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The Role Of An Artist In Society

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The Goethe-Institut Malaysia has played an active role in supporting the Malaysian arts industry, particularly cross-collaborations between Germany and Malaysia as part of their mission to foster international cultural cooperation. Rosheen Fatima speaks to Goethe-Institut Malaysia’s Director, Mr. Rolf Stehle to find out more.

Functioning as a cultural diplomatic body for German culture and language, the Goethe-Institut has 155 institutes in 98 countries across the globe. Each Goethe-Institut works with their host country to foster international cultural cooperation, fostering international cultural mobility while building industry relationships across borders that can function independently and without political ties.

The Goethe-Institut Kuala Lumpur was established in 1962 and offers an insight into German cultural, societal and political life for Malaysians. Their language department offers German language courses, international examinations and seminars; the institute also offers a media library and study consultations.

Rolf Stehle, Director, Goethe-Insitut Malaysia explains, “we are working in all the fields of the arts together with our Malaysian partners – in dance, theatre, film, music, exhibitions, literature and translation, and science,” this allows the Goethe-Institut Malaysia to organise and support over 80 cultural events a year. Some arts and culture events they have supported over the years include this year’s ‘Extending Ideas’, a Malaysian-German art exhibition and the annual Kota Kinabalu International Film Festival (KKIFF), which will take place in July.

“We encourage cultural collaboration in Malaysia by organizing programs of events and making contributions to various festivals and exhibitions in the fields of film, dance, music, theatre, literature and translation. We support forums for discussion and provide diverse print-, audio- and video-publications.” Mr. Stehle clarifies, “Through our visitors’ service we invite cultural players to visit cultural institutions in Germany. The idea is to promote international discourse on the key concerns of what is becoming an increasingly global society.” This is in line with Goethe-Insitut’s view that cultural development requires reliability, trust and sustainability; producing both their cultural and educational programmes with a long-term plan in mind in order to “encourage an ongoing intercultural dialogue and enable permanent cultural involvement,’ according to Mr. Stehle.

From supporting Malaysian talent headed to pursue their education in Germany, funding Malaysian talent and opportunities in Germany, or bringing German talent to Malaysian shores for cross-cultural collaborative work; the Goethe-Institut Malaysia has no strict rules on applications for support and funding. Instead, prospective applicants are encouraged to contact the institute for a conversation on their ideas, leading to future dialogue between the institute and the artist on possible innovative collaborations relevant to both Malaysia and Germany. They (the applicant) “must be open,” Mr. Stehle, “most of them are well connected in the art scene here and have interesting and innovative ideas which reach out to society. Topics that we support are relevant for Malaysia and for Germany at the same time. Ideally both sides, artists from both countries benefit from encounters, programs, residencies and visits in the respective country.” For selected projects, the collaboration begins with meetings between the institute and the artist to exchange ideas, before working together in close partnership facilitated by dialogue. This, Mr. Stehle says, is “the basis of each invitation of artists and programmes. True cultural exchange between countries can work only this way, otherwise one would do cultural import and that is neither effective nor very credible.”

Goethe-Institut Malaysia supports individual artists, as well as cultural institutions and hopes to help build sustainable structures and futures in the arts industry. As Mr. Stehle says, “artists give aesthetic or discursive impulses and initiate or contribute essentially towards discourses within our societies. Thus artists are very important for the development of our societies. They analyse and they give meaning and we should be very grateful to them.”

As, no doubt, artists are grateful to the Goethe-Institut.

Click here to drop The Goethe-Institut Malaysia an inquiry on your idea or project.

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