Artists from around the world join inaugural Art Beats Festival

Academics, artists, and students from around the world come together for a week-long celebration of artistic innovation, cross-cultural dialogue, and collaborative research initiatives.

The inaugural International Art Beats Festival, a dynamic showcase of contemporary film, art, and performing arts, concluded on 20 August 2023, marking a significant milestone in the partnership between Sunway University and Lancaster University.

The festival's first edition held both online from 14 to 20 August and on-site at Sunway University on 19 and 20 August, featured a diverse range of activities, including film screenings, art exhibitions, photography displays, sound design presentations, and live theatre performances. With a global reach, the festival received submissions from artists hailing from countries such as the UK, South Korea, Iran, Pakistan, Spain, India, Poland, the Philippines, and Malaysia.

Gallery walls showcasing student artwork

Convened and curated by Professor Mayco A. Santaella from Sunway University and Dr Maryam Ghorbankarimi from Lancaster University, the festival was a testament to 17 years of partnership between the two universities. The event fostered a stronger connection between the Lancaster Institute for Contemporary Arts (LICA) and Sunway University’s School of Arts, reinforcing their commitment to promoting artistic research collaboration.

The festival's thematic focus on "Planetary Health," "Crossing Borders," and "Hidden Voices" resonated with audiences, reflecting the current socio-cultural landscape. These themes were thoughtfully curated in consultation with the Sunway Centre for Planetary Health, aligning with their efforts to address global challenges through creative expression.

Highlights of the festival included a film workshop led by Director, Producer, and filmmaker John Torres, along with filmmaker and festival director Lim Wei Jie and filmmaker Ghazi Alqudcy, and captivating performances by singer-songwriter and sape player Alena Murang, who showcased endangered languages from Sarawak, and the mesmerizing band Nadir, which brought together a fusion of Malaysian music cultures.

Singer-songwriter and sape player Alena Murang

Professor Mayco A. Santaella expressed his enthusiasm about the success of the festival, saying: "The International Art Beats Festival exceeded our expectations in terms of the quality of artistic contributions, the level of engagement, and the spirit of collaboration among participants. This event truly exemplifies the power of interdisciplinary exploration and cross-cultural interaction."

Dr Maryam Ghorbankarimi said: “The International Art Beats Festival is proof and testament of both universities’ efforts in fostering international exchange and collaboration. Sunway University was an amazing host this year; our student participants developed experiences that will benefit them for a lifetime. We are looking forward to hosting the festival in Lancaster next year and providing an equally enriching festival.”

The festival's digital nature allowed for seamless cross-border collaboration and engagement, facilitating global connections and the sharing of creative work with audiences worldwide. By providing a platform for artists, academics, and students to come together, the festival not only celebrated creativity but also laid the foundation for meaningful research partnerships that bridge academia and industry practice.

With the next edition set to be hosted by Lancaster University in 2024 and a return to Sunway University in 2025, the International Art Beats Festival promises to continue fostering collaborative research initiatives, innovative exploration, and artistic expression that contribute to societal advancement.

The Art Beats Festival is supported by The Global Advancement Fund (GAF) of Lancaster University.

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