8 Artists Spearheading Southeast Asian Representation in the Digital Realm
This article is published in collaboration with The MeshMinds Foundation.
With the rising trend of digital adoption across the region, how can we ensure adequate representation of all groups and communities in the burgeoning metaverse? The metaverse can be developed and be accessible to anyone willing to explore the digital realm. This means that artists and creative studios have the opportunity to create digital content that showcases traditional cultures, allowing future generations to inherit their cultural heritage digitally.
Keep your eyes peeled for these inspiring Southeast Asian artists who are not merely spearheading the region’s ventures in digital art and extended reality, but are also spotlighting ethnic cultures, underrepresented communities, and the socioeconomic divide in their art.
1) Shin Oh, Malaysia—3D Artist
As a way of expressing her longing for traditional Malaysian environments, Shin uses voxels—akin to pixels but in 3D format—to recreate and preserve small shops that have either been demolished or whose businesses are gradually disappearing. Shin draws inspiration from shops in Malaysia, particularly her hometown, Klang. For example, in her 126³ Tiny Voxel Shops series, she depicts the interior of a chicken rice stall inspired by Emporium Makan Klang, a food court that was demolished to give way to the expansion of a light rail transit project.
2) Keb Cerda, Philippines—Contemporary Artist
Filipino contemporary artist, Keb Cerda, embraces new media and augmented reality (AR) in his work, Super Nardo, an AR game. The artist created a mobile app that transforms his paintings into virtual playgrounds to express his viewpoint about the financial industry and the socioeconomic gaps in the Philippines. Apart from media platforms, Keb also draws inspiration from people that he observes in society.
3) Pavisa Meesrenon, Thailand—NFT Artist
Pavisa Meesrenon creates non-fungible token (NFT) artworks using her skills as a textile designer and illustrator. Her work reflect patterns and motifs used by the Akha tribe in Thailand. The Akha tribe is known for their craft in embroidery, which uses patterns that represent natural elements, such as flowers, mountains, and animals. Through her work, Pavisa translates the tribe's textile tradition into the digital medium.
4) Sorryvrerror, Thailand—NFT Artist
This Thai artist champions female representation in the NFT space. Her Faceless Portraits series depicts women with masks covering their faces to represent women who live “behind a mask of idiosyncracies" that shapes the female identity. Sorryvrerror also stylizes her portraits with traditional Thai Buddhist patterns.
5) Thao Nhi, Huyen Tran, and Minh Thao of Can Tho from FPT University, Viet Nam—AR Book
These design and marketing students from Viet Nam’s FPT University have created a captivating AR story book that records traditional Vietnamese clothing. Accompanied with folk music, the book showcases the beauty and diverse cultural characteristics, activities, and clothing of Viet Nam’s ethnic communities.
6) Goh Beng Kwan, Singapore—Cultural Medallion and Abstract Artist
Goh Beng Kwan’s AR experiences spotlight the transformation of both his artistic practice as well as the Singapore River since the 1970’s. Goh transformed his representational oil painting River Boat into an abstract work that uses a vivid color scheme to capture the wonder and awe of the river landscape. The AR experiences invite audiences to immerse themselves in the river’s transformation and its history, as well as Goh’s art style. He is among artists featured in the upcoming Art Reimagined in Singapore, Meta’s latest project. Set on 18–20 November 2022, the exhibit features folklore and superstitions that have collectively shaped Singapore’s rich cultural heritage and traditions.
7) Kumari Nahappan, Singapore—Sculptor
Kumari Nahappan's sculpture Tango is an ode to the humble chili pepper, or chili padi in Malay. The chili padi also features in Kumari’s AR experiences, which impart interesting facts about the popular ingredient. Apart from the varied heat levels of different chili species, the AR effects also illustrate the Singaporean ritual of putting chilies and onions outside to ward off rain. The artist is also part of Art Reimagined.
8) Norhaizad Adam, Singapore—Traditional Malay Dancer
In his dance piece, Longgok, Norhaizad responds to the superstition of a spiritual being called jinn that resides within piles of clothing lying unattended at home. He uses dance moves from traditional Malay dance zapin. He is also featured in the Art Reimagined exhibit.
Many other Southeast Asian artists are pioneering new ways of expressing themselves through digital media. These artists, though many are still relatively unknown, are already making their mark while also portraying the narratives of various Southeast Asian cultures and communities in the metaverse. The metaverse can be utilized as a platform beyond mere entertainment and leisure. As Stanley Pierre-Louis, CEO of Entertainment Software Association, says “the metaverse has an opportunity to be a reflection of what we want it to be, whether that’s geographic diversity, or diversity on a number of other fronts.”
Founder, MeshMinds Foundation
Kay Poh Gek Vasey is also the chief connecting officer at MeshMinds, the foundation's sister company which also operates as a creative technology studio. Kay spends her days bringing together the worlds of art and technology. She believes in the power of artists to inform conversations and inspire positive actions that result in measurable impact for a better world.