a full list of who will be performing what, and when.

Some might see the emergence of MAP as competition to the Central Market Annexe, which for a long time has been the center of gravity for the Kuala Lumpur arts and performance scene. Well, not so.

The reality is that MAP provides an additional venue for the promotion of the arts, and in fact, Walski hopes that its emergence will rejuvenate the arts scene, allowing it to grow and prosper. Rumor has it that the Annexe may no longer be a part of the Kuala Lumpur art landscape in the years to come, and if this is true, MAP’s birth is a very welcome one.

Study for the Dying Young, image hosting by Photobucket Having an art space large enough to cater for a variety of events will definitely complement the limited space for creative ventures – apart from the Annexe, all we’ve had really is KL-PAC (in Sentul).

MAP combines both what the Annexe and KL-PAC can offer – which is great. A one-stop location for both art and performance, so to speak. It is also gratifying to note that the developers of Solaris Dutamas (Sunrise Corporation) have embraced the idea of developing and encouraging creativity through the provision of a channel to display such creativity. In what is supposed to be a commerce and retail hub, no less.

This conceptually bold move (if one were to ask Walski) simply illustrates that the developer is very forward-looking, and brave enough to venture into yet-untested concepts – from the Malaysian perspective, at least. It’s really heartening to note that the needs of the young – and young at heart – have not been entirely forgotten.

In any case, today will promise even more performances at the festival, and if you haven’t yet gone, it would be a perfect outing for the family – a departure from the tired mall culture that passes off as entertainment in this neck of the woods.

Oh, and if you can make it there, don’t forget to check out the Art Drum Project, located primarily at the south side foyer, adjacent to where MAP is.

Spindle me this! Art Drum Project - image hosting by Photobucket

It really is cool – 19 cable drums salvaged from the Solaris Dutamas development project transformed into art pieces, and displayed around and inside the foyer area. There is one drum where anyone can contribute to the “art” (colored marker pen provided). One of Walski’s favorite art drums on display also happens to be one that was featured in this KLue write-up (albeit shown during its construction stage).

Red Ultramen meet the White Soldiers on a Green field, image hosting by Photobucket

Ultraman was one of those TV shows Walski grew up with, incidentally, and it’s always nice to see his favorite Japanese superhero depicted in art. Especially when it’s done in such a whimsical and creative way.

So, there you have it – how Walski spent some of his time yesterday.

If you’d like to catch the MAP KL Arts Festival, you still have time – provided you’re already in the city. Solaris Dutamas is just off Jalan Duta, and up the road about a kilometer or so (there are other routes to get there, of course). It will be ongoing all day today until about 11:30pm, so you’ve got loads of time.

And hopefully you’ll agree with Walski that MAP is definitely a boon to the fledgling arts scene in Kuala Lumpur, providing a new art landmark for a city where for the young, if it weren’t for mall culture, we’d probably have no culture whatsoever…

~ ~ ~ o ~ O ~ o ~ ~ ~

For more information, check out the MAP KL website, and bookmark it so that you know about upcoming events.

Also, check out these other write-ups and reports on MAP KL and the arts festival currently being held:

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