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Thursday, 27 September 2012



Antaramuka (Interfaces)




Roopesh Sitharan
Internet, DVD, DVD player, LCD projector, (black box for 3rd. version)

A face is merely a shadow that lingers as a reflection of one's finite gaze. As it interfaces with others, they  create ripples that tease one's desire for permanency.

Satu wajah hanyalah riak-riak bayang kepada refleksi pandangan mata yang terhad. Apabila ia bersemuka dengan yang lain, semuanya menghasilkan kocak yang mengusik keinginan kita terhadap sesuatu yang kekal.

The original face (top left) of a Malaysian student (in this case, Roopesh) was digitally altered to appear 'Japanese' (bottom left). Similarly, the original face of the Japanese student (top right), was altered to appear 'Malaysian' (bottom, right).

 The original face (top) of the Japanese student was digitally altered to appear as 'Malaysian' (bottom).

This collaborative work was initiated during my residency as a Researcher in Residence at the Fukuoka Asian Art Museum (FAAM), Fukuoka, Japan in 2003. The work engaged art students from both Kuala Lumpur and Fukuoka through online media. For this work, I performed as the initiator and facilitator, rather than the artist. I worked on this project with Roopesh Sitharan, who became the web master, other than the facilitator for the Malaysian part.

Theoretically, the project was largely informed by our (Rooepsh and I) own interpretation of information and cybernetic paradigm as well as cultural studies. In retrospect, the project has further reiterated post-structuralist's 'deconstructive' stance on the instability of language, meaning and identity by using the internet as a case example. Identity, especially online identity, can be read as a form of becoming rather than a fixed entity, always in a fluid state of continuous 'virtual' deconstruction and reconstruction. We also read such take on identity as rather more 'spiritual' and in tune with the way our brains function.

The students were encouraged to think about the impact of new media and online technology in their daily life experiences, especially in forming their personal and collective 'identity'. 

The work was designed to make students aware of how online and media technology has permeated into their life and how such infusion has contributed towards cross-cultural exchanges and hybrid identities. 

Each student was asked to take a digital photo of his/her portrait (thus converting their 'physical' attributes into 'virtual' attributes).

The conversion is an apt metaphor for a shift in perceiving 'identity' as a physical form, to perceiving identity as 'information' or a state of mind and emotion. 

A physical form (including a physical notion of cultural self) features the following traits:

In short, 
a physical state is a lower form of energy or light.

A state of mind and emotion (including a virtual notion of cultural self) features the following traits :

In short, 
a state of mind and emotion, is a higher form of energy or light.

"Interfaces" (2003), exhibited in "Relocations : Electronic Art of Hasnul J Saidon & Niranjan Rajah" at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a partner exhibition of ISEA 2007 (International Symposium of Electronic Art). For this version, the video of the changing faces were projected on a floor with a shallow water container. Reflection of the video can be seen on the ceiling. Even a slight vibration of the audience (walking) could stir rippling images on the ceiling. It implies how transient a face can be. Water is an excellent element to be used in explaining the transient nature of energy, including the vibration or frequency of our mind, as explicated by quantum physics.

After the conversion from physical to virtual, or from form to 'information', the students from Japan were asked to change the faces of they Malaysian friends into what they assumed as 'Japanese' faces. Similarly, students from Malaysia were asked to do the same, changing the faces of their Japanese friends into 'Malaysians'.
Here, the notion of cultural self and identity is taken as a fluid state of 'becoming' and 'being' rather than a static or permanent 'object'. Identity is 'performed', if not transient.

Culture and cultural heritage too, are not taken only as a 'form of object' anymore (as often subscribed by a certain quarters of heritage 'police' here in Malaysia). 

Self and culture, through this reading, are not permanent entities. It would be unnatural (anti fitrah) to do so. Cycle of change is a natural and sustainable part of every living beings (and things) including what is taken as 'cultural heritage'.

Objectification of self and culture (including cultural heritage) is only a form of pragmatic language and discourse, regulated  for many purposes (including many ends of course, such as political, economic, social, etc). 

Therefore, the notion of self, identity and culture is a field of contestation (ideological contest). Those with better means of dominating and controlling language and discourse (the way we create a consensual meaning about who we are), will be able to create what is referred to as 'meta-discourse'. Simply speaking, a meta-discourse is the 'yardstick' that which we (or a particular community or society) utilize language and engage in discourse (the way we communicate and express ourselves, including in other visual and aural forms, not only writing and speaking). Meta-discourse creates meanings about who we are (culturally, politically, economically, socially, and even spiritually too).

As we engage more intensely with higher energy (light, which literally relates to the way fiber optics and wifi technology carry information) via interactive and digital forms of social networks, sms, chats, etc, how will we form our own personal notion of who we are, not physically, but mentally and emotionally?

Who we are as an individual, as well as a society, mentally and emotionally? 

On the level of mind(information, higher energy, higher light), are we still distinctively different from all the people that we have interacted (interfaced) with?

Link to other related project :

Ripples & reflection on the ceiling


This work is a result of a Visiting Researcher Program, organized by the Fukuoka Asian Art Museum, Japan in 2003.  It is an international collaborative web-based project that bridges two groups of art students from Kuala Lumpur and Fukuoka.  The project can be presented in various formats – interactive web, digital print and interactive installation.  It has been exhibited in Fukuoka Asian Art Museum Japan and La Salle College Bangkok, Thailand.

“Interfaces” reflects an effort to instigate further questions in regards to the influence of information and communication technology (ICT) in the notion of identity, especially amongst youth.  What or who decides and determine the cultural experiences of a particular nation-state,
especially in this age of globalization and free market liberalism?  Is the concept of nation-state based on nationalism being eroded by the influx of ICT?  Should the notion of identity, including those constructed as national identity be taken as a natural, given, frozen and static concept? Or is it always changing and flowing in an organic manner?

These questions were translated into a project method that requires both groups to exchange their individual portrait via online technology.  Students from Kuala Lumpur were asked to digitally alter the faces of their counterparts in Fukuoka into ‘Malaysian faces.’  Alternately, students from Fukuoka were also asked to do similar process, that is to digitally alter the faces of their Kuala Lumpur’s friends into ‘Japanese faces.’  This method indirectly enforced them to consciously think about their own notion of identity and ‘nationality.’  They became aware of the relationship between their own individual sense of identity and the impact of other agents of ‘human capital development’ in the formation of their collected national identity.  Is there a formal prescription of Malaysian and Japanese faces?  Are they distinctively different or are there similarities?


Upon deeper reflection, this project can also be read as a reflection on the surface of water.  When there are ripples in our consciousness, the reflection begins to change.  Perhaps, no face can exist own its own without gaining its meaning from others.

Exhibitions / Screenings / Publications          

  • “Upload-Download“ Fukuoka Asian Art Museum, Japan, 2003 (1st. installation and internet version)
  • Hasnul J Saidon. “Upload-Download-Project Report”, Artist-in-Residence Seminar, Fukuoka Asian Art Musuem, Japan, 2003
  • Online version uploaded from October until December 31 2003 (demised)
  • ®®(F) 2004 (Remembering-Repressing-Forgetting) at (2004)
  • Thailand New Media Festival, 2004 at
  • Thailand-Malaysia Online New International Collaboration (2004) at

  • Hasnul J Saidon & Roopesh Sitharan. “The Use of Internet for Online International Collaboration” Leonardo Electronic Journal, Vol.12 No.8 August,  2004 at

  • Hasnul J Saidon & Roopesh Sitharan.  “The Use of New Media Technology in Fine Art Practices” Petronas Gallery Day Art Seminar, 2004
  • Hasnul J Saidon & Roopesh Sitharan. “The Use of Internet for Online International Collaboration”, Sentap, Issue No. 2, 2005
  • Hasnul J Saidon. “Community-based Collaborative Projects as a part of Audience-Development Stratergies For Art Galleries”, Asian Art Museums Directors’ Forum, Beijing, China, 2006
  • “Islands to Islands”, University of Tasmania, University of Hawaii, & Universiti Sains Malaysia Penang, 2007 

Wednesday, 26 September 2012


Single-channel video (40:30)
  • Students Exhibition, RPI, Troy New York, 1993
  • "Malaysian Video Art Festival", National Art Gallery, Kuala Lumpur, 1994
  • "MTV@MALAY TV" at USM- ABN AMRO Arts & Cultural Center, Penang, 2006
  • MJVAX - Malaysia-Japan Video Art Exchange, during a screening program "SMTVa" - Screening Malaysia Through Video Art, National Visual Art gallery of Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur, 2010
  • "Absorbing Future Shock" in Contemporary Art Campus USM, during 1Malaysia Contemporary Art Tourism (1MCAT) 2010

“Post-colon” presents an anthology of short videos addressing cross-cultural encounters as my comfort zone and identity were challenged when I was doing my MFA in the USA. I turned to traditional Malay proverbs to express my negation with such position. 

"Wash & See" in "Post-Colon...: A Series of Video Shorts" (1993)
"The Brown Silhouette" in "Post-Colon...: A Series of Video Shorts" (1993)
"In Your Own Circle" in "Post-Colon...: A Series of Video Shorts" (1993)
"The Rescue of A Frog Under a Coconut Shell" in "Post-Colon...: A Series of Video Shorts" (1993)

To sound 'clever', here is an excerpt from 
Roopesh Sitharan (2007), "Relocations - The Electronic Art of Hasnul J Saidon & Niranjan Rajah".

"Hasnul Jamal Saidon has been rigorously exploring the video as a medium for artistic practice, integrating the medium with other technological and non-technological media  in diverse artistic productions. He notes of his early period, 

“My initial studio performances were “mediated” by the language of the video camera: the video camera became my witness, my audience. Video became a mediated representation of my journey across borders - within and without. The borders suggest multiple reading and meanings - such as artificial demarcations or boundaries within my thoughts and memories, within my own body, within my emotion, between various artistic disciplines, between nation-states, race and ethnicity, religion, culture, history and even gender.”

He continues, to explain that his encounter with post-colonial theory and Said’s Orientalism had an impact and set him on a deconstructive journey. His response was to produce a series of video shorts combining studio performances, computer graphics, computer music improvisation and analog audio/video editing improvisation."


Dialog FIksyen (A Fictional Dialogue)
Computer animation in video projection on a corner of a gallery wall
About 5’ loop
  • 1st. Electronic Art Show, National Art Gallery, Kuala Lumpur, 1997

"A Fictional Dialogue" (1997), single-channel video projection on a corner of a gallery. Originally screened during "1st. Electronic Art Show" (1997) at the National Visual Art Gallery of Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur. Also screened in a two man exhibition "Relocation - the electronic art of Hasnul J Saidon & Niranjan Rajah" a partner exhibition of ISEA 2007, Management University, Singapore. Are we living and breathing a 'fictional life' constructed by the massive influx of
images, from both the offline and online media?