Context and Content: Mapping the MAP

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This is an article of mine assigned by The Singapore Pocket Arts Guide

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<ul><li><p>TPAG ISSUE 33 AUGUST 2012</p><p>3233</p><p>TPAG ISSUE 36 NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2012</p><p>Pho</p><p>to: R</p><p>icha</p><p>rd C</p><p>hua</p><p> his year saw a good turnout ofAustralian artists at MAP, coupledwith counterparts from SoutheastAsia. International media such asKorean Press succinctly teased outthe strong links between Malaysiaand Australia, alongside otherEuropean countries.1 The event wasalso strongly supported by theAustralian government in 2011.2</p><p>Over four days (20 23 September2012), Melaka saw different artistsworking with, interacting with, andresponding to the different worldheritage sites in the state. Each andevery one of them have establishedan individual and personal relation-ship with these sites, namely St Paul'sChurch, open areas, and a public areaat the gateway to St Paul's Hill. Sinceits inception in 2009, the festival hasseen noticeable developments, bothnationally and internationally. Moreart forms have been included, namelyvisual performance arts, and film. Theperformance section of the festivalhas been positioned as a dance andperformance art showcase, of whichthis article has chosen to focus on.</p><p>Showcasing works in these worldheritage sites is strategic, bothartistically and in terms of organ-isation. Melaka is rich with cultureand heritage. According to the blurbin the brochure of the event, collectiveancestral heritage serves as a contextfor framing contemporary cultureand artistic practices, both of whichaim to cross cultural and socio-economic divides. To the organisers,it is "a three day celebration whichremains free to all".</p><p>In another paragraph, detailing thecuratorial philosophy behind thefestival, the theme involving the actof "turning around" is predicated on"transform-ation through the creativedrive", where an attempt is made toconnect the heritage foundation forMelaka with contemporary arts, albeitunder the auspices of Melaka's"heritage-driven tourist industry".The theme is Traces of Transform-ation.3</p><p>Led by Melaka-bornAustralian Tony Yapthe 4th Melaka Art andPerformance Festival(MAP) aims to present thework of both local andinternational artistsagainst the backdrop ofworld heritage sites in theMalaysian state.</p><p>Pho</p><p>to: R</p><p>icha</p><p>rd C</p><p>hua</p><p>TART</p><p>LANDSMELAKA</p><p>Text: Richard Chua</p><p>CONTEXT&amp; CONTENT:</p><p>MAPPING THE MAP</p></li><li><p>Pho</p><p>to: A</p><p>ttili</p><p>o R</p><p>apis</p><p>arda</p><p>Pho</p><p>to: A</p><p>ttili</p><p>o R</p><p>apis</p><p>arda</p><p>ARTLANDS</p><p>MELAKA</p></li><li><p>3637</p><p>TPAG ISSUE 36 NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2012</p><p>1 MAPFest 2012 is produced by Arts &amp; Performance Festival Melaka Sdn Bhd and is supported by Tourism Malaysia, the Melaka State Government, together with the efforts of E-Plus Entertainment, Mercatus Plus Malaysia, Badan Warisan Malaysia, Kingdom of The Netherlands, the French and The Netherlands Embassies, the Australian Government, the Australian High Commission, Australia Malaysia Institute, Multicultural Arts Victoria, the Embassy of France, The Tony Yap Company, Nyoba Kan, Simone Lourey and William Randall.</p><p> "Over 50 artists from 15 countries showcased their talents." September 28, 2012. Accessed October 6, 2012. Korean Press. http://www.koreanpress.net/news/view.asp?idx=3108&amp;msection=4&amp;ssection=5.2 "Australia Supports The Melaka Art And Performance Festival." Accessed October 6, 2012. Australian High Commission, Malaysia. http://www.malaysia.embassy.gov.au/klpr/media_MAPFest.html.3 "Selamat Datang." Accessed October 6, 2012. Melaka Art and Performance Festival 2012. http://www.melakafestival.com/index.html.4 Rajendran, Charlene. and Wee, C. J. Wan-ling. "The Theatre of Krishen Jit: The Politics of Staging Difference in Multicultural Malaysia." TDR: The Drama Review 51, no. 2 (2007): 11-23. http://muse.jhu.edu/ (accessed October 6, 2012).</p><p>Internal landscapesWhether or not the blurb has beenwritten for an intended audiencecomprising of funders and supporters,the lofty aspiration is its aim to makethe festival open to all, whilerequesting a transformation. Thenature and type of "transformation"is open to interrogation. There aretwo possibilities: one that involvesartists engaging in performances thattransform the form, space, andbodies; the second, the transformationwithin the hearts and minds of thespectators visiting the festival andencountering the artists. Clearly thefestival intends the former, but to alarge extent, the festival also aims forthe latter to take place, in the heartsof the peoples in Melaka, whichinvolve the natives of Melaka andthose whose visit to the place is eitherbe incidental or purposeful.</p><p>It all sounds good -- a festival thataims to showcase contemporary artand to serve a social purpose inbinding people together. All of whichencompasses benefits to the promo-tion of contemporary art, to promot-ing tourism in Melaka, to bringingthe natives of Melaka together. Itbrings to mind the strategies of lateKrishen Jit in navigating multicultural</p><p>interaction in Malaysia.4 And insummary, education plays animportant role in bridging differencesand consolidating similarities.Differences can be made commonthrough establishing commonvocabularies between performancesand artists, while similarities can beconsolidated through the spirit of afestival gathering people together,through the commercial mechanismthat is operating in the festival.</p><p>Festival forumHowever, in reality, when all elementsare brought together into one withouta clear delineation of roles, the festivalrisks putting too many fingers intodifferent soups. The result is chaotic,leaving the people (including theartists) bewildered on what's to begained from the festival experience.In this respect, public education orsimply public awareness as the mainintention, together with all the varioussub-objectives, should be strength-ened.</p><p>Spectators may not be unsure of whythe sites were chosen in the first place,or with the curator's intention, andwhy the artists were allocated to thesesites. In, for example the perform-ances of Anne Laure and Tony Yap</p><p>in site 3, spectators might find itdifficult to understand the relationshipbetween both, or the lack of it, underthe backdrop of the greenery, of whichits presence has been thoroughlyemphasised through Anne Lauresperformance of a person on a boatmade of branches.</p><p>Again, it could also be said that"happenings" involving spectatorsshould be instantaneous andaccidental, for the organic nature ofthe festival could generate newpossibilities in interpretation and newknowledge. It might be a good ideato incorporate a strong academicforum in the festival, away from theusual sharing of ideas and experienceformat, and to critically look atdifferent artists practice in relationto the socio-political setting of thesite of Melaka in colonial and post-colonial contexts. And that wouldrequire another phase of analysis todeepen the content of the festival andframe the discussion and contexts ofthese artists with the world heritagesite of Melaka in different categories.</p><p>Pho</p><p>to: R</p><p>icha</p><p>rd C</p><p>hua</p><p>ARTLANDS</p><p>MELAKA</p></li></ul>

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