Art, Life, Malaysia

Urbanscapes 2017: Art Meets Local Expression

May 10, 2017

How the 15-year-strong Urbanscapes has managed to escape my knowledge for so long baffles me, but I’m glad to know that Malaysia’s art scene is alive and thriving.

I recently found out that this is the nation’s longest-running creative arts festival. Urbanscapes felt like that safe space for creativity I wish I’d known about when I was younger, when artistically-inclined students like myself were still finding a balance in an academically-inclined environment.

Live discussion at Urbanscape 2017.

Art For Grabs

My friend, Zia, knows that I have an unhealthy obsession with art, craft, notebooks and postcards. So we went over to ‘Art for Grabs’, an independent craft fair and the first of many event line-ups for Urbanscapes 2017 last Sunday.

Like most of the events, ‘Art for Grabs’ was held at the Urbanscapes House along Jalan Kasturi. From Central Market, walk down Kasturi Walk until you reach the main road. It’s in the corner building on the right. You can’t miss it.

The entrance opened out to a craft fair run by local independent artists. For years, I’d been lamenting the difficulty of finding quality (and quirky) stationery in Malaysia. Imagine my joy to find that they were so many there tempting the crowd with artistic designs, funky puns and beautifully-localised artwork.

Think 3D ice kacang pop up cards, Nyonya Kuih brooches, self-made terrariums, handwoven Penan bags, poetry books and art merchandise you might very well discover on Etsy. Everything uniquely Malaysian. I had to control myself from going “just take my money”.

If you have a passion or obsession for art, this would have been paradise. Let’s support local art!

Collective | Individuals, KL

Down in The Vault (basement level), there is a visual art exhibition entitled ‘Collective | Individuals, KL’,  featuring works by 7 visual arts collective and 36 individual artists.

Floating school pinafores – touching on the need to find individual identity in a a collectivist society, perhaps?

It’s a trippy trip down to the exhibition as you start to notice the postmodern pieces along the walls of the gallery. It’s fascinating to see how local artists have chosen to interpret the quirks, stigmas, frustrations and anxieties experienced by our society and the country we live in.

Of course, there were a number of art installations that caught my eye. ‘Snapped’ (above) illustrates neuroticism and nervous breakdown, where the voice in your head, as much as it is your strength, can be the greatest enemy of your psyche.

Another piece that stood out to me was that of a man on a prayer mat, worshipping the almighty Wifi. A global obsession for the internet illuminated through a religious tradition. After all, is being dependent on the internet not close to being in a religion now?


Light and sound stimulate the senses on the First Level with Immersio – a light, visual, digital and sonic exhibition. As you step into the dark room, the urban beats take you on an immersive journey, led by Paras Bunyi and Filamen, a showcase of local musicians and visual artists who create modern, experimental music and art. Felt very much like a festival!

There was also a cool virtual reality exhibition called Berkhayal di Kuala Lumpur, where people could try out this VR headset and “create” their dream KL. “Imagine if KL fell asleep and started to dream. What would she see? What would she be?” Sounds like an urban Alice-in-Wonderland narrative waiting to be told.

Take a look at the gallery for more snapshots on what took place that day. Other highlights included the comic con, open discussions on issues faced by Malaysians today, and live poetry readings that ventured into themes revolving our fringe communities, satire and unspoken truths.

If you’re searching for creative expression in the concrete world that is Kuala Lumpur, go check out Urbanscapes 2017. ‘Art for Grabs’ has ended but the visual arts exhibition will run till 21 May. Plus, there are many more music, fashion and art events spread across the three weeks.

Urbanscapes 2017

Date: 5 March to 21 March 2017
Venues: Urbanscapes House, The Bee Publika, KL Live and Chinatown
Find out what’s happening on their website or Facebook.

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  • Reply Edward lee October 10, 2017 at 4:35 am

    Dear Rachel,

    This is a very nice post, I am writing to you on behalf of Malaysia Airports. We would like to feature your article on our website Do get in touch should you be interested in exploring further.

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    • Reply Rachael Lum October 20, 2017 at 6:55 pm

      Hi Edward, may I know more about this, and which article you would be interested in featuring?

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