co-organised by ILHAM Gallery, Singapore Art Museum
in collaboration with 
Visual Art Program, Cultural Centre, University of Malaya

New dates to be confirmed at a later date.
ILHAM Gallery, Kuala Lumpur

Admission Free, Seating on a first come first served basis.

Main Rupa dan Tubuhnya: Bodily Forms of Play – Contemporary Visualities in Malaysia is an invitation to think about the exploration of visual forms, and the body politics that they give shape to. Reflecting on art and visual culture’s playful relationships with politics, cosmology, technology, community life, social justice, and the history of ideas, the two-day symposium ask - how have art and visual culture shape and reconfigure some of our collective and competing myths and values in this country? What are the body politics that make up the kaleidescope of contemporary visualities of our time? 

Though the Malay word ‘main’ in its contemporary usage refers primarily to the act of playing for the purpose of amusement or entertainment, the word is also historically associated in Malay performing and ritual arts with the power and ability of the artist/magician to assume new roles and forms in order to recover otherworldly knowledge and new insights about the human condition. ‘Main’ in this context heals not only an individual afflicted patient but performs a cosmic theatre that brings balance back to the larger community the patient belongs to. The word ‘rupa’, in turn, localises a Sankrit  terminology for the appearance of things or matter in this world. In the context of this symposium, ‘main rupa’ or ‘forms of play’ is characterised by the contemporary sightlines and strategies of engaging with visuality that serve as social channels of fostering deep understanding. 

Over the course of several panels, speakers will address issues and present projects relating to bodies of knowledge in Malaysian art history and visual studies: contending configurations of nativist visions and migrant inflections in contemporary art; individual lineages of micro-histories in the broader cultural corpus; intersecting strands between communal vicissitudes and the terrain of contemporary art-making. Through presentations from, and dialogue between, a broad range of speakers, the symposium aims to generate critical, meaningful and playful discourse on the grammar of what we qualify as ‘contemporary’ as well as its genealogies. 

The symposium is co-convened together with Dr. Simon Soon of the Visual Art Program, Cultural Centre, University of Malaya. It is held in conjunction with the exhibition ‘The Body and Body Politics".

DAY 1 (22 February): 
Introduction and Opening Keynote (10.30AM – 12.30PM)
10.30- 10.45: Welcome address from Rahel Joseph (ILHAM) and Eugene Tan (SAM)
10.45- 11.00: Introduction by Simon Soon 
11.00 – 12.00: Buka Panggung by Dr. Sulaiman Esa
12.00 – 12.30: Q & A with Dr. Khatijah Sanusi and Dr. Sulaiman Esa moderated by Lee Weng Choy

Lunch (12.30PM – 2.00PM)

Worlding Bumi (2.00PM – 3:30PM)  
(30 minutes each followed by 30 minutes Q & A)
- Jawi Presses and Cosmopolitanism (Nasri Shah) 
- Nanyang Culture Before the War (Lee Chor Lin) 

Break (3:30 – 4:00PM)
Universes within Nation (4.00PM – 5:30PM)
(30 minutes each followed by 30 minutes Q & A)
- Queer Art History in Malaysia (Louis Ho) 
- Mat Som’s KL (Fiona Lee) 
- Revisiting Malaya (Faris Joraimi) 

DAY 2 (23 February): 
Sovereignties and Storytelling (10.30AM – 12PM)
(30 minutes each followed by 30 minutes Q &A)
- Tikar/Meja: A Bajau-Malaysia Art History (Yee I-Lann)
- Indigenous Ideas and Contemporary Art (Shaq Koyok)

Followed by 
- Discovering Other Histories from Looted Objects (Valerie Mashman + the Kenyah Community in KL)
 (1 hour followed by 30 minutes Q & A)

Lunch (1.30PM- 2.30PM)

Roundtable: Ambitions of Social Art History (2.30PM – 4.30PM)
Panelists include Zabas (Social art historian), Beverly Yong (Project Editor for Narratives in Malaysian Art series), Yap Sau Bin (Independent Curator)
Moderated by Shabbir Hussain Mustafa (Senior Curator at National Gallery Singapore)