Questions to Challenge Your Artistic Approach In The Digital Space


Notes for Malaysian Creative Entrepreneurs 
by Rupa Subramaniam,
published on 13th January 2021. 

Video background is a forum organized by Projek Dialog.

Why are Malaysian creatives struggling to shift
from traditional space to the digital world?

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Mafan work la..

“Too many things to learn. It requires more time, effort and knowledge than I can afford.”

cendana creative gig economy art festiva

Mana respek?

“There's a lack of boundary for my personal space especially when the audience get disrespectful.”

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Shallow kot

It strips off realness and appears shallow as it 'flattens' and dullls all other senses of my work.”

It is obvious that creatives are feeling exhausted keeping up with the pressure of being visible online. Resources are often limited.


Time to research; how best to engage users online; plan out content to match audience’s interest; and, having the execution knowledge, how to post according to the different platform available online – how to even begin? 


These are common thought processes from creatives that need challenging to push our collective total in the digital space. Here’s why. 

Consider the pixel

as a "new" white box.

Just like the traditional physical artistic work, soon as a creative begins to feel overwhelmed about the process – it manifests as a block.

Julia Cameron discusses this at length in her book, The Artist’s Way – A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity. When we don’t know how to move forward, we often collapse.  

To get out, we tend to look for a formula that will help do the thinking for us, so that we can concentrate on the fun part, the creative play. Our inner child is throwing a tantrum! 


Creatives need to own their process. Act as a curator of their digital space. Consider the pixel ratio 1080 x 1350 as a white box.

Yes, it flats the texture and the physical notion of space that we are familiar with.


But what if we consider a challenge and work around it, to produce ideas that are layered and challenge the online algorithm? 

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Find the fun
in adding digital as part of your creative process.

Here are some steps to recognize how your work can fit in the digital space.

be relevant

(1) What are the human experiences that you explore in your practice?

Our Rimbun Dahan artists answered: nature, dreams, heritage, addiction, patriotism, loneliness, environment, fragility, memory etc.

(2) Why are you passionate about telling those experiences? 

(3) Why should anyone really care? 


(1) Who else are creating conversation about those topics in the digital space?

Who's done work about it before, in the traditional space?
Google it, read about it. 

(2) What areas are others exploring? What is missing in the current landscape?

(3) What’s great about it, which parts are shallow?


1) How can you add value?

Are you bringing awareness, education or a new narrative to any of these issues?

2) Keep building your identity, define clear boundaries, vision and incubate it to achieve the truest potential.

3) Put down external responsibility and be clear of your role – what can you afford to give?


all digital intersections

Image Credit:

cendana art tourism malaysia urban.jpg

How to use this Google Trends tool wei?

It's a free tool that shows you what keywords people search for.

It can be helpful for your copywriting and find supporting data for your grant applications.
Find out how many people are actually searching for the topic you are creating content for.
If there isn't enough interest for the subject matter, how are you going to pique interest? 

Related queries can give you ideas of what topics are evergreen (Top related queries) versus what is trendy (Rising related queries). Use keywords in the top related queries to build your long-lasting content, while content from rising queries could help you figure out new topics that are tickling your audience's fancy. But beware, it might be a passing cloud. 


Use it to find out: Are you trendy? Are you evergreen? Are you on point?

Observing the graphs and timelines, it can help you to decide when best to launch your project to the world. And if you're really into it, use insights from Google Trends to subvert the search algorithm. I'll be happy to chat more with you about it! 

Image Credit:

This requires more thought: What is the gap?

Some of the other questions to ponder upon:

1) Understand the economics of practicing this re-imagination of work – how much time can you afford in each step of the process? Be kind to yourself, and do it at your own pace. 


2) What are you seeking from putting your work online? List it all out and prioritize one. Be honest and request your audience to feed it to you.

3) Plan when and how you’re going to do it. Give yourself twice the resource (time, money, skills) you think you need. Ready or not, go execute those ideas. Measure objectively what worked, and what didn’t, what made you happy and what frustrated you. Distill and repeat.

It is time for an artistic resurrection.

Photo Credit: Norulle Mora

The art world as we know it, has ended.

This calls for a period of reflection, self-evaluation before we move forward.

I believe being a creative is about answering the call every single time it knocks on your door, not once or twice.

The pandemic is a loud bang.
Be brave, go for it!

As a final note, I’ll add that we need to leave behind familiar ways of working.

What 2020 has proved to us, there’s going back to old methods of doing anything.

This is a summary of a 3-series workshop titled, “Improving Online Visibility for Arts Practitioners” produced by Rimbun Dahan which are supported by British Council and Yayasan Sime Darby.

Download the guide here.

Also, read more about
The Hubs for Good programme that aims to provide support for the development of creative hubs to be key drivers and catalysts for good in their community. Big thank you to Bilqis Hijjas for making this happen.  

Keen to know more?

front row bfm bilqis hijjas rimbun dahan

"2020 has not been kind to our local arts industries. Most shows, festivals and exhibitions had to either close down completely, or experiment by going digital. For this final show of 2020, we try to take an optimistic tone, and discuss what artsmakers have learnt and how the industry can move forward into the new year.

Joining us for the conversation are: Bilqis Hijjas, dance producer, Rimbun Dahan; Tan Cher Kian, producer, Instant Cafe Theatre Company; and, Rupa Subramaniam, visual artist & arts organiser."

Hosted & Produced by Sharmilla Ganesan.