Turning outdated KL buildings into artwork areas: does it actually work?

The concept of repurposing outdated or deserted buildings and turning them into artistic areas and giving them a brand new lease of life isn’t an unusual apply in main cities.

London’s well-known artwork museum, the Tate Trendy, was as soon as the Bankside Energy Station and New York’s Capital Repertory Theatre was a downtown Grand Money Market grocery store.

The historical past behind these buildings, their dimension and authentic structure and their location, give them a novel edge for builders to remodel them into artwork and efficiency areas.

In recent times, Kuala Lumpur has had its justifiable share of thrilling new arts house tasks rising from the ashes of an outdated downtown cinema, a former meat-packing manufacturing facility and staff quarters, a grand outdated resort proper right down to a near-forgotten warehouse and a colonial-era bungalow.

Opening up new areas – small and enormous – is significant in creating contemporary alternatives for arts creatives and efficiency makers.

 A digital artwork from the iNyala exhibition at REXKL last year. Photo: Helios LooA digital paintings from the iNyala exhibition at REXKL final 12 months. Photograph: Helios Lavatory

RexKL, which was previously the Rex Cinema, on Jalan Sultan in KL, started operations final June. A number of attention-grabbing tasks have taken place on the Chinatown venue, together with indie arts markets and occasions such because the Kancil Competition 2019, Kuala Lumpur Structure Competition 2019, KL Butoh Competition and Made-In-Malaysia 2019, a Malaysia Day competition.

The unique constructing was accomplished in 1947 however a hearth razed it in 1972. 4 years later, it was rebuilt right into a single-screen cinema that might home over 1,000 individuals. Rex Cinema ceased operations in 2002 and the constructing steadily pale into obscurity, even getting used as a karaoke den.

In 2017, the RexKL mission rolled in to rescue this house, which has now been repurposed for arts occasions, theatre reveals, exhibitions, performances, screenings, library services, workshops, and F&B and neighborhood markets.

Architect Shin Chang, co-founder of RexKL who runs Mentahmatter Design, shares that just about 60% of occasions which have occurred within the house because it opened has been arts-related.

“The artistic and neighborhood points of our positioning are the explanations we draw many artwork occasions right here, ” says Shin Chang.

“There are pockets of areas throughout the constructing to swimsuit differing kinds and sizes of occasions and exhibitions. As for the principle corridor, the ground is a slope (maintained from the cinema days), which makes it excellent for performances as there’s no want for tiered seating, ” he provides.

“Moreover, the corridor is a naked, uncooked house. This at all times excites content material suppliers as they’re able to rework the house to swimsuit their work – and the probabilities are countless.”

Final November, the iNyala gentle artwork exhibition, organised by artistic company Helios Media, reworked the cinema corridor right into a digital park with 12 progressive works, whereas veteran artist Victor Chin led a heritage stroll down Jalan Sultan throughout his exhibition and movie mission within the house referred to as Moved Out, and a Philharmonic Winds of Malaysia’s live performance launched the venue to a classical music viewers.

RexKL is poised to additional tighten its programming, making the Chinatown space a reputable vacation spot for the humanities.

This month, the venue will probably be internet hosting the Musashi – Music From The East live performance tour organised by the Japan Basis KL, and the Continued Building: A Suite In Eight Elements present in April, which is a collaborative work by Orang Orang Drum Theatre and Polish jazz saxophonist Angelika Niescier.

Additionally learn: REXKL, an outdated iconic cinema reborn into a novel arts and tradition hub

 KongsiKL is located at the 40-year-old Gudang Yee Seng 2 in Old Klang Road, KL. Photo: KongsiKLKongsiKL is situated on the 40-year-old Gudang Yee Seng 2 in Previous Klang Street, KL. Photograph: KongsiKL

Dancing in a warehouse

One other repurposed constructing that has been in operation since mid-2017 is Gudang Yee Seng 2 alongside Previous Klang Street, higher often called KongsiKL. KongsiKL was based by KakiKongsi, a collective of architects, designers, artists and lecturers.

The almost 40-year-old cavernous warehouse, entrusted by property developer Exsim Group, has emerged as a critical arts house.

“KongsiKL is constructed on the concept of ‘kongsi’ – sharing and gathering. It’s an experiment to see how individuals with totally different assets resembling underused house within the metropolis and creativity can come collectively to make one thing greater, ” says KonsiKL’s artspace supervisor Low Pey Sien.

Though KongsiKL opened its doorways to the general public in July 2017 with the Dances In Ruins present, the venue has not had many constant performances and humanities occasions till final 12 months with the beginning of the Seni Tiga programme created by Kongsi Petak, an entity from the KongsiKL neighborhood that works on selling multidisciplinary performances and various artwork disciplines.

As soon as a month, a unique staff of artists from three disciplines – motion, visible and sound – create a structured, site-specific efficiency in KongsiKL. Thus far, there have been 10 Seni Tiga reveals, says choreographer and producer Loke Soh Kim.

“We created Seni Tiga as a platform to encourage and to make arts accessible to all. The way it grew from three artists to 53 artists and 56 volunteers is completely past our expectations. All through final 12 months, I used to be thrilled to see new and rising artists who’re eager to experiment in addition to skilled and veteran artists who’re prepared to collaborate with new artists, ” says Loke.

“Nonetheless, this will solely occur when the house has low overheads and when there’s belief from the proprietor. We’ve had individuals from all walks of life who believed within the thought of ‘kongsi’ contributing as volunteers, sponsors, donors and artists, ” she provides.

Additionally learn: KongsiKL transforms warehouse into an experimental arts hub

The experimental-minded Seni Tiga monthly series at KongsiKL. Photo: Low Pey SienThe experimental-minded Seni Tiga month-to-month sequence at KongsiKL. Photograph: Low Pey Sien

Whereas Seni Tiga continues this 12 months at KongsiKL, RexKL will take part as a co-presenter. Two reveals will probably be held on the two places as soon as each three months.

What makes KongsiKL distinctive as a efficiency house, in keeping with Loke, is that it’s “crammed with tangible and intangible traces of the previous”.

She says that the just about non-existent demarcation of the place the stage is provides audiences and performers the “freedom to maneuver throughout performances which have minimal restrictions” and this barefoot expertise additionally brings performers and audiences nearer to one another.

“I at all times really feel that I’ve an out of doors expertise watching an indoor present in KongsiKL due to all these elements, ” provides Loke.

In a way, the efficiency doesn’t inform the house however moderately, the house informs the efficiency, one thing different theatremakers agree with.

“The house is our expectation. We don’t overtly rework the house to observe our concepts. As an alternative, by selecting the house, it’s a part of the concept, and we have to respect the house. After we do our theatre performances, the house is without doubt one of the characters. This defies standard theatremaking the place you construct your thought and world onto an empty house – a black field, an auditorium or a theatre corridor is sort of a clean canvas, ” says Ridhwan Saidi, co-founder of theatre group Moka Mocha Ink (Moka).

“However in site-specific theatre, you simply mix in with the constructing and its uncontrolled setting, ” he provides.

Moka’s third version of Teater Modular (a sequence of playlets by Ridhwan helmed by younger administrators) was held at KongsiKL final April, with greater than 300 younger theatregoers in attendance.

A scene from 'Teater Modular: Redux' by Ridhwan Saidi, which took place at Serambi Karya Bellamy last November.  Photo: Serambi Karya BellamyA scene from ‘Teater Modular: Redux’ by Ridhwan Saidi, which passed off at Serambi Karya Bellamy final November. Photograph: Serambi Karya Bellamy

Theatre in a bungalow

Apparently, Moka’s Teater Modular Redux was staged at one other reclaimed artwork house in KL. The colonial-era bungalow Serambi Karya Bellamy, situated at Rumah Meranti 2, Jalan Bellamy, was previously Puteri Umno’s neighborhood house. You could possibly say theatre was the heartbeat wanted to revive this massive home, with appreciable garden space, after it fell into disuse following GE14 in 2018.

Fazleena Hishamuddin remembers that she was searching for a venue for a theatre present involving much less lucky youngsters. The property’s caretakers gave her permission to make use of the house.

“The present was a hit, it was a full home. And after that, they stated, ‘Why not proceed to make use of this house? Make it right into a hub for arts and tradition, ” says Fazleena, the supervisor of Serambi Karya Bellamy.

Serambi Karya Bellamy was formally launched in August 2018, and since then, this arts house has performed host to various indie occasions, together with workshops, theatre reveals, talks, markets and people live shows. It could actually host about 300 individuals at a time.

A efficiency by Indonesian people singer Jason Ranti, a live performance by native folk-pop group Mafidz and a tribute exhibition to the poet T. Alias Taib have given Serambi Karya Bellamy a broader public profile.

Serambi Karya Bellamy, an unused government bungalow in KL, has emerged as a venue for theatre, literary events and folk music gigs. Photo: Serambi Karya BellamySerambi Karya Bellamy, an unused authorities bungalow in KL, has emerged as a venue for theatre, literary occasions and people music gigs. Photograph: Serambi Karya Bellamy

Arguably, making a sustainable arts programme is the problem, and theatre, poetry and e book occasions have been largely related to this house, says Fazleena.

Final weekend, modern theatre director Fasyali Fadzly launched his anthology of scripts within the house, whereas this month sees the launch of Suri Panggung Vol.1, a theatre initiative by Serambi Karya Bellamy’s staff to advertise girls administrators and writers.

Fazleena additionally hopes to start out a e book membership specializing in Malaysian writers.

“I feel it’s crucial to create your personal distinct occasions. For those who do occasions which are the identical as everybody else, then what’s the level? What various things do you provide your viewers?” she says.

Arts and analysis hub

Taking a barely totally different strategy from the opposite artistic artwork areas is the Zhongshan constructing in Kampung Attap, KL. Whereas different areas have been reclaimed by a single get together, this pre-Merdeka three-storey constructing is house to a variety of artistic arts and research-based teams. The constructing used to deal with the Selangor Zhongshan Affiliation, and was the premises of Lee’s Frozen Meals since 1962, earlier than the corporate moved out in 2015.

It was then inherited by the mother-in-law of arts marketing consultant and gallerist Liza Ho.

In 2016, Ho co-founded (with Snow Ng) the Our Arts Tasks gallery (now defunct) on the Zhongshan.

“Whereas we have been restoring this constructing (in 2017), we informed quite a lot of our mates about it, and there was quite a lot of curiosity. Some individuals, just like the Malaysian Design Archive, have been searching for a brand new house on the time. Folks invited their mates, a few of them believed within the house even earlier than they knew what it regarded like, ” says Ho, who now serves because the constructing’s supervisor.

“After that, we have been ready to take a look at issues extra holistically. What’s it? A multi-disciplinary artistic house. We needed to create an ecosystem throughout the place. It was essential to have a spot the place we are able to meet, and have dialogues, and join with different individuals.”

The Singing Balcony series at the Zhongshan building has made opera works more accessible for the masses. Photo: VersesThe Singing Balcony sequence on the Zhongshan constructing has made opera works extra accessible for the lots. Photograph: Verses

She admits the Zhongshan isn’t a big event-driven house, however moderately a hub for area of interest communities to converge.

Among the many present tenants are exhibition house The Again Room, silkscreen workshop Bogus Merchandise, voice studio VerSeS, bookstore Tintabudi, design studio Miraclewatts, the Rumah Attap Library and Collective, the Malaysian Design Archive and typography studio Ejin Sha. Ho now runs The Again Room.

Every artistic group within the Zhongshan constructing often carries out their very own occasions; these embody talks, workshops, open mic occasions, screenings, artwork exhibitions and extra. Sometimes, nonetheless, all of them come collectively.

This 12 months, Ho has plans to run Open Studios, a mission she beforehand ran in 2017 through which guests have been provided a “behind the scenes” have a look at the tenants of the Zhongshan Constructing.Hidden areas, huge potential Sentul Depot won’t vital be an area for the humanities neighborhood simply but. However it has big potential. Positioned at Sentul West, KL, this depot was as soon as a part of the biggest complicated of railway workshops in Malaysia and has a historical past courting again to 1905.

There are challenges when organising pop-up theatre or performing arts occasions in non-conventional areas.

“Acoustically, Sentul Depot isn’t an excellent place for performances. The cavernous house distorts music and spoken phrase performances. I imagine few would pay to hear or watch a efficiency (in such an area), ” says Lim Kien Lee, KL Shakespeare Gamers’ (KLSP) co-founder.

“As an open house, the climate impacts our efficiency. At one level, the wind blew our prop newspaper off the stage. And on the primary day, the makeshift partitions we arrange toppled.

“We needed to weigh them right down to keep away from accidents to the actors in the course of the efficiency, ” he says, referring to a pop-up present referred to as Picket Lives held throughout a bazaar occasion sequence at Sentul Depot final 12 months.

The KLSP present featured life-sized puppets, which added to logistical points.

The family-fun arts market Pasar Seloka series at Rumah Tangsi last December. Photo: Rumah TangsiThe family-fun arts market Pasar Seloka sequence at Rumah Tangsi final December. Photograph: Rumah Tangsi

One other artistic arts house that faces comparable challenges is Rumah Tangsi, an outdated KL mansion in-built 1905 by famend businessman Loke Chow Package.

In line with Rumah Tangsi’s artistic director Ridha Razak, working on this heritage constructing (additionally as soon as often called Empire Lodge) has its share of points to beat.

Upkeep, for instance, is at all times a problem as a result of age of the constructing. Particular supplies have for use for cleansing, and nothing will be nailed to the partitions. Various kinds of partition partitions – from boards to glass – have been used for exhibitions there.

“Then once more, Rumah Tangsi’s heritage setting actually provides to the worth of the place. The aesthetics and the facade actually add to the ambiance. Among the supplies right here have been preserved for over 100 years! The best way among the ornamentation has been utilized to the constructing, such because the columns and the staircase, is nice. That actually creates the attraction, ” says Ridha.

Many of the constructing, together with the principle corridor, the foyers, patio and out of doors east and west courtyards, can be utilized.

The venue has hosted greater than 20 occasions because it was formally launched in September 2018, together with a road artwork exhibition with style model Obey; KL Dulu, a poster exhibition of proposed metropolis trails carried out by Kuala Lumpur Metropolis Corridor; and Seloka@Tangsi x Staff Etsy Malaysia, a significant pop-up market occasion attracting 2,000 guests final December.

The secretariat of Unesco’s KL World Guide Capital 2020 may also be based mostly at Rumah Tangsi. The year-long literary occasion will probably be launched this April.

The struggle to build an audience at KongsiKL has paid off despite the logistical challenges. Photo: Azmil PhotographyThe battle to construct an viewers at KongsiKL has paid off regardless of the logistical challenges. Photograph: Azmil Images

Even at a warehouse venue like KongsiKL, Loke says there are points.

“Since KongsiKL isn’t a correct efficiency house, we don’t have correct entrance of home and seating for the viewers and neither is there a inexperienced room for the performers or a theatre gentle and sound system, ” she says.

“In an effort to create, we’ve to make do with the very restricted assets we’ve and check out our greatest to be self reliant, ” Loke continues.

As such, she shares, “audiences are sometimes stunned by the end result of our performances, particularly by our lighting system that’s virtually totally analogue and projections which are appropriately expressed in response to the dimensions of the warehouse.”

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