Mekong Cultural Hub

Curated Conferences 2024: Frequently asked Questions

We are happy to share with you a summary of the Q&A session on the Curated Conference 2024 open call on April 12th. If you have any further question regarding the call, you are always welcome to chat with MCH.

1. Can each curator explain more about their topic ?

Kathy on topic: Hitting Pause: Examining Purpose & Practice

It’s a question I’ve been asking myself for 30 years, working in the field. The two organisations I started are in 2000 in Malaysia, and launched in 2016, which I run out of Singapore now. The first organisation I ran for nine years, it did good work. Then in 2010, I left and someone else took over, and the organisation really grew. They had a different vision for it and I realise that they had the ability to take it somewhere that I maybe could not have. 

I started to ask myself: 

These are essential questions that we need to ask ourselves and try to answer them in a productive and honest way. That has motivated me to come up with this topic.

Phloeun on topic: Life Cycles of Grassroots Cultural Organizations in Asia

I’ve been running CLA, a non for profit organisation in Cambodia for the past 15 years, and have been travelling around Southeast Asia, meeting other colleagues, talkings with many small collectives, grassroot organisations that I was amazed that they exist. I was always wondering what they do to sustain themselves despite all the challenges that they do fantastic work. When MCH approached me I thought that this would be something I’d love to explore with those who are interested: As a leader of an organisation, we might not want to think about the challenges in isolation, but meeting others to reflect and to come up with ideas and then sharing and talking it through. I’m really looking forward to inviting those who would be interested in my topic to join me in making the predictions over the next coming year.

2. Both Kathy’s and Phloeun’s topics are wonderful and I’ve found myself having a hard time choosing between the two! Can I clarify that we can only choose one?

When you do your application, we ask you to focus on one topic and why are you interested in this topic? How is it relevant to your practice? 

In part two of the application form

Q5 asks you to choose one topic. 

Q9 asks you if you aren’t selected for your chosen preference, whether you are interested in joining the other one or not.

3. What would constitute / define a grassroots organisation? Is it size, scale, purpose, modality or others?

Phloeun: Grassroot level is a kind of hands-on people and individual or collective who are purposely driven by an intention. I don’t think it should be limited to a particular standard but more like a project driven by an individual or a collective in the arts who is trying to tackle their response to issues that they are facing and committing in doing and caring activities in a few years. 

Frances: We use the word organisation because it was kind of more convenient, it doesn’t need to be a formally registered organisation but can be an informally structured one.

4. What is the format of final sharing, both online and in person? Is it individual sharing by each person or everyone together?

It will be up to the group with the guidance of the curator to decide that. You’ll have that conversation in January 2024 or earlier. It worked in different ways for different groups in the past. It could be: you collectively develop something that you want to present, or people share something individually, but you facilitate or share something as a group. It’s really open and it will be up to you to decide in collaboration with the other group members and the curator. 

The constraints that we’ve got for the online session will limit it to a 90 minute session, but we can be flexible with time and space. In the past we had people do virtual theatre, virtual workshops or exhibitions…

5. Can non-nationals from South East Asia but living in the Region participate?

You need to be a citizen of Asia. You don’t have to be living in your own country but you need to have citizenship of Asia.

6. Is there anything the curators are specifically looking for in a participant?

We put some guidance in the program overview document in the selection criteria:

Beyond that we’re really open in general and try to curate a diverse group so that we don’t get six people with the same profile and same experience talking together. 

Phloeun: It’s a group learning process. I’m definitely not there to teach anything to anyone. I’m here to learn to listen, and to engage with you guys. The participants we would like to select are those who really want to learn and share about their perspectives. I would invite anyone who already runs her/his own organisation and wants to engage with others. As a collective we will start by sharing about personal motivation and why you are doing that and for which reason and what are the struggles, then move on to what we can do to help each other and look at different perspectives.

Kathy: We’re looking for people who have been through the journey of the excitement of starting something, and then have also hit some of the walls. I think someone like that would bring a lot to the group.

7. Is Kathy’s topic only relevant to organisations, or can it also be individual artists examining their practice?

Kathy: You can be within an organisation or you can be an individual practitioner, but if you’re an individual practitioner, you should come with already experience in the field and also have some experiences of implementation and/or management. That is who may benefit the most and also contribute to the group the most.

8. Having done something for 20 years and having independently produced a festival for more than seven years. I’ve been decentralising the festival successfully. I also think about the skills that I actually don’t recognise when I have done things for more than two decades, and what does it mean to be an older producer? And your topic really allows me to reflect and analyse and help me move to the next stage to rebrand myself. I just want to know whether I’m on the right track and do I fit into what Kathy’s topic is looking for?

Kathy: Yes, definitely. The questions you have asked yourself are the kind of conversations I want to support the group to have.

7. Is it possible for participants to join one topic and to observe the other topic’s monthly meeting?

No. To ensure the small group exchange and create a safe space together, it’s not make sense to be observed by others during their getting into deep conversations with the group dynamic and trust and understanding of each other. 

8. How will the monthly online exchanges schedule? As I don’t know if I can make it without knowing the specific way/ time. 

We don’t know what countries people will come from so generally we haven’t set up the time. It’s up to the group to decide. In the previous programs each meeting normally lasted for 2 hours and sometimes a bit shorter or longer. You can either set up all your six meetings in advance or what you could do is have one meeting and at the end of the meeting, then agree to the next one. 

10. I want to raise my case just to make sure that it is correct. I’m a practising artist based in Cambodia. My practice is mainly from theatre but I’m shifting out to visual and it’s starting with the project that was first sound work that evolved into film that was turned into digital installation and workshop and then turned into a physical exhibition. I have also asked myself if this is what I want to do in my art practice. I wonder if it’s relevant to what you will be discussing because it’s really about an art practice rather than an organisation or even social actions that directly do with a certain community.

Please put in your application. The questions you are asking are also the ones we are asking ourselves. It’s good to have people with an artistic background to join the discussion.

11. How do you describe the discussions? How will they work and in what format? What is the role of the participants in the discussions? 

Kathy: I don’t have a very clear idea yet. I think it will still start with getting to know each other as a person first and/or an artist, giving each participant space to share their experiences. My role is to ask questions, from there we can come up together with a structure: a listening practice for all of us. 

Phloeun: When we join the program, we would want to get out of something such as finding a way, a solution for the issue you have been facing. Same for me as the curator. As a collective we can share experiences to serve a larger community within the same area in Asia.

12. When fellows and collaborators have joined MCH’s program before, can they apply again?


13. I’m worried about my English level. I worry that I will not be able to engage in very deep conversations because of my English level, especially in writing or a lot of reading. Is it a big problem to join the program?

Most people who end up joining this program, their English might be the second language, it’s absolutely fine if you don’t have perfect English. We encourage the group to find a way to help each other out in listening, expressing and understanding each other. 

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