Text Ng Su Ann
The very first edition of Urbanscapes, 16 years ago–coincidentally, we’re the same age as Urbanscapes!–was held at the now-defunct Grappa Soho in Bukit Bintang to a couple of hundred attendees. Since then, it has popped up at where KL Sentral now stands, then moved to KLPac, to Padang Astaka, to Genting Highland’s Awana Horse Ranch… you get the idea. In 2016, the festival was reimagined with city-wide creative festivities, celebrated over three weekends throughout Kuala Lumpur. Urbanscapes returned to its roots – the city centre – and then stretched itself citywide.
That same year, Urbanscapes found a home at 2 Hang Kasturi–aptly named the Urbanscapes House–which today, serves as its festival hub and headquarters of sorts. For three years now, various venues all across town–the likes of Black Box, Chinatown, KL Live, Live Fact (previously) at Taman Desa, Medan Pasar, The Bee Publika, The Row–have played hosts to successful showcases of arts and music, featuring top-of-the-alternative acts Crystal Castles, Rudimental, Tame Impala and more; installations by local and regional artists; theatre; thematic markets billed by homegrown brands; and street parties. If we’re wrong to think of Urbanscapes as the signature Kuala Lumpur event, bringing together the city’s art collectives and movements such as Dancing In Place, Titikmerah Collective, and the residents of The Zhongshan Building, at multiple historic sites this year alone–then we don’t want to be right!
The festival’s love affair with the city, over the years, has shaped it somewhat, urging festival-goers to reimagine lesser-known parts of Kuala Lumpur by taking art off of the walls of exhibitions, galleries and museums, and taking it to the streets for public expression and appreciation. Barring superheadliners, Urbanscapes is made up of communities and creative initiatives that already exist – a manifestation of what’s already alive and mostly well. The festival is more than music; it’s also about championing local creatives, local pride, and local places.
Urbanscapes 2018 is now upon us – and it can be overwhelming, what with the sheer scale of events and sites, even for veterans. #REIMAGINEKL the Urbanscapes way, and don’t miss these five heritage sites which will double as Urbanscapes festival grounds this November:
2 Hang Kasturi
2HK – as it’s fondly known – is located right in the beating heart of downtown Kuala Lumpur, right by Medan Pasar. Built in 1937, this heritage art deco building – formerly OCBC Bank – is where community and culture converge. It is also the homeground to Urbanscapes, aka Urbanscapes House. Urbanscapes filled up the bank vault, located at the basement, with blue balloons on the night of its opening party, because why not. Throughout the entire festival period from 3 until 18 November, Urbanscapes House will house Immersio 2.0 curated by Filamen; the #REIMAGINEUS art exhibition on the first floor, curated by Sharmin Parameswaran and featuring Titikmerah Collective, The Sliz and more; with other arts and music programmes to be announced.
Next door (or next lane) at Lorong Hang Kasturi, Pesta Lorong Hang Kasturi in partnership with Think City will host a street party with creative programming for all.
Chin Woo Stadium
The historic sports stadium, located on Jalan Hang Jebat, is the first in the country to house an Olympic-sized swimming pool. Built in 1953, Shanghai art deco-influenced stadium still hosts regular dragon dance, lion dance, and wushu performances; last year’s Kuala Lumpur International Ska Festival was held at the stadium, too. For Urbanscapes, Chin Woo Stadium is the site for Unlimited Grooves Festival by U Mobile on 10 November featuring: North London alt-rockers Wolf Alice, Brooklyn’s rock unit Bodega; South Korean indie group Se So Neon; and Bangkok-based singer-songwriter Phum Viphurit. Rounding up the Unlimited Grooves Festival bill are local moody boys Midnight Fusic, and Malaysian singer-songwriter Bil Musa.
Medan Pasar, the town square located opposite Urbanscapes House, will be the site for key interactive public installations, commissioned for Urbanscapes. AVAI by Saishogen – the guys behind visual work for Kugiran Masdo, Pitahati, and more – is billed as an interactive audiovisual installation, taking place at night throughout the festival period. The artist Bono Stellar will exhibit her biggest-scale experiential installation yet, Arus, which will be constructed using multi-coloured, light-reflective material. Arus will be a series of structures, built to incorporate the iconic Clock Tower at Medan Pasar as a physical representation of time passing in Kuala Lumpur, while inviting the public to see and reimagine Kuala Lumpur in a new light. Meanwhile, also exhibiting at Medan Pasar, Live Wire curated by Fairuz Sulaiman is a series of site-specific media art installations in collaboration with the students of the Media Art (MA) Dept in Multimedia University, Cyberjaya.
Dancing In Place, the site-specific dance performance featuring emerging and established dancers the likes of Lee Ren Xin, Rathimalar Govindarajoo, and those from the ASWARA Faculty of Dance, will take to Medan Pasar and the River of Life for its Urbanscapes edition.
Also at Medan Pasar, Warung Panggung presented by MUKA Space and the Malaysian Puppetry Association (MPA), will bring the magic of puppetry to the masses for a mobile, multiplex experience, employing contemporary and traditional puppetry–such as wayang kulit–to tell the story of Ah Loy.
River Of Life
Nearby Medan Pasar, the River of Life – the muddy confluence where the Gombak and Klang rivers meet, giving Kuala Lumpur its literal name – will play host to a number of Urbanscapes programmes, such as Kuala Hijau in partnership with Biji-biji Initiative. A slope leading up to a viewing deck – granting a sweeping view of the sterile concrete jungle of the city – will be reimagined using sustainable materials as per the Biji-biji Initiative signature, where people and nature may coexist alongside busking, contemporary dance and theatre performances.
If you’ve ever wanted to digitally “paint” over iconic architectural landmarks in the city, Paint The Light by Cervello is an interactive piece combining projection mapping with immersive digital art.
RIUH at Urbanscapes will be held at River Of Life, too – so watch this space.
Dancing In Place and Warung Panggung will also feature at River Of Life.
The Zhongshan Building
The Zhongshan Building was once a row of rundown shophouses–but not anymore. Urbanscapes and OUR ArtProjects are collaborating to bring you The Zhongshan Building Weekender. Join art enthusiasts and tenants of the arts hub building, which comprises of an art gallery, a bookshop, a café, a record store, music collectives, and more, for a slew of art installations, performances and workshops.