Map Arts Festival @ Map KL

Mont Kiara, home of the bourgeois. Living in their lavish lofts and condos, driving sport cars cavalierly down the streets to chic cafes, breathing, living, sipping, laughing, excreting; it’s hard to imagine these people getting down to some of the music and art performances that happened recently at Map KL’s launch.

As the latest arts venue to hit KL, Map is huge. Not comparable to KLPAC but certainly no shoplot or bungalow house-turned gallery either. With 4 floors and a lobby area, Map looks typical of what is expected from developer Sunrise Berhad – another posh playground for the elite.

However, from the launch we could see that artists have taken over and intercepted management. Forget about the concept of an art space. (Wtf is an art space to start with? Aren’t all public spaces up for grabs by struggling artists?) Map is at the end of the day just that – empty space. It’s the people who are taking care of this place who make the difference. Many are artists themselves and attached to such forces of change like Arteri Malaysia and labDNA so they understand that it’s not about space but community.

And what a colourful community of freaks and ne’er-do-wells we have! From the moment JUICE entered Map, we were enticed by the Art Drum Project which was the first batch of a series of urban art works to be placed around Map’s location. 20 wooden cable drums were retrieved from the construction site of Map and turned into works of art.

Over the weekend, performances by underground acts and fringe art exhibitions took place on the top floor. In the White Box, readings, recitals, plays, Butoh dancing, saxophone wailing and stand-up comedy (by Jit Murad and ex-ISA detainee Hishamuddin Rais) went on amongst the display of works from local artists, including graffiti artist Shieko who produced a canvas comic panel of Sang Kancil undergoing a sex-change op.

The volume was turned to 11 in the Black Box. Not so much a theater as it is a multi-purpose stage, gigs and plays curated by Peter Hassan, Pekan Frinjan, Ensemble 11, Rumah Anak Theater, Joe Kidd, Jerome Kugan and many others, showcased the likes of Monoloque (Butterfingers guitarist Loque’s new project), The Panda Head Curry, Azmyl Yunor and Tenderfist. We especially liked Rice Above #7 by Joe Kidd, which apart from featuring hard hitting Chinese prog rockers Nao and 10-piece lo fi indie-sters Khottal, also had reggae bossimo Aggrobeats and rappers The Rebel Scum, who were backed by an Indon trio known as Alice and the Hippies.

As Map is still new, many had trouble finding it. But once you’ve found it, you’ll be relieved that you don’t have to go through hell to find a parking spot.

So while Map might be in the high side of town, remember this: it’s not the space but what you do with it that counts.

Map Arts Festival happened at Map KL on 27 and 28 March 2010. Art attacks at our gallery.