May peace prevails upon all beings on the earth and beyond. You may scroll down to browse the contents of this blog.

Saturday, 13 December 2014


"That shop government subsidized one, after 3 months sure gone and close lah."

Itulah antara ayat tentang kedai kecil Rozana Mohamed, Rozana's Batik di Lebuh Acheh, yang pernah saya dengar terkeluar dari mulut seorang manusia yang dikhabarkan oleh beberapa 'saksi' lain sebagai seorang yang suka berprasangka buruk, stereotaip dan rendah terhadap 'orang lain' (dari dia), apatah lagi terhadap seorang 'wanita' (yang kecil)  seperti Rozana Mohamed. Rozana tidak memohon, mahupun menerima apa juga bentuk subsidi dari mana-mana pihak, kecuali subsidi ciput bulanan dari suami dia sebagai tanda kasih.  Modal Rozana kebanyakannya datang dari 'cinta' tanpa subsidi.

Namun ayat di atas (dan pelbagai ayat-ayat yang lain yang pernah di'hunus') sebenarnya adalah cara Allah membekalkan 'ubat perangsang' yang membantu memacu kehadiran Rozana's Batik di Lebuh Acheh, George Town, Pulau Pinang. Kehadirannya yang serba sederhana, telah dengan cara tersendiri, memberi sumbangan terhadap kekayaan pengalaman seni dan budaya di George Town. Ia semakin diperakui dalam pelbagai cara. Rozana's Batik adalah galeri kecil yang cekal membuatkan pengunjung dari merata dunia merasa 'besar hati' kerana dicurahkan dengan rasa hormat, ikhsan, kasih dan keghairahan terhadap keindahan seni batik. Menerusi seni batik, ia membekalkan kemewahan cinta, ceria dan kegembiraan kepada semua pengunjungnya, tanpa mengira siapa jua.  bacalah sendiri testimoni para pelanggannya jika berkesempatan.

Perakuan yang terbaru, adalah dalam buku terbitan Areca Books, tulisan Chin Yoon Khen. Syabas dan terima kasih Mr. Chin. Saya panjangkan juga berbanyak kesyukuran.

Tahniah, Rozana! heroin dalam cerita 'cinta tanpa subsidi' saya.


(From left) Paka, Beverly, U-Wei, yours truly, Bang Usop, Nur Hanim and Jai during the launching of the second volume of Narrative in Malaysian Art series.
A music to the ears upon hearing an an award has been given to "Narratif Seni Rupa Malaysia - Menanggap Identiti", and congrats to all who were involved . It is a deserving reward too, especially to the editors, Nur Hanim and Beverly, who had worked so hard on the book.  Syukran, let us extend our gratitude as well.

Now allow me to indulge a bit, sorry, can't help it. I can personally relate to the hard work and challenges of writing and publishing art books in Malaysia, perhaps due to my 'seposen' experience of trying to initiate a 'publication profile' for the Muzium & Galeri Tuanku Fauziah (MGTF) USM during my seven years tenure as the director from 2005 until 2012. The initiative came from a persistent urge by the then Vice-Chancellor, Tan Sri Prof. Dzulkifli Abdul Razak.  With his support, and the support of the then Deputy Vice Chancellor, Prof. Asmah, and together with two of my most dedicated and hard-working staffs, Fina and Laila, we managed to publish quite a number of books, including few that involve Nur Hanim and Beverly, plus other promising young writers. We also managed to secure a special ISBN pubisher code for MGTF USM.  Now, this active and enriching writing, translating, editing and publishing phase (institutional wise) is increasingly becoming a distant echo for me.

I have been involved in numerous art book publications under different capacities, I lost count already. Recently, I was privileged to be a part of yet another excellent art book on Sooshie Sulaiman entitled "Sulaiman itu Melayu". Its a good book worth buying and reading. Of course, I can be accused of practicing 'kronisme' here, but heck, the community of writers on modern and contemporary art in Malaysia is small. We don't really have much choice except to know and support each other, even though at times we may disagree with each other. Plus, credits must be cited and given to those who deserve them. 

Writing and publishing books on modern and contemporary art in Malaysia have not really been a 'celebrated' or highly appreciated endeavor, as compared to making art and exhibiting them. They have also not been a 'luxurious' job. Sometimes, they may even backfire, as not everyone welcomes critical judgments and writings. In addition, the larger Malaysian public don't really like to buy (not to mention read) books about art.

For those interested in reading about some of the polemics of art writings in Malaysia, they have to wait for the forth-coming publication of volume (3rd. or 4th.) of the Narratives in Malaysian Art series. I have just finished translating an essay by Dr. Sareena Abdullah of USM, on the predicament surrounding art writing vs art criticism in Malaysia. 

Therefore, the award can also be taken as a timely acknowledgement and encouragement to all writers who have contributed in so many different ways, to the discourse of modern and contemporary art in Malaysia. Being a subjective and interpretive practice, there is no one single absolute (or 'right') way of writing about modern and contemporary art in Malaysia. To streamline art writing and criticism to only one narrow 'method' or 'objective' criteria would not create a healthy setting for a discursive visual art ecology in Malaysia. It would be too prescriptive (if not restrictive), autocratic, didactic, rigid and counter-intuitive as well. 

All approaches (even those that one may strongly disagree with) that have been deployed by numerous individuals who have written about modern and contemporary art in Malaysia, should be given due credit, acknowledgment and respect. One may disagree with another writer's approach, or even counter his or her argument; but surely it would be unwise to discredit his/her contribution all-together in one generic or lazy sweep. We should rather be thankful to them.

Now, another personal indulgence. 

In my humble 'Kebun Rupa' (personal repository of reading materials and resources), I have hundreds of books and written materials on modern and contemporary art in Malaysia, that I have lovingly bought, collected, kept, arranged, archived and managed, for so many years. Even books with writings that I may not favor (totally disagree) are given a place and respect in the 'Kebun'. 

I went through lots of challenges, troubles and problems to keep them together too, especially whenever I had to move them from one place to another. Once, I was directed to empty the space (Kebun Rupa) where I used to keep the books and other written materials for my students, other students, fellow friends and visitors to use as references.  The directive came during a very testing time when I had to be with my dying father then, who later passed away in June.

Kebun Rupa also used to serve as a semiotic register for the spirit of 'writing and publishing' since I edited, translated and wrote few important materials on contemporary art in Malaysia there. 

Now Kebun Rupa is tucked tightly in the living room of my small rented terrace house. Nonetheless, the directive reminds me of the predicament surrounding learning, writing and publishing about art; it also reminds me that life is not only transient, but also full of interesting twists and ironies. That is why any acknowledgement or credits given to fellow writers (and editors) on the modern and contemporary art in Malaysia, will always be a music to my ears.

Tahniah, and syukran. 


Wednesday, 10 December 2014



Excerpt from I-Nina's performance in "Music Extravaganza - USM Jazz Band Concert"
DTSP USM, November, 2014


Nina, echoing her passion in "Muzik Extravaganza - USM Jazz Band Concert 2014".
"Kau tahu betapa ku sayang pada mu
hanya bidadari sebagai ganti
hanya takdir menentukan ia
oh belaian jiwa" 


"Kau senyumlah oohhh
Sekadar memori kita di arena ini


Standing in the eyes of the world


I inhale, exhale, deep, in gratitude.

As I was hearing your voice, echoing in the Dewan Tuanku Syed Putra USM, my spirit soared, while time and space warped into the eternal present. Yaa, the present is a gift. For you are truly a precious gift, bestowed upon this blessed father, to witness and experience the sublime, beyond his finite senses. 

In that eternal moment, I was transposed to the time and place where you used to be a cute little girl who sang her heart out throughout countless long journeys back to our kampungs in JB and Teluk Intan (until she fell asleep herself); who was already familiar with big microphone (in comparison to her small body) to sing out her favorite tunes, most of which in little girl language that I could not understand. 

Your voice has been the music to my ears (and nurturing vitamins for my heart) since the day you echoed your baby cry when you were born until now, and my every now. 

The voice of I-NINA, my link to the hidden dimensions of the sublime.

I utter my gratitude to those who have given I-NINA the opportunity to share her passion, special individuals like Assoc. Prof. Razif Mohd (Jeep), the orchestrator-conductor-mentor-otai-guru-yoda and the rest of his wonderful USM Jazz Band family members, too many to mention here. 

Lots of love, thank u, syukran, salam. 

Wealth and health are the abundance of compassion, love, joy and happiness. Spread them with your voice, my dear I-NINA. 

I-NINA with her rock-kapak pencen father, loving mother Rozana Mohamed, supportive sister Delly, and sharing friend/co-singer, Avinash, after the concert.

Blessed parents.
Avinash, Nina's school friend, in a soaring moment. A beautiful photo taken by ...(will check the name later, with apology)

Tuesday, 9 December 2014


Yet again, another synchronicity! But before that, I have to revert back to my previous blog entry entitled "The Hero With Thousand Faces" based on the title of Joseph Campbell's seminal book.

During my recent return trip to Penang from Singapore, I stumbled upon recent book (2013) by Rhonda Byrne called "Hero". Rather modest in comparison to her previous bestseller, it instantly brought me back to the blog entry above, my recent series of works (on my heroes) and my personal struggle or 'hindustan movie'. I bought the book and read it, mostly consisted of 'stories' about selected people deemed 'successful in life' by Rhonda. The central idea is that there is a 'hero' hidden in every one of us, a theme that has been discovered and expressed since more than 2000 years ago in various 'spiritual' traditions, including as explicated by Campbell in his book.

Yet, the serendipitous timing in seeing and buying the book with my current engagement with similar theme through my creative works, for me is a form of affirmation.

Here's the affirmation:

Rather than merely echoing the notions of a hero with thousand faces, I would propose 'a hero that conquers the enemy within, in order to defeat the enemy without (his/her 'otherness') by wining his/her heart through love and compassion. 

Another phrasing of the affirmation is 'a hero who is able to see the 'others' in him/herself'. 


Wacana alam ghaib atau alam batin, mahupun para penghuni (makhluk) dimensi halus yang terhijab, tidak sepatutnya masih dikepung oleh semiotika 'Hantu Kak Limah', 'Jangan Pandang Belakang', toyol, pocong, hantu raya, pontianak, saka pendamping dan semua yang sekentut dengannya.  

Mitos, hikayat, dongeng, yang penuh dengan watak, setting, aksi dan peristiwa yang luar biasa, juga perlu dibebaskan dari tanggapan bahawa ia merupakan sumber  kuno serta kolot.

Begitu juga dengan ilmu mengenal diri (ilmu batin) serta ilmu pendiding, yang tidak lagi terkepung sebagai ilmu esoterik yang ekslusif untuk orang-orang tertentu saja.

Malah, rekabentuk geometrik (termasuk arabesque) dalam pelbagai jenis seni tradisi (termasuk Melayu-Islam), kini tidak lagi terkepung dalam wacana dan naratif modenisma basi yang menipiskannya sebagai 'corak', kraf dan seni rendah. Ia juga harus dibebaskan dari kepungan wacana bangsa-agama yang sering dimanipulasi menjadi sebahagian dari agenda ekslusif, bukan inklusif.

Kesemuanya kini sudah dibuka-semula oleh tingkap atau sisi fizik kuantum dan matematik.

Ia adalah sebahagian dari paradigma 'anjakan-kembali' dalam kesedaran manusia sejagat secara kolektif.

Kita renung petikan di bawah,

"Beberapa dekad yang lepas - hasil dari perkembangan dalam fizik teoretikal, juga beberapa kemajuan dalam geometri yang saya sendiri telah bernasib baik untuk terlibat - terdapat beberapa kesedaran baru yang lebih mengejutkan: Bahawa bukan saja alam semesta ini adalah jauh lebih luas dari apa yang dapat kita lihat, tetapi juga bahawa terdapat banyak dimensi, dan mungkin agak lebih banyak dari keruangan tiga dimensi yang sudah sebati dengan kita."

"Ini adalah satu proposisi yang sukar untuk ditelan, kerana jika ada satu perkara yang kita tahu tentang dunia kita - jika ada satu perkara yang deria kita maklum kepada kita dari saat mula kita sedar dan meneroka - adalah nombor dimensi. Nombornya adalah tiga. Bukan tiga yang lebih kurang, tetapi betul-betul secara tepatnya tiga dimensi. Inilah yang kita faham untuk sekian lama. Namun berkemungkinan,  terdapat dimensi-dimensi tambahan yang sangat halus yang masih belum boleh kita kesan lagi. Dan walaupun saiznya amat sederhana, ia adalah penting kerana kita tidak mungkin dapat hargainya dari perspektif tiga dimensi yang sudah sebati dengan kita."

"Jika ide ini benar, maka mungkin terdapat sejenis alam di pinggiran - satu kawasan yang tersorok di tepi, di luar jangkauan deria kita. Ini adalah amat revolusioner dalam dua cara. Kewujudan dimensi tambahan - dulunya menjadi bahan sains fiksyen untuk lebih dari seratus tahun lepas - adalah mengejutkan, pastinya diletakkan sebagai antara jumpaan yang paling hebat dalam sejarah fizik. Namun, penemuan sebegini akan menjadi satu permulaan, bukannya satu pengakhiran."

(Diterjemah dari Shing-Tung Yau & Steve Nadis, "The Shape of Inner Space - String theory and the Geometry of the Universe's Hidden Dimensions", Basic Books, NY, 2010, page 2.)

Ada yang menghujahkan bahawa wacana seni rupa di Malaysia, seakan masih dikepung oleh obsesi terhadap polemik 'luar talian' berpaksi mimpi benda (3 dimensi) seputar Dasar Kebudayaan Kebangsaan, Dasar Ekonomi Kebangsaan, politik bangsa, sentralisma dan esentialisma Melayu. Boleh juga dihujahkan bahawa baik yang menyokong atau menyanggah, keduanya sering terperangkap dalam kerangka tafsiran atau pembacaan yang sama. Jika ini benar, kemungkinan besar kita tidak akan mengalami 'quantum leap', atau satu lompatan kesedaran yang substantial. Malah mungkin ada juga yang boleh berhujah bahawa jika kita masih lagi dihidang berkali-kali hingga muak, dengan juadah meta-naratif dengan meta-bahasa pelat orang putih zaman kolonial, borjuis kelas pertengahan-atasan bersenada dengan dasar luar Amerika Syarikat (untuk melakonkan watak pewacana-lawan - counter discourser) dalam menghadam soal yang sama, kita hanya akan berpusing-pusing dan sembelit dalam kitaran pi mai pi mai tang tu.

Mungkinkah sudah tiba masanya untuk kita kembali kepada paradigma dan tafsiran yang lebih mendasar dan selari dengan fitrah alami yang ruang-masa kewujudannya bersifat trans-dimensi serta rentas jasad-benda (merentasi juga alam yang terhijab)? Mungkinkah?

Mungkinkah meta-bahasanya kini dipacu oleh fizik dan matematik, bercampur dengan intuisi dan ilham dari warisan amalan mengenal-diri/batin, sinergi sains dan seni, yang kasar dan halus?

Jika kita menyoal, akan dihidangkan jawapan dengan pelbagai cara yang tidak disangka-sangka.

"Berhijrahlah sayang, demi masa mu"


"The next big leap in processing power will owe less to Moore's Law than to neural networks. In 2015, our devices won't just get smarter -they'll get more human, too."

"Artifical neural networks have evolved over the past decades, but they still have the same basic structure: processing elements, called nodes or neurons, are interconnected into network, each one connecting to many others. As in the brain, the strength of connection between the neurons determines how they process an input, and these connections can be changed by the process of learning."

(David Hambling, "Neuromorphic Computing" in WIRED - The Wired World in 2015, UK edition, December 2014, page 020.) 

Need to know the trends in technology, business, medicine, lifestyle, government, media, science and environment in 2015?, check out WIRED above.