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Encountering 1 Malaysia Through Cross - Cultural Experiences 1 September - 15 October 2009 Muzium & Galeri Tuanku Fauziah, Universiti Sains Malaysia

Pengarah Projek & Penyunting / Project Director & Editor Hasnul Jamal Saidon Kurator / Curator Para Pelajar Kursus Rekabentuk Antarabudaya / Students of Cross-cultural Design Course Penyumbang Esei / Essay Contributors Hasnul Jamal Saidon Mok Jee Jin

Muzium & Galeri Tuanku Fauziah, Universiti Sains Malaysia, Pulau Pinang Telefon/Telephone: 04 6533888 samb/ext-3261/4789/2137/4786/4787/4788 Faks/Fax: 04 6563531 Emel/Email: dir_muzium@notes.usm.my Laman web/Website: http://www.mgtf.usm.my http://mgtfusmpenang.blogspot.com http://profile.to/mgtfusm www.tagged.com/mgtf www.twitter.com/mgtf www.youtube.com/mgtf

Konsep Rekabentuk / Design Concept Muhamad Firdaus Yaakob & Chin Mei Lin Pembantu Kuratorial & Penyelaras Suntingan / Curatorial Assistant & Editing Coordinator Safinawati Samsudin Pembantu Teknikal / Technical Assistants Afzanizam Mohd Ali, Mohd Firdaus Khairuddin, Aizuan Azmi, Nur Hafizah Ab. Aziz, Nor Mohammad Abd. Rahim, Shamsul Ikhmal Mansori, Noordin Ban, Rosli Hamzah, Muhammad Husni Abd. Latiff, Mohamad Yazdi Yaacop, Izrul Abd. Aziz, Noor Rashid Shabidi Pembantu Penerbitan / Publication Assistant Nor Laila Abd. Rozak@Razak Pembantu Kewangan / Financial Assistant Rohaya Sanapi Promosi & Publisiti / Promotion & Publicity Nurul Ashikin Shuib, Azizi Yahya, Adlan Redzuan, Salim Ibrahim Sokongan Umum / General Support Radhiyah Abu Bakar, Salmiah Mohamad, Faridah Hashim, Ravi Vansamy Pameran Atas Talian / Online Exhibition http://mgtf.usm.my/exhibit/php

Hasnul J Saidon, 1965Encountering 1Malaysia through cross-cultural experiences / Hasnul Jamal Saidon. ISBN 978-983-43926-9-7 1. Cross-cultural orientation-Malaysia-Exhibitions. 2. Art-Malaysia-Exhibitions. 3. Malaysia--Social policy--Exhibitions. I. Universiti Sains Malaysia. Muzium & Galeri Tuanku Fauziah. II. Judul. 305.3209595 Š2010 Hasnul J Saidon, Muzium & Galeri Tuanku Fauziah. Semua hak cipta adalah terpelihara. Sebarang bahagian di dalam buku ini tidak boleh diterbitkan semula kecuali untuk tujuan kajian dan kritikan dalam bentuk atau dengan sebarang cara tanpa izin penulis atau penerbit.


Contents The Tree of Life: Revisiting Our Shared Legacies Synopsis of Exhibition Synopsis of The Course Objectives of The Course Mapping The Cultural Self Living The Brands Interfaces 2009 Embodying Family Heritage Family Tree

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Principles That Can Be Found In The South East 30 Asian’s Traditional Design


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THE TREE OF LIFE: REVISITING OUR SHARED LEGACIES

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n one of many traditional forms of pictorial recitations, we may find the use of an image of a tree as a symbol. In a wayang (shadow puppet) tradition in Malaysia and Indonesia for example, an image of a tree called pohon hayat (tree of life) or gunungan (mountain) is used to open a shadow puppet performance. In Malaysia, the image is read as a pictorial text that signifies a traditional cosmological reading of life and its cross-dimensional universes in which myriads of beings dwell across physical, mental, emotional and spiritual domains. The central core of the pohon hayat represents vertical ascension in which humans reach higher level consciousness or domain. The radiant branching represents descend in which humans dwell in their daily lower level consciousness or domain. Ascension moves towards unity, while descend moves towards multiplicity or diversity. A journey of crossing multiple domains connotes two seemingly paradoxical directions – multiplicity and unity. Multiplicity illuminates the outward, while unity illuminates the inward. The propeller of such illumination is compassion and unconditional love.

In this cosmological reading, the essence of a sustainable living is a convergence and balance between opposites, metaphorically expressed by the notion of ascending and descending. It represents inter-connectedness between the individual self and societal others, internal and external, spiritual and wordly affairs. Artistic productions within such traditional cosmological reading have always been taken as a part of developing a sustainable cultural ‘ecosystem’. This ecosystem induces inter-connectedness and a balanced symbiosis of opposites across multi-level domains - physical, mental/emotional and spiritual. Through compassion and love, the ecosystem displays a complimentary and harmonious cross-existence between the arts and sciences, left brain and right brain, ying and yang, male and female and many more opposites. Asian artistic legacies can be traced in its rich cross-cultural heritage. Pictorial recitations or performed paintings in countries such as Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, China, Japan, Iran and India reflect


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the products of the ecosystem. Can such sustainable cultural ecosystem be retained and conserved in today’s regional matrix of Asian contemporary culture, considering the rapid changes that have taken placed as the citizens of the continent race and engage with the challenges of the 21st century? It is in this spirit of nurturing inter-connectedness and conserving a sustainable cultural ecosystem that the course “Cross-cultural Design� was developed by the Design Department of The School of the Arts, Universiti Sains Malaysia. The course was introduced in 2003 and has been delivered to seven batches of first year design students.

Hasnul J Saidon


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SYNOPSIS OF EXHIBITION

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he exhibition features five research projects that were actualized by the first year students of the Design Department, The School of the Arts, Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM). The exhibited projects are a part of the students’ courseworks for ‘Cross-cultural Design’, a generic subject introduced by The School of the Arts for its Design students.

The students were also encouraged to look into several forms of ‘sub-cultures’ deemed ‘deviant’ within the construct of National Culture and how such ‘sub-cultural’ elements have sometimes been coopted into the mainstream popular and commercial cultures through strategic branding and efficient marketing of global capitalism.

The projects were designed to engage the students with both personal and collective notions of cross-cultural experiences beyond the conventional ethnographic approach. Through the projects, students will hopefully able to become active investigators, readers and contributors of cultural experience, value and identity, rather than passive receivers and subscribers.

By comparing such cross-cultural experiences with the official construct and narrative of National Culture and the concept of 1Malaysia, audiences will able to ponder upon the ‘real’ possibilities and potentials as well as challenges and threats in pursuing a unified Malaysia especially amongst young people.

By employing a more inclusive approach towards the notion of cultural self, personal, family and communal value and identity, students were able to examine their position and role in the construction of their own cultural experience and identity. Ubiquitous forms of popular and commercial ‘glocalised’ cultures were also explored.

“Cross-cultural Design” was developed and has been conducted collaboratively by Hasnul J Saidon with the contributions of his students and assistance of Safinawati Samsudin, assistant curator at the Muzium & Galeri Tuanku Fauziah, (MGTF), USM. The exhibition was fully designed, co-curated and actualised by the students.


SYNOPSIS OF THE COURSE

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his theory course exposes students to several basic contexts that underlie contemporary cross-cultural design. The course also provides opportunity for students to survey the relationship between cultural formation and design creation that cuts across cultural, racial and national differences. The course contents cover several related discourses on the impact of globalisation and free market capitalism towards cross-cultural encounters from many angles, especially from the perspective of pre-modern historiography, modernisation and post-modern condition. The core content is the exposure to overlapping paradigms in the process of cultural formation and design creation - modern/mass media and post-modern/multimedia. This course emphasises on discussion, discourse, seminar, brainstorming, group work and collaborative research.


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OBJECTIVES OF THE COURSE

At the end of this course, students will be able to:

Form their own interpretation of the relationship between design and cultural formation within a cross-cultural setting.

Form their own interpretation of several important contexts that underline cross-cultural encounters, especially those related to the impact of globalisation and free market economy.

Form their own interpretation of the design paradigm and principles based on South East Asian’s multicultural heritage.

Form their own interpretation of the synthesis, continuity and sustainability of the above-stated paradigm in encountering contemporary design works.


MAPPING THE CULTURAL SELF Synopsis For this project, students were divided into groups. Each group was asked to appoint one member of the group to pose as a subject for a case study. The body of the subject was then traced on a piece of paper. Upon completion, the group was then required to map several critical factors that determine the outward identity of the subject such as ethnic, economic, geographical and educational backgrounds, political inclination, technological surrounding and spiritual belief. The mapping was done through icons, symbols, patterns or other forms of visual index. Upon completion of the initial mapping, each group was instructed to engage in a discussion as well as peer survey on critical factors that determine one’s personal identity. Students were reminded to identify how one’s cultural and personal identity relate to outward manifestation, visual index, design and the larger collective socio-cultural identity. After receiving a lecture on ‘National Cultural Policy’, each group was then instructed to remap their subject to conform to the notion of official national culture. This was later followed by a group discussion. The students were reminded of the notion of a nation-state as manifested through various forms of ‘official’ cultural productions.

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LIVING THE BRANDS Synopsis The project focuses on brand presence in daily experience (and its impact on cultural and personal identity). For this project, students were instructed to identify the implications of brand presence in his or her daily life. Each student was asked to select brands that he or she uses throughout 18 hours of his/her life. The result was then charted and presented through a digital collage for further discussion and comparison. Through this project, students were given the opportunity to self-evaluate the presence or even intrusion of brands in their daily experience and how such presence influences or determines their personal taste, choice, lifestyle and identity. Students were also reminded of how their individual subscription of these brands might have turned them into a hybrid cross-cultural commodity. Pros and cons were debated, especially in regards to global capitalism and local cultural identity.


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INTERFACES 2009 Synopsis This project entails the students to ponder upon the impact of new media and online technology in their daily life, as well as personal and collective identities. Each student was asked to exchange his or her portrait digital photo with other members of his or her group. Through a series of exchange, the students were asked to digitally create composite faces that combine elements of facial features from all group members. The results were presented through multimedia presentation for further discussions. The project 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.


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EMBODYING FAMILY HERITAGE Synopsis For this project, each student was required to ‘inherit’, wear and ‘embody’ dress/shirt/pants of their father/mother/ grandfather/grandmother. Each student was also required to collect pertinent verbal data about his/her chosen artifact other than to present it in a catwalk. Students were also encouraged to embody the ‘personality’ of the original owner of the artifact. In doing so, students were encouraged to engage with the notions of culture, art/design and heritage in a more personal and inclusive manner. They were also asked to critically examine their cultural selves as well as family inheritance that can be passed from one generation to the next. Indirectly, this project may also be a bridge for ‘generational cultural gap’ as well as a means to instill the spirit of ‘unconditional love’ that is intrinsic in the relationship between parents and their children. The notion of cultural identity is thus simultaneously particularised (personalised) as well as universalised.


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FAMILY TREE Synopsis This project compliments previous project, Embodying Family Heritage. Students were asked to chart their own family tree based on verbal data that they have been acquired from their parents. Through this project, official state history is substituted or shifted to family history thus shifting the discourse of history & heritage from being a construct of a state to being a construct of its citizens.


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PRINCIPLES THAT CAN BE FOUND IN THE SOUTH EAST ASIAN’S TRADITIONAL DESIGN

- Mok Jee Jin (1st Year Design Student, School of the Arts, USM)

There are several key principles that can be found in the South East Asian’s traditional design. The first principles are modularity and adaptability. Modularity refers to the use of small units or motifs which can be combined to become big motifs or units. These small units can form infinite numbers of multi-dimensional interlocking patterns. Modularity increases adaptability. This means that a design with such principle can be very adaptive to physical changes without changing its core identity. Modularity also relate to the principle of multiplicity or fractal as a basis of visualisation. Such principle can be observed in Arabesque, Malay carving and Mandala art. It balances obsession towards permanency and induces change. The next principles are flexibility and audience-centered. These principles prevent a design from becoming fixed, static or permanent. Instead, they allow the audience to create their own experience physically, intellectually and mentally. In other words, a design that employs such principles, when viewed from a different angle, will yield a different experience. Nowadays, these principles refer to the ability of a design to adapt to changing elements such as space, time, material, geological location and socio-cultural demands.

Next principles are cyclical and non-linear which refer to a design that posseses multiple view points. Multiple view points allow an audience to decide which point to focus. Cyclical also means that a design is non-linear. This is because such a design allows the audience to choose their own flow and sequence in viewing. Interactivity and dynamism are formed from the principles described above. A dynamic design engages the audience as it relies on the idea of interpendency and network. It celebrates change. Instead of relying solely on permanency, dynamism induces choice and change. Multidisciplinary is the next principle. Traditional South East Asian performing arts are multidisciplinary. They are viewed as a whole instead of being perceived as fragments. Balance is the most important principle. It is the key principle and reflects the idea of reaching unity through multiplicity, negotiating between opposing forces in binary pairs. These principles can be applied in both the sciences and arts. Balance is applicable in many binary forms such the Ying-Yang, Male and Female, Day and


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Night and many more. Other than that, the idea of reaching unity through multiplicity can be observed in the ‘pohon hayat’ where ascension means reaching for unity whilst descension means multiplicity. The tree is most apt when it is used to describe this concept. As the tree grows taller, its roots grow stronger. While ascending from the roots towards a higher point of the tree, it is trying to reach unity from multiplicity. In other words, to achieve oneness. This process can also be described as searching for one’s true self. On the contrary, a tree that branches out towards the sky can connote how we engage with the arts and sciences through multiplicity.


Encountering 1Malaysia Through Cross Cultural Design  

Student Project

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