Sunday, February 22, 2009

Video Art - The New Media in Malaysian Art Scene

The development of Malaysian contemporary art has brought out a variety of styles and methods in the way of presentation an artwork. The style and media used by artist's ranges from traditional watercolor painting to digital technology. These changes are alrady pridected by Paul Valery in his writing 'The Conquest of Ubiquity' about 60 years ago: 'Our fine arts were developed; their types and uses were established, in times very different from the present, by man whose power of action upon things was insignificant in comparison with ours. In all arts there is a physical component which can no loner be considered or treated as it used to be, which cannot remain unaffected by our modern knowledge and power. We must expect great innovations to transform the entire technique of the arts, thereby affecting artistic invention itself and perhaps even bringing about an amazing change in our very nation of art."1 Over the years, the prediction has begun to show its merit with the establishment of New Media Technique, opening up a new direction in the Malaysian art scene. There are several new media technique currently being explored in producing an artwok, namely video art, video installation art and digital art.

The discussion centered on artists who use video and video installation as the medium in presenting their artwork. Video as the medium in art began in the United States of America in 1965 when a Korean-American, Num June Paik pioneered the use of commercial video camera as the medium to present his work. With a video camera, a Sony Porta Pack equipment, he led the movement in the use of video in art. Since then, artists began to make use of the technology in various ways. In Malaysia video art technique started rather late, that is towards the end of the 80s and the beginning of the 90s. Among the proponents of this medium are Hasnol Jamal Saidon, Wong Hoy Cheong, Baharum Aris, Lim Eng Hoi, Noor Azizan Paiman, Faizal Zulkifli and others to name but a few.

The development in the technology has created changes and at the same time gave birth to an interesting array of perspectives for the artists to present their work. To strive for beauty, an artist needs to understand human desire for things beautiful. Hashim Musa (1996) has this to say about the concept:
'Art, for human is the occasion for expression, talking, verbalization and speech, and for the representation of beauty, truth and perfection. However, the real height of beauty truth and perfection is Allah and all His creation." 2
To express the need in art, an artist should know how to communicate with the viewer, spectator or observer using his art as the medium. The need to communicate is a big task for the artist to present his/her creativity beyond the conventional media available to him/her. This has been emphasized by Hasnol Jamal Saedon (1989) on how the interaction between the artist and his/her audience can be achieved through video art technique.

"Painting or other creative means of expression must be able to communicate, it demands serious commitment from the artist involved, especially matters concerning the idea, we adapt an open approach to deal with our means of expression. As a result, our idea will not exist in a form of painting but could also be developed and expanded through other forms of art." 3
Zanita Anuar (2000) mentions that electronic media is not just another new technology but it also holds the role for reshaping our ways of thinking.

"Electronic media is one of the forms of media which is constantly generating charge through multi form mutations of information...multi-media is defiantly more than just a new technology it must be acknowledged further for its role in reshaping our ways of knowing, within our varied and particular societies." 4

It is a challenge for artists to produce art that involves direct communication using every conceivable element in transmitting an idea. Video art and video installation art can give the artists the opportunity to present their work using various techniques in the communication process.For Fauzan Omar (2000), his agreement with the usage of video technique is rather profund:

"Kebiasaan menggunakan teknologi industri dari lingkaran elektronik hingga ke sistem komputer dapat dilihat dalam penghasilan seni sezaman. Mereka telah menggunakan peralatan teknikal yang canggih (komputer, televisyen, perakam keset video, digital juga dengan filem) dan fotografi sebagai komersil proses dan kajian sebagaimana artis turut menggunakan peralatan terkini untuk mencapai persembahan yang lebih jelas." 5

We can deduce from Fauzan that artists who use video art technique try to present a clearer vision and information to the their audience. Unlike conventional media, video art has a wider audience because it is not confined only to those who appreciate art but also accessible to non-formula art audience. As a statement written by Richard Julin & Henri Irrje (2003), translated by Prof. Madya Dr. Mulyadi Mahmood.

"Seni video hari ini tidak semestinya ditujukan secara khusus kepada orang yang hanya berminat dalam bidang seni. Sebaliknya ia ditunjukkan kepada khalayak massa yang tidak dilatih untuk mentafsir kod tertentu untuk memahami seni sezaman." 6

3 Extracts From the Discussion in Video Art and Installation.From the issue in New Media - Video art and video installation in Malaysian art scene, these are some of the artists who feature the use of video techniques in their works. From this forum two prominent figure in promoting video artwork have been chosen to elaborate there are Hasnol Jamal Saidon and Wong Hoy Cheong

Hasnol Jamal Saidon 1: 'Kedek...kadek...Ong...' 1994, is one of original artwork with colibration of video presentation.

The work by Hasnol includes the application of video art, which Zanita Annuar (2000) agrees:
"Teknologi digunakan untuk merangsang persekitaran keduanya tampak semulajadi dan yang nyata tiruan pula, mereka mencadangkan kemungkinan masa depan siber dan menganggap kerjasama teknologi mengubah cara kita berinteraksi sesama manusia dan mencadangkan kemungkinan ada yang berlaku di dalam persekitaran yang kian berubah." 7
In her statement she mentions the usage of the technology in video art can be applied to the development of the surroundings either for art or nature as well as a copy image. The use of this technology is to combine it and make a change on how to interact with the change in the development as Hasnol has shown in his work.

In his '' 1994, using a video computer animated frog. Hasnol projects a frog under a coconut shell, living in one place and thus totally unaware of the surroundings beyond the shell. The frog is not open to new ideas and its mind is adverse to change. Hasnol's work, initiated by the Malay proverb, espouses that one should not alienate oneself against the outside world because this will hinder oneself from acquiring greater knowledge. Hasnol presents his work in a loop animation of a frog leaping repeatedly in a TV monitor to suggest the danger of a closed mind. The second half of the artwork depicts the frog crawling under one of the coconut half shell adorned with gaudy-looking batik design. Red tapes haphazardly lashed around the works and over the monitor, hitting at bureaucratic sloth and to negate any perception of prettification.The potential of the video art is not only for imitation of something that can be done in reality but also can be used as an element to promote cultures and past events as explained by Stuart Koop (2002).

"...videos embody this potential, as they set in train elements drown from various cultures, side-by-side, overlapping in fast a furious throbbing montage." 8

Cheong has stretched the concept in his work depicting war and its effects on the victims. In his work we can see how the element of story-telling been joint in and the side-by-side, overlapping infests and furious throbbing montage been appalled.

Video art has been developed to carry the international image. With this the audience can consume the beauty of the art through the eye and at the same time it can provoke the intellectual an emotional imparity it can be seen in the "Sook Ching" 1990 by Wong Hoy Cheong. Cheong uses video art to present his work. In this video art he presents the history of the World War II and its victims. The gruesome details of the victims were obtained through interview that related their personal accounts during the war. This attempt has successfully unearthed real-life war stories during the Japanese occupation, which has become of the national history.
In his presentation he has arranged the interview with the victims in order to present his work chronologically for the realistic effect on the audience.

Wong Hoy Cheong 2: Historical Method use by artist to produce his artwork with a real-life war stories.

Video art began as the search for a new material and process to present Western art. The artist who presented video art as the medium tried to encourage the audience to interact with the subject matter so as to make the experience more personal. These types of art that bring out the sentiment of documentation art that represents an individual voice or the public voice that has been segregated and separated from the majority. The development of video art and video installation in Malaysia is rather slow. Although it is now a popular topic among artists, probably due to the recognition of the media through Young Contemporary Art Major award. Despite that, the art is still not widely practiced by the artists. It could be due to the high cost or lack of encouragement from the authorities or institutions. For now the artists at University Sarawak, Mara University of Technology and Malaysia Institute of Art are doing most of the works in this media.

1. JD Jarvis (2003). Digital Art: The Quest for Presence.
2. Hashim Musa (1996). Seni dan Kosmologi. Balai Seni Lukis Negara. Kuala Lumpur. p18

3. Hasnol Jamal Saidon (1989). Bicara Makna Empat Persepsi. Balai Seni Lukis Negara. Kuala Lumpur. p 4

4. Zanita Anuar and Wayne Tunnicliffe (2000). Flow/Arus. The Art Gallery of New South Wales. Sydney. p19

5. Fuzan Omar (2000). {E.Art Asean Online}.infounder by UNIMAS. Kuching.

6. Richard Julin & Henri Irrje (2003), translated by Prof. Madya Dr. Mulyadi Mahmood. Beyond Paradise. Penulis, Pelukis dan Moderna Museet. Kuala Lumpur.
7. Zanita Anuar and Wayne Tunnicliffe (2000). Flow/Arus. The Art Gallery of New South Wales. Sydney. p15

8. Stuart Koop (2002). The Asialink Center. The University of Melbourne. Victoria. Australia.


  1. Salam...
    saya muskyil bagaimana artis dapat memastikan yang audien dapat memahami sesebuah karya ciptaannya kerana untuk merungkai makna sesebuah karya seni ada methodnya, adakah audien juga perlu memahami method ini agar mereka dpt mendekatkn diri dan bermesra dengan karya seni itu sendiri? Persoalannya masyarakat masih gagal memahami makna sesebuah karya, penglihatan mereka hanya tertumpu kepada aspek formalistik sahaja.

  2. Tidak semestinya penonton perlu tahu method untuk merungkai sesebuah karya seni, sememangnya karya seni itu agak sukar dirungkai oleh semua lapisan masyarakat berteraskan kepada kehendak pelukis. Oleh itu adalah penting untuk para pengkarya itu sendiri memberi maklumat dalam bentuk penulisan berkaitan karya mereka sama ada dalam bentuk 'Penyataan Artist' ataupun dari segi penamaan tajuk. Namun perlu diingat adakalanya para pengkarya ini lebih berminat untuk mengetahui bagaimana penerimaan para penhayat seni mereka dan bagai mana mereka memberi intipertasi peribadi mereka sendiri dan bagaimana mereka menerima sesebuah karya...