When Wawasan 2020 was launched in 1991, it spoke of a future brimming with hope and promise; Malaysia was to be a high-income, first world nation-state by 2020. But as time passed, the Wawasan 2020-themed flying cars and futuristic buildings drawn by school kids in the 1990s, and everything that came with it, seem to fade into oblivion.

Last year, Transformasi Nasional 2050 (TN50) was announced.

“We live in a time and place that often forgets the lessons and scars of the past. I am not sure which is more dangerous – amnesia or nostalgia. Is there any real rupture or discontinuity between the vision proposed for 2020 (in 1991) and the transformations proposed for 2050 (in 2017)? These are urgent questions that should concern all of us. We must continue the work of critiquing, resisting, questioning and proposing out own versions of the future,” says Mark Teh of Five Arts Centre.

Five Arts Centre’s Version 2020 – The Complete Futures Of Malaysia (Chapter 3), fresh off its run in Tokyo last month, will be showing at Kotak in Kuala Lumpur from March 15-18. It tackles the conundrum of these visions and continuities (or is it discontinuities?) through five performers and their take on alternative versions of Malaysia’s futures.

The five are: artist Fahmi Reza, actor Faiq Syazwan Kuhiri, dancer-choreographer Lee Ren Xin, and filmmakers Imri Nasution and Roger Liew.

Five Art Centre’s June Tan is creative producer.

Version 2020 leaps between personal experiences and national events that take place between 1994 and 2018, and is presented in a “quite playful and not too serious” documentary format.

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Version 2020 played at the Spielart Festival in Munich, Germany last October. Photo: Franz Kimmel

“In many ways, the show is about dreams, aspirations, hopes and contradictions that friction between the individual and the nation-state,” adds Teh.

He is the man behind Version 2020, which premiered at the Spielart Festival in Munich, Germany, in October last year.

Since then, it had about a third of its content reworked, inspired at least in part by the month-long Expo Negaraku held at Dataran Merdeka at the end of last year (Nov 15 to Dec 15).

“Some of us visited the expo several times and have incorporated our experience of encountering this ‘future of Malaysia’ in our show. You could say we are reacting also to TN50.”

The team also considered how Dataran Merdeka has always been a site or stage where the “futures” of Malaysia are presented, enacted, performed and protested – whether in the form of parades, protests or historical events.

Visual artist Wong Tay Sy, who is responsible for Version 2020’s production design, comments that a sense of urgency was the key reason for the change.

“Dataran Merdeka serves as the signifier of the nation, vision, and hopes and dreams for those in power and for those who want to reclaim that power. The reworked edition of Version 2020 focuses on making this more visible and significant,” she says.

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‘In many ways, the show is about dreams, aspirations, hopes and contradictions that friction between the individual and the nation-state,’ says Teh. Photo: Ibrahim Mohtar/The Star


Version 2020 is part of The Complete Futures Of Malaysia series of projects that kicked off early last year with an installation and participatory events at the troubled Escape From The SEA exhibition (a show that saw a “controversial” artwork from Sabahan collective Pangrok Sulap being pulled out) held at APW Bangsar and the National Visual Arts Gallery in Kuala Lumpur. This was the Complete Futures of Malaysia (Chapter 1).

Coming Soon – The Complete Futures Of Malaysia (Chapter 2), a photo and video installation at the Mode Of Liaisons group exhibition in Bangkok, ran from March to July last year.

After Version 2020, The Complete Futures Of Malaysia (Chapter 4), a lecture by Teh, will be presented at the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Seoul at the end of this month.

“Tagging the different chapters with the label The Complete Futures Of Malaysia signals to audiences that it is a long-term project, and that they could find out more information about past iterations as well as follow or track new ones over time. In our research, we found that it is often the state, politicians or entrepreneurs who are involved in talking about the bigger picture of the future in Malaysia. This is a very limited but powerful group of stakeholders, and hence it is no surprise that we are dealing with many problems and fallouts created as a result of these developmentalist, neoliberal visions and ideas,” says Teh.

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The Version 2020 cast (from left) Lee, Liew, Faiq and Imri look set to get up close to the audience at the Five Arts centre space in KL, starting March 15. Photo: Masahiro Hasunuma

He shares the poly-perspective and long-term way of working on The Complete Futures Of Malaysia allows them to look at and tease out the material and subject matter (in this case, the “future” of Malaysia) in different ways, revisiting their assumptions along the way.

“Our projects are an attempt to investigate, present and involve many more people in this discussion and work. We tend to research a subject matter over a long period of time, and we are quite agnostic to the final form that the research needs to be materialised. It could be a performance, an exhibition of installation, a live discursive event or a documentary video … whichever best serves what we want to communicate,” he adds.

Why the “complete futures”, though?

After all, he does say that it is not necessary for people to know every single chapter they have done in order to engage with the current chapter, although he does think that it may enrich their perspective to have a bit more context about the evolving work within the series.

“Well, ‘complete’ because it makes people ask questions and it provokes conversation. Of course, it can never be completed, which is the point,” he concludes.

Version 2020 – The Complete Futures of Malaysia (Chapter 3) is on at Kotak, 27, Lorong Datuk Sulaiman 7, Taman Tun Dr Ismail, Kuala Lumpur, from March 15-18. Showtimes: 8.30pm daily with additional 3.30pm shows on March 17 and 18. Entry by donation: RM50 (adults) / RM25 (senior citizens and students). For reservations, email fiveartscentre@gmail.com or call 018-202 8827.