11/16 Musings about Negaraku @ NAG

If an American tourist can influence Malaysian art… I imagine that the middle-class Malaysian who likes art, probably started out with exposure from their family, saw classics from the Western art canon while travelling, and observed aesthetic preferences embedded within local cultural objects. To think that art should not be judged by visual criteria entrenched in Western art history, is a difficult notion. Even after visiting a few Southeast Asian countries, the idea of a Nusantara aesthetic, remains obscured to me. “What is Malaysian art?” is not a question asked by most local collectors, and I am tongue-tied if asked about why I think is it important to support the local art ecosystem. Are biennales organised with visitor numbers in mind, the right thing for governments to do? Hey, if a Singaporean artist can bring Nusantara narratives to the Venice Biennale…

Suhaimi Tohid – Journey (2001)