Insights > By people / In cities : Kuala Lumpur | interview with Grey Yeoh

By people / In cities : Kuala Lumpur | interview with Grey Yeoh


This month unveils a new series of articles and interviews entitled By people / In cities. The first article of the series introduces the Malaysian capital city Kuala Lumpur within the context of its creative industries and through examples of public-private partnerships and community-based initiatives that play a role in the economic and social development of the country. Accompanying this article is the first featured interview with Grey Yeoh, a designer, creator and producer of the arts in Kuala Lumpur. He also works as the Arts and Programmes Manager at the British Council Malaysia. 

Q: If you had to pick a word that captures KL, what would it be?


Q: How would you describe KL's creative community?

Vibrant but safe. It is missing a sense of risk-taking. I feel that there are many talented creative people in KL that do good work, that just need to take risks to take their art/creativity to another level. I find that the art produced, be they commercial or artistic (design, music, visual art, theatre, etc), are often very self-indulgent or toe the line set by powers that be, conscious or not. There is nothing wrong with that, but I feel that in order to advance in the creative scene, envelopes need to be pushed. There are individuals/groups of artists, designers, writers who do - but not enough. The younger creative community at large are apathetic to social / political effect, perhaps that's why.

Q: Who are the latest movers and shakers?

In my opinion (which I may be biased), I think the creative people who want to engage grassroots communities living in their spaces, are the ones that will shift the landscape of creativity in KL/Malaysia. There are pockets of creative collectives who work within their community, to improve the livability of the area they live in (safety, sustainability, etc) because they are either fed-up of waiting hence taking (the matter) into their own hands, or just simply wanting to take ownership of the space in which they live.

Q: What are the biggest challenges for culture and creativity in KL?

Public policies. From the point of view of a person who engages with governmental agencies and have attempts of policy dialogues, I feel that the red tape in arts is very discouraging and deteriorate the health of the arts and creative community. The modern and liberal policies which supports the growth of arts in KL are often rhetorics and are met with disappointment. Arbitrary decisions made by agencies can reduce the creative capabilities of artists when making their work.

Funding of the arts is an issue but I feel that this can often be solved if one is entrepreneurial. The corporate sector fills this gap sometimes, but not enough. Philanthropic initiatives do not seem to be encouraged (could be via tax breaks, but it is not) so it is very rare to see that in KL/Malaysia.

Q: Is the future bright for KL?

I like to believe so. I think the amount of rawness and material that are just so readily available to be tapped into are vast in KL. However, getting the creative community to do that is not as easy as it would seem. I really believe artists in KL are a very talented and resourceful bunch, just waiting to explode. It feels like the creative community is taking a deep breather, and it is at its point just before the exhale.

Grey Yeoh is a trained multimedia designer who collaborates in socially-engaged art projects both online and for live performances. He has been involved in the arts by co-curating the historical exhibition '12 Years' and the 'Emergency Festival' (2008), and by collaborating on the visual designs for several Malaysian theatre productions, including 'Gostan Forward' and 'Wayang Fajar' (2009) by Five Arts Centre. He is a creative producer for the online information portal for Malaysian youth 'PopIN', and a producer for an online news satire show called 'That Effing Show'. Grey holds a full-time job as the Arts and Programmes Manager with the British Council Malaysia. He also lectures at two institutes of higher learning in Kuala Lumpur.


By people / In cities is a series of articles and interviews that aims to enhance the understanding of art and culture in Southeast and East Asia through individual stories and perspectives including artists, cultural practitioners, and policy makers from the following 6 cities: Bangkok, Jogjakarta, Kuala LumpurPhnom PenhHong Kong and Singapore.