MGTF AS A RESEARCH-FRIENDLY SERVICING DEPARTMENT
Research, publication and exhibition activities are critical in complimenting MGTF’s diverse collections. Other than collecting artifacts, objects and artworks to form its tangible heritage, MGTF has also taken a proactive stance in developing its intangible heritage by placing more emphasis on research and publication activities. It is imperative that MGTF develops its own studies, narratives, discourses and values in complimenting its collections. For this purpose, MGTF has established its own research, publication and consultation wing, headed by a curator. This wing has been responsible in developing an online and offline database for MGTF’s collections, other than facilitating research and publication activities. It has also developed a resource room and research space as well as upgraded MGTF’s storage system and facilities in order to further improve MGTF’s research services and enhance its profile.
Central to research activities in MGTF is its collections which can be divided into:
USM Video and Media Art Collection is its latest and pioneering initiative, established in 2008. Until 2010, USM is the only museum and gallery in the Southeast Asian region that purchases, collects and develops it own collection of video and media art for research and teaching purposes.
IMPRESSIVE COLLECTIONS THAT ATTRACT INTERNATIONAL & LOCAL EXPERTS
For the past five years, MGTF has been increasingly visited by local and international students and researchers to research on various aspects of modern and contemporary art of Malaysia, heritage and museum practice. Amongst them include Julie Ewington from Queensland Art Gallery of Australia, Joyce Fan and Seng Yu Jin from the Singapore Art Museum, Ahmad Mashadi from National University of Singapore, Nicole Tse from the Centre for Cultural Materials Conservation at the University of Melbourne Australia, Prof. Ushiroshaji Masahiro from Kyushu University Japan and Prof. John Clark from Australia, all of whom are amongst the key players in scholarly research and in driving the discourse of modern and contemporary art in the Asia and Pacific region. The fact that MGTF has managed to attract these individuals is a testimony of the quality of its impressive collections.
Other than international experts, MGTF has also received and assisted local scholars and researchers in executing their research projects. Amongst them include Lau Pei Mey, Dr. Azrina Husin and Dr. Premalatha Kapuriah from USM, Assoc. Prof. Dr. Puteri Shireen Jahn Kassim, Dr. Murni Mahmud and Juliana Aida Abu Bakar from Kuliyyah of Architecture & Environmental Design, International Islamic University, Mumtaz Mokhtar from Universiti Teknologi MARA, Affendi Hj Ramli and Wan Jamarul Imran from Universiti Malaysia Sarawak, Zuraidah Hasan from Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia and Marni Suhaela from Universiti Malaysia Sabah. Undergraduate students from various Schools in USM as well as numerous other institutions of higher learning have also utilized various resources in MGTF for their assignments and research, especially their final year projects. Amongst the topics include colonial architecture, heritage conservation, modern and contemporary art in Malaysia, traditional performing art and music, museum management, waste management, website design, museum VR design, museum database development and collection management, audience research, corporate design, exhibition design and technology, and curatorial methodology. MGTF has also been a favorite research site for schoolchildren for their Art, Geography and Malaysian History subjects.
MGTF COLLABORATIVE RESEARCH AND PUBLICATION ACTIVITIES
In addition to providing research services and assistance, MGTF has worked with experts and various institutions in executing its own research, publication and exhibition projects. They include the National Art Gallery of Malaysia, Petronas Gallery, Penang State Gallery, Asian Art Museum University of Malaya (UM), International Islamic University, 12 Artspace, Yayasan Restu, Galeri Warisan MAR, Yayasan Kesenian Perak, Teratak Nuromar, Valentine Willie Fine Art, Pelita Hati House of Art and Chandan Gallery. It has also worked with the NUS Museum Singapore, Goethe Institute, British Council, Alliance Francaise, Japan Foundation and foreign consulates or embassies from countries such as Spain, Holland, United Kingdom, Japan, Cuba, Croatia and Poland to bring international exhibitions to USM.
One example of MGTF’s collaborative effort is a detail study of private and institutional collections of Datuk Syed Ahmad Jamal’s artworks, commissioned by the National Art Gallery of Malaysia in 2009. The study was as a part of a major publication and retrospective solo exhibition project to honor the National Laureate’s contribution to the local and international art scenes. Prior to this study in 2008, the National Art Gallery has commissioned MGTF to review the local contemporary art practice after 1990 for another comprehensive publication on the history of modern and contemporary art in Malaysia. In 2007, MGTF has worked with Valentine Willie Fine Art to propose a comparative review of the works of Malaysian contemporary visual artists with the pioneers of modern art through the collections of USM and UM.
Collaborative engagements by MGTF have been further augmented by its memberships in ICOM (International Committee of Museums) and Malaysian Museums Association. MGTF has recently collaborated with the NUS Museum of the National University of Singapore and Vargas Museum of the University of the Philippines to establish UM-NET (University Museums Network) and will be organizing the second part of UM-NET International Conference on Challenges Confronting University Museums’ Collections and Contemporary Curatorial Practices in November 2010. MGTF has also established Cross-Ocean Link : USM-UNIMAS-UMS, a loose network between USM, Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (UNIMAS) and Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS) to augment collaborative research, publication and exhibition activities between the three public universities. The project has so far launched two exhibitions and publications at UNIMAS and USM in 2010.
These collaborative projects have allowed MGTF to actively engage in research, publication and exhibition whilst securing funding from both government and private sources. Most of the successfully completed projects were focused on the visual arts, curatorial issues and collection management, thus placing MGTF at the forefront of curatorial research and contemporary art discourses in Malaysia and this region. By adopting proactive networking and intensifying its research activities, MGTF is increasingly placing itself at the international front of audience-centered curatorial practices and museum programs. Through re-definition, continuous transformation and rejuvenation, MGTF is on its way of becoming a new 21st. century model for a sustainable and an audience-friendly museum and gallery.
MGTF’S RESEARCH PROFILE
In compliment to the collaborative projects, MGTF’s has been engaging in its own preliminary research on exhibition design and technology, video and media art in Malaysia and audience research. MGTF will be working with various schools in USM, especially the School of the Arts in developing its own trans-disciplinary niches. Several preliminary steps have been initiated to further facilitate its own research niches, including reviews of many studies on the human brain and mind as well as consciousness. In reviewing, MGTF also returns to its own diverse collections of traditional arts. MGTF has been engaging in a process re-discovering USM’s very own trans-disciplinary and multi-cultural heritage by reframing its diverse collections through its own converging lenses, rather than the typical reductionist lenses of the ‘machine-age’ and ‘industry-factory’ paradigm. In reframing the collections through Malaysia’s own socio-cultural, philosophical and cosmological perspectives, MGTF hopes to rejuvenate USM rich heritage and reinforce her garden metaphor.
In addition to reframing, MGTF has also been engaged in audience research and surveys of various exhibition technologies, including new projection systems such as holography, 3D video mapping, motion tracking and many more. These studies have been made possible through final year research projects by media art students from the School of the Arts. MGTF is also working on the up and coming MJVAX II (Malaysia-Japan Video Art Exchange Project) to be held at the National Art Gallery of Malaysia this coming July 2010. Several visual artists, known for their explorative tendency and use of video and media technology, have been invited to screen their work through MGTF’s newly purchased Sustainable Cosmodome (SusCos) system. The invitation will eventually extend to creative individuals from other fields, including from the sciences. MGTF is also planning to bring SusCos and Malaysian creative individuals to international platforms in the near future through publication and exhibition activities.
THE FUTURE STANCE
Through the above-mentioned initiatives, MGTF aspires to converge its trans-disciplinary profile into an active research, publication and consultation unit. Central to its activities will be curatorial research and exhibition technology (create). ‘Create’ will hopefully compliment USM’s APEX aspiration, especially in ensuring a sustainable cultural heritage for today and tomorrow.