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What will Malaysian art look like if we fast-forwarded to the year 2057?

FORTY-ONE years from now, what can one look forward to in Malaysian art? Based on artworks on display at Minut Init‘s gallery space, expect durian dispensaries, a world overtaken by robots, and cats. 2057, a visual art exhibition curated by theatre and film practitioner Gavin Yap, also foretells liberation in pill form.

The term practitioner however doesn’t encapsulate the acclaim for Gavin’s work. His track record includes performing in early millennium plays directed by the likes of Joe Hasham on top of directing internationally-recognised films.

The Incredibly Strange Tale of the Man Who Lost His Love But Bought It Back with a Packet of Duck Rice (2015) for instance won Malaysia its first Blencong Award at the 10th Jogja-Netpac Asian Film Fest (JAFF), while his full-length directorial debut Take Me To Dinner (2014) inspired his first book and went on to screen at the Cambodia International Film Festival (CIFF).

Also present at the premiere was stand-up comedian Kuah Jenhan, who previously performed with artist Kenji Chai as characters in a fictitious country called North Bangsar during Urbanscapes 2014.

Featuring emerging Malaysian visual artists such as Michael Chuah, Katun and Kenji Chai, 2057 is a darkly comical look at the future, punctuated by more startling pieces. Pil Merdeka by Ajim Juxta — this man once did a series utilising his own blood for a solo exhibition — is a thought-provoking example of the latter, and is one of the very first things visitors see upon entering the gallery.

“I’m really fascinated by Malaysian pop culture but I’m not much of a visualist,” exclaims Gavin at the launch. “Thankfully, we have so many amazing artists.”

Gavin’s first proper foray into visual art curation began with Are We Lost: A Search for Malaysian Pop Culture, an exhibition held last year at Studio 267 which saw earlier work by many of 2057‘s artists. Drawing a healthy amount of first-timers on top of familiar faces from the fine art scene, that first exercise was an unprecedented success. There was a recurring theme in the feedback Gavin received — attendees were pleased with how “different” the exhibition seemed.

Rather excitingly, each of 2057‘s pieces were also created specifically for the showcase. Booked in early 2016, each artist was given time to contribute to Gavin’s concept.

“There’s something special about works that have been created specifically for a show,” Gavin noted. “Everyone is working towards the same aim to create a vision together.

There was a preview of 2057 last Friday for selected guests which included Gavin’s friends and colleagues from theatre and film, including Papi Zak, Jo Kukathas and Ghafir Akbar.

Other pieces striking out at first glimpse include Alan Quah‘s humorous sketch Got Durian, Ga? and Art:tec‘s haunting but optimistic H+. Particularly hard to forget is Katun’s straightforward, cynical trilogy (The Struggle is Real, The End is Near and The Last Hope) which boasts a strong narrative, ending in an open-ended tone that suggest that humans might just survive an age dominated by robots.

As a collector of visual art and vintage movie posters, Gavin hopes that his eye for fine art can help unearth more Malaysian artists worth celebrating. He should have no worry — sources confirm that Katun’s pieces, among others, have been sold at the beginning of 2057‘s run.

However, Gavin reckons there’s more work to be done.

“The whole idea of Malaysian popular art is still kind of lost,” Gavin concluded. “This is me trying to figure out who we are, because we have to have pop culture. It might be homegrown, or even a combination of various influences such as popular Japanese or Korean art, but putting things on a wall might get us thinking about it.”

Drop by Minut Init until Saturday to help Gavin make sense of Malaysian pop culture.

2057 runs at Minut Init until 27 August 2016. For more information, make sure to follow Minut Init on Facebook!

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