Regionally Speaking is devised as a conversation with real people, committed to the arts in all its forms and agents for arts practice in south east Asia.
Can the complexity of a region and the role of arts and cultural practices within it be investigated in a participatory design and thereby highlight the significance of cultural inflection?
The Regionally Speaking initiative attempts to do so by exploring the contemporary arts landscape of south-east Asia through narrative inquiry of personal journeys of cultural practitioners from the region. The initiative started off as a cultural mapping project that would reflect essential qualities of cultural practices in the region. However, the potential to draw out the rich complexities of human social and cultural experiences led the project to develop into a longitudinally-designed participatory investigation.
The initiative was commissioned by the Asia-Europe Foundation (ASEF) and brought together 7 rapporteurs from the region, each one being an embodiment of contemporary practice and an actor in his/her own country and was able to contribute a personal perspective of the sector, the country, and the region as a whole. Together, the rapporteurs explored and interrogated stories that were important to each of them personally, and to the group as a whole.
At the next stage of this interaction, the personal narratives will be layered together to reveal and reflect multiple voices and experiences presenting a kaleidoscopic view of the cultural landscape in south-east Asia – as seen from within. When viewed together, the collective narrative will draw attention to broad themes, while the layers of personal narrative will create space for cultural inflection – a layered folksonomy.
Regionally Speaking engages in an inclusive and participatory model designed by Professors Ruth BERESON and Caitlin BYRNE from Griffith University, Australia. It lays emphasis on a methodology of narrative inquiry that could find a way to bring forth varied textures derived through data analysis, and be able to give meaning and inflection to numerous and broader constituencies in the region and beyond. Such inquiry offers much deeper insight as it works across a number of fields that impact upon traditional and contemporary art, such as arts management, cultural policy and diplomacy.
In doing so, Regionally Speaking aims to
- Support and amplify the role and voice of rapporteurs as advocates and leaders within their own cultural sectors and in south-east Asia.
- Engage in relevant, critical inquiry about how traditional and contemporary artistic and cultural practice intersects with broad/common themes of south-east Asian identity while creating space for cultural inflection (both within nations and externally); and,
- Create new opportunities for people-to-people connections, which particularly value informal networks.
The rapporteurs have met in 2 workshops (October 2016 in Valletta, Malta, alongside 7th World Summit on Arts and Culture & January 2017 in Singapore). 7 of 10 narratives were completed. A Mekong regional meeting took place in July 2017 Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
Regionally Speaking is a contribution to the commemoration (in 2017) of the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
In August 2018, a fourth gathering of the rapporteurs was organised in Penang, Malaysia by Griffith University and George Town Festival, one of Asia’s best-known arts festivals.
In February 2018, Griffith University raised additional funding to organise another gathering of the rapporteurs in Brisbane, Australia alongside the Australian Performing Arts Market (APAM).
In 2016-17, Regionally Speaking was commissioned to Griffith University by ASEF.