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Pang Khee Teik

Pang Khee Teik

Arts Programme Director, Annexe Gallery, 2009
Diploma in Graphic Design

I think schools that teach creativity have an important role to play in challenging our artists to empower our collective imagination.

17 July 2009

Championing Art for the People

Written by By Catalina Rembuyan

Pang Khee Teik is the man to watch in the local independent arts scene. The Arts Programme Director of the Central Market Annexe Art Gallery and former editor of Kakiseni.com has changed the way people look at art in the country. Catalina Rembuyan speaks to the man who puts the ‘Seni’ into the name ‘Pasar Seni’ and how his years in Limkokwing University formed the man he is today.

“I spent all my life struggling against rigid truth claims and finding out what it means to be a Malaysian Chinese, intellectual, and gay,” said Pang Khee Teik, the Arts Programme Director at the Central Market Annexe Art Gallery and vocal advocate of many causes, including social justice, national culture policies, GLBT rights, and above all else, the power of art and the human imagination.

I spent all my life struggling against rigid truth claims and finding out what it means to be a Malaysian Chinese, intellectual, and gay

“Here at The Annexe Gallery, we don’t just run exhibitions – we organize talks and hold dialogues that facilitate the interaction of ideas.  Categories are both fluid and restrictive, and to push boundaries we need to celebrate hybridity,” he said.

One such example held at The Annexe Gallery was the Five Arts Centre’s Emergency Festival, a 2-week long multi-disciplinary affair that invited a re-analysis of the country’s Emergency period from 1948 to the 1960s. Incorporating films, theatre, classes, and walk-through exhibitions, it also featured a forum where former members of the Malaysian Communist Party, now living in exile in Southern Thailand, were invited to speak and share their stories.

“No matter how history has turned out or what your views are about them now, when these people were fighting, they sincerely believed that they were fighting for the independence of the country,” explained Pang on his controversial decision.

Above all else, The Annexe Gallery is physically and financially accessible: located near an LRT station, it is a far cry from the intimidating atmosphere of most art galleries. It has also played host to the Arts for Grabs festival, where artists and art enthusiasts trade art sold below the price of RM 100, living up to its promise of making art affordable for everyone.

“Because culture is both something that we define and defines us, we need to reclaim the act of defining our cultures, arts and heritage,” states Pang. “Look at wayang kulit – in the past, it was the cinema of their time conveying a relevant message, but now we treat it as an antique and boring art form.”

Culture, Pang states, comes in whatever form of creativity that can be found in our daily lives, ranging from the clothes you wear to the music you listen to, to a work of fine art displayed on a wall. Graduating from Limkokwing University of Creative Technology (then simply Limkokwing College) with his Diploma in Graphic Design in 1995, Pang has been going places, beginning as a graphic designer for a magazine (later its editor) before moving on to arts and theatre portal Kakiseni.com, where he began as a freelance contributor and was soon hired as editor.

Pang left Kakiseni towards the end of 2006 to work on The Annexe Gallery, and a few months later the gallery opened its doors to visitors for the first time. Along the way, Pang has earned several accolades to his name. In 2007 he was named Malaysia’s Top 20 under 40 by KLUE magazine, and for the following year he was sent to New York and Washington DC by The Kennedy Centre for a cultural programme for arts presenters, and later that year, to Japan as the Malaysian delegate for a conference entitled Urban Community Development Inspired by Culture: The Potential of Creative Cities run by The Japan Foundation.

“There may have been lecturers I rebelled against, but there were lecturers who truly challenged my way of thinking, for which I remain eternally grateful,” said Pang, when asked about his time at Limkokwing University. “I enjoyed every class under Carol and Laura Fan, who were the arts history lecturers then. Once the college invited Kamil Yunus, one of the top designers in the world, for a guest lecture. That was probably the most inspiring class in my life as a student.”

Through this, we can boldly imagine ourselves a better Malaysia, and work together for the many intertwining dreams of our Malaysian Dreams

Pang is grateful for one thing at his alma mater: it offered state-of-the-art equipment available for student use. “I would spend hours in the photo labs: the college offered only the best and the latest technology available for us.”

As we wrap up our conversation, I ask Pang if there is anything else that he would like to add to what he has already told us.

New researches reveal that individuals who have multiple perspectives are better at problem solving. I also believe that it makes us better at understanding other people, accepting diversity and creating a harmonious and dynamic community – things we really need in Malaysia now—so I think schools that teach creativity have an important role to play in challenging our artists to empower our collective imagination,” he said.

“Through this, we can boldly imagine ourselves a better Malaysia, and work together for the many intertwining dreams of our Malaysian Dreams.”

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