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Just Another Rant…

Posted by on Wednesday, 16 February, 2011 at 12:00 PM. Filed under: Essays

Get your troopers right! L-R: Clone Trooper – Episode II, Clone Trooper – Episode III, Imperial Stormtrooper – Episode IV. (source)

Being in and around the ‘art community’ in Malaysia surprised me a bit. I’m not talking about the new generation of artists, but the more ‘established’ ones. Initially, I was under the impression that artists should be aware of what’s going on around them, especially when it pertains to the public. You know, things like movies, videogames and comics? I mean, these are also forms of art, mainly in the visual art and performance art genres. They may have some commercial values tied in with them, but that doesn’t make them any less ‘artistic’.

I’m no expert on movies and movie making, but I think I know my share of directors and actors, and especially special effects people. I’m into sci-fi and fantasy, so obviously names like George Lucas, Steven Spielberg and James Cameron are familiar to me, and so are relative newcomers like Peter Jackson, Jon Favreau and Robert Rodriguez. Stan Winston Studio (now Legacy Studios), Weta Workshop and Amalgamated Dynamics Inc (ADI) are on top of my list of special effects studios. Not to forget ILM (Industrial Light & Magic, a division of Lucasfilm Ltd.). So, it comes as a surprise to me when I talk to ‘art students’ and most of them had never heard of these names before! Especially those into visual and new media arts (these are the students that I meet the most). Now, I’m sure that their lecturers and tutors have done all they can to explain and impart knowledge, but I guess it’s the students themselves who have to dig deeper. Don’t just look to the ‘superstar artists’ (whom I hardly know – what an irony! But not being an art student may allow me to dodge some bullets!

Trailer for Amnesia: The Dark Descent (released September 2010). Many players are calling it the most frightening video game ever created.

It may also be the curriculum, which requires most students (especially in public IPTs) to take on subjects and activities that have little to do with their major. This, I would say, is the effect of a lack of focus. Those in private IPTs, however, may lack motivation. I have had some experience in both systems, and although the private syllabus seems interesting, the time allocated for the students may sometimes cause them to lack research and development on the matter, and therefore demotivate them to further explore their art. Then again, it may be the students’ attitudes. They’re young and their inquisitive minds tend to travel all over the place. Some simply lose sight of their intended target and drift in youthful activities. And not to mention those who didn’t want to get into art in the first place!

Students may be able to get away with it – they are students, after all! But I find it perplexing when established artists and so-called art-savvy people do this. I don’t mean to be stepping on people’s toes, but come on… you can’t even tell the difference between a Clonetrooper and a Stormtrooper when you publicly claim you’re a Star Wars fan? Calling a Halo Spartan a robot? And on top of that, saying Noble 6 is a GIRL? I would be able to accept this if it came from some pakcik in the street, but please…

Behind the scenes look at Weta Workshop, the design studio responsible for all the props in Peter Jackson’s Lord of The Rings.

I guess this is why the public sees art as ‘inaccessible’ to them. To the public, art is something they do not and cannot understand – it’s only for the ‘elite’ artists. But for a layman like me, when these ‘elites’ can’t even relate to our ‘lowly’ lives, why should we even care about what they do? So, in my perspective, we need to educate the artists before we can educate the public. I don’t mean that we need to be experts in art all of a sudden, even the nasi lemak seller in the corner! It’s the awareness… I can’t say I know everything there is to know about art, but I know something at least… I think…

I’m not an art philosopher. When I go to see a movie, I try to enjoy it, and then if it’s worth it, I’ll go for a second time to look at the effects and costumes. If I am really into it, I’ll get a DVD and even buy art books on the film. I’m more into the physical effects, and the storyline. I may ask “why did the character do that?” or “how can this happen?” in the context of the film, but I do not question the writer’s or director’s motives and what part of philosophy drove him to come up with something. I try to understand the story in the context of the story itself, and perhaps go behind the scenes to know how it’s done, but not too deep into the director’s mind to know what philosophy he’s applying! That’s just not my glass of teh ais!


M.Hanif was born in Kedah. He holds a degree in Applied Sciences (Aquatic Biology), specializing in Hard Coral Taxonomy and a Diploma in Education (Science). He was a science teacher for 3 years before returning to his true passion: costuming. M.Hanif – or Red as he is often known – built his first armored costume out of poster board in 1991. Since then, he had designed and built dozens of other costumes, both for himself and others. His props and costumes have made their way across the globe to the US, Canada and Europe. He is the founder and director of MandoArts Studios, through which his props and costumes are made available to the public. MandoArts Studios also provides costumed character appearances for public and private functions. He is also a founding member and current Clan Leader of the Malaysian Chapter of the Mandalorian Mercs, a Lucasfilm Ltd approved Star Wars costuming club.

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  1. Tweets that mention Just Another Rant… @ Arteri -- Topsy.com says
    16/02/2011 1:34 PM

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by ARTERI, dill. dill said: Re-thinking what’s artistic: hw is it possible we’re prdcing art stdnts who hvnt heard of George Lucas, James Cameron? http://bit.ly/e5aCsc […]

  2. yo sabah boleh says
    16/02/2011 6:01 PM


  3. Tan Zi Hao says
    27/02/2011 2:37 AM

    I do agree to your take on the “inaccessibility” of art, but knowing George Lucas, Steven Spielberg or James Cameron is another issue.

    Different artists will have different sources of ideas, some artists recognise all the philosophers in the world but would never watch a Lucas; some spend their time on social web configuring a metaphysical landscape, they would be learning about the technico-practical codes of web interface and simulations. In general, an artist with an interest in sci-fi will equip himself with knowledge relevant to sci-fi, an artist with an interest in history will study history, a political politics, a sociological sociology, and so on.

    One shouldn’t have scrutinised the others while narrowing the potential multitude of artistic intention by stating one is insufficient of a specific knowledge. The realisation that one is superior, or, dextrous at a faculty of thought, also admitted his/her own insufficiency for not understanding where the other stands.

    In this case, I believe art is a lot more flexible.

  4. Leonard Ho says
    05/03/2011 1:11 PM

    This essay is garbage, really lame points created around this tired, false dichonomy (High vs. Low art) Red pulled out of his ass. Is this whole debate even relevant in an age where Star Wars and the most obscure films are listed side by side, ready to download on torrent sites, blogs, etc.?

    The wonky logic of inversion is so transparent and dumb; Red has to construct this strawmen argument reducing art students to ‘out of touch’ elitists who haven’t heard of ‘working men’s filmmakers, as opposed to humble, devoted and in-touch followers of the mainstream who non-prejudiced are attuned to the real world, with fairy dust sprinkled all over their cheeks. How wonderful!

    I have news for you. Just because you’ve heard of George Lucas or Cy Twombly or Jesus McCurryface doesn’t amount to anything. This whole talk about an ‘elite’ just stems from your need to label people who talk about artists you don’t care about, or who don’t care about artists you care about.

    Stop seeing things in black and white and creating cultural barriers between commerce and art when THERE AREN’T ANY. I know some people have to feel like they’re special by setting yourself in opposition to them, but jesus, open your eyes a little bit.

  5. Tshiung Han See says
    05/03/2011 6:31 PM

    You’ve rolled, like, ten rants into a single rant, Red Hanif. I suggest forgiving the students and professionals for their ignorance and focusing on one of the many trains of thought next time.

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