Art for Art's Sake?
Full text of speech by Tan Sri Francis Yeoh
As a young nation aspiring towards developed nation status by the year 2020, Malaysia has been blessed with strong and visionary leaders who have paved the way for the nation’s progress. We have demonstrated the “Malaysia Boleh” spirit in numerous fields from sporting achievements to technological advances.
In our drive to achieve first world status, we have, over the years, put greater store in science and technology, probably at the expense of the arts. Yet, in a developed society, the arts have a role to play. It is in the arts that the hopes, aspirations, joy and pain of Malaysians are expressed and recorded for posterity. It is where our values – a vital part of our social fabric – are portrayed and represented in literature, poetry, plays, dance, music, art and films.
For too long, the arts have been narrowly perceived as music, dance, theatre and visual art, largely associated with leisure and entertainment. The more enlightened view defines the arts as “an eagerness for truth”. This finds a parallel in the sciences that seek the truth by uncovering facts about the world around us. The main differences between the arts and science have more to do with the process of discovery and the tools and symbols used.
If we view the arts as a quest for truth, it then follows that the arts can help stimulate our natural desire to understand, and in so doing, motivates inquiry and learning. In short, the arts have the power to develop human potential.
The arts also allow us to appreciate and envision other realities. In a multicultural society like ours, the arts not only reflect our cultural diversity, it also has a pivotal role in helping to create unity out of our very diversity.
This then, ladies and gentlemen, is the power of the arts; a power not to be underestimated but indeed, worth harnessing.
This is why Malaysians need the arts be it as a participant or a spectator. The arts must be nurtured in tandem with our progress and achievements in the academic, scientific and business arenas. After all, great civilisations are known by their art.
With respect to the performing arts in Malaysia, we readily acknowledge the effort and contribution of both the government and private organisations whose efforts over the years have brought us to this point. However, with the support and co-operation of public and private sectors, we believe we can take development of the arts to the next level.
To do this, a holistic approach and a longer term perspective is needed; half measures produce short term results. Better facilities are needed – from well appointed and well-managed venues to cutting edge equipment – if we are to raise the standard of the performing arts and develop a higher sense of artistic appreciation. At the same time, quality and innovative performing arts programmes, including those that are part of our heritage, must challenge and invigorate performers and awaken public interest.
But excellent venues and programmes are incomplete and insufficient without education in the performing arts to nurture and groom artists and raise appreciation among audiences.
You have been invited here today to share our vision to provide a hub for the performing arts community. By year’s end, Kuala Lumpur will have a new and dedicated performing arts centre located in Sentul West. Surrounded by lush parkland and lakes and only minutes from the city centre, The Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre or PentasSeni KL will have first rate facilities, local and international programmes of unrivalled quality and an academy for performing arts education. This will complement the effort of the government and other organisations in developing performing arts.
The Centre will be a cultural icon and a gift to Kuala Lumpur and her people. KL needs it, the community deserves it.
PentasSeni KL is extremely fortunate to have as our patron, YABhg. Datin Paduka Seri Endon Mahmood. It is a great honour indeed that she has agreed to lend us her support, for we could not have had a more gracious and fitting figure to helm this organisation as she herself is an icon for fashion, art and culture. Through Yayasan Budi Penyayang Malaysia, the foundation she chairs and which is incorporated for charitable and other worthy causes, the development of our cultural heritage and the arts will be given extra impetus and focus. On behalf of the Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre and the performing arts community, I thank her for her vision, inspiration, leadership and guidance without which we would not be here today.
We would be remiss if we did not acknowledge the help and co-operation of YBhg. Kol. Datuk Mohmad Shaid, Datuk Bandar Kuala Lumpur, in facilitating the setting up of the Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre. He wholeheartedly supports our endeavour and vision for developing the performing arts and I would like to express our sincere thanks to him.
We are also blessed by our partnership with The Actors Studio whose founders need no introduction. My good friends, Faridah Merican and Joe Hasham, whose names are synonymous with Malaysian theatre, have won much respect and admiration from their peers and audiences alike. Their drive and passion have sustained them while their total dedication and devotion to their craft have brought the success and recognition they so richly deserve. As The Actors Studio celebrate their 15th year, we applaud their contribution to Malaysian performing arts.
YTL Corporation has long believed the arts worthy of support. Our past sponsorship of The Kuala Lumpur Symphony Orchestra and the Penang Arts Festival has given opportunities for Malaysian performers to hone their skills.
Through our yearly Concert of Celebration, beginning in 1994 when we brought the legendary Luciano Pavarotti to perform in Malaysia, we have been able to share the gift of music with the community at large.
The strategic partnership between YTL, Penyayang and The Actors Studio has been forged out of a common dream to nurture and develop the performing arts. This partnership is made all the more potent by our joint passion and shared ideals. But without the ongoing support of the whole community including the public, government agencies and the business community, our vision will remain but a dream.
Nothing great was ever achieved without commitment, enthusiasm and much hard work. And never doubt that a small group of enthusiasts brimming with passion can make a difference.
George Bernard Shaw, the famous playwright, once said:
“You see things and you say ‘Why?’. But I see things that never were and I say, ‘Why not?’”
Together, let us begin a new chapter in the development of performing arts in Malaysia, for Malaysians.
Thank you and God bless you.
Text of speech by
Tan Sri (Dr.) Francis Yeoh
at the launch of KL Performing Arts Centre/PentasSeni KL
at Mayangsari Ballroom, JW Marriott Hotel
on 21 May 2004