How Malaysian arts portals are keeping creative communities connected


The Five Arts Centre’s new website contains the collective’s past, present and future, all pointing to a sustainable virtual presence. Photo: Handout

The past 18 months has seen the Malaysian performing arts and theatre scene shaken to the core. With arts and culture venues shut at the moment, there has been little to talk about in terms of new productions and theatre performances.

Apart from Zoom sessions and talks, it looks like a handful of arts-focused websites have also started to reorganise their virtual content, adding new pandemic-era survival info and helpline directories to aid recovery efforts in the arts community.

There might be some overlapping content or causes, but it’s good to find the virtual arts “hubs” here alive and well, with many of them tuned in to the challenges of the day, and working with their communities to improve things in these difficult times.

Here’s our pick of arts sites you should check out:

Five Arts Centre

After a massive housekeeping exercise and user upgrade, theatre collective Five Arts Centre can now boast a new website that is a one-stop centre, detailing its past, present and future.

For the big rewind, the archival material features Five Arts Centre projects from 1984 to present day. More than 200 projects are available for research or casual nostalgic reading.

You will find creative/production credits, links to interviews, reviews and other resources, photos, and in the future – full streaming videos of selected past performances for a minimal fee.

“There were several motivations behind this new website. In the last few years, we’ve supported the development of two online resources (MY Arts Memory Project and Arts Education Archive Malaysia) that we hope will benefit the larger ecosystem by archiving and ‘historicising’ local performing arts practice – for students, researchers, educators, and practitioners,” says Mark Teh of Five Arts Centre.

“Secondly, we realised there are quite a number of performing arts programmes in local universities now, but by and large online resources for students and educators are quite lacking, because theatre, dance and performance are rather ephemeral forms and documentation is often not top of the agenda for practitioners because of lack of resources and support. This is a big gap that we and other colleagues have to reckon with.

“Lastly, in recent years there has been renewed interest in Five Arts Centre’s work and model as a collective from researchers around the region, partly facilitated by co-productions, networking, and tours of our performances such as Baling, Version 2020, Gostan Forward and A Notional History,” he adds.

The “Process” blog is also a window into Five Arts Centre’s operations. You can read interviews with Krishen Jit Fund recipients, follow Five Arts Centre’s moving out progress as it leaves its TTDI home, the search for a new arts space and more.

More info here.

Eksentrika

Independent arts website Eksentrika has come into its own during the past 18 months as it increased its virtual content and arts community engagement.

Eksentrika, which started out in 2016, has kept a consistent flow of arts-based interviews, essays, listings and industry articles, which are all particularly vital during these difficult times to keep the arts community informed and connected. It also has an artist registry network, with nearly 600 creatives across Asia. One recent addition is the community board, which serves as a platform for creatives in different fields to come together, share ideas, and collaborate.

The site also includes the #BenderaPutih directory, which lists down arts communities and individuals who are negatively impacted by the pandemic.

More info here.

Independent arts outfit Eksentrika is geared up to serve the grassroots, discuss arts industry issues and more. Photo: EsentrikaIndependent arts outfit Eksentrika is geared up to serve the grassroots, discuss arts industry issues and more. Photo: Esentrika

BasKL

Bandar Aktiviti Seni Kuala Lumpur (BasKL) is a virtual space created by the Cultural Economy Development Agency (Cendana) to help nurture KL’s arts and culture ecosystem.

KL might be in lockdown, but this bilingual site never sleeps. It is a great place to get the latest news about the capital’s music, visual art and performing arts scene.

It also has a growing library of arts long reads, playlists, podcasts and mapping content.

At a click, you will find stories surrounding classic theatre productions, interviews with arts personalities and useful info about Cendana’s projects, grant programmes and more.

You’d be hard-pressed to find another government-funded arts website that maintains such a connection with contemporary arts culture.

More info here.

Cendana-funded BasKL is a great place to get timely updates on the KL arts and culture scene. Photo: HandoutCendana-funded BasKL is a great place to get timely updates on the KL arts and culture scene. Photo: Handout

Penang Art District

In these pandemic times, this Penang state government initiative has an important role to play in promoting arts recovery projects. The aim is to restore vitality to the arts and culture scene in George Town and Seberang Perai, while also adding on international creative exchanges and homegrown collaborations.

Through an accessible site, Penang Art District team scores points in keeping its audience – arts enthusiasts and tourists – constantly updated about its on-site and virtual programmes.

A new and relevant addition to the website is the senang.art initiative. Considering how artistic exchange has shifted online the past 18 months due to the pandemic, this online platform was created solely to promote Penang’s arts community digitally.

This one-stop centre serves as a space for Penang artists, creators, and creative businesses to connect with each other and with their audience. They also get to showcase their work and portfolio, join creative communities and get discovered.

More info here.

Penang Art District’s new initiative senang.art is a one-stop centre for Penang artists, creators, and creative businesses. Photo: HandoutPenang Art District’s new initiative senang.art is a one-stop centre for Penang artists, creators, and creative businesses. Photo: Handout

Bindu

This brand new initiative by the Temple of Fine Arts aims to help revive the Indian classical arts scene and keep the community engaged in these difficult times.

From art and music classes to online yoga sessions, Bindu is a virtual platform where you’ll find paid short-term courses and workshops run by trained local and global instructors.

Keep busy and learn something new in this digital classroom.

Some of the upcoming workshops to look forward to include a thematic Bharatanatyam workshop by highly acclaimed dancer Shankar Kandasamy, a kolam for beginners class and even a self-defence and empowerment workshops for women.

More info here.

Bindu is a new virtual platform from the Temple of Fine Arts. Photo: HandoutBindu is a new virtual platform from the Temple of Fine Arts. Photo: Handout

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