PEACE PREVAILS

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Monday, 4 April 2011

PRELUDE 2000 - EPILOGUE FOR THE 20th. CENTURY

(Originally written in 1999, Kuching, Sarawak)

Entrusted by the empowerment of individual self through the magic wand of information technology, one may tend to ponder and talk to oneself (in front of a networked laptop perhaps) about the dramatic unfolding of events and changes that have taken place towards the end of this century. Allow me to proceed…

Act 1 - Cultural Imperatives in an Increasingly Networked World - Elegy for A Rapid Change 

(In A minor) I am an artist - a claim that is increasingly becoming polemical as I race towards the millennium in this age of virtual simulation and animated spectacle. As time and space are increasingly deconstructed, I have this urgent urge to redefine my parameter, my culture, my history, my root, my past, my present, my future and most importantly myself. 

(D minor) I am a Malaysian artist - migrating into this borderless and timeless cyberspace; nervously searching for my ‘root location’ and ‘root history’ to redefine my loyalty as well as locality. I confront a seemingly infinite information. As an artist, I was trained to look and search for hidden meanings beyond layers and layers of information. Despite the extremely rich and eyes-seducing information, meanings are harder to find. They keep on moving and changing, fast. How can I redefine myself? Where shall I begin? 

( G ) I am a Malay Malaysian artist - taught to ‘represent’ meanings or things meaningful. I still believe that meanings create culture and help to define the arts? But meanings need a specific space and timeframe to acquire its ‘representation’ and existence. As ‘representation’ migrates into this synthetic cyberspace, the nature of the technology that constructs it will influence how I reshape, restructure and redefine my reality. 

( C ) I am a (young) Malay Malaysian artist - continuously redefining my sense of location, time and sense of self while trying to emulate the spirit of my sailor-explorer ancestors. Like Nila Utama at Tanjung Bemban, I cross over, I venture into, and sail through these new Toffleresque shockwaves - third, forth, …fifth. The dizzying and meandering experiences do remind me of sailing, or in a more ‘leisure-like’ tone - surfing. Unfortunately, I feel like a lost face sailing directionless, searching for its compas (soul maybe) in this borderless ocean of information. Borrowing from the metaphor of Hamzah Fansuri - I am an empty form or vessel searching for context to define my content. Nevertheless, I am not worried. My trusted ‘tools’ are friendly - at least user-friendly if not human-friendly or culture-friendly. They will assist me in redefining my existence. 

hmmmmm……………………………………will they ?

Perhaps I should take a break, play my built-in VCD. Singing along with my MIDIed Michael Jackson (or is it Jordan?) and dancing like sister Janet, let me deliver my chorus (in tenor):


I believe I can fly, I believe I can fly…err, I meant…I can surf.
Flying or surfing, I’m still urged to redefine myself.

( F ) I am a young and well-informed Malay Malaysian artist


Compared to the value-free ‘I am a user’ as propagated by some cults, defining myself as a well-informed (not deformed) Malay Malaysian artist in this age of continuously deconstructed boundaries (of all kinds) sounds more cultured, self-comforting and self-conforming. Furthermore, it helps to remind me of my human and local qualities, which are sadly confused, diffused, used, and refused as I am increasingly colonised by the symbiotic intrusion of my new tools. The boundaries (or dare I say ‘ergonomically-sound interface’) that have been separating my biological self and its local biosphere from my ‘value-free’ technosphere have been blurred. In this virtual space, where is my history? where is my past ? where is my art ? where is my culture ? where am I ? am I local, or global ? 

( E and back to home key - A minor ) I am a young well-informed and highly networked 21st century Malay Malaysian artist - living in the age that marks the end of a century - the age of confusing and disturbing transitions. Everything that I have used to comfortably define myself is now standing on a rapidly changing stage - marked by sweeping shifts from modern to post-modern cultural challenges. No wonder I feel understanably excited and nervous (albeit discreetly). 

Online, Off-line, In Between the Lines - which will be my selected rhyme? Elegy for a rapid change.

Perhaps a sober or ‘objective’ prose is needed here. 

Using the borderless and timeless cyberspace of the internet as metaphors for the shifting notion of time and space, Malaysian artists of ‘generation 2000’ will have to confront a seemingly infinite flow of information or data. In this ‘newly discovered’ and so-called ‘democratic’ space, they will be collectively surrounded and bombarded by the ever-changing cultural artefacts of networked societies. These temporal and intangible cultural artefacts will be continuously constructed, deconstructed and reconstructed in real time by the pervasive and ubiquitous tools of online technologies.

In contrast to the tangible (read object-based and aura-oriented) cultural artefacts of a normally ‘off-line’ society, cultural experience of a networked society may not display the usual, safe, comfortable and institutionalised ‘identity’ profile. The multi-textual contexts of a hyper-linked cultural experience will make the search for meanings and the act of defining a content become more and more complex.

As cultural artefacts are hyperactively generated by the pervasive tools of I.T and supplemented by the active stand of the local political establishment, such a profile will augment critical cultural challenges of the future. These ‘end of a century’ cultural challenges will eventually instigate disequilibrium to the already-nervous ‘off-line’ art scene, presently defined and institutionalised within the cultural paradigms of a comfortably-shelled (or shielded) society. 3

Fine artists of generation 2000 will find themselves positioned to confront an uphill task of searching for meanings or things meaningful in the formation of their 21st century cultural experience and most importantly - ‘profile.’ Given the anticipated future notion of space and time, certain established historical and theoretical frameworks may not be sufficient to accommodate the imperatives of a networked society. Certain officially established paradigms, institutionalised outlooks and practises may also have to be accommodative enough to allow appropriate changes (or ‘reformation’) to take place, thus sustaining the ‘competitiveness’ of Malaysian presence in the global cultural platform.

The presently ‘off-line’ notion of culture in which visual artefacts can be comfortably transcribed to fit within already prescribed historical and theoretical frameworks, has to be ‘hacked’ into a more integrated, expanded and multidi-mensional platform in which cultural challenges of the 21st. century can be dealt with pro-actively. The comfortable cocoon or ‘shell’ of a dogmatic ‘national cultural identity’ has to officially acknowledge the pervasive intrusion of I.T in the formation of cultural experience.


Act 2 - A Local that has been Globally Modernised - A Prelude to Post Modern


What’s a modern stage then? What is this thing ‘modern’ that has been used to define me since the tragic year of 1511? The synaptic terminals of my neurons jump across to a Greek arena.
As a ghost light shines upstage, I can hear lines coming from the back:

Apollo: Why me? Why Dionysius? Why looking back? 5

Well, since Greek is known to be the foundation of modern Western culture and philosophy, and in a typical Malaysian modernist spirit of importing and institutionalising Western cultural sentiments or tastes in order to be ‘modern’, appropriating both of you looks fitting.   

Dionysius: Dear Hasnul. To stand and claim oneself as a ‘modern’ artist, you have to confront tragic and fierce crossfires of two eternal poles of Western art and civilisation - the Apollonian (pointing at Apollo) and the Dionysian (pointing at herself)

Apollo: I am the mighty, masculine and manly Apollo – the objective, specific, classical, logical, straight, square, highly sequential and linear, the scientific, the materialist, the essence of mind, the axiom of thinking - the pragmatist.
 
Dionysius: I am the loving, feminine and caring Dionysius - the subjective, holistic, romantic, illogical, fluid, organic, random and non-linear, the artistic, the spiritualist, the essence of expression, the axiom of feelings and emotion - the idealist.
 
Pragmatism or idealism? Am I the protagonist trapped in between this conflict? 

It is known that the history of modern art in Malaysia is marked by the initial introduction of Western aestheticism into her sacred, court and folk traditions. Like a frog outside its coconut shell (but constantly peeping into its safe shell) there were repeated efforts by post-independence artists to return to traditional forms and subjects in the struggle to adopt modernism within the mould of Malaysian cultural aspiration. 6
 
When the nation’s economy flourished during the late eighties and early nineties, modern art in the newly industrialised Malaysia mimicked ‘a frog up in a brass tray’ denoting a newcomer to power and wealth, with abundance of Malay-centric nationalistic idealism and capitalist pragmatism. These were packaged together with ‘Islamic resurgence’ and ‘mannerism’ taken from Western modernism to forge an ‘identity,’ Malaysian made. 7
 
Nobody seemed to care about the fate of eternal spiritualism at its core (not the ethnocentric surface obsession and superficial plagiarism) as ‘identity’ was packaged, promoted and sold to the passive cultural consumers worldwide. Ironically, such a ‘frenzy’ package emulated the clash between the Apollonian pragmatism and Dynosian idealism of Western civilisation. It inherited the conflicts, splitting paradoxes and self-defeating ironies that lie along the chasm between the sacred and secular, spirit and body, science and art, emotion and intellect, rational and sentimental, dialectic and compulsive, expressive and cerebral, past and present, tradition and modernity, international and regional, homogeneity and plurality. 8

It has to be noted that fragments of these ‘modern’ polarities of human drama have somehow been assimilated, institutionalised and pigeon-holed in many different ways into Malaysian cultural and artistic fabric, including its local visual art scene. These fragments of modern polarities, residues of a highly linear and ‘one-way’ dissemination of information in the international and local mass media where mass-consciousness can be engineered, is making way for a more interactive exchange of inter-linked and non-linear information amongst networked citizens of online societies world wide. 

If the present Apollonians and Dionysians are more interested in the modern art conflicts and splitting tragedies of a typical Greek drama (or the bloody, violent and barbaric spectacles of the ‘cultured’ Roman Coliseum where actual ‘killings’ of humans and their dignity were taken as afternoon entertainment), perhaps future artists can be urged to ponder upon the possibility of a more holistic, integrated, expanded and multidi-mensional views on art made possible by I.T.

There is even a potentially meaningful return to a holistic convergence of science and art under the guidance of spiritualism (as porpagated by Islam for example, but not successfully translated probably due to a stubborn, if not pretentious attachment to the comfortable and profitable ‘official deck-chair’ of the so-called modern art in Malaysia). 9

Minus prejudices and emotion-laden bias or sentiments towards the cultural challenges as well as possibilities of I.T, one may discover many similar paradigms between the way computers work with key principles of Islamic Art or several other forms of ‘pre-modern’ traditional arts. 10

The key for such a discovery is to skip the modernist-bias thinking of the industrial age (together with its Western-centric notion of globalisation and modernisation) in approaching the tools of the information age. In fact, one major falacy amongst cultural institutions in Malaysia is the tendency to approach I.T through the paradigms of the industrial age. Ironically, even the West itself (being a fast learner of own mistakes) has shifted to ‘information-based’ paradigms in dealing with present imperatives. 11 

On the other hand, a warm welcoming gesture towards I.T is not without ironies and paradoxes, especially when it suspiciously comes from the local political establishment instead of cultural institutions. At the point of this writing, the heat and backlash from these ironies can still be felt (outcome of an open global economy mediated by I.T). In fact, this particular heat is paving channels for numerous socio-political and cultural consequences which for some odd reasons, are being marginalised to a peripheral position.12
 
Some of its critical cultural challenges as well as potentials are somehow being neglected or silenced by a more populist, manipulative and economically pronounced approaches to I.T. These approaches will not give justice to the multi-dimensional potentials of I.T. Again, the possible reason for such a ‘one dimensional’ approach to I.T is the insistence in using defunct modernist perspectives or industrial paradigms in dealing with cultural implications of I.T.

One example, borrowed from a ‘factory or machine-centric’ paradigm of the industrial modernism is to have everything ‘fixed permanently’ to a point that there is no room for reformation, innovation, change and adaptation to take place. This obsession may have been deeply entrenched into the thinking of many modern Malaysian artists. It has probably been augmented by the urge to forge a ‘fixed identity’ based on the ‘outer dimension’ of ethnic manifestation rather than the inner core of eternal spiritual values. Paradoxically, such an obsession is actually in direct opposition to the ‘temporality’ of the ‘outer dimension’ of humans, culture and nature, as acknowledged by Islam for example.
 
In the midst of such a deceptive ignorance, its interesting to note that Ismail Zain’s Digital Collage appeared years before the MSC (Multimedia Super Corridor) and bombardments of "Sayang I.T, Cinta I.T, Guna I.T…I.T!!!". One may hypothesise that his reminder to the local arts establishment about the incoming multimedia waves of cultural challenges (11 years ago) might have been received by too many self-deceptive deaf ears.

Nevertheless, modernisation and globalisation, as preludes to post-modernism, are the seeds of ironies and paradoxes running amok.

In the midst of these silenced or neglected challenges, ironies and paradoxes, perhaps one should locate Thespis to explain about modernism and its instituionalised baggage. 13


Spotlight on Thespis (wearing a large mask).

Thespis: I am Thespis. I am no god. I am just a Greek actor, an artist like you. I was the one who managed to step away from the ever-obedience chorus, speaking my own lines and assuming my own character. I was warned by lawmakers about the danger of my original ‘thinking’ and behavior. (In a proper people-friendly manner) How can I help you?

Thespis my man. Illuminate me on the state of modernism.

Thespis: Why don’t you ask Descartes, or Nietzsche. They lived in two ages that marked the root of what you assume as modern.

I click on Renaisance website. Found Descartes. Activate my video conferencing facility. In simulated holography, an image appears in front.

Rene Descartes: Hasnul dear, - I ‘click’, therefore I am. 14

But Descartes dear, isn’t it supposed to be ‘I think, therefore I am’ 

At this point, I can hear noises from backstage:

I feel, therefore I exist (Thomas Jefferson). I rebel, therefore I am (Albert Camus). I ought, therefore I can (Immanuel Kant). I want, therefore I am (Leo Tolstoy). Sometimes I think; and sometimes I am (Paul Valery). I think therefore I am a thinker (Miguel de Unamuno). 15

And the loudest one: 

I’m a third world artist. I don’t think. I just do. I make pretty things so that everything looks and appears good. I don’t think. I just do what others think for me. I just do what others want. They think, I do. I like what I do. But I don’t like what they think though. Anyway, I still have to do what others think, so that I am. 

So much for a modern artist (especially for a third world artist). Another image appears,

Nietzsche (projecting his voice through his thick moustache): Let me help you to think since your type is known not to think. You have applied my science to find god even though you prefer to say knowledge and civilisation, only to discover that my modern science and its notion of human progress were prompted by the urge to replace god - or to claim that god is dead (smiling). And now, with your new tools, you want to behave like god ? Are you one of god’s blunders or is god one of yours? 16

Nietzsche disappears with a loud and ‘insane’ laugh (probably due to medication). Again, a loud anonymous noise comes from backstage:

For godsake Mr. Nietzsche, I don’t think, I just do! I am a ‘modern’ Malaysian artist! 

Holographic images disappear. Rear Barco projector throws a large photographic image on the stage wall. I can hear a rather dusted analog sound coming from stage left, hopefully to explain modernism to me:

Walter Benjamin: Hasnul, your modern reality has lost its ‘aura’, your physical and human ‘aura’ due to mechanical copying. This is the result of industrialisation, the magic word of modernisation and the hidden carrier of westernisation. For so long, humanity has been forced to behave like a machine. Invention of photography was one of the catalysts of that lost. Your modern life is now mediated without this aura. Go and find it before you lost it forever. 17

….the sound vanishes into the oleo(roll curtain).

I read my recent email, a rather long one. Probably another boring lecture:
From : mcLuhan@global village.my
To : hasnul@faca.unimas.my
Hey Hasnul. Previously you were wired and connected through television, film, radio and the mass media. You were then an official resident and a consumer of a homogenised modern mass-culture in an electronic space called ‘global village.’ The line of flow was one-way then. You and your modern culture were defined or ‘represented’ through the invisible eyes of these mass media - hollywood, Madonna, CNN, BBC, NBC, Time, Newsweek, RTM, TV3, etc. 18
At this point, I heard Edward Said chanting in the orchestra pit:
Orientalism! Orientalism! Orientalism! of the media eyes ! Colonialism ! Colonialism! Colonialism! of the media guns ! Beware of their ‘coded’ representation, coded language, coded message. Deconstruct orientalist-centred stereotypes. Beware of the tag ‘modern’! 19
Another chant registers itself in harmony. It’s Ferdinand de Saussure’s:
Semiotic! Semiotic! Semiotic! Essence of the mass media sign system! The politics of semiotic - coded signs, coded language - hidden biases - masked agendas - organised, structured, produced and packaged meanings. You are the loyal subscriber. Ever ask who is the supplier of what you take as modernism? Who defines you? your arts? your culture? your language? 20
A counter melody enters the soundscape. It’s Jacques Derrida’s:
Lets deconstruct ! Deconstruct ! Deconstruct gender, power, ethnic, and religious stereotypes. Deconstruct modern myths and cliches that have been communicated and reinforced by the media. Deconstruct modernism. 21
Neil Postman joins in with an off-key and dissonant voice:
Technopoly! Technopoly! Monopoly through technology. 22
Modernism. Globalism. Industrialism. Westernism ? Colonialism ? Imperialism ? By whom ? By the ‘others’? I resume back to McLuhan:
Through the eyes of modern and global mass media (via industrialism), you were asked to share collective taste, consciousness, collective history, memory, culture and time-space with other ‘one way’ and ‘non-interactive’ wired consumers in your country and around the globe - initially centred around and defined by the media ‘giants’ of the West of course.
Is this a form of social engineering to maximise profit and extend consumerist ideology under the banner of modernisation? Can this be adapted into a local context then ? Well, how about packaging this ‘one way’ dissemination of information with a nice blend of narrowed and abused nationalist idealism and capitalist pragmatism for me to indiscriminately subscribe as an ‘identity.’ In adition, I have to admit that I have somehow inherited the tendency to conform. Still, I feel lost about modernism, especially when it comes to the arts. Should I start by deifying technology? Or hell with it! Let just defy it all together and join the majority of my fellow modern artists. Gang! here I come to your tightly and safely categorised dungeons.
In G minor key, they answer ala a cappella:
Say the magic word of modern art - painting? drawing? sculpture? printmaking? photography? ceramic? graphic? textile? fashion? industrial design? fine art? applied art ? drama & theatre ? design? music? film? which box? which pigeon hole? Define (and defend) yourself, your boundary, your territory.
I am a young well-informed and highly networked 21st century Malay Malaysian artist. Isn’t it a good enough definition?
No! its too broad, too general, to open-ended. Not specific, nothing specialised. Not linear, not sequential, not fixed. No hierarchy, no standardisation, no fixed parameter or wall. Not in place. Not logical. Not pure. Not rooted in the history of Western Art. NOT MODERN!
I am stunted…………...farewell then

Act 3 - A Locally Post Modernised - Definition to be Re-Defined

Thank God, that old feudalistic McLuhaneque ‘village’ is crumbling down - deconstructed and even sucked into a new cyber existence. Once broken it will stay broken. This is ‘enlightment’ revisited. This is ‘level playing field’ where the power structures have shifted. No more ‘dark age’ (and ‘dark eye’) of individual suppression (mental and physical). No more Western-centric notion of progress, of modern art, of modernisation, of globalisation, of industrialisation, of history and culture, of whatever! 

In short, no more Western imperialism to be conveniently blamed. No more scapegoat.

Now I am free go wherever I want, whenever I want. I can cross over now. Leaping like a frog, bouncing here and there in the intricate tunnels of fibre optic cables and meditate in the etched grains of CD-ROM. This is multimedia, not mass media. Multimedia for multiple choices and options. Multimedia for multiple talents, multiple arts, multiple cultures, multiple voices, ………multimedia for everything multi. Multimedia for a multidimensional man, not a one-dimensional man. 23

I am out of the ‘ever-nodding’ chorus line! I am now ‘Vincent van Gogh’ without the burden of rejection or sustaining a presence. I can be Debussy, or even Mozart and Beethoven minus the tragic fate of inventive minds trying to adapt to changes in a continuing flux of time and space.

Hopefully I will be blessed by the magic of crossing into another century as given to genius such as Shakespeare, Ibsen and Bernard Shaw. But then, without all the tragedies that have always been the catalysts for significant shifts and pioneering twists in the path of modern history, how can I provide the world with gifts of pioneering ventures? I hope this is not going to be another blown-up aspiration that accompanied those who crossed over from the 19th into the 20th century (that was followed by two bloody wars plus numerous other blatant violations of humanity and destruction of the environment).

I am free to redefine myself….. (in silence) hopefully. I am free to redefine my arts, my culture, my history, my memory, my past, my present and my future. I have migrated into another kind of village that will allow me to construct my own representation, my own meaning. I’ll go for it before its too late and good luck to me.

However, I feel ‘like a deer entering a village’ encountering a new experience in a strange cultural territory with such a mass-influx of multiple interests. Pitty ‘Abdul’ though. He is in a massive state of disequilibrium due to his captived and conventionally-trained mind. He was previously pampered, shielded and shelled comfortably. But now he is suffering Toffler’s ‘futureshock’- inability to adapt to changes. He is panicly looking for enclaves and caves; he is frantically searching for his broken cocoon or shell. His ignorance has instilled fear in him. His parochial and highly territorial attitudes toward his own vocation have defeated him. He needs the central core of his ‘values’ that he has neglected due to his previous superficial obsession towards surface ornamentation that he has assumed as ‘identity.’ 24

Forget Abdul, I can’t waste my precious time waiting for him.

As a response to confirm myself, allow me to read my aside line in a Hamlet-like manner:
‘To be, or not to be: that is not the question anymore. I am now, at peace and one with my own tools.’
And then emulating Romeo (or is it Juliet?), I would like to prompt:
‘What’s in a name? That which we call I.T. By any other name would smell as sweet (in whisper to your ear)…as dollars!
Like a true multi-disciplinary manager-salesman-bureaucrat-technocrat, allow me to confirm my sense of self and culture by giving you my thin and tree-saving card:
‘This is my card. That’s my website address. Do come and visit.
And knowing that it is impossible (as well as plain stupid and naïve) to fully curb dissemination of ‘security-threatening’ information in the internet, allow me to display my pretencious tolerence:
‘ Don’t worry, there won’t be any cencorship.’
As my confidence and optimism swell to boost my techno-ego, my handset (recent pocket size model with built-in fax and e-mail features) rings:
Jean Baudrillard (with a strong French accent): Hello Hasnul, Baudrillard here speaking from Sarawak Cultural Village. Before you make your next move, I have to warn you. You will lose the ‘original’ once you live in that world of simulacra - simulated reality that is removed and detached from direct experience of reality and mediated by simulation. Go and find that ‘original’ - the beginning, the pure, the first, before it was copied, simulated and mediated. Go! Do some digging first. Hurry up! 25
 
Another caller whispers:
Naisbitt : Go Asia! Go Asia! Megatrend Asia for all things ‘mega’! Mega projects and mega ego. Rediscover youself, your voice. 26
Why mega? Why not ‘giga’? Gigatrends Asia for my swelling and arrogant optimism. Need to rediscover myself. Need to dig for my root. Need to identify values to be carried forward. This is going to be the ‘anthropologist’ me. Behold! I’m going to ‘cross over’ and ‘leap frog’. I am going to do my digging….big time! I’m skipping modern - and straight to pre-modern.

Act 4 - Rediscovering Pre-Modern : The Paradox of Post-Modern 
  
Online translator activated. No apology, no disclaimer, no inferioity complex nor guilty-conscious to accompany this sudden shift and boost of self-confidence. Don’t worry, nothing ‘ultra’ here. Brave yourself for multiculturalism at its best.

Aku mengimbas,

Anak raja bangsa Rom dari Makadunia bergelar Zulkarnain telah merantau jauh ke sebelah Timur hingga ke kerajaan Kida Hindi. Keturunannya Raja Suran mewaris kerajaan yang begitu besar, dengan jajahan takluk yang amat luas hingga ke Gangga Negara. Namun Raja Suran tidak cepat selesa, lalu berhijrah ke laut dan berkahwin dengan Puteri Mahtabul-Ardh. Putera-puteranya dipesan agar tidak memerap diri dalam laut, tetapi perlu keluar dari ‘tempurung’ mereka ke alam dunia (bumi) setelah dewasa. Mereka mewarisi semangat merentas sempadan selesa dengan berkembara ke Bukit Siguntang. Bukan senang hendak merentas ke alam lain, terutama jika sudah selesa di dalam laut. Terpaksa menunggang lembu yang memuntahkan Batalla. Hasilnya lumayan. Padi di Bukit Siguntang bertukar menjadi emas. Pelik? tidak lojik? tidak berpijak pada kenyataan? luar kebiasaan ? luar dari lingkaran fikiran yang selesa? fantasi? angan-angan? terlebih kreatif? rekaan? buat-buat? penipuan? dusta? agenda Raja? dakyah feudal? 27

Tapi inilah sejarah yang diwariskan. Penuh dengan keluarbiasaan. Penuh dengan kiasan. Penuh dengan pengembaraan, penerokaan, rentasan, jumpaan, pertembungan, pertarungan, perjuangan. Penuh dengan nada pengorbanan. Penuh dengan permulaan - perintis.
Jika hal di atas merupakan semangat dan jiwa yang diwariskan, pelik juga kenapa semangat sedemikian ingin dilunturkan oleh segelintir pengawal warisan itu sendiri. Aku keliru. Ada polemik yang paradoksikal di sini : laju-perlahan, kedepan-kebelakang. Malah kandungan sejarah yang diwarisi itu juga tidak gersang dengan ironi jika dikaitkan dengan situasi masa kini. 

Syukur juga kerana aku ada pembekal sejarah dan tradisi. Sejarah dan tradisi ibarat ‘brek’ untuk kelajuan yang boleh menjemput kemalangan. Jika penampilannya kini penuh kontradiksi, itulah yang menyebabkan ia amat bermunafaat untuk dijadikan suluh terutama sekali untuk aku yang ingin merentas, meromba, meneroka, merintis dan memulakan sesuatu berpentaskan pelantar yang sarat dengan kontradiksi dan ironi. 

Hikayat sejarah dan tradisi yang diwariskan juga menyuruh aku meneruskan semangat meneroka. Mana dia pewaris Raja Muda, Malim Demam, Malim Dewa, Awang Sulung Merah Muda, Anggung Cik Tunggal, Raja Donan, Raja Budiman, Selampit? Kenapa perlu dilunturkan? Mana semangat Putera Raja Bugis yang belayar dari Johor ke Sarawak untuk berdagang seperti yang diruhaikan dalam sejarah? Mungkin juga baka meneroka ini telah dimandulkan oleh keselesaan pangkat, darjat, dan harta. Atau mungkin baka penerokaan ini telah diracuni oleh saka ‘penjara’ atau ‘tempurung’ yang menghantui sejarah bangsa terutama sejak jatuh ke tangan Portugis pada 1511. Aku tidak pasti.

Mana perginya keberanian menyeberang, mengembara, merombak, meneroka dan merentas sempadan selesa? Dulu, atas pentas buana. Kini, mungkin atas pentas siber?

"Tuntutlah ilmu hingga ke negeri China" 

demikian wasiat Baginda Rasulullah s.a.w. yang sering diungkap berkali-kali oleh Mak dan Bapak dan rakan-rakan berketayap ala-Raihan.

Mindak fakirku terus ke negeri China mengemis dengan Confucius yang berkata, 

"Apabila ibu bapa masih hidup, jangan merantau jauh dari rumah. Jika kita hendak merantau jauh dari rumah, mesti ada tempat yang tertentu yang hendak dituju." 28

Maksudnya biarlah perantauan itu bermatlamat., berpaksi, bermakamkan yang kamil. Demikian juga nada pesanan dari Mak dan Bapak sebelum aku merantau ke Sarawak. Bukan mudah untuk memadam imbasan kesedihan dan kegusaran yang jelas terpancar di wajah mereka. Jika tidak kerana semangat yang mereka bekalkan, mungkin sudah lama aku luntur. Restu mereka terhadap keinginanku untuk merentas mungkin hadir dari keinsafan bahawa,

"Apabila telah ditunaikan sembahyang maka bertaburanlah kamu di muka bumi; dari carilah kurnia Allah dan ingatlah Allah banyak-banyak supaya kamu beruntung." (Al-Jumuh ayat 10)

dan,

"Katakanlah Ya Muhammad, ‘Berjalanlah kamu di muka bumi dan perhatikanlah sebagaimana Allah mulai menciptakan." (Al-Ankabut ayat 20)

Tentunya mereka jauh lebih maklum tentang konsep ‘hijrah’ dari aku. Bapak sendiri sering berkhutbah panjang-lebar mengenainya sebelum aku ke Amerika Syarikat. Kini aku merentas sempadan.

Mungkin wasiat-wasiat dan pesanan di atas sering diketepikan oleh kehebatan pengembaraan Marco Polo ke Negeri China yang aku kutip dari buku sejarah. Tapi bukan ‘Mat Saleh’ ini seorang sahaja yang merealisasikan suruhan Nabi. 

Aku juga ada versi pengembaraan sebegini yang diwasiatkan oleh sejarah bangsa. Ajaran dari guru-guru Hollywood telah menyebabkan aku terlupa bahawa Tun Parapatih Putih, adik Tun Perak Bendahara Paduka Raja juga telah mengembara ke negeri China. Walaupun dibayangi oleh kepentingan ‘raja’ yang mungkin menunjangi inisiatif beliau (dan golongan pewarta sejarah), tidak dapat dinafikan bahawa instinct pengembaraan ini memang telah wujud di daerah nusantara sebelum ia berkenalan dengan dunia ‘atas angin.’ Kebijaksanaan diplomat Melayu ini berjaya membawa cahaya kudus kepada Hang Li Po dan pengiringnya. Hang Li Po menjadi antara katalis kepada cetusan suasana kosmopolitan dan majmuk di Melaka.
Namun untuk menjadi katalis bukannya mudah. Perlu pengorbanan dan semangat yang jitu. Dengar saja keluhan Hang Li Po kepada Tun Parapatih:

"Hati ini Tuhan saja yang tahu, Orang Kaya. Badai hidup yang beta lalui tiada siapa yang benar-benar memahaminya," 29

Kesayuan Hang Li Po dan rindunya pada tanah tumpah darah disambut pula oleh reaksi Tun Parapatih sebegini:

"Ia sepatutnya sedar bahawa negeri ini adalah negeri berdaulat dan merasa bertuah bertuankan rajanya. Bukankah dengan merelakan diri menjadi isteri tuanku Sultan ia juga sudah sepatutnya melepaskan segala ingatan dan penghormatan kepada negara asalnya," 30

Mengalah juga akhirnya Hang Li Po kepada pragmatisme dan sentimen tebal Tun Parapatih. Demikian nasib insan yang menjadi katalis ‘vis-à-vis’ korban. Maklumlah, dia hanya seorang ‘wanita’, berbangsa ‘asing’ pula. 

Dicelah segala retorika sejarah, aku mula sedar bahawa mungkin tidak perlu terlalu bergantung kepada khutbah pemikir Barat sahaja tentang multiculturalismnya mahupun kehebatan pengembaraan hero-heronya. Kekaguman terhadap kehebatan Barat tidak pula memadamkan hakikat bahawa aku adalah pewaris bangsa yang memang sudah lama mampu keluar dari tempurung rasnya dan berinteraksi dengan budaya luar, walaupun natijah interaksi tersebut boleh dibahaskan.

Bangsa aku tidak insular seperti yang didakyahkan oleh penjajah. Mereka adalah ‘katak’ yang telah di’tempurung’kan secara paksa oleh ‘istana dan croniesnya’ diikuti oleh barisan para penjajah sejak 1511 hinggalah 1957. Demikianlah ironis kandungan sejarahnya - dijajah oleh bangsa sendiri, dijajah oleh ‘orang lain’ dan kini….bagaimana pula? Empat ratus tahun ditempurungkan bukannya masa yang pendek. Ini tidak termasuk hintungan period pra-kolonial. Empat ratus tahun dirompak dan dicampak dalam penjara, bukannya penyiksaan dan penghinaan yang sedikit. Cukuplah dengan empat ratus tahun. Janganlah ditambah lagi kitaran atau pusingan malang ini. Jika aku mahu belajar dari tragedi terpenjara ini, aku sendiri perlu membebaskan diri dari benih saka insular yang cuba ditanam oleh perompak kemanusiaan dari pra-kolonialisma dulu hingga pasca-kolonialisma sekarang. Aku sendiri perlu mengelakkan diri jadi menjadi insan ‘penjajah’ mahupun insan ‘dijajah.’ Namun demikian, pernah dimaklumkan kepada aku dahulu bahawa pengalaman ‘didera’ mungkin boleh menyebabkan sesaorang itu menjadi ‘pendera’. Begitu juga dengan pengalaman ‘dijajah’ mungkin agaknya boleh menyebabkan sesaorang itu menjadi ‘penjajah’ di sebalik segala retorika anti penjajahnya. Simpang malaikat 44.

Aku beruntung kerana dianugerahkan dengan ibu dan bapa yang tidak mewarisi benih saka insular. Mereka mewarisi semangat juang meneroka dan menyeberang. Mereka mewarisi semangat merantau dan menyeberang sebelum episod dipenjara, walaupun mereka sendiri merupakan sebahagian dari warga terakhir episod penjajahan tersebut. Di sebalik segala kekurangan dan kekerdilan diri, mereka menjadi ‘pembebas’ku. Nama mereka mungkin tidak sehebat Hang Tuah, Hang Jebat, Maharaja Lela, Mat Kilau, Rosli Dhobi, dan lain-lain insan yang ditabal oleh pewarta sejarah ‘rasmi’ sebagai hero.

Mereka membantu aku mengembalikan semangat demikian ke masa kini - masa dan zaman yang ‘penjara’ dan ‘penjajah’nya lebih banyak, tidak mengenal warna kulit, dan tidak kelihatan.


Aku berkenalan dengan bekalan sejarah yang merentasi sempadan ruang dan masa, seni dan sains, sejarah dan sastera, fiksyen dan fakta, mitos atau lagenda dan realiti, dongeng dan benar, ras dan negara, aku dan mereka. Kesemua nada ini sememangnya merupakan sebahagian dari ramuan sejarah Melayu - kaum yang ‘melayar’. Sebutlah apa jenis gelombang. InsyaAllah, di redah dengan tenang. Semoga ini termasuk gelombang maklumat yang datang menyerang sempadan kewarasan agama, budaya dan sentuhan seni. 

Begitupun, sesekali terpacul juga beberapa persoalan yang mengusik sentimen ras dan semangat yang dijaga seperti nyawa. 

Jika melayar, kenapa agaknya mereka melayar? Kenapa perlu melayar ? Apakah punca dan sebabnya ? Kenapa tidak settle down saja di tanah asal kelahiran? Kenapa perlu merantau jauh-jauh, merempuh badai dan segala dugaan? bukankah corak merantau ini boleh merombak paradigma dan keselesaan jatidiri?
 
Dan yang paling meresahkan aku, 

Untuk sesaorang pelayar dan perantau, pentingkah mukim asalnya? Tidakkah ia gusar pewarisnya akan hilang segala warisan yang dibekalkan dari mukim asal tersebut ?
 
Jika pergi lebih jauh lagi, 

Di manakah asal segala asal? Asal segala asal yang aku gelar sebagai jatidiri hakiki? Apakah wasiat atau amanah segala amanah yang aku warisi ? Apakah yang hendak aku kekalkan? kekal segala kekal?

Mungkin ilmu aku tidak cukup hun walaupun semangat dan sentimen tidak mahu mengalah. Tidak pedulilah jika semangat buta mungkin menghalang hati dari menerima hakikat atau kebenaran yang tidak menyenangkan. 

Bila diajukan kepada Bapak, dia mengungkapkan sabda Rasulullah s.a.w.,

"Semua kamu berasal daripada Adam dan Adam daripada tanah. Tidak ada kelebihan seorang Arab daripada seorang bukan Arab, kecuali oleh sebab ketaqwaannya." (Hadis)

dan

"Tidak masuk bahagian kami orang-orang yang menyerukan kefanatikan golongan atau kaum (‘asabiyah) dan tidak masuk bahagian kami orang-orang yang berperang atas dasar tersebut, dan tidak termasuk bahagian kami orang-orang yang maut atas dasar itu." (Hadis)

Tersentak sebentar sentimen aku. Sambil membetulkan baju Melayu dan songkok tinggi, aku mengungkit pengalaman silamnya. Bukankah bapak terlibat dengan perjuangan bangsa hingga terhasilnya manusia Melayu kelas pertengahan seperti aku? Bukankah bapak lebih merasai bahang dari Onn Jaafar, Tunku Abdul Rahman, Abdul Razak Husein, Ibrahim Yaacob, Zainal Abidin Ahmad (Zaaba), Burhanuddin Helmi, Ishak Mohamad, Ahmad Boestamam, dan lain-lain ‘nasionalis’ bangsa yang ‘memerdekakan’ aku. 

Bapak menyambung,

"Sesungguhnya Allah tidak akan mengubah nasib sesuatu kaum (bangsa) sehingga bangsa itu sendiri mengubah nasibnya." (Ar-Ra’d ayat 11)

Apabila melihat pewarisnya sedikit gusar, beliau meneruskan, 

Dalam satu riwayat diceritakan bahawa Ubay bin Ka’ab bertanya, "Adakah termasuk ‘asabiyah kecintaan sesaorang kepada bangsanya?" lalu dijawab, "Tidak, tetapi termasuk ‘asabiyah sokongannya terhadap kezaliman yang dilakukan bangsanya. Maka ‘asabiyah yang zalimlah terlarang menurut Islam." (Hadis)

Ikatan rohani kemanusiaan tidak mengenal jubah, mahupun jenis serban dan tinggi songkok. Agaknya inilah yang menyebabkan ramai pejuang kulit hitam terkejut apabila pemimpin mereka Malcom X menukar sentimen ras (yang mengagungkan kulit hitam dan membenci kulit putih) setelah pulang dari menunaikan ibadah haji. 

Begitupun, barah ‘taksub ras’ ini mungkin juga tempias sentimen whiteman’s burden yang diwarisi dari usaha kolonialis menghalalkan penjajahannya. Mengikut sentimen kesukuan ini, ‘kaum biadap’ perlu diselamatkan dari kegelapan dunia ‘tidak bertamadun’ mereka.


Itulah kelemahan manusia apabila disapa oleh kuasa. Tidak kiralah sama ada yang putih, hitam, perang, kuning, atau campuran hitam dan cokelat ; utara-selatan, barat-timur; manusia tetap manusia. Cermin antara satu sama lain.

Dalam mengimbas sejarah dan warisan, aku disuruh berhati-hati. Bukannya apa, cuma tidak mahu menjadi pejuang keangkuhan atau taksub kesukuan yang berbajakan prasangka, bangga dan besar diri. Nasib baik juga setanggi purba yang dibekal oleh sejarah masih boleh terus mengajar, 

"…Hamba dengar ada hikayat Melayu dibawa oleh orang dari Goa; barang kita perbaiki kiranya dengan istiadatnya supaya diketahui oleh segala anak cucu kita yang kemudian daripada kita, dan boleh diingatkan oleh segala mereka itu, syahdan adalah beroleh faedah ia daripadanya." 31

Sesekali ‘berhenti’ untuk menoleh ke belakang, aku diingatkan supaya tidak derhaka, jangan menjadi kurang ajar. Belum sempat aku hendak mencanangkan macho diri berbau ‘rebel without a cause’ yang di pinjam dari James Dean, Tun Perak menyergah, 

"Hai! Hai! Hendak derhakakah kamu semua? Hendak derhakakah? Ceh! Kamu sekalian, ceh! Kerana tiada adat hamba Melayu tiada pernah derhaka" 32

Ini sergah Tun Perak yang marah kepada mereka yang hendak membela pembunuhan anaknya sendiri. Terkedu kejantanan aku. Aku sangka aku sudah cukup hero. Inikah agaknya penafsiran Tun Perak terhadap pesanan purba yang mungkin dibisikkan oleh Cheng Ho kepadanya, 

"Ideologi Conficius cuma terdiri daripada dua perkataan sahaja, iaitu taat setia (zhong) dan memaafkan (shu)." 33

Atau mungkin juga beliau pernah terdengar ungkapan sufi dari saudagar Arab yang merantau merentas benua untuk menyebar ilmu dan berdagang,

Manliness is pardoning the slips of one’s brother; what he wishes for himself, he wishes for his brothers.
Ciri insan budiman adalah kemampuan untuk memaafkan kesilapan saudaranya; apa yang dihajatkan untuk dirinya, dihajatkan juga untuk saudaranya.

Dalam meniti perjalanan ini, bolehkah agaknya diwarisi sifat kepatuhan dan ketaatan yang sebati dalam DNA orang Melayu? Tapi kepatuhan dan ketaatan kepada siapa? Pada ‘tuan’ yang menjaga periuk nasi kita? Pada benda ? Pada rupa? Pada ikon? Pada simbol atau emblem? Pada pangkat? pada segala yang bergelar ‘makhluk’ samada yang semulajadi atau ciptaan manusia; yang bersifat baru, berubah dan tidak kekal (walaupun ada yang cuba melawan fitrah ini)? Atau taat pada yang Kekal selama-lamanya? 

Angan-angan mewarisi ketaatan dan kehebatan pengembaraan Hang Tuah pula sebenarnya berisiko tinggi. Jadi hero bukannya selalu senang. Godaan dan cabaran melimpah ruah, 

"Adapun akan Laksamana Hang Tuah, barang tempat ia pergi, gegak gempita bunyi orang daripada hebat melihat sikap lakunya. Jika ia dipesiban, pesiban gempar; jika ia di panggungan, panggungan gaduh; dan segala perempuan Jawa anak dara, jikalau ia berjalan ke pasar atau barang ke mana, banyaklah yang gila akan Hang Tuah itu. Dan apabila Hang Tuah lalu, perempuan di dalam pangkuan lakinya itu pun bangun hendak melihat Hang Tuah…" 34

Ini kes berat. Tidak termasuk difitnah kerana iri-hati, prasangka, hasad dan dengki. Tidak termasuk dihukum bunuh. Tidak termasuk ‘membunuh sahabat yang dianggap saudara sendiri’. Tidak termasuk segala misi, ekspedisi ‘tunjuk handal’ dan test power di sana sini. Tidak termasuk terpaksa menculik, memeras, mengoda, memperdaya, menipu, membodek, mengampu dan melayan segala karenah hendonisma raja - perempuan, arak, kemegahan dan kemewahan harta dan istana, memburu, memancing, menakluk, melaga manusia. Baru aku tahu susahnya memegang watak hero orang Melayu. 

Hasrat hendak menurut jejak Hang Jebat pula telah lama disejukkan oleh filem-filem Melayu, drama dan pementasan yang menjadikan suaranya makin klise dan terlampau sarat dengan tragedi. Lagipun, mengamuk tak tentu pasal, merogol, memperkosa, membunuh rakyat, merosakkan harta-benda dan ‘enjoy sakan’ sana sini bukanlah stail yang molek diturut.


Namun Hang Jebat mungkin kurang mendengar bisikan Confucius menerusi Tun Parapatih Putih yang membawa Hang Li Po pulang ke Melaka,

"Orang yang budiman memahami keadilan (yi) orang yang hina memahami faedah." 35 

dan menambah

"Bagi orang yang budiman yang paling dihormati ialah keadilan/pengorbanan. Sekiranya orang yang budiman hanya mempunyai keberanian tetapi tiada keadilan/pengorbanan, dia akan menimbulkan kekacauan dan pemberontakan." 36
 
Mungkin juga saudagar-saudagar kain dari India gagal memahamkan Jebat yang dirasuk sentimen serta semangat, bahawa:

When destruction comes near, understanding is turned upside down 
Apabila kemusnahan menghampiri, pertimbangan dan kefahaman menjadi rosak (pepatah Sanskrit).
 
Begitu kuatnya sentimen Jebat hingga beliau tergamak melupakan,

"Sesungguhnya Tuhanmu tidak mencintai orang-orang yang membuat bencana." (Al-Qasas ayat 77)

Di celah kegemparan dan kehebatan Jebat dan Tuah bersilat dan berbunuhan ‘sesama saudara’ sendiri, tersingkap seungkap hikmah dari tradisi sufi,

Bersederhanalah dalam mencintai sahabat, kerana kelak dia mungkin menjadi musuh anda; bersederhanalah dalam membenci musuh, kerana kelak dia mungkin menjadi sahabat anda.

Agak pelik juga bila difikirkan tiada apa yang boleh dilakukan untuk mendamaikan Tuah dan Jebat, walaupun sumber kerohanian yang dirujuk banyak mengingatkan,

"Sesungguhnya orang-orang yang beriman itu adalah bersaudara, maka hendaklah kamu damaikan (perbaikilah hubungan) antara dua saudaramu itu dan bertakwalah kepada Allah mudah-mudahan kamu mendapat rahmat." (Al-Hujarat ayat 10)

Keadilan ? Pengorbanan ?

Keadilan dan pengorbanan penuh tragis, sinonim dengan karisma Bendahara Paduka Raja Tun Perak. Jikapun namanya mengungkap ingatan aku pada negeri tanah tumpah darah, biografinya sukar hendak aku jadikan arah. Sebagai birokrat yang sangat ‘setia’, perkhidmatannya kepada empat CEO penuh dengan nada pengorbanan, menongkah prasangka, 

"….Tetapi jikalau Duli Yang Dipertuan hendak mencerca hamba sebab orang itu, pecatlah hamba dahulu, maka cercakan hamba dengan dia. Jikalau hamba belum dipecat bagaimana hamba hendak dicerca?" 37

Hingga ke penghujung karier profesionalnya, Tun Perak terus menegakkan ketaatannya menerusi pengorbanan di celah kezaliman dan segala macam keruntuhan. Terlalu jauh hendak mencapai penafsiran shu (memaafkan) Tun Perak yang menghalang orang menuntut bela pembunuhan puteranya Tun Besar ditangan Raja Muhammad. Agaknya, beliau mungkin terdengar gema Yajna dari keturunan Mani Purindam mahupun saudagar korporat dan para intelektual dari benua India. 

"Yajna ialah pengorbanan kerana seseorang harus menyerahkan hal yang terbaik pada dirinya kepada hal yang terbaik yang dicarinya." 38

Harap-harap begitulah, walaupun mungkin ke’setia’anTun Perak yang ‘berpangkat besar’ dan ‘kaya raya’ ada motif ulterior lain.

Malangnya, tempias Yajna ini tidak diwarisi oleh Mendeliar walaupun dia dari keturunan yang sama. Mendeliar yang kaya raya dan bijak memutar-belit bagai ular tidak dapat menyingkirkan haloba duniawi serta emosi peribadi lalu menyebabkan terkorbannya Bendahara sekeluarga.


Namun baka pengamal yoga mungkin akan terus mengingatkan, 

"Engkaulah sadakha (seniman) yang mencari samarasya (harmoni) dengan menyingkirkan kerenah duniawi dan emosi peribadi." 39
 
Idealisma atau pragmatisma ? Akukah protagonis di celah konflik ini ? 

Seperti remaja pelanggan VideoCD yang keseronokan menikmati pengembaraan sejarah berbaur antara fiksyen dan fakta, mitos, lagenda, dongeng dan sejarah, aku dimarahi Pak Syeikh Nuruddin al-Raniri dari Gujerat India,

" …kemudian lagi harus istinjak dengan kitab yag tiada berguna pada syarak seperti Hikayat Seri Rama dan Indraputera dan barang sebagainya, jika tiada dalamnya nama Allah." 40 

Pak Syeikh (dengan pelat Arab dan dibantu oleh terjemahan Tun Sri Lanang) menambah,


"Lagi kafir barang siapa membaca dia, seperti Hikayat Jawa dan Hikayat Inderaputera itu pun nyata dustanya daripada dungu dan kurang budi juga segala yang membawa dia dan membenarkan dia dustanya itu." 41

Aku berhenti sejenak. Sekali lagi terkedu. Terkenangkan Mak dan Bapak yang sesekali terlebih naluri protectivenya lantaran terlalu kasih. 

"Pak Syeikh, Mak dan Bapak usahlah risau ya. Saya mengkaji dan merenungi, mengambil iktibar. Tak semestinya mempercayai dan memakai. Lagipun semua sejarah ada mitosnya, ada kiasnya, ada ibaratnya, ada bidalannya, ada lagendanya. Ada benar, ada dusta, ada dibesar, ada diperkecil. Ada agendanya. Ada penaungnya. Ada pelaungnya, pewartanya seperti Pak Syeikh sendiri." 

Dalam pengembaraan dan penerokaan ini, bolehkah agaknya Pak Syeikh melindungi aku dari serangan fiksyen, mitos, legenda, dongeng, cereka, sejarah, hikayat, fantasi dan segala dusta fikiran yang datang dari segenap penjuru, tidak termasuk dari internet ? Kitab Hamzah Fansuri boleh dibakar, tapi internet boleh jugakah? Jika ada internet, mungkin Hamzah Fansuri sendiri tidak perlu mengembara secara fizikal ke Mekah, Madinah, Baghdad, Ayuthia, Pahang dan Acheh. Halaman Web Syair Dagangnya boleh merantau ke mana-mana dan dilawati oleh pelayar maklumat.

Agaknya aku ini Hang Tuah mencari Tamingsari, atau Sang Rajuna mencari Sarasampai panah sakti. Mungkin aku perlu mentelaah Hikayat Amir Hamzah supaya naik darah pahlawan ketika berdepan dengan sikap hodoh suku sakat Feringgi. Malangnya pewaris sikap ini (yang kini tidak mengenal warna) mungkin telah mengutip formula buruk,

Who he wishes to destroy, he first makes demented
Sesiapa yang dia ingin musnahkan, dia akan jadikan gila atau hilang kewarasan/pertimbangan (Pepatah Latin) 

Nak ikut jejak Amir Hamzah, takut perut anak isteri kempis. Kecilnya aku ini. Mungkin ada alternatif lain.

Sesekali aku cuba juga merenung ilmu politik dan diplomasi Tun Parapatih hingga dapat membawa puteri anggun dari Negeri China ke Melaka, buat bekalan perjalanan dan pengembaraan ini. Aku terkenangkan tauke-tauke rakan niaga Mak di Teluk Intan (yang mungkin berkongsi motif yang sama dengan Tun Parapatih). Seperti pedagang China di Melaka, mereka mungkin ada menempiaskan suara Shi Fu Conficius yang cuba menanam benih ilmunya di celah keruntuhan budaya tradisi Chou, 

"Mengulang kaji ilmu pengetahuan yang lama membolehkan kita memahami dan menemui ilmu pengetahuan yang baru." 42

Seni adalah perjalanan ke arah mencapai jen (kemanusiaan), mencari Mei (rupa/kecantikan dan keindahan) yang disempurnakan oleh shan (jiwa/kebenaran dan kebaikan).

Mak mengingatkan makna yang tersirat di sebalik nama yang diberikan kepadaku,

Hasnul Jamal - yang ‘shan’ - baik/benar dan yang ‘mei’ -cantik/indah.
 
Terasa sungguh perlu disempurnakan nama yang diberi menerusi ‘perjalanan ke arah mencapai kemanusiaan.’ Seperti kilat dipancar cahaya kekaguman terhadap kehalusan budi budaya Timur, sehingga terasa sangat jahil apabila seringkali terlupa menyempurnakan hakikat nama sendiri. Aku sering kehilangan di redah gelombang pengembaraan dan penerokaan. Berlindung di balik angkuh seniman yang dikutip dari beberapa ‘sekolah’ di Amerika.


Jika aku ke Sarawak untuk merintis ilmu baru, adakah ia satu pemergian atau ketibaan? Atau adakah ini sebahagian dari rencah semangat dan jiwa sebuah pengembaraan - dari titik ke titik ke titik ke titik…. 

Mak secara kasual pernah mengingatkan, 

"Jika benih itu baik, jatuh ke laut pun boleh jadi pulau."

Manalah tahu, bagaikan Nila Pahlawan, Krisna Pendita dan Nila Utama, kehadiranku mungkin boleh menukarkan sesuatu menjadi emas. Cuma aku bukan mencari Wan Malini, lainlah kalau sudah rezeki. Aku dapat bayangkan muka Mak yang masam cuka,

Kamu jangan mengorat!

Namun demikian, menukar padi menjadi emas bukanlah nawaitu asal aku merentas, merantau dan menyeberang. Aku tidak inginkan sentuhan Raja Midas yang dimusnahkan oleh tamaknya sendiri. Apalah untungnya mengundang megah menunjuk kekayaan jika watan kesesatan dirompak oleh haloba, 

"Telah Laksamana melihat harta terlalu banyak itu, maka hilanglah budi akalnya, sebab disamun harta dunia…." 43
 
Aku terkenangkan kisah Perang Uhud yang pernah diceritakan oleh Bapak semasa aku kecil dahulu - apabila barisan ‘pemanah’ (yang diamanahkan oleh Rasulullah s.a.w untuk mengawal sebuah bukit) digelapkan oleh sifat tamak pada harta rampasan perang, lalu meninggalkan ‘bukit’ yang sepatutnya dikawal. Akibatnya, kemenangan hampir menjadi kekalahan.

Semangat dari Bukit Cina pula mengingatkan,

"Harta yang ganjil boleh menyekat perilaku yang betul." 44


"Orang yang budiman mencapai kematangan tentang perikemanusiaan dan keadilan. Orang yang hina mencapai kematangan tentang kepetingan harta." 45 

Aku bukan di Bukit Cina. Aku silanglang buana yang merantau dan kini bermukim di Sarawak Darul Hanna. Aku ada bekal sejarah, cuma diserang amnesia. Aku sudah bersedia sekarang. Kini aku boleh kembali berpandangan jauh dan berkarektor kontemporari. Berikan aku wawasan! 

Online translator deactivated. My handphone rings again:
Fukuyama: Before you migrate, let it be known that history has ended. It ended with the triumph of Western liberal democracy and ideals. Yours will just be another replica. Forget about your past. 46
 And another caller yells his paranoid-stricken suspicion:
Huttington: Beware! Our civilisations are going to clash. I am under siege. You and your ‘confucian’ buddies are the next threat to our New World Order !! 47
Despite surviving Toffler’s ‘Future Shock’ 48, hearing that yell above gave me a shivering shock. I am awake now, sober again.



Act 5 - Post Modernism - Reality Check

I am awake now. I need to write an essay, not a prelude, not an epilogue, not an elegy, or a trash script, or anything that can’t be defined. I guess I have to start behaving, writing (and maybe appearing) like a true-to-typical corporate academician. No fancy or creative ‘dressings’ please.

Allow me….

Post-modernist cultural discourse suggests the need to accommodate oneself with the electronic age, just as modern culture was driven by the need to come to terms with industrial age.49 


Post-modernism as it has been argued, is rooted in a self-reflective dialogue of the West with the ethos and legacy of its own industrial and modernist paradigms. In most cases post-modern situations are constantly made apparent by such paradigms. 

If massification or homogenisation of cultural taste has been the prominent landmark of industrialism, demassification is certainly the core feature of post-modern situations. Massification is the axiom of mass media. Demassification is the axiom of multi-media.


A long list of changes or shifts can be obtained from many gurus, future-tellers and proponents of change around the world. Demassification of products and eventually cultural taste of society, the collapse of hierarchy and bureaucracy, death of the permanence, the shifts from price to speed, from isolated specialists to multiskilled generalists, from sequence to simultaneity or pastiche, from emphasis on psychomotor to emphasis on cognition, from working with hands to working with brains, from organization man to migrant professionals, from goods to services, from global competition to global collaboration, from independence to interdependence, from design for assembly to design for disassembly, from fixed standardization to modularism, from nine-to-five to flex-time, from fit-to-machine to fit-to-user, from consumer to prosumer, and many more are several examples of rapid changes and shifts that characterise this so-called post-modern age. For some, these are disturbing since they challenge the status-quo and instigate ‘reformation’. For few, these are welcomed. 50

In Malaysia, post-modern challenges are collectively answered by the efforts of developing an IT-literate society. Such efforts must not be confined to merely economic or political context alone. As Malaysia participates in global transformation, her increasing reliance on science and technology in the formation of its ‘material culture’ has intensified the need to shift from the legacy of many defunct industrial paradigms toward appropriate deployment of information technology according to her own version of artistic progress and cultural transformation.


With the presence of post-modern situations, Malaysian artists have to confront new forms of cultural challenges as they race towards the millennium. Thus it is important for Malaysia to identify with and dictate its own distinctive response to post-modern cultural challenges in accordance to her own artistic tradition and needs. 

In the cultural front, the pervasive presence of I.T requires strategic positioning and engagements by cultural institutions such as the National Art Gallery. As a significant body and the centre for local visual art development, the National Art Gallery has an important role to play in responding to the cultural imperatives of a networked society. This role can be supplemented by appropriate adjustments (if not reformation), especially amongst local institutions of higher learning as well other ‘independent’ sectors of the arts community. 

Other than the pressing need to establish a critical stand towards challenges of the 21st. century, these institutions may develop a more integrated and expanded networks of corporation to produce a new breed of young well-informed, highly networked and multi-dimensional 21st century Malaysian artists, able to confront critical cultural challenges of the next millennium according to his/her own tradition, needs and version of cultural transformation.

Throwing few questions may perhaps place us on a ‘reality check’ here.

Does the Malaysia art scene reflect the result of responses to such situations and challenges stated or implied indirectly in this essay? Does it provide a new avenue for the display of serious engagements in the dynamic of cultural change or transformation brought about by current and anticipated future technologies? Does it allow and encourage new explorations that are challenging, innovative and most importantly relevant to issues pertaining to the artistic, social and cultural challenges of the future? Maybe it is not polite to ask too many questions.


Coda


Before I end this essay, allow me to ‘appropriate’ a graduation speech by Kishore Mahbubani with few personalised adjustments. In the spirit of Asia (51), I dedicate this to my dearest fellow artists and students especially those who have given me the privilege of sharing and hearing the rich voices of the future generation.

"You may think that you have come to an end of a long road. But in actual sense, you have come to the beginning of a very long journey. You will greet the 21st. century with optimism because for the first time in 500 years cycle of global domination by the West, the return and remaking of your own history is freshly possible. Its in your hands. Go and sail across the mighty ocean. But be aware that the compass may not faithfully point to the West anymore. If it doesn’t, don’t worry. Be ready to change your mental maps. I hope you will experience a smooth sailing. If you don’t, I hope you were at least mentally prepared for that possibility. As any sailor will tell you, he who can anticipate the next strong current or the next strong gust wins the race. I hope you will all win the races you are embarking on, and I wish you the very best as you set sail." 52

As a temporal occupant of the present who takes from the past and borrows from the future, I look forward to hearing the next great gifts of the coming cross-century human experience and civilisation. 

Echoe of words from mak(mom) enters my heart, "…untuk masyarakat".












EXTENDED NOTES (IN PROGRESS)

Act 1
Cultural Imperatives in an Increasingly Networked World - Elegy for A Rapid Change

For further readings on the cultural imperatives of online technologies as far as Malaysia is concerned see Niranjan Rajah’s "Art & Culture on the World Wide Web : From the Control of Content to the End of Art," in OnTheInternet, January/February 1998, pp24-28

A precautionary tone was uttered by Hassan Ahmad, "Dunia Tidak Bersempadan Lagi - Kini Barat cuba menguasai dunia teknologi maklumat pula," Dewan Masyarakat, November 1995, pp40-41 and "Dunia Berglobal Tetapi Manusia Tidak," Dewan Masyarakat, Disember 1995, pp 40-41. This precautionary tone was balanced by a proactive encouragement ala-Malaysian political establishment in Hizammudin Awang’s "Memanfaatkan Ledakan Maklumat dalam Internet - Malaysia antara negara membangun yang mempunyai kadar penggunaan internet paling tinggi," Dewan Masyarakat, November 1995, pp 40-41. The magazine also published several other articles about the internet, mostly on its threat to cultural and social values. See Mohd Safar Hasim’s "Pornografi Dalam Internet - Sesiapa yang mempunyai teknologi yang sesuai boleh menerbit atau dapat mencapainya," November 1995, pp 8-11, Pee Seong Chin’s "Sukarnya Menapis Maklumat Siber - Maklumat yang boleh menimbulkan suasana tidak tenteram sangat mudah tersebar melalui internet," Oktober, 1998, pp 48-50. Another local magazine, Massa also ran several catchy notes in its ‘Alaf Siber’ column; see "Artis Tempatan Berbogel," "Pembunuhan di Internet," and "Robocop dan Cybercop," Januari, 1999, p2. For general readings, see Ripaee Arip’s "Telekomunikasi Canggih - "Apa Khabar Rakyat Malaysia?," and " Prof. Abu Bakar A. Hamid’s "Maklumat Sebagai Komoditi : Natijah dan Padahnya," and an interview by Ripaee Arip with YB Datuk Tajol Rosli, then the Deputy Minister of Energy, Telekom and Post, "Arah dan Masa Depan Komunikasi Malaysia," all in Mastika, Januari 1994. 

For regional and global cultural issues regarding the internet, refer to several articles in Time magazine’s Special Report, "Welcome to the Wired World - What the "networked society" means to you, your business, your country - and the globe," February 1997, pp36-49. See also the September 1994 issue of Asiaweek magazine, "Asia Online - From Hot Talk to Home Shopping, the Info Highway Is Coming to You," pp35-41.

For more engaged and perhaps cult-like articles on cyberculture, see periodicals such as ‘OnThe Internet,’‘Cybertek,’ ‘21.C -Scanning the Future,’Mondo’ and ‘.Net - The Internet Magazine,’ and its suplementary, ‘.Net Directory.’ Several entries in the
local and international conferences and seminars about the internet are worthy references too. See Niranjan Rajah’s "Art After the Internet : The Impact of the World Wide Web On Global Culture," and Jin-Kyeong Oh’s "Problems and Possibilities of the Experience of Modern Art Through the Internet." INET’97 ; also Niranjan Rajah & Hatta Azad Khan’s "Technology in the Arts : From the Deployment of Tools to the Transformation of Culture," ASAIHL (The Association of Southeast Asian Istitution of Higher Learning) seminar on ‘Technology-Assisted Teaching & Learning in Universities, 1997.

Malaysian cultural elites have to acknowledge that the old patterns of power in their cultural frontier will continue to face increasing cultural challenges due to the communication age. Adjustment and changes are needed.

See Alvin Toffler, PowerShift, New York, Bantam Books, 1991, especially chapter 11-Net Power, chapter 26-The Image Makers, chapter 27-Subversive Media, chapter 28-The "Screenie" Generation and Coda:Yearning For A New Dark Age. For a sceptical and typical ‘East-West, Them-Us’ rhetorical counter-response to Toffler, see Hassan Ahmad, "Dunia Tidak Bersempadan Lagi - Kini Barat cuba menguasai dunia teknologi maklumat pula," Dewan Masyarakat, November 1995, pp40-41.

Similar response, especially one clouded by a highly status-quo conscious and western modernist sentiment, was apparent after my delivery of a presentation entitled ‘Merging Art, Culture & Technology - UNIMAS’s Experience,’ during a Camp Programme called ‘Science Inspires Art’ at Langkawi, October 1998. So intense was the fear and naïve (if not arrogant) ignorance, it prompted one prominent and well established artist to suggest that the changes brought about by I.T. in the arts will marginalise the ‘traditional’ artists, even though I believe that he was referring to ‘western’ notion of modern art when he said ‘traditional’ artists. He was probably protecting his ‘highly territorial and fossilised’ artistic practise, which I didn’t intend to threaten at all. 

Such a recent response was also anticipated nearly ten years ago by Redza Piyadasa in his essay, "The Digital Collage of Ismail Zain - An Appreciation," Digital Collage. A One-Man Art Exhibition By Ismail Zain. Kuala Lumpur, 1989, p 7 - "The initial response of more traditionally-minded artists on the present exhibition seems predictable enough. Ismail Zain’s new works will be dismissed in some quarters as not constituting "original art works" because they lack the gestures and marks produced by "the artist’s hand." Or else, the artist might be accused of "mechanical gimmickry."" His diagnosis of the reason behind such a reaction is that " people are not too accustomed to the new approach to recognise its potency and significance." To observe how this reaction has sustained only minor changes after a period of ten years despite increasing exposures to I.T may suggest the presence of a highly ‘parochial sentiment’ in the Malaysian art scene. This is rather true if one is to define the sentiment according to the ‘official’ line of what constitutes a fine art practise in Malaysia.

There is a strong need to employ relevant theoretical frameworks in discussing about socio-cultural changes brought by the current development in media and information technology. Similarly, new theoretical frameworks are in a great need when dealing with artworks that are based on such a development. Theories that were rooted in the older version of western modernist discourse may not be suitable for the current climate. 

In his article for ‘Digital Collage’ exhibition by the late Ismail Zain, Redza Piyadasa wrote that Ismail’s digital collages "merit serious discussion and evaluation on the basis of ‘information theory’ concepts and ‘semiological’ considerations….. with reference to such concepts as structuralism and deconstruction." He added that they must be approached from a "larger linguistic, anthropological, historical and ideological considerations," and that "we will have to shed our customary prejudices (in this instance, shaped by traditional art historicism) to learn to look anew." See Redza Piyadasa, "The Digital Collage of Ismail Zain - An Appreciation," Digital Collage. A One-Man Art Exhibition By Ismail Zain. Kuala Lumpur, 1989. 

Through ‘Digital Colage,’ Ismail Zain himself called for an adoption of a more critical and autocratic posture as Malaysia responds to universalism brought about by instant information. He called it critical regionalism which he quickly reminded has little to do with the "simple-minded attempts to revive hypothetical forms of a lost vernacular, but to maintain a high level of critical self-consciousness that is backed by requisite conceptual and linguistic efficacy…" See Noordin Hassan Interviews Ismail Zain, in Digital Collage. A One-Man Art Exhibition By Ismail Zain. Kuala Lumpur, 1989, P 27.
 
Act 2
A Local that has been Globally Modernised - A Prelude to Post Modern

Apollo - Greek god of the sun and the ideal of manly beauty ; Dionysius - Greek god of wine and fertility.


‘Apollyon’ interestingly enough means ‘the destroyer,’ the angel of the bottomless pit according to (Rev. 9:11)


Certainly the names Redza Piyadasa and T.K. Sabapathy will come to mind when mentioning about thehistory of modern art in Malaysia, including the pre-war and pre-independence artists. Both have written several books and numerous essays on the topic. See T.K. Sabapathy (ed), Vision and Idea: Re-Looking Modern Malaysian Art, Kuala Lumpur, National Art Gallery, 1994. For a condensed version, see also Redza Piyadasa’s " Assertions of the Modern," in Rupa Malaysia-A Decade of Art, 1997, National Art Gallery, 1997, pp14-21.


For a more specific group-based focus on similar search for Malaysian-made modernism, see Zainol Shariff, "Menemui Modeniti - Empat Puluh Tahun Angkatan Pelukis SeMalaysia," in Menemui Modeniti, National Art Gallery, 1998. Pp14-18.


See Redza Piayadasa’s "Defining Nationalism," Rupa Malaysia-A Decade of Art, National Art Gallery,1997, pp 22-31. Also see Zainol Shariff’s "Towards an Alter-Native Vision : The Idea of Malaysian Art Since 1980," in Vision and Idea: Re-Looking Modern Malaysian Art, Kuala Lumpur, National Art Gallery, 1994.


The wave of such a sentiment has been echoed and manifested in many different ways throughout the history of Malaysian art. Formally initiated by the formation of National Cultural Policy through the government-sponsored National Cultural Congress, University of Malaya 1971, it was answered by amongst many, Institut Teknologi MARA’s Seminar Akar-akar Kesenian Pribumi dan Perkembangan Kini, 1979. Several articles are worth reading, especially in relation to the impact of technology - see Ismail Zain, Masa "Depan Tradisi - Dikhususkan Kepada Pengalaman Kuno di Malaysia," Bengkel Wayang Kulit, KKBS, 1978 ; Ismail Zain, "Ucapan Nada Idea," Seminar Seni dan Teknologi, Pusat Seni Universiti Sains Malaysia, 1986.


For a historical perspective, see William R. Raff, The Origin of Malay Nationalism, Kuala Lumpur, Penerbitan Universiti Malaya, 1964. In a broader cultural perspective, the sentiment derives its sources and formulation from pre-independence ‘nationalist’ writers as well as the present writers like Aziz Deraman, Firdaus Abdullah, Mohd Taib Osman, Syed Muhammad Naguib al-Attas, Muhammad Hj. Salleh, Syed Hussein Alatas, and many others who have written extensively on subjects related to the Malays. Other than the Dewan Bahasa & Pustaka, UKM’s Institut Alam dan Tamadun Melayu (ATMA, originally established in 1972 as Institut Bahasa, Kesusasteraan dan Kebudayaan Melayu) is one of several institutions committed to the Malay studies. 


For various echoes of similar sentiment from the political establishment, see Mahathir Mohamad’s The Malay Dilemma, Donald Moore, Singapore, 1970, Menghadapi Cabaran, Kuala Lumpur, Penerbitan Pustaka Antara, 1980, Musa Hitam, Nasionalisma - Krisis & Kematangan, Petaling Jaya, Pelanduk Publications, 1986 and Anwar Ibrahim, Menangani Perubahan, Kuala Lumpur, Berita Publishing, 1989.


For an alternative understanding and observation beyond the ‘political rhetoric’ surrounding such an urge to forge a collective identity, see Chandra Muzaffar, Islamic Resurgence in Malaysia, Petaling Jaya, Penerbitan Fajar Bakti, 1987. See also Shaharuddin Maaruf, Concept of A Hero in Malay Society, Singapore, Eastern Universities Press, 1984.


There are numerous examples of criticisms towards the spliting paradoxes of Western civilization and its imperialist-laden political, socio-cultural and economic gaze or agendas, especially in relation to Islam. One example is Zianuddin Sardar (ed), Sentuhan Midas - Sains, Nilai dan Persekitaran Menurut Islam & Barat, Kuala Lumpur, Dewan Bahasa & Pustaka, 1988. Also M.A.K Lodhi, (ed) Islamization of Attitudes and Practices in Science and Technology. Islamization of Knowledge Series No. 9. Herndon, The International Istitute of Islamic Thougjht & The Association of Muslim Scientists and Engineers, 1981. Most notable of course is the work of a well-known critic of the Western media and its imposing influence, Edward Said in his Covering Islam, London, Vintage, 1997, and Orientalism, New York, Pantheon Books, 1978.


In Malaysia, the criticisms have been mostly echoed through a combination of Malay nationalism and Islamic resurgence. See Chandra Muzaffar’s, Islamic Resurgence in Malaysia, Petaling Jaya, Penerbitan Fajar Bakti, 1987.


The term ‘official deck chair’ was appropriated from the late Ismail Zain’s urge to look beyond traditional concept of historicism. See Noordin Hassan Interviews Ismail Zain, in Digital Collage. A One-Man Art Exhibition By Ismail Zain. Kuala Lumpur, 1989, P 25.


Niranjan Rajah in his essay "Sacred Pictures Secular Frames - Spirituality in Recent Malaysian Art." in Art Asia Pacific, issue 17, 1998. P 66 - 70 mentioned my approach to the relationship between computer and spiritual tradition (in the case of the article - of Islamic art) "…electronic media is compatible with Islamic aesthetics as it is inherently dematerialized and transitory and further, the connectivity of computer networks could be used to explore the ideas of unity and infinity." In fact, there are many inter-linked aspects of computer technology that are specifically compatible with Islamic Art -


Modularity, that eventually connotes Inter-dependency, Inter-linked and


Inter-locking Patterns, all of which create a sense of Simultaneity and Dynamism - as opposed to permanency/fixed view


Non-linearity - as opposed to sequence


Emphasis on Multiple Viewpoints that rejects a single focal point (as in the use of a ‘vanishing point’ in a linear perspective system of the West). Multiple-viewpoints and modularity also suggest Multiple-Options, Flexibility and Decentralisation.


User/Observer-Centred paradigm that allows the observer to decide his/her own pattern of perceptual experience according to his/her own option in a given time and space. This leads to Interactivity, Participation and Involvement.


The use of Mathematical Principles including fractal abstraction in its emphasis on structural orientation (not surface ornamentation as popularly manifested in the Islamic-inspired modern art)


Emphasis on Abstract Concepts and disregard of extreme individualism, compulsion,emotional sentiment and indulgence


A platform for a balanced or Holistic Convergence of attitudes, approaches and disciplines - function and decoration, physical and spiritual, intellectual and emotional, body and soul, art and science, communal and individual and many more dualistic attributes that have been severely segregated by the empirical eyes of industrial modernism.


As indicated for example by the tendency to look at the development of I.T as an ‘external phenomena’ distinctively separate from ‘fine arts.’


As in forcing people to buy and drive their own car (in order to maximise profit in the automotive-related industry) without acknowledging that one has to learn not only the mechanical aspect of it (the how to, the working), but also the cultural aspect of it (the why, the ethics, the socio-cultural implications and possibilities). By pushing ‘proper ethics and culture’ of driving and using a car to a peripheral position, one may be lead to witness more and more unfortunate ‘accidents.’ There is a need to encourage more involved participation from individuals in the arts and humanities at ‘high-level’ strategic development of I.T in this country. They should not be delegated as merely ‘end user’ and ‘content provider.’ These individuals, on their part, must be able to move beyond the safe parameter of their practice. Perceiving and guarding their disciplines as highly territorial (as well as parochial) space will not help.


Thespis was the first actor (of a Greek theatre) to distinguish himself from the typical narrative function of a chorus, suggesting the diminishing importance of ‘collective’ role and the rise of individual actors in the Greek theatre.


My personal appropriation of Descartes’s famous phrase. Descartes is known as the father of ‘modern’ philosophy. The term ‘click’ (in reference to a computer mouse) epitomises Descartes axiomatic method in logic and mathematics, displaying the power of ‘reason’ to overcome skepticism. Descartes himself had signalled the rise of reason or sciences above the then diminishing influence and power of the churches. See Broke Noel Moore and Kenneth Bruder, Philosophy - The Power of Ideas, California, Mayfield Publishing Company, 1990, pp137-141.


Ibid, p 141


My personal appropriation of Nietsche’s ‘disenchantment with the established life of the bourgeoisie and its culture as well as its values’ and the desire to ‘break out of the straightjacket of worn-out ideas and safe lifestyles’ ; also his contemptuous tone towards the mediocrity of Western civilisation (late 19th. century) where emptiness and decadency were camouflaged. These seeds of Nietsche’s existentialism have been manifested in various varieties by many artists, poets, dramatists from the late 19th. century until even now. Absurdity, irrationality, triviality, senselessness, emptiness, separation and inability to communicate were amongst the central theme of their creative works. Examples can be found in art movements like Dadaism, Surrealism and Expressionism, and in dramatic plays such as Eugene Ionesco’s The Bald Soprano (1950), and Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot (1953). Nietzsche (1844-1900) by the way, became irretrievably insane about ten years before he died.


The ‘existential predicament’ of later existentialist philosopher Albert Camus ((1913-1960) in which humans ‘must make choices and decide how to act in a valueless and absurd world,’ was also echoed in the arts. Atheistic Jean-Paul Satre’s ‘you are what you do’ in which one determines and chooses for oneself (taken as the consequence of the non-existence of god) has also been echoed throughout the evolution of Western art. See Broke Noel Moore and Kenneth Bruder, Philosophy - The Power of Ideas, California, Mayfield Publishing Company, 1990, pp508-530


Interestingly, despite such an interesting interplay between Nietzschean transvaluation of all values, Freudian ‘free association’ psychology, Carl Jung’s ‘universal simbolism,’ metaphysical understanding, spiritualism, and even atheistic world-view, abstract expressionism (ae) as observed by Redza Piyadasa, is one of several popular foreign imports in the history of Malaysian art. It has become a part of the aspiration to be ‘modern’ during the 60’s until early 80’s. The ‘heroic stature’ accorded to ae artists, its abstract non-objective approach, its romanticised vision, its self-referential considerations, its formalist concerns, all have been ‘Malaysianised’ by local artists as "a respond to the challenge of finding their own artistic identities…" See Redza Piyadasa’s " Assertions of the Modern," in Rupa Malaysia-A Decade of Art, 1997, National Art Gallery, 1997, pp14-21.


However, from a casual observation, ae is currently more appealing as a painterly style for surface ornamentation rather than its philosophical concerns especially amongst the younger generation of contemporary artists The outcome is rapid mushrooming of superficial clones parading as genuine ‘star.’ It is rather unwise to camouflage the intellectual inertia of these clones by a ‘star making’ packaging of artists as popular cultural heroes and leaders merely because they have ‘friends in the media’.


My summary and re-interpretation of Walter Benjamin’s "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction" in Illumination, W. Benjamin, ed. Great Britain, Fontana/Collins, 1970.


An appropriation and re-interpretation based on Marshall McLuhan’s Understanding Media : Extension of Man New York, McGraw-Hill Inc., 1964, Counterblast, Harcourt, Brace & World, 1969, The Medium is the Massage : An Inventory of Effects, Random House, 1967, and The Global Village : Transformations in the World and Media in the 21st. Century, Oxford University Press, 1989.


See Umberto Eco, Theory of Semiotics, Bloomington, Indiana University Press, 1978, and P. Cobley and L. Jansz, Semiotics For Beginners, UK, Icon Books Ltd., 1997.


My summary and re-interpretation of Edward Said’s Covering Islam, London, Vintage, 1997, and Orientalism, New York, Pantheon Books, 1978.


My summary and re-interpretation of Derrida’s deconstruction. See Jacques Derrida’s Gammatology, John Hopkins University Press, 1976.

Act 3
A Locally Post Modernised - Definition to be Re-Defined

Adapted from Neil Postman’s Amusing Ourselves to Death : Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business. New York, Penguin, 1985

Anwar Ibrahim envisioned a ‘multi-dimensional’ Malaysia in facing post-90’s economic challenges. See Anwar Ibrahim’s, Menangani Perubahan, Kuala Lumpur, Berita Publishing, 1989, p 36.

See chapter 15 Future Shock : The Physical Dimension, and Chapter 16 Future Shock : ThePsychological Dimension, in Alvin Toofler’s Future Shock, New York, Bantam Books, 1970.

See C. Horrocks and Z. Jevtic, Baunrillard for Beginners. UK, Icon Books Ltd., 1996, and Baudrillard’s Simulations, J. Fosse et al., trans., New York, Semiotext(e), 1983.

My summary and re-interpretaion of John Naisbitt’s Megatrend Asia, Simon & Schuster Inc., 1996.

Act 4
Rediscovering Pre-Modern : The Paradox of Post-Modern

Adapted from W.G. Shellabear’s Sejarah Melayu, Kuala Lumpur, Fajar Bakti Sdn. Bhd. 1975.

LunYu, Pembicaraan Confucius, Obaidellah Mohamad,(penterjemah), Kuala Lumpur, Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka, 1994, p 28.

Rahmah Bujang, Seni Persembahan Bangsawan, Kuala Lumpur, Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka, 1989, p 135.

Ibid, p 135

W.G. Shellabear’s Sejarah Melayu, Kuala Lumpur, Fajar Bakti Sdn. Bhd., 1975, p 2

Ibid, p 144

LunYu, Pembicaraan Confucius, Obaidellah Mohamad,(penterjemah), Kuala Lumpur, Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka, 1994, p 27

W.G. Shellabear’s Sejarah Melayu, Kuala Lumpur, Fajar Bakti Sdn. Bhd., 1975, p 115

LunYu, Pembicaraan Confucius, Obaidellah Mohamad,(penterjemah), Kuala Lumpur, Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka, 1994, p 27

Ibid, p 115

W.G. Shellabear’s Sejarah Melayu, Kuala Lumpur, Fajar Bakti Sdn. Bhd., 1975, pp 90-91

Hamidah AbdulHamid, Pengantar Estetik, Kuala Lumpur, Dewan Bahasa & Pustaka, 1995, p 45

Ibid, p 45

Syeikh Nuruddin al-Raniri, Bustan al-Salatin, Siti Hawa Majid Hj Salleh, (penyelenggara). Kuala Lumpur, Dewan Bahasa & Pustaka, 1992, p xxxvii

Ibid, p xxxvii

LunYu, Pembicaraan Confucius, Obaidellah Mohamad,(penterjemah), Kuala Lumpur, Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka, 1994, p 10.

W.G. Shellabear’s Sejarah Melayu, Kuala Lumpur, Fajar Bakti Sdn. Bhd., 1975, p 252

Hamidah AbdulHamid, Pengantar Estetik, Kuala Lumpur, Dewan Bahasa & Pustaka, 1995, p 41.

LunYu, Pembicaraan Confucius, Obaidellah Mohamad,(penterjemah), Kuala Lumpur, Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka, 1994, p 120.

My summary and re-interpretation of Francis Fukuyama’s The End of History and the Last Man, New York, Avon, 1992.

My summary and re-interpretation of Samuel P. Hutington’s thesis in his essay "The Clash of Civilisations," published in Foreign Affairs in 1993.

From Alvin Toofler’s Future Shock. New York, Bantam Books, 1970.

Act 5
Post Modernism - Reality Check

Robert Atkins, Art Speak - A Guide to Contemporary Ideas, Movements, and Buzzwords, New York, Abbeville Press, 1990, p 131.

See for example Daniel Burrus, Techno Trends, New York, HarperCollins Publisher, 1993, John Naisbitt,. Megatrend Asia, Simon & Schuster Inc., 1996, and Megatrend 2000, London, Pan Books Ltd., 1970

As epitomised by Anwar Ibrahim’s The Asian Renaissance, Singapore, Times Books International, 1996.

Kishore Mahbubani, Can Asians Think? Singapore, Times Book International, 1998, p 91-92





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