Tuesday, December 2, 2008

NAFAS: Screening & Dialogue

Press release

Nafas - Screening and Dialogue
Contemporary art from the Maghreb to Southeast Asia, from Central Asia to the Middle East within the international art context

Presentation by Pat Binder and Dr. Gerhard Haupt (Berlin, Germany),
editors of Nafas Art Magazine and publishers of Universes in Universe - Worlds of Art

Date: 12th December 2008 (Friday)
Time: 3.00 pm
Venue: Auditorium, National Art Gallery
2, Jalan Temerloh, off Jalan Tun Razak,
53200 Kuala Lumpur

Date: 13th December 2008 (Saturday)
Time: 8.00 pm
Venue: Rumah YKP,
32, Laluan Tasek Timur 12
Taman Seri Dermawan
31400 Ipoh, Perak

The online art magazine Nafas is published since March 2003 by the Institut für Auslandsbe¬ziehun¬gen (ifa – Institute for Foreign Cultural Relations) in Germany. Commissioned by the ifa, Dr. Gerhard Haupt and Pat Binder developed the concept and are editorially and technically responsible for Nafas. They host the online magazine on their own website, Universes in Universe - Worlds of Art (started in 1997).

The ifa initiated the Nafas Art Magazine with the aim to counter the "West's" reservations, hostilities, and prejudices against a supposed "Islamic world", which had increased after September 11, 2001. One primary task of Nafas is to confront the widespread homogeneous view of countries and regions in which Muslims are a majority of the population with a wide variety of individual artistic positions, behind which extremely divergent personal, cultural, religious, social, and other contexts become visible. The title Nafas was especially chosen because the word is etymologically closely tied to the existence of the individual and some of its derivations can be directly applied to creative work. Beyond that, it is important that the word nafas is present with similar meanings in so many of the cultural realms included in the magazine.

In the almost six years of its existence, Nafas Art Magazine has become the most extensive and most frequently visited online publication with such a focus. The pages, published in English, German, and Arabic, are consulted about 120,000 times each month. The magazine is used for instruction at art schools, universities, and schools in many countries. It serves curators and art institutions as an important source for selecting artists for the major biennials and other international exhibitions. Furthermore, Nafas plays a big role in networking among art creators world wide.

In their presentation, Binder and Haupt will explain the concept, goals and effects of the Nafas Art Magazine. Sharing also their experience as curators of a "real" Nafas exhibition in Germany they will show - in photos and videos - significant examples of artworks and artistic strategies featured in the Nafas project. They will introduce interesting developments in several countries and regions, for example: art and ecology initiatives in Morocco, the committed alternative art scene in Egypt, international exhibitions and workshops in the Middle East and in Central Asia, the gigantic cultural projects and museums planned in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

Explaining some mechanisms of the international art system, specially Biennials, Haupt and Binder will refer to working strategies and effects of Universes in Universe since almost 12 years, and in particular of the Nafas Art Magazine since early 2003.

Haupt and Binder propose their presentation as a point of departure for a dialogue and exchange with the audience.

For more information, please see the Nafas Art Magazine:

Gerhard Haupt and Pat Binder

Dr. Gerhard Haupt and Pat Binder are the publishers of "Universes in Universe - Worlds of Art"´. This independent website for the visual arts of Asia, Latin America, Africa in the international art context startet in February 1997.

Since March 2003, they are also the editors-in-chief of the online art magazine Nafas, dedicated to contemporary art from the Maghreb to Southeast Asia, from Central Asia to the Middle East. Nafas is published by the ifa, the German Institute for Foreign Cultural Relations.

In collaboration with the Asia-Europe Foundation (ASEF), Binder & Haupt publish CulturE-ASEF since 2002, an extensive web information system for the Asia-Europe cultural exchange.

Dr. Gerhard Haupt
Art historian, curator, art critic. Born in 1952 in Germany. First specialized in contemporary art from Latin America. Since the 1990's, he focuses his work on international developments in art, art mediation and cultural exchange. In 1995, he conceived and co-organized the symposium "The Marco Polo Syndrome - Problems of intercultural communication in art theory and curatorial practice", at the House of World Cultures, Berlin. Since 1996, realization of cultural projects on the Internet, and specialization in conceptual and practical issues of web-publishing and web-marketing in the art field.

Pat Binder
Artist, curator and net-worker. Born in 1960 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Lives in Berlin, Germany, since 1996. Has exhibited in several countries and participated in numerous international exhibitions. She is particularly interested in exploring issues and developing strategies of art mediation and cultural exchange. In 1997, she won a competition in Berlin with her project of an art gallery in the public space, which she then directed until 2006. Since 1996, realization of art and cultural projects on the Internet.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Conference at IFA Gallery Stuttgart: "Fragrance of Difference"

Programme and invited speakers:

13.30 pm
Reception / Introduction
Iris Lenz and Dr. Valerie Hammerbacher
ifa Gallery Stuttgart

• Cultural Theories:

13.45 – 14.15 pm
Prof. Dr. Eveline Dürr
Ethnologist at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München
Dealing with cultural boundaries: Transnational and transdisciplinary perspectives of ethnology

14.15 – 14.45 pm
Prof. Shai-Shu Tzeng
Art Historianat the National Taiwan Normal University
Issues of canon: The European art history as a role model for Asia?

14.45 – 15.00 pm Discussion
15.00 – 15.15 pm Coffee break

• Publication:

15.15 – 15.45 pm
Els van der Plas
Director of the Prince Claus Fund, Netherlands
Still reading? Publishing in the centre of the periphery

15.45 – 16.15 pm
Nur Hanim Mohamed Khairuddin
Artist, Editor-in-Chief of SentAP! Contemporary Visual Art Magazine, Malaysia
Mainstream or underground – cultural self-representation for which public?

16.15 – 16.30 pm Discussion
16.30 – 17.00 pm Coffee break

• Presentation:

17.00 – 17.30 pm
Valeria Ibraeva
Director of the Soros Center for Contemporary Art, Almaty
Destination Asia: Regional fusions as tickets for the “big art world”?

17.30 – 18.00 pm
Dr. Hans-Michael Herzog
Director of Daros-Latinamerica AG Zürich
Latin America is located in Switzerland: Collecting, exhibiting and communicating of contemporary non-European art – private dedication versus institutional shortcomings

18.00 – 18.30 pm Discussion

19.30 pm
Prof. Dr. Hans Belting

Art historian and media theoretician; Professor at the Universität Heidelberg, at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich and at the Staatlichen Hochschule für Gestaltung in Karlsruhe; Director of the Internationale Forschungszentrum Kulturwissenschaften in Vienna.
Publications u.a.: Das Erbe der Bilder. Kunst und moderne Medien in den Kulturen der Welt, Hg. zusammen mit Lydia Haustein, 1998; Szenarien der Moderne: Kunst und ihre offenen renzen, 2005; Florenz und Bagdad. Eine westöstliche Geschichte des Blicks, 2008.



In early 2002 while I was transforming the Perak Arts Foundation (YKP) into an independent space and owing to my acquiantance with numerous people in Malaysian underground music scene, I became aware of the significance of DIY ethics. Closely related to punk rock, the practice of DIY underlines the act of initiating products (album, zine) or projects (gig, event) by outmanoeuvring consumer-capitalist structures, and above all by believing in self-empowerment. I noticed, despite restricted financial resources and devoid of sponsorship and grant, those ‘undergrounders’ managed to survive, successfully selling their music, barter-trading merchandise, organising gigs and of course having fun all the way. One particular matter that fascinated me was their use of self-made, photocopied fanzines and newsletters as their networking tools to circulate their political beliefs and philosophies of life, their concerns and propagandas.

During that time also I started to pay more attention to the rise of alternative art spaces in neighbouring countries chiefly Indonesia and Singapore. Established collaboratively by young cultural producers – visual artists, musicians, designers, film makers and performers – these cross-disciplinary, multi-genre institutions became interesting sites for my investigation of the shift and trajectory of arts and cultures of the region specifically among younger creative minds. Out of so many issues I discovered while studying them, I especially took pleasure in reading and analysing their self-published journals. Majority local mainstream journalistic and academic writings are non-critical, stiff, dogma-oriented and take up a conformist, popular stance. These independent journals on the other hand disseminate information and knowledge written in critical and bold yet playful and satiristic manners. They often highlight ‘forbidden’ subjects and themes that digress social-political norms. They speak in different language, adopt different points of view, and more incline towards postmodern and contemporary issues, theories and strategies. Indonesian Ruangrupa’s “Karbon” and Singaporean “Focas” are two such alternative publications that received my profound attention.

These art-cultural journals and various Malaysian punk-metal-hardcore-anarchist zines influenced me to start my own zine. In 2004 I published “Sendawa” filled with articles, anecdotes and criticisms (especially on visual arts) written by me, and poems, essays and sketches contributed by artist-literary friends. Each issue, numbering not more than thirty-two pages, is composed in Malay, ink-jet printed and xeroxed in black and white, and hand-distributed to my small circle of art friends. Initially I intended “Sendawa” to be a kind of punk zine for Malaysian art world. Imbued with some sense of humour and satire, it would be my ‘rage against the machine’ attacking Malaysian art’s power structures and the public aestheticism. But ironically at the same time I wanted it to be an ‘intellectual’ journal as well permeated with theoretical and analytical approaches and ‘serious stuffs’. What an explosive blend of a punker and an academician!

My intention then was not only to create a ‘public sphere’ to share personal thoughts and ideas, in light or solemn tones. More importantly I wished to include ‘heavy’ discourses related to arts, cultures and social-politics. I wanted to take a serious swipe too at subverting issues and other clichés propagated by mainstream media and academism. It was a big ambition on my part to form an alternative voice, to constitute ‘the fourth estate’ for Malaysian younger generation artists and cultural producers. In view of partial editorial policies of most media or biased guiding principles of art institutions that dictate the undeveloped aesthetic taste of the public, I know it is hard for new ‘voices’ to be heard, new ‘texts’ printed, new ‘pictures’ exhibited and new talents exposed. A lot of unwritten rules and regulations, unstated values and agendas hinder open representations of the Others (whatever that means). By way of “Sendawa” I idealistically wanted to contest typical and boring reportage, interpretation and commentary in national newspapers, magazines, journals and exhibition catalogues.

After three issues of “Sendawa”, in 2005 I invited some associates to start up a ‘real’, pro-printed art magazine. Unlike “Sendawa”, this new publication is to be made available (i.e. sold – alas I have to succumb to consumer capitalism) to a wider audience in a fixed frequency possibly 4 issues per year. As such it should be conceived, designed, printed, packaged and circulated in a semi-professional way. Heck…no more garage-DIY ethics and underground aesthetics? But with its minimal editorial checks and balances it should still serve as an alternative voice of the Malaysian art.

Although most magazine publishers require a large human resource setup, there are only three part-time staffs in “Sentap” organisation. All of us do not have experience in publishing industry, what more in running business. We are merely fine art and design graduates. Apart from me as the editor-in-chief, one friend is in-charge of design and another of production and all of us perform the marketing task. We are so determined that we do not mind carrying out multiple tasks albeit uncertain financial returns. We work for the pleasure of holding newly printed, ‘piping hot’ copies of “Sentap”, and for the joy of knowing that other people would browse and read our product and appreciate our contribution in enlivening Malaysian art world.

As in many capitalist enterprises, money is the main concern. In our case, since we do not have any paid-up capital, we solve our financial constraints by several strategies. First of all, the three of us are not paid employees as we understand at the outset that this venture is going to be done out of passion. Secondly, we get commercial galleries like Valentine Willie, Pelita Hati and NN, institutions like the National Art Gallery and Petronas Gallery, alternative spaces like Rimbun Dahan, Gudang and Patisatu as well as individual friends to buy advertisement spaces or provide sponsorship in monetary form. Money generated from these efforts is our only source of finance to pay design fees and printing costs. Thirdly we do not pay our writers and contributors; instead we give them complimentary copies.

As Malaysian readership is generally small, we limit our print run to 1,000 copies – half from our initial print of 2,000 (later we find out that 1,000 is still large; even most people in the art scene are not avid readers but browsers of images and pictures!). In terms of distribution, we either sell directly or consign to interested outlets. We nevertheless realise afterwards that many shops are not willing to sell “Sentap”. Apart from private galleries and art institutions around Kuala Lumpur like The National Art Gallery and Petronas Gallery, average and high-end bookshops and even universities are reluctant to sell “Sentap” citing its lack of ISSN number, the Interior Ministry’s approval and commercial value. Once in a while we receive orders from abroad such as Queensland Art Gallery, Australia, art institutions from Singapore and Indonesia, and artist-friends around the world. Despite our attempt at selling “Sentap” (alas unsuccessfully), our primary intention is not so much at making profit but obtaining secondary ‘sponsorship’ from buyers. The most vital concern for us is in getting the magazine circulated to the art people and the public. That is why most copies are given free especially to those people and institutions appreciative of our struggle.


The main concern that impelled my friends and me to produce “Sentap” is an apparent lack of dedicated art magazines in Malaysia. Apart from minimal columns in English and Malay newspapers such as The Star, New Straits Times, The Edge, Berita Harian and Utusan Melayu (I’m apologetically unaware of Chinese and Tamil dailies or weeklies that feature art news and reviews), general magazines like The Expat and Off The Edge, entertainment magazines like Klue and KL Time Out, literary-cultural magazines like Dewan Budaya and Dewan Sastera, tourist-oriented magazines like KL Vision and Golden Wings, and home-décor magazines like Anjung Seri and Impiana, there is no local publication focusing solely on arts in the same vein as Artforum, Artnews, Art Asia Pacific, Visual Art (Indonesia) etc. Previously we had bi-monthly Art Corridor and occassionally-issued Tanpa Tajuk. However both had defunct since 2002 if my memory is correct.

At present Malaysian art is booming: numerous exhibitions take place, many young artists emerge and many art events organised. All these phenomena demonstrate that Malaysian art scene is indeed alive and kicking. Unfortunately not many people notice most of them as they are not well documented, no writing on them exists, they receive no media coverage. These interesting occasions consequently become ephemeral, fleeting moments. They have no history and for majority people they do not exist in the society’s collective memories.

After getting involved in visual art for over a decade, I realise the importance of media – either paper format, electronic broadcast or the Internet – to inform, debate, analyse and make sense out of art making, to sensationalise and hype artists and their works to boot. Sad to say that making art does not stop once a painting is bought and delivered to collector’s home. No doubt art essentially is an object/event of contemplative, ritualistic, commercial pleasure. However it has other values that transcend its entertainment capacity, values that affect emotions and intellects. Therefore art should rise above orality, whispers and gossips buzzing in galleries, studios and tribal gatherings of art-lovers. It should go beyond its tiny circle of artist-gallery-collector to confront the public head on so that its beauty and message are passed on to them and engraved in their minds. “Sentap”, besides acting as a networking platform for artists and cultural producers, should also play the role of bridging the art world with the larger society. Via its analytical and critical texts, it should put the art in proper contexts preferably rooted in the social-political of the milieu.

What I observe in art writings of most local publications is the lack of enthusiasm in highlighting works of ‘underdogs’ and events in alternative spaces. Lesser known artists, non-conventional genres and forms, and radical and subversive elements are not reviewed, reported and represented accordingly. Majority journalists and critics concentrate on shows by established artists held in reputable galleries, particularly when the shows are officiated by ministers, celebrities and socialites. Whether they do not have in-depth knowledge or due to their personal preferences (or ignorance, fear or intellectual egos) they shun promoting anything associated with ‘Other’ aspects of art: the low-brow, underground, indie, outsider, popular or on the other end of the spectrum the high-brow, theoretical, conceptual, non-traditional; they prefer the average road than the one less-travelled.

“Sentap” on the contrary would want to chronicle whatever happening, phenomenon, episode taking place within the art scene. If possible we would like to review every artist, movement, space, exhibition, gig, trend etc. worthy of critical dissection or significant enough to be archived for future reference. Cultural representations of “Sentap” hence should encompass the ‘underdogs’ and ‘alternatives’ as well as the ‘establisheds’ and ‘conventionals’, each and every element of art that we believe helps advance the state of affairs of Malaysian and regional contemporary art.

This new magazine, besides primarily focusing on Malaysian art, should also cover art scenes of our neighbours i.e. Singapore, Indonesia, The Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam. This seems a sound decision in view of Malaysian artists’ lack of knowledge of trends and progress of their neighbouring artists some of whom in fact are well-known internationally. A few foreign art magazines available here such as Art Asia Pacific and Artnews rarely feature Malaysian and South-east Asian artists. Once in a while when these regional artists have their solo or group shows here, only then we could catch a glimpse of their lifes and works when they are reviewed in local newspapers and magazines.

For artists and art critics alike knowing the goings-on of art in other countries is important for their art and history makings. It makes them aware of art trajectories happening outside and consequently relieve them from the parochial “katak-bawah-tempurung” (frog-under-coconut-shell) mentality, from “syok sendiri” (self-grandiosement) paradigm. In this age of international networking, and cross-country collaborative projects, of global sensitivities and postmodern senses, artists must be equipped with knowledge to compete for their places in biennials or triennials (if not to lure foreign art collectors and buyers). With contributions from neighbouring artist-critic friends writing reviews and commentaries of shows, artists, aesthetic tastes and trends of their countries, “Sentap” would function as a hub for information as well as cultural exchanges.

When we first started “Sentap”, Malaysian arts have already been served by a few on-line publications, in their nascent states notwithstanding. Kakiseni.com is the most popular and properly administered as it has ample resources (moderators, sponsors, paid contributors). However its focus is not on visual but performing arts. Even though articles and essays on art exhibitions are rather scarce, some are highly original. The other one is Rumahykp.org. This website posts photos, reports and commentaries of events related to YKP programmes or those attended by its staffs. Both Kakiseni.com and Rumahykp.org also provide spaces for people to advertise art happenings and shows. Some other cyber sites belong to individual artists, which mainly exhibit the artists’ photographed works, CVs and brief statements.

There are two main reasons for us to produce “Sentap” in paper rather than electronic-digital format. We realise that if we go on-line our magazine could be made more interesting as we could append other media like video and sound. Additionally we could supply users/browsers with instant global data at their fingertips. However, financial and personal costs required in maintaining websites, in addition to our lack of internet/IT skills, prevent us from adopting this electronic-digital format. Occupied with other tasks and acknowledging the fact that this venture would not provide us with good monetary returns, we could not invest whatever limited time, energy and money that we have in setting up an on-line publication (we plan to have one when the time is right). Producing a ‘hard’ magazine, at least in our non-profit making, hobbyish sort of enterprise, does not require so much time and energy. To produce an issue within the projected 4-month period, we might be busy for one month to compile articles, design the layout and get it printed. The other three or so months would be spent on our personal activities and art making.

The other factor for conceiving “Sentap” in traditional paper format is rooted in our instinct as art-cultural producers (out of the three people involved in the setup, two are full-time fine artists and the other a graphic designer). We sort of treat “Sentap” not so much as a commercial enterprise, but a collaborative art project involving texts and images. Each “Sentap” issue is the result of our art adventure. Although mass printed, it is a product that looks ‘real’, tangible, concrete in the same vein as printmakers’ multiple prints.

Nur Hanim Khairuddin

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Conference at IFA Stuttgart, Germany

Saya diundang ke IFA untuk berkongsi informasi tentang dunia penulisan dan penerbitan seni visual Malaysia. Apa lagi..bercakap hal sentAp! lah jawabnya. Wish me luck!

Monday, October 20, 2008


Siri 'Recollections of The Long Memories'
Ahmad Fuad Osman

By Zakaria Abdul Wahab

SINGAPORE, Oct 14 (Bernama) -- A collection of slides portraying historical images of Malaysia -- but with a slight twist where an imagery modern-day character was inserted digitally to wade through the country’s long history -- by a Malaysian artist has won an international arts award in Singapore.

Malaysia’s Kedah-born visual artist Ahmad Fuad Osman was picked Tuesday as one of the winners of the inaugural Asia Pacific Breweries (APB) Foundation Signature Art Prize organised by the APB Foundation and Singapore Art Museum (SAM).

The announcement of the winners was made by the guest judge of the competition, Wonil Rhee, Co-Curator of the 3rd Seville Biennale, Spain, at a news conference at the Singapore Art Museum here.

Ahmad Fuad, 39, who hails from Baling, a town in the northern state of Kedah, and is a fine art graduate of Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) in Shah Alam, won one of the three Juror’s Choice Awards which carries a S$10,000 (RM23,937) prize each, for his work entitled "Recollections of Long Lost Memories".

Singaporean artist Yeo Chee Kiang won the grand prize of S$45,000 (RM107,785) for his "spilt milk" artwork entitled "A Day Without A Tree" in the triennial competition which attracted 34 nominations from 12 countries.

Two other winners of the Juror’s Choice Awards were Chinese artist Zheng Bo for his digital video on "Karibu Islands" and Indian artist G.R. Iranna for his fibreglass donkey named "Wounded Tools".

Another award, the S$10,000 People’s Choice Award went to Mongolian artist Davaa Dorjderem for his mixed media artwork entitled "Voice in the Space", which received over 600 of the 3,010 public online and onsite votes.

Ahmad Fuad’s collection of 71 slides depicting Malaysia’s turbulent and colourful history dated from the 1860s, since the beginning of the colonial era of the British to the Japanese occupation, independence day, the Emergency, Indonesian confrontation and until 2003, was actually an artwork project he made to celebrate the country’s 50 years of independence last year.

"When I did the project, it was not for any competition but to remind me of my roots and the history of the country which many people of my younger generation take for granted and forget," he told Bernama.

Ahmad Fuad said his artwork was nominated by artist and writer Anurendra Jegadeva, who is now a senior curator at Galeri Petronas, at the Kuala Lumpur Twin Towers.

He said he got the idea to make the slides, which took him four months to complete, when he was attached to the Goyang Art Studio in South Korea as the resident artist from 2005 to 2006.

"When I went there, I thought I had known everything about my country," said the bachelor artist.

"But, I was stupefied when the South Koreans and others who visited the studio started asking me all kind of questions on Malaysia which I could not answer," he added wryly.

Ahmad Fuad’s slides, although deep in history, are tinged with humour because of the imagery character ,who is actually a friend from Terengganu, that was notoriously seen in every slide to be intervening or poking fun into or wanting to be part of the Malaysian history.

His works were exhibited at the Gertrude Art Space in Melbourne, Australia, and Semarang Contemporary Art Gallery in Semarang, Indonesia, early this year.

Ahmad Fuad's slides projection and other winning and short-listed artworks can be viewed at the Singapore Art Museum at Bras Basah Road from today until Nov 16.


Sunday, September 21, 2008

Berita Terkini

Hmm..boleh lah kami rileks lagi :)

Monday, September 8, 2008

PIYADASA – Obor yang Telah Padam

Artikel ini sebagai 'teaser' isu terbaru nanti. Al-Fatihah untuk Piya.

Apabila sahabat saya yang juga sahabat karib Allahyarham Redza Piyadasa, Raja Ahmad Aminullah dari R.A. Fine Arts menzahirkan hasrat beliau untuk menjemput saya membentangkan kertaskerja ringkas sempena Majlis Belasungkawa untuk Piyadasa (yang beliau ingin anjurkan) reaksi pertama saya kepada beliau ialah ada tokoh-tokoh lain, seperti Datuk Syed Ahmad Jamal, T. K. Sabapathy, Dato’ Baharudin Zainal (Baha Zain), Dr Sulaiman Esa, yang lebih layak untuk memperkatakan tentang jasa dan sumbangan besar Piyadasa kepada dunia seni rupa Malaysia.
Saya cuma seorang kolektor yang secara kebetulan telah menjalin hubungan persahabatan dengan Piyadasa sejak 10 tahun kebelakangan ini. Ini tidak cukup melayakkan saya untuk membicarakan sumbangan dan jasa besar Piyadasa itu di dalam suatu Majlis yang terbuka untuk khalayak ramai.

Namun demikian saya menyatakan persetujuan apabila Raja Ahmad menerangkan bahawa Majlis yang diaturnya itu turut menjemput tokoh-tokoh yang saya sebutkan tadi dan beliau mahu penglibatan dari pelbagai pihak untuk memberi penghormatan beragam bagi mengenang jasa-jasa besar Piyadasa itu.

Sebagai seorang kolektor seni rupa kontemporari Malaysia, umum telah mengetahui bahawa tumpuan koleksi kami (saya dan isteri saya, Fatimah Sulaiman), adalah terhadap karya-karya seni rupa yang dihasilkan oleh perupa-perupa dari angkatan yang jauh lebih muda dari Piyadasa seperti Bayu Utomo Radjikin dan rakan-rakan beliau dalam kumpulan Matahati, Wong Hoy Cheong, Amron Omar, Mad Anuar, Jai (sekadar menyebut beberapa nama) dan perupa-perupa lain yang lebih kurang seangkatan dengan mereka itu. Ini adalah pilihan yang telah saya dan isteri saya ambil.

Akan tetapi, untuk setiap “general rule”, selalunya ada kekecualian…..dan karya-karya Piyadasa merupakan satu-satunya kekecualian dalam teras (“core”) koleksi kami. Selain dari karya-karya Piyadasa yang kami kumpul secara serius dan mendalam, karya-karya dari pelukis-pelukis dari generasi beliau seperti Datuk Syed Ahmad Jamal, Dr Jolly Koh dan lain-lain lagi hanya merupakan “appendix” kepada teras koleksi kami itu. Ini tidak bermakna kami menafikan sumbangan dan mutu karya-karya perupa-perupa veteran itu. Kami tetap menghargai/menikmati karya-karya mereka tetapi cuma sebagaimana yang telah saya terangkan, ia adalah suatu pilihan yang telah kami buat untuk memberi tumpuan mengumpul karya-karya perupa kontemporari Malaysia yang lebih muda.

Kenapa Piyadasa merupakan kekecualian? Ini mungkin berkaitan rapat dengan pengalaman peribadi saya sendiri. Piyadasa merupakan di antara perupa Malaysia yang paling awal saya “kenali”; bukan secara fizikal tetapi melalui pembacaan. Masih segar di ingatan saya akan “perkenalan” yang pertama dengan beliau - masa itu saya berada di tingkatan 6 di Victoria Institution, Kuala Lumpur. Sebagaimana kebanyakkan pelajar-pelajar yang memperolehi kelulusan yang baik untuk peperiksaan LCE (peringkat tingkatan 3) saya dijuruskan ke aliran sains. Semasa berada di tingkatan 6 saya mengalami suatu krisis dimana saya telah hilang minat meneruskan pelajaran dalam aliran sains. Saya selalu tuang kelas dan menghabiskan banyak masa di khutubkhanah sekolah. Di situlah saya menjadi pembaca yang “voracious” terhadap apa juga penulisan yang berkaitan dengan sastera dan seni rupa. Di kala inilah di dalam lembaran Dewan Sastera, majalah Bahasa Melayu yang khusus untuk sastera, terbitan Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka, saya menemui nama “gah” Redza Piyadasa dan rakan pelukis beliau Sulaiman Esa yang telah berjaya mengadakan sebuah pameran yang bertajuk “Towards a Mystical Reality”. Piyadasa pada waktu itu (pada awal tahun 1975) sedang terlibat di dalam suatu siri perdebatan yang cukup hebat (sehingga kini saya menganggapnya tetap sebagai yang terhebat dalam sejarah seni rupa Malaysia) dengan pelukis Siti Zainon Ismail di dalam lembaran majalah Dewan Sastera.

Perdebatan itu (yang terbit dari pameran, “Towards a Mystical Reality”) kemudiannya menjadi lebih riuh dan hebat dengan kehadiran protagonis yang ketiga, Salleh Ben Joned (yang pada masa itu seorang pensyarah sastera Inggeris di Universiti Malaya) yang menulis surat terbuka bertajuk “Kencing dan Kesenian” kepada Piyadasa di dalam Dewan Sastera mempertahan dan memberi rasional kepada “gesture” beliau untuk menyirami gumpalan naskhah manifesto “Towards a Mystical Reality” dengan air kencing beliau semasa majlis pembukaan pameran di Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka. Seterusnya beliau melancarkan suatu serangan yang hebat terhadap sikap dan pandangan Piyadasa/Sulaiman Esa tentang falsafah Zen dan teori baru mereka sebagaimana yang terkandung di dalam manifesto mereka itu. Perdebatan itu mempunyai pengaruh yang amat kuat dan mendalam terhadap pandangan saya tentang dunia seni rupa. (1)

Di zaman inilah kita menyaksikan suatu pertalian yang amat rapat dan mesra di antara golongan sasterawan Melayu dengan golongan perupa di mana Piyadasa dan Datuk Syed Ahmad Jamal adalah di antara tokoh-tokoh yang utama di pihak seni rupa, manakala dari kalangan penulis, Baha Zain dan Usman Awang adalah antara tokoh-tokoh utamanya. Justeru itulah, tidak menghairankan kenapa perdebatan yang terhebat dalam dunia seni rupa Malaysia berlaku di dalam lembaran majalah yang khusus untuk sastera dan di dalam Bahasa Melayu! Malangnya jambatan yang mereka rintis itu tidak kekal lama.

Pertalian erat itu telah di antara lain memungkinkan Piyadasa kemudiannya melahirkan salah sebuah karya terpenting beliau iaitu “Tribute for Usman Awang II” bertarikh 1980. Melalui lukisan tersebut Piyadasa telah memberi sanjungan yang cukup tinggi kepada Usman Awang disamping, dengan begitu jelas (orang kata dah terang bersuluh lagi!), menganjurkan agar Usman Awang diberi penghargaan selayaknya selaku penyair terkenal tanahair oleh pemerintah dengan menerbitkan setem peringatan/penghargaan terhadap beliau. Anjuran secara visual yang cukup jelas itu, malangnya sehingga kini, iaitu setelah 27 tahun karya itu tercipta, masih kekal sebagai anjuran belaka. Selama 27 tahun ini tiada siapa dipihak pemerintah yang tergugah atau terketuk pintu hatinya untuk berbuat sesuatu! Kalau “tak nak” tokoh, apalah salahnya kalau kita menerbitkan setem yang menggambar atau mengabadikan karya-karya seni rupa terpenting yang telah dihasilkan oleh perupa-perupa tersohor tanahair.

Di Barat, mereka memberi penghargaan yang cukup tinggi terhadap golongan pelukis, penulis dan para seniman mereka. Contohnya baru-baru ini saya telah membaca laporan di dalam akhbar The Star, keluaran 22 Mei 2007, yang memetik laporan Associated Press bahawa Royal Mail di Britain akan menerbitkan satu siri 7 setem penghargaan pada 17 Julai nanti menggambarkan watak Harry Potter dari novel kanak-kanak yang tekenal yang dicipta oleh penulis J.K. Rowling. Menurut jurucakap Royal Mail, pengeluaran setem peringatan (commemorative) Harry Potter itu adalah merupakan sebahagian dari tradisi pejabat pos di Britain untuk merayakan “social themes and important occasions central to our way of life”. (2) Demikianlah, di Britain, mereka tidak menunggu sehingga tokoh telah meninggal dunia sebelum diberi penghargaan dalam bentuk setem peringatan. Sementara itu, di Amerika Syarikat, menurut laporan akbar Sunday Star keluaran 27 Mei 2007, pejabat pos negara itu akan mengeluarkan setem peringatan sempena ulangtahun ke 30 siri pertama dari filem-filem Star Wars mula dipertontonkan.(3) Bilakah agaknya tradisi memperingati dan memberi penghargaan kepada karya-karya kreatif dan tokoh-tokoh yang terlibat menciptanya akan menjadi “suatu cara hidup kita” di negara ini?

Begitulah testimoni malang golongan seniman/intelektual di negara ini! Kita cukup cepat untuk mengambil/meniru hal-hal yang kurang penting/baik, yang banal dan yang superfisial dari tamadun/peradaban Barat dalam upaya kita untuk mencapai tahap negara maju. Hal-hal yang lebih penting dan asas seperti penghargaan kepada pemikir-pemikir yang menyumbang kepada pertumbuhan dan pembangunan intektektual bangsa, kita kesampingkan begitu sahaja.

Piyadasa menjadi saksi utama kepada ketidakpedulian kita terhadap sumbangan para seniman. Beliau lebih dihargai di luar negeri tetapi dibelakangkan di negeri sendiri; sedangkan beliau adalah di antara sejumlah kecil seniman dan intelektual negara ini yang telah menyumbang untuk mengharumkan nama Malaysia di luar negara. Lihat saja apa yang berlaku semasa beliau meninggal dunia tempoh hari: rata-rata mereka yang berkunjung ke rumah beliau di Subang Jaya untuk menziarahi jenazah dan seterusnya mengiringi jenazah ke kubur adalah sahabat-sahabat dan ahli keluarga beliau. Tiada kelihatan tokoh-tokoh dan pemimpin negara di kala itu. Penganjuran Majlis Belasungkawa ini pun adalah inisiatif individu. Di mana peranan dan tanggungjawab institusi yang diwujudkan khas oleh negara untuk memelihara dan memajukan dunia seni rupa Malaysia? Saya berharap inisiatif ini adalah pemula sahaja….

Kecintaan Piyadasa terhadap buku memang termasyhur di kalangan sahabat-sahabat beliau. Tidak cukup dengan koleksi buku yang impresif beliau juga menjadi penyumbang utama terhadap buku-buku berkaitan dengan dunia seni rupa Malaysia. Bagi saya inilah antara peranan terpenting beliau selain dari pelbagai peranan yang telah dimainkan semasa hayatnya. Dunia penulisan seni rupa Malaysia telah kehilangan tokohnya yang terpenting dengan kembalinya Piyadasa ke rahmatullah. Dan yang lebih malang bagi dunia seni rupa Malaysia ialah kita tiada nampak pengganti /penerus kepada upaya ini. Saya secara peribadi amat merasai kepergian beliau itu, kerana ada beberapa projek buku yang beliau rencanakan, seperti sebuah monograf untuk pengarca Mad Anuar Ismail dan sebuah buku “coffee table” tentang karya-karya penting dalam koleksi peribadi kolektor-kolektor penting di Malaysia (di mana beliau akan memberi ulasan terhadap karya-karya itu), kini tidak mungkin disempurnakan. Dengan ketiadaan Piyadasa, dunia seni rupa Malaysia kehilangan obornya. Dunia luar dan malah khalayak di negara sendiri akan terus gelap/kelabu terhadap perkembangan/sumbangan perupa-perupa kita jika Piyadasa atau Piyadasa-piyadasa yang baru tidak dilahirkan dengan segera! Dan justeru itu saya khuatir tahap “secondary market” untuk karya-karya seni rupa di negara ini akan tetap pada takuk yang sediada iaitu pada peringkat antara yang paling bawah jika dibandingkan dengan keadaan yang wujud dilain-lain negara di Asia Tenggara seperti Indonesia, Filipina atau Thailand umpamanya.

Salah satu aspek yang disentuh oleh Salleh Joned di dalam “Surat Terbuka” beliau kepada Piyadasa ialah unsur “lack of humour” yang terdapat pada diri beliau. Pengalaman saya dengan Piyadasa adalah sebaliknya - beliau sebenarnya mempunyai “sense of humour” yang amat baik/subur.

Pengalaman yang pertama ialah semasa berada di rumah beliau di Subang Jaya dalam tahun 1999. Masa itu saya dan Fatimah dijemput ke rumah beliau untuk makan malam. Teman lain yang turut dijemput ialah saudara Baha Zain dan isterinya. Selepas makan, kami bersembang berkenaan pelbagai topik (seperti kebiasaannya dengan Piyadasa). Suatu ketika saya mengambil kesempatan meminta dari Piyadasa, jika ada yang lebih, sebuah naskhah manifesto pameran “Towards a Mystical Reality” kerana saya tidak ada naskhahnya yang asli. Niat saya adalah untuk Piyadasa menandatangani naskhah itu untuk simpanan dan koleksi saya. Beliau kata akan cuba carikan kerana naskhah manifesto itu nipis dan mungkin terselit di celah ratusan buku-buku milik beliau.

Di ketika inilah Piyadasa menceritakan bagaimana beliau dan Sulaiman Esa menemui “match” mereka dalam diri Salleh Ben Joned. Diceritakannya betapa mereka berdua masa itu begitu besar kepala (“arrogant”) dan dengan penuh keyakinan diri melontarkan idea-idea baru tentang pasca modernisme (termasuk idea falsafah Zen dari Timur) untuk merevolusikan dunia seni rupa Malaysia; seolah-olah dunia seni rupa Malaysia masa itu serta masa hadapannya berada di dalam genggaman mereka berdua. Tidak pernah terlintas di kepala mereka waktu itu bahawa idea-idea mereka itu akan dapat diganggu-gugat oleh sesiapa. Tiba-tiba muncul Salleh Ben Joned yang dengan begitu berani dan penuh dramatik telah melancarkan bantahan dan serangan yang cukup hebat terhadap “intervention” yang Piyadasa/Sulaiman lakukan terhadap dunia seni rupa Malaysia itu. Salleh telah melakukannya dengan kombinasi perlakuan yang kasar (iaitu melalui “gesture” menyirami air kencingnya ke atas gumpalan naskhah manifesto “Towards a Mystical Reality” di ruang Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka) dan yang intelektual (iaitu melalui surat terbuka di Dewan Sastera yang sekaligus mempamerkan pengetahuan beliau yang mendalam tentang falsafah Zen). Rupa-rupanya, menurut Piyadasa, wujud seorang “mahaguru” Zen yang telah berjaya “mengajar” mereka berdua (yang masih “greenhorn” dalam falsafah Zen pada waktu itu) secukup-cukupnya tentang apa itu Zen sehingga serangan “mahaguru” itu tidak terbantah oleh mereka. “He really cut us down to size and punctured our ego!”, ujar Piyadasa. Piyadasa mengakui itulah kesilapan besar beliau iaitu tidak sempat mendalami falsafah Zen secukupnya sebelum membuat “intervention” yang bersejarah itu. Cara Piyadasa menceritakan episod tersebut adalah begitu “self-deprecating” sambil mentertawakan diri sendiri. Saya cukup menghargai sikap yang terpuji itu kerana citra watak manusia yang bernama Piyadasa itu sebelum ini, adalah sebagai seseorang yang begitu “arrogant“ dan sombong dengan ilmunya dan agak dogmatik sikapnya. Kebolehan beliau untuk mentertawakan diri sendiri dan mengakui kesilapan diri sendiri itu menyedarkan saya bahawa beliau adalah seorang insan yang cukup kompleks dan berjiwa besar.

Selepas ketawa terbahak-bahak mendengar cerita itu, perbincangan kami itu menjurus kepada sesuatu yang serius dan hangat terutama sekali apabila beliau antara lain menyerang dengan agresif sikap “parochial” sasterawan-sasterawan Melayu pada masa kini dibandingkan dengan zaman beliau rapat dengan Usman Awang dahulu. Baha Zain pun menjadi “hangat” dan “pertengkaran” pun berlaku apabila Piyadasa menekan Baha Zain bertubi-tubi tentang isu itu. Untuk berlaku adil kepada saudara Baha Zain beliau sebenarnya agak bersetuju secara umum dengan pendapat Piyadasa itu, akan tetapi cara Piyadasa meluahkan pendapatnya itu, kelihatan seperti beliau menyerang Baha Zain secara peribadi. Memang bukanlah merupakan suatu perjumpaan/perbincangan dengan Piyadasa, jikalau tidak disusuli dengan pertikaian pendapat yang “robust” dan hangat! Selain dari itu, peristiwa makan malam di rumah Piyadasa itu akan tetap saya ingati kerana malam itu saya dan Fatimah berjaya memperolehi salah sebuah karya “masterpiece” Piyadasa!(4)

Pengalaman yang kedua ialah bagaimana kami sering bertukar-tukar “joke” (lelucon) ringan melalui sms. Piyadasa cukup gembira dan terhibur dengan lelucon sms yang saya hantarkan walaupun adakalanya beliau memberi ulasan-ulasan yang agak serius sifatnya kepada lelucon ringan itu. Contohnya ialah semasa isu ajaran sesat Ayah Pin cukup hangat diperkatakan di seluruh negara, saya telah mengirimkan kepada Piyadasa lelucon sms yang berbunyi begini: “NEWS FLASH: Ayah PIN sudah di ketemui di TamPIN dgn hanya memakai kain lamPIN yang disemat dgn safety PIN. Masa tu dia sedang hangat joget zaPIN….” Piyadasa memberi respons yang agak mengejutkan terhadap lelucon itu : “Ayah Pin is an interesting post-modernist installation artist! Must be included in the story of modern Malaysian Art!!”. Saya jawab : “…..yours is an interesting and creative view…. most people would simply view him [iaitu Ayah Pin] as a con artist!” Demikianlah Piyadasa, yang seringkali melontarkan idea yang amat provokatif tetapi tetap ada kebenarannya dalam aspek-aspek yang tertentu!.

Perhubungan saya dengan Piyadasa bukanlah sekadar bertukar-tukar lelucon sms. Kami sering menghantar khabar berita tentang perkembangan diri masing-masing melalui pesanan sms. Umpamanya dengan cara itu saya mengetahui tentang beliau menjadi Profesor Madya di Universiti Malaya (mengajar sejarah seni rupa Malaysia dan Asia Tenggara); pengembaraan beliau di India selama sebulan pada awal tahun 2006 dan tatkala beliau terlantar di hospital sebelum selamat kembali ke rahmatullah.

Pagi semalam, sebagaimana lazimnya, saya menghantar lelucon sms terbaru kepada beberapa kenalan yang saya sering bertukaran lelucon itu. Apabila saya skrol nama-nama yang terdapat di dalam ruang “Contacts” telefon bimbit saya, nama Piya masih terdapat di situ. Entahlah…. sehingga saat ini, tidak tergerak di hati saya untuk memadamkan nama itu dari memori telefon.

2 Jun 2007
Pakhruddin Sulaiman

(1) Untuk komentar dan kupasan yang lebih mendalam tentang perdebatan ini sila rujuk “Piyadasa: An Overview, 1962-2000” oleh T.K.Sabapathy, 2001, terbitan Balai Seni Lukis Negara. Buku ini diterbitkan sempena Pameran Retrospektif Piyadasa yang berlangsung dari 5 April 2001 hingga 19 Ogos 2001 di Balai Seni Lukis Negara.
(2) The Star, 22 Mei 2007, mukasurat W33.
(3) Sunday Star, 27 Mei 2007, mukasurat W43.
(4) Karya yang dimaksudkan itu ialah “Malaysian Story No. 1”, 1999, yang waktu itu baru siap 95%. Menurut anggapan ramai kalangan pengritik, karya itu adalah antara yang terbaik dalam siri Malaysian Seriesnya Piyadasa.

Biodata ringkas penulis:

Pakhruddin Sulaiman memperolehi ijazah sarjana muda undang-undang, Bachelor of Laws (Honours) dari University of London pada tahun 1980 dan lulus Barrister-at-Law dari the Honourable Society of Lincoln’s Inn, London pada tahun 1982. Setelah diterima masuk dan didaftarkan sebagai peguambela dan peguamcara di Mahkamah Tinggi Malaya pada 13 Julai 1983, beliau berkhidmat sebagai peguambela dan peguamcara di beberapa firma guaman di sekitar Kuala Lumpur sebelum menubuhkan syarikat guaman beliau sendiri dengan seorang rakan kongsi yang lain pada tahun 1993. Di antara 1 April 1998 sehingga 30 Mac 2001 beliau pernah menjadi Ahli Lembaga Amanah Balai Seni Lukis Negara. Pakhruddin dan isterinya Fatimah merupakan antara kolektor karya seni serious yang terkenal.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Menanti Penuh Pasti

SentAp! meniti hari. Setelah lebih 6 bulan menunggu untuk ISSN (nombor penerbitan majalah) akhirnya saya menerima maklumbalas daripada pihak Bhg Kawalan Penerbitan & Teks Al-Quran, Kementerian Dalam Negeri melalui surat mereka bertarikh 12 Ogos 08. Itu pun ada lagi dokumen yang masih tidak lengkap kata mereka. Jadi kami harus tunggu lagi setelah dimajukan segala bahan yang diminta.

Sebagai penerbit kerdil sebuah majalah seni kontemporari, saya merasa sudah tiba masanya (setelah 6 isu dikeluarkan) sentAp! bergerak secara lebih teratur. Tanpa ISSN, tiada toko-toko buku dan wakil pengedar yang sanggup mendagangkannya. Akibat itu, kami berhadapan dengan lambakan stok yang menuntut ruang dan kederat. Setiap keluaran (cetakan 1000), hanya separuh yang dapat diedarkan secara independen melalui galeri, muzium, ruang seni, para kurator dan seniman. Bayangkan jumlah stok yang semakin membukit kiranya kami tiba ke isu ke 10 nanti. Ramai yang ingin melihat majalah ini terus subur. Syukur sejak mula diusahakan bersama Ise,Yan dan rakan-rakan pelukis serta penulis, sentAp! senantiasa mendapat sokongan samaada secara moral mahupun sebahagian material. Malah, ia pernah diundang menyertai Magazine Project sempena Documenta 12 di Kassel, Jerman pada tahun lepas dan mendapat liputan yang memberansangkan dari kalangan pengkritik dan institusi antarabangsa. Oleh hal yang demikian, usaha-usaha untuk menguburkan majalah ini oleh pihak-pihak tertentu di dalam arena kesenian tempatan tidak pernah sama sekali menggugat keyakinan tim kami akan potensi sentAp! untuk jangkamasa yang lebih lama. Insyaallah!

- Ketua Editor

Sunday, July 27, 2008