I am currently addicted to the show Silicon Valley; thoroughly enjoying all the hilarious jabs it takes at the technology industry which sometimes takes itself too seriously and claims to have the altruistic motive of “making the world a better place”. In a way, watching the show is cathartic because I have always had a love-hate relationship with the internet. On one hand, I get exasperated with it – mostly when I can’t keep up with its furiously changing landscape or when completely moronic apps like Yo! become a temporary rage or because of the online bullying and hate (read: trolling) or simply because of the brutal way it often cuts us from the real world. On the other hand though, I realize that without the internet, TFM and so many other independent creative projects wouldn’t even exist.
I was once talking to contemporary artist Yael Bronner Rubin, who was born in South Africa, grew up in Israel and now lives in Hong Kong, for an interview over Facebook Voice Chat. In the middle of the conversation she said, “The most amazing thing in the world right now is that you found my work on the internet and right now we are actually talking to each other.” A lot of people I meet often express curiosity about how TFM manages to find these artists from different parts of Asia and Middle East, and I can’t help but give majority of the credit to the internet.
Social media has of course become one of the most important components of the internet, and is especially important for the creative community to showcase, communicate and connect. While a lot of social media usage is candyfloss (and there’s nothing wrong with that, of course), for many creative people it’s a crucial and powerful tool. Like Saudi Arabia based photographer Nouf Alhimiary once told me during an interview, “Thanks to the internet, I found an audience for myself. I found people who have the same concerns that I do. I found artists like me. I also found artists that I have admired, and I got to follow their journeys, their works, and their art activism. People here wouldn’t talk about issues like gender and sexuality in streets per se. There is a culture of fear. But on social media, we get to meet each other and talk about these issues comfortably. So, the question about technology’s role in my work is the most valid and important question right now. May be, my art wouldn’t have existed without the internet.”
A lot of people I meet often express curiosity about how TFM manages to find these artists from different parts of Asia and Middle East, and I can’t help but give majority of the credit to the internet.
In the second issue of TFM, we have focused on one of the most important, dynamic and useful social media platforms of our times, especially in the context of visual culture – Instagram. Instagram was devoured by Facebook in 2012, and that led to some stunning results. Instagram has been on a constant upswing in terms of both quantity and quality. So we decided to delve into how Instagram actually helps the visual arts community in Asia and Middle East in our cover feature.
For this cover feature, we spoke to eleven creative professionals including India based visual artist Ayesha Kapadia; Pakistan based artist Heraa Khan; Aditya Mehta, founder of online art platform Art & Found; London based photographer Kopal Jaitly; Malaysia based illustrator and graphic designer Kathrin Honesta; India based performance artist Princess Pea; Gautam Sinha, founder of India based fashion and lifestyle brand Nappa Dori; Tokyo based photographer and videographer Yulia Shur; Israel based advertising professional Dudi Ben Simon and Aryan Musleh and Naib Shah, founders of Everyday Afghanistan. We are also extremely thankful to Instagram itself for being a part of this feature through this insightful conversation that we had with Eri Mishima, APAC community Manager of Instagram.
For the People section, we spoke to Miss Cyndi, an independent illustrator and artist from Taiwan, who first found recognition on the internet before any commercial clients approached her. We also spoke to Khalid Albaih, a Sudanese cartoonist based in Doha, Qatar. This is the first time we have featured a cartoonist in the magazine, and we are so excited about that. Khalid finds huge following and support on the internet, and has been featured by The New York Times, Quartz, CNN, BBC, etc. In fact, the story about him on Huffington Post has this interesting title: Displaced Cartoonist Khalid Albaih Finds Home On The Internet.
For the Places section, we had a long conversation with Madhuvanthi Mohan, an independent artist, curator of a brilliant illustrators’ group in India called The Sketchup, and a chronic traveler. We speak to Madhuvanthi about her various travel stories, and about how travel is intricately linked with her work life. The internet enables her to work from anywhere in the world and connect with other creatives in different places. She, for example, did two Sketchup sessions in Mumbai when she was in New York through Skype.
As you can see, the internet, including the social media platforms like Instagram, has truly made the world smaller and opened it up to so many possibilities. It makes our participation in the world easier. I feel that it has also inculcated more empathy in us because it’s now so easy to find emotions and issues that you can truly relate to from different parts of the world. And most importantly, the internet has really helped, and in some cases completely enabled, visual arts. It has also made visual arts more accessible and thereby, much more democratic.
So I must admit that while I get irritated with the internet on a few days, on most days, I am immensely grateful for its existence.
I hope you enjoy this issue. We would absolutely love to hear from you at [email protected].