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Art and the Environment in Southeast Asia: Environment as Contested Space

This course delves into 1970s Southeast Asia and uncovers powerful intersections of art, society, and the environment.

381 enrolled on this course

An artist is performing martial arts in the forest. He is surrounded by white paper of different heights and sizes. The largest piece to his right paints a large circle in black ink.
  • Duration

    6 weeks
  • Weekly study

    1 hour
  • 100% online

    How it works
  • Digital upgrade


Explore how art functions as a form of critique on environmental issues

This course examines how artists from Southeast Asia in the 1970s responded to environmental issues and concerns through their works. Some of their works functioned as a direct means of protest, advocating for immediate action against the exploitative depletion and degradation of natural resources. The inclusion of unconventional materials including text, organic and found objects, photographs and even the body became powerful tools in engaging with these urgent concerns. Through understanding the strategies that these artists used, we will learn how they engaged with the environment as a site of contestation, consequently reshaping society’s relationship with their surroundings.

Online Courses on Southeast Asian Art

Developed by National Gallery Singapore, Online Courses on Southeast Asian Art introduces audiences to the richness of art from the region.

At your own pace, journey with artists, curators and researchers through insightful videos, short readings, and resources. We also invite you to exchange ideas with our global community of curious learners.


  • Week 1

    Welcome to the course!

    • Introduction

      This section gives you an overview of the course. Let's start by meeting the team and getting to know other learners!

  • Week 2

    “Speak our conscience”

    • Nirmala Dutt

      In this section, we delve into the cost and impact of urban development by examining the work of Malaysian artist Nirmala Dutt.

  • Week 3

    “Fine art needs emancipation”

    • Siti Adiyati

      In this week, we examine the impact of economic inequality on the environment by exploring the work of Indonesian artist Siti Adiyati.

  • Week 4

    "Make questions, not art"

    • Tang Da Wu

      This week, we explore the intriguing connection and interplay between the body and the environment by delving into the work of Singaporean artist Tang Da Wu.

  • Week 5

    "Make our own models"

    • Santiago Bose

      We gain insight into how development might challenge the livelihood of indigenous peoples through the work of Filipino artist Santiago Bose.

  • Week 6

    Where do we go from here?

    • Conclusion

      Reviewing what we learned over the past few weeks, how do we continue to explore the relationship between art and the environment?

When would you like to start?

Start straight away and join a global classroom of learners. If the course hasn’t started yet you’ll see the future date listed below.

  • Available now

Learning on this course

On every step of the course you can meet other learners, share your ideas and join in with active discussions in the comments.

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you‘ll be able to...

  • Develop insights and perspectives on the strategies that Southeast Asian artists used to respond to urgent environmental concerns.
  • Encounter art and ways of thinking from Southeast Asia.
  • Apply vocabulary and visual analysis strategies to form an interpretation of artworks.

Who is the course for?

This course is designed for those intrigued by the intersections of art, society, and the environment in Southeast Asia, and how artists engaged with these themes as methods of resistance through their work and practices in the 1970s.

We’ll take a thematic approach, immersing you in the era through a variety of resources. Expect to analyse compelling artworks, delve into artist interviews and biographies, and explore how these artistic expressions intersected with the social landscape of the time.

Who will you learn with?

Goh Sze Ying is a curator at National Gallery Singapore, where she contributes to the research and exhibitions of modern art in Southeast Asia.

Teo Hui Min is Curator at National Gallery Singapore where she conceives and realises exhibitions and research relating to modern art in Southeast Asia.

Erica Lai is the Assistant Director of Curatorial Programmes at National Gallery Singapore. She is interested in the emancipatory potential of encounters with art.

Jying Tan is Manager (Curatorial Programmes) at National Gallery Singapore, where she contributes to growing youth audience in museums through various pedagogical approaches and inclusive engagement.

Wong Jia Min is part of the exhibition interpretation and content development team at National Gallery Singapore. Her interests include modern art and Victorian literature.

Who developed the course?

National Gallery Singapore

National Gallery Singapore is a visual arts museum that oversees the world’s largest public collection of Singapore and Southeast Asian modern art, creating dialogues between the art of the region and the world.

What's included?

National Gallery Singapore are offering everyone who joins this course a free digital upgrade, so that you can experience the full benefits of studying online for free. This means that you get:

  • Unlimited access to this course
  • Includes any articles, videos, peer reviews and quizzes
  • A PDF Certificate of Achievement to prove your success when you’re eligible
  • Learning on FutureLearn

    Your learning, your rules

    • Courses are split into weeks, activities, and steps to help you keep track of your learning
    • Learn through a mix of bite-sized videos, long- and short-form articles, audio, and practical activities
    • Stay motivated by using the Progress page to keep track of your step completion and assessment scores

    Join a global classroom

    • Experience the power of social learning, and get inspired by an international network of learners
    • Share ideas with your peers and course educators on every step of the course
    • Join the conversation by reading, @ing, liking, bookmarking, and replying to comments from others

    Map your progress

    • As you work through the course, use notifications and the Progress page to guide your learning
    • Whenever you’re ready, mark each step as complete, you’re in control
    • Complete 90% of course steps and all of the assessments to earn your certificate

    Want to know more about learning on FutureLearn? Using FutureLearn

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