TALK: Lessons on Magic, Mayhem and Cultural Translations

Visual Art Department
Visual Art Department, Cultural Centre, Kuala Lumpur, WP Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
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TALK: Lessons on Magic, Mayhem and Cultural Translations will be organized at Visual Art Department, Cultural Centre, University of Malaya on 8th September 2016 (Thursday).

* For more information, please visit this website

Lessons on Magic, Mayhem and Cultural Translations: Repositioning Myths of Desire, Gender, Mysticism, Doubt and Uneasiness in Southeast Asia

a public talk by Zarina Muhammad

Date: 8 September 2016 (Thursday)
Time: 2.30pm - 4.30pm
Venue: THE CUBE**, Cultural Centre, Dewan Tunku Canselor, University of Malaya. 

** THE CUBE is the glass-covered lecture room right beside the main hall of the Dewan Tunku Canselor. 

As pointed out by Jacques Derrida, “The fear of death gives all witchcraft, all occult medicine, a hold.” So what exactly are we referring to when we say ‘witchcraft’? Is witchcraft synonymous with magic? What is magic? What counts as magic? Whose magic? When? Where? In what contexts? 

Across Southeast Asia, varying hues of animistic, shamanistic and folk/magico-religious beliefs and poly-cosmologies continue to contribute to the vastly heterogeneous forms of spiritual practices. In this talk, Zarina Muhammad will address the immense anachronistic baggage and contested histories that come with attempts to define these words, concepts, practices and belief systems. How can we claim to know what is perceived to be invisible? How does this negotiate with the arguably relative nature and limits of ‘truth’ and reason? She will be sharing her interdisciplinary research and practice on this subject matter, with a focus on repositioning magic as a tool of resistance and as a way of reclaiming what has been vilified and maligned, particularly the colonised, demonised/demonic, gendered and non-binary body. 

She will also address the questions of relevance and the appropriateness of appropriation of these belief systems in the context of visual representations within contemporary Southeast Asian art. By examining the shifting borders underpinning and surrounding the ecosystems of visual arts practice, how can we consider the ways the cultural worker/producer comes into a convergence with certain concerns pertaining to the social, material, political, sacred, spiritual and transcendental realities of this region?

Zarina Muhammad is an independent researcher, curator, arts practitioner and educator based in Singapore. She lectures on art history and cultural/contextual studies at LASALLE College of the Arts. She is also one of the editors of Body Boundaries, an anthology of women’s writing published by The Literary Centre, Singapore. Currently, Zarina is working on a multidisciplinary research project on cultural translations pertaining to ritual magic, Southeast Asian mythologies, animism and folk religion, sacred sites and the cross/intercultural interpretations of witchcraft. She has presented her work in Indonesia, Cambodia, Japan, Hong Kong and Australia. At present, one of her key projects is to devise and develop a series of collaborative performances that aim to deconstruct and respond to the contested histories, texts and definitions pertaining to the intersections between witchcraft, magic, myth, ethno-medicine, monstrosity, the demonised/ the demonic, gender-based archetypes and the broader contexts of myth-making. She is particularly interested in the intergenerational and interregional translations, appropriations, adaptations and sometimes contradictory, anachronistic and multi-headed quality of these narratives.

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