Picking on the right hemisphere
Writer: Sharyn Shufiyan
Published: Fri, 29 Jul 2011
I’m the worst early riser, ever. But on that particular Saturday, I was actually looking forward to it. The plan was for us to gather in front of SK Sentul Utama. Walking up to the school, I could see the field marshals wearing cute tentacles on their heads, checking in other enthusiasts and assigning them into groups.
People chattered all around me, excited for the big move, and the busy marshals were running back and forth, calling out to each other trying to prepare for the procession. The sun was beginning to burn and sweat trickled down my spine. I had my cap on and was dressed for the occasion. I was ready to do some heavy lifting.
A bright yellow-and-blue kampung house stood patiently as people swarmed around it. The first group positioned themselves around the wooden house, and it wobbled ominously as they hoisted it. Cheers boomed into the bright blue sky.
Accompanied by a band squad, the Mr Potato mascot and his little people led the angkat-rumah procession to the Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre, where the house would find its spot for Urbanscapes, the creative arts festival that city folks look forward to fill their Saturday once a year.
That was Urbanscapes 2010. Four hundred people (or so it was reported, we were too occupied lifting the bloody house to be counting!) carried the wooden structure for a kilometre or so. Passers-by ogled and awed at the sight. Some even came to join the parade.
But it’s a shame when something wacky and deviant is not encouraged because of corporate influences. And I think a large part of why our creativity is diluted and “safe” is because of the lack of independence from external forces.
It’s a pity that Urbanscapes turned out to be just another outdoor event. Klang Valley’s urban culture is still so young and growing that we can learn from other established creative arts festivals. We often shy away from experimental methods that we get too comfortable with cookie-cutter interpretations of what creativity is. We could’ve learned from, say, Overture: South Bank Centre, a work by UK’s The Light Surgeons, or turn to light shows or projector exhibitions other than the typical concert at night.
Or bring back Starlight cinema showcasing the works of local filmmakers.
Even the stage setup was boring. I’d love to have seen someone de-construct the typical performance stage and build a platform in the middle of a pool a la Katy Perry’s press conferences (I’m sure some people would have appreciated a dip under the scorching sun), or create a flower bed where people could bring their own colourful umbrellas and prop them up to create a tapestry of colours. It would have been a nice setting for crooning musicians, I think, bringing the performer closer to the audience; that they sing to you, not for you.
The great thing about being a young culture is that we’ve got examples to learn from to create something better. It’s all about deconstructing the norm and creating the new. We can and should be wacky and let our imaginations run wild because we have so many talented people that we’re not maximising the talent pool to think outside the box and create something phenomenal.
Carrying a wooden house through downtown Kuala Lumpur was of epic proportions. It felt inclusive and the spirit of togetherness was just amazing. I wasn’t just one of the goers appreciating art and performances; I had contributed to a performance. Last year meant so much more.
To be fair, Urbanscapes fares substantially against other outdoor events that we have, and I would keep going and supporting initiatives that feature local talents. But I hope that in time, we will continue to grow artistically and creatively, pushing the boundaries and the conventional each time.