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Several concerns arise from my perspective through this ASEAN-KOREA project. As we understand the arts and culture landscape through divisions of governmentalisation, commodification, and democratization, it is important to look into such categories and gaps in an ASEAN context.

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Between Independency and Interdependency

Tan E-Jan (Toccata Studio, APP)

I worked as a creative producer and co-founder of Toccata Studio (Malaysia), actively creating and touring original interdisciplinary productions on an international platform over the past ten years. I then moved on to work as CEO of a private arts and culture foundation in Malaysia, providing international perspectives toward enriching the local arts and culture ecosystem. My multiple experiences in intercultural exchanges and collaborations enable me to explore further the contribution of my expertise in pursuit of betterment, especially of the international ecosystem.

In a personal capacity, I was awarded ISPA Global Fellowship (1) 3 times, am currently a member of the planning team in the Asian Producers Platform (2) (APP), and am an alumnus of the Arts Leadership Programme by the Australia Council for the Arts. I reckon the importance of international networking and exchange, especially in conversations, knowledge exchanges, and collaborations.The Creative Platform ASEAN-Korea project pushes me to consider similarities and differences among said countries. From personal practitioner’s perspectives to the cultural landscape, from structural gaps to ecosystem navigation.

The first question that came into my mind was about all the individuals in the room. How can we each contribute our expertise? Is it through connecting networks, sharing resources, mapping local practitioners, archiving recent activities, or providing an artists-producers exchange platform? How can each benefit, in return, make this a two-way beneficial project? I then started a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analysis to identify a clearer picture through various components.

Mapping active practitioners in the ASEAN region once again fascinates me to bridge gaps, resilience, and variety in sustainable operational models. Due to structural gaps in most of the ASEAN countries, understanding independent producing is crucial through local and international contexts, including the definition of independent producing and interdependent producing, examining the relationship between independency and interdependency. It then led to the question of international recognition of ASEAN countries. How can we contribute to continuously elevating ASEAN's visibility in the international context? It is especially important to acknowledge ASEAN artistry is not necessarily ASEAN exoticism, especially when we focus our lens on contemporary creation. Always keep an open mind for a relationship between traditional and contemporary, as it is not to be seen as the opposite position but contemporary as an extension of tradition and knowledge.


Transformation is a very emotional term for me. To transform, we need to break through, and there is always so much courage, determination, and resilience needed, eventually leading to satisfaction. Malaysia is a multicultural, multiracial, multilingual country. Diversity is our identity. However, on diversity and plurality: we must look into the relationship between multiculturalism (exist but is still in separation), interculturalism (cross over at times), and transcultural (intertwined and new creation).

Compared to contemporary artistic creation, crossing paths of these terms could be applied to understanding multidisciplinary-interdisciplinary-transdisciplinary works. One can find such an approach occurs regularly in the ASEAN art and culture landscape that is grown organically, as there is the flexibility of crossing art forms, crossing sectors, and crossing boundaries due to known European structures and systems yet being imposed widely in control of the arts and cultural growth.

Transformation is an ongoing process, it could happen periodically and consistently, or even both simultaneously at various levels. Sustainability involves transformation. To stay in our careers, we need to constantly transform. I went from independent creative producing to creative entrepreneurship to arts leadership. It is a process I recognized how the arts and culture ecosystem examines and understands through personal passion, organizational survival, and ecosystem navigation. The ultimate aim is to stay relevant and actively participate as an active practitioner.

Today, I acknowledged that the most important thing is to hold sustainable creative spaces for process and progress without losing artistry. Along the way, always remember to consider care of internal well-being as the challenging environment could easily take up energy and passion within the individual. I believe in arts leadership is about holding spaces and transformation, making us masters of interspaces, understanding the expectations of multiple stakeholders, and being an expert in managing the art of balancing.

Several concerns arise from my perspective through this ASEAN-KOREA project. As we understand the arts and culture landscape through divisions of governmentalisation, commodification, and democratization, it is important to look into such categories and gaps in an ASEAN context. Flexibility in navigation through a for-profit (commercial), non-profit (funded), and amateur (hobby) structure could propose an alternative sustainable model in an artist’s / producer’s (artistic practitioners) career growth. I am interested in exploring residency exchange, understanding the variety of operational models, and promoting sustainability through cross-sectoral partnerships.


(1) ISPA's Fellowship Program was created to provide emerging and mid-career performing arts professionals with the opportunity to expand their international networks through membership and attendance at ISPA Congresses. The Fellows represent all disciplines, genres, and types of arts organizations.

(2) The Asian Producers’ Platform (APP) is a performing arts producers network initiated in 2014 designed to create a strong network of Asian producers who can work effectively across the region, share and develop artistic works, professional skills and cultural practices. Since 2014 the Platform has brought together over 45 Asian creative producers through a series of intensive APP camps in Seoul (2014), Taipei (2015), Tokyo (2016) and Melbourne (2017) where members researched the local arts and cultural scenes, cultural policy and the landscape artists work. Members have conducted in-depth research, created projects together, supported each other, developed professional practices and their own networks across the region. After the successful initial 5 years the APP Platform now grows the network towards South East Asia and other Asian regions with the 2018 APP Camp in Indonesia

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