Discourse

TECHNIQUE: Re-assessing urban artisanal culture

Woodworkers or batik makers in the cities today are more likely to be led by developments in Europe and the U.S. rather than ideas from the traditional masters from Kelantan or Java. At the same time, the knowledge of these ageing traditional masters faces great existential crisis as new artisans rather adopt automation, parametric design or digital fabrication, than a life-long tutelage in a rural hamlet industry. While these complex cultural processes are happening, our “crafts” are being reduced into souvenirs for tourists hollowed out of all meaning and purpose in our everyday lives. This is the state of the arts and crafts in Malaysia.

The conversation draws figures from the vernacular tradition as well as modern practitioners, bringing us collision of ideas and worldviews. The purpose is to challenge our pre-conceived ideas about what is modern and traditional, indigenous and foreign, and finally the role of artisans in the world of global monoculture.

TEKNIK: Menilai semua budaya artisan kota

Para tukang kayu dan batik di kota-kota besar kemungkinan lebih dipengaruhi oleh perkembangan terbaru di Eropah dan Amerika Syarikat; daripada perkembangan idea oleh adiguru di Kelantan atau Jawa. Masa yang sama, ilmu daripada adiguru-adiguru ini berdepan dengan persoalan samada ia akan boleh terus wujud: kraf-kraf baru dibuat dengan automasi serta bengkel-bengkel kota bakal mengambil rekabentuk parametrik atau fabrikasi digital tanpa perlu didikan tradisional berdekad di bengkel kampung. Waktu ini juga, proses ekonomi telah menjadikan kraf hanya sebagai cenderamata pelancongan yang tiada maknanya dalam hidup seharian kita. Inilah keberadaan budaya pertukangan di Malaysia.

Diskusi ini membawa tokoh-tokoh dari tradisi vernakular serta moden yang mana kita akan lihat pertembungan idea dan pandangan dunia.Tujuannya ialah untuk mencabar keselesaan idea kita tentang apa itu moden dan tradisional, apa itu budaya asal dan asing, dan akhirnya peranan para tukang dalam dunia yang dikuasai boleh budaya global.

Adela Iskandar is an architect and industrial designer at Studio Bikin. She also teaches as a design tutor at several institutions including Universiti Malaya. The multidisciplinarity of her work have garnered critical acclaim and leading a new generation of architectural designers.

Eddin Khoo is a cultural critic and also director of PUSAKA. He had worked with traditional artists for two decades and written extensively about their tradition. His work at PUSAKA has brought about a rejuvenation of the traditional arts both in its places of origin and in the cities.

Norhaiza Noordin is a master craftsman from Kuala Besut. He was apprentice to several renowned masters from whom he inherited the ancient craft knowledge that dates back to Langkasuka more than a thousand years ago.

Ihsan Hassan (moderator) is a member of the design coop Alt+P Design, street librarian at Buku Jalanan and co-organiser of Festival Idearaya, a literary and arts festival inspired by radical ideas.