Malaysia is a diverse mix of ethnicities and cultures in one of the most biodiverse regions
in the world. This eclecticism filters through to the art, architecture and cuisine. Rimbun
Dahan is a fourteen acre artist compound 40 minutes from central Kuala Lumpur. It is
also home to the founders, Australian born programme director and environmentalist
Angela Hijjas and her husband, prominent architect Hijjas Kasturi.
Rimbun Dahan initially looks like a resort, set in a jungle setting with pools and
architecturally designed buildings. Its serene appearance is deceiving as it has been a
central hub for Malaysian art production, exhibitions, performance and dialogue for over 20 years.
I spent three months here in early 2017 which allowed for the time and space to make,
research and think. As is often the case, it was the people I met there that became one
of the most important parts of the residency. I had the chance to interact with artists,
activists, curators, writers and performers from Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Germany,Austria, Australia and Africa.
This cross-cultural exchange was deepened with a variety of collaborative projects, social
events and exposure with the local arts scene.
My artistic research is driven primarily by an interest in gardens and how I might
understand a culture through these spaces. The residency immersed me in a tropical
garden with all the pleasures and dangers that brings. I see gardens as exciting and
complex intersections of art, nature and culture.
Rimbun Dahan Herbal : Contemporary Art in the Southeast Asian Garden is a
collaborative project between the eight creatives present at Rimbun Dahan in early 2017;
Syar S Alia,Haffendi Anuar, Kelvin Atmadibrata, Zulkifli Lee, Veronika Neukirch, Sabine
Reindel, Laura Wills and myself. The concept of the project was for everyone to create a
series of page works that responded to individual plants within the residency garden. It
has been fascinating and rewarding to see how everyone took this simple idea and created such arresting and individual works in response.