| Singaporean Nisar Keshvani is an Internet journalist,
web developer, educator and new media specialist. He is fineArt forum’s
(http://www.fineartforum.org) editor-in-chief, and since 2002, he
became editor-in-chief of the Leonardo Electronic Almanac (http://mitpress2.mit.edu/e-journals/LEA).
LEA is an online peer reviewed journal published at MIT Press for
the Leonardo Network (http://www.leonardo.info)
must be the youngest editor-in-chief in the history of fAf. How
and when did you begin your association with fAf?
My involvement with fAf began in 1998, during my student
days at the Queensland University of Technology, Australia. As an
overseas journalism student, I was constantly on the lookout for
opportunities to write and work on new projects.
My housemate, Simon Quah, told me his multimedia professor Paul
Brown was inviting students to sign up as fAf editors. I applied,
and was accepted. I spent my first six months editing fAf’s
opportunites and then stuff sections. As I was filling a vacant
position, I was trained by Paul himself, and then it was my job
to train new members of the team. That’s fAf’s working
I finished my term, and had the opportunity to pursue my postgraduate
studies and work in Australia. During this time, I maintained contact
with Paul and wrote reviews for fAf, which I thoroughly enjoyed.
During the last stage of my postgraduate research, I was in a Melbourne
net café, finishing my stint with The Melbourne Age. Paul
emailed me saying he was successful with a New Media fellowship
from the Australia Council for the Arts, and was off to the University
of Sussex for a residency, and asked if I wanted to take over as
fAf editor in his absence. I was thrilled beyond belief, and suddenly
the jittery Melbourne winter didn’t seem that cold :-)
It’s been four years since, and fAf has seen tremendous growth.
Given what you said about your interest in
pursuing new projects, why didn’t you tire of fAf after a
At fAf, I’ve found we’ve made it our responsibility
to support young, emerging new media artists, writers, students
and theorists. There are numerous avenues out there, but sometimes
it’s hard for upcoming professionals in the field to get a
break. In my short time with fAf I find we’ve had the opportunity
to support some very promising individuals who’ve grown from
strength to strength and progressed so quickly.
I see fAf as a publication that helps spot and nurture new talent,
at least in a small way. It’s only appropriate that established
organisations in the field like fAf take on this task, and to constantly
spot new trends, developments in the field and bring them to the
attention of our readers and become leaders for the community.
Unlike other publications I have worked on, fAf is a truly independent
arts publication. Sometimes as a journalist, you are limited by
agendas, policy and publication restrictions, often driven by management.
Not that it’s at all, wrong. I am sure like every arts publication,
fAf has its own set of limitations.
From day one, I have enjoyed the very fluid nature of fAf and our
ability to pursue the smallest of ideas and turn them into reality.
For example, through a mailing list I met Fatima Lasay, a Filipino
artist and educator, an email exchange followed, and we discussed
one or two issues. From there, Fatima told me about some projects
she was working on, and we encouraged her to pursue them, and commissioned
her to produce an online exhibition for fAf’s gallery. We’ve
had other similar experiences with various artists and writers,
including Mike Leggett, Choy Kok Kee, Jenny Fraser and others.
How would you describe your role, and how
has that changed over the years?
In 1998, I was fAf’s Opportunities & Stuff editor.
My job was to copyedit the barrage of opportunities that came to
Paul, and turn them into concise bites of information for our readers.
A year later, during Paul Brown’s University of Sussex residency,
I took on the fAf editorship. Paul took on a watching brief as fAf’
s Executive Editor, and provided me with very strong support and
guidance in managing fAf.
My job then was to make editorial decisions on what to run in fAf,
send the announcements to our section editors, compile fAf’s
news digest and send it to our subscriber base. We had a team of
15 individuals working on fAf and my task was to oversee fAf’s
editorial, creative strategy and manage the team.
I worked closely with our then-Reviews Editor Deni Stoner, who sourced
for books, conferences, review material and commissioned writers.
We had two content managers, Darren Guglielmetti and Holly Robertson,
who helped train and oversee our new staff and maintain our production.
Daniel Heinonen, our production manager played an instrumental role
in organising fAf’s back-end and archives.
From my earliest days with fAf, I’ve focussed on strategic
direction and our creative identity. In 2001, just before I headed
to Singapore, we were successful with our Australia Council grant
application, which allowed us to appoint Linda Carroli as fAf’s
Australian Editor and to maintain our home base.
This made it possible for me to take on the editor-in-chief role.
Now I could concentrate on fAf’s future direction and strategic
planning. I’m a firm believer in not duplicating what already
exists, constantly trying to push the boundaries, and meeting the
needs of our audience. As a result, over the last two years, we’ve
co-produced special editions for various key organisations, including
the Leonardo Music Journal, Multimedia Art Asia Pacific (MAAP) Festival,
the Singapore Film Festival’s experimental multimedia exhibition
We’ve also re-established links with Australian organisations
such as ANAT Australian Network for Art & Technology (ANAT),
Experimenta (Melbourne), Dlux (Sydney), and international collaborators
such as the Virtual Heritage Network (Japan), Electronic Literature
Organisation (USA), Leonardo (USA), E-Art Asean (Malaysia), and
One of the most positive outcomes has been a strategic alliance
with Leonardo – Journal of Art, Science & Technology.
Instead of duplicating our resources, we’ve formed a symbiotic
relationship where fAf concentrates on what it does best with our
online art & technology net news, and the Leonardo Electronic
Almanac concentrating on critical commentary in the field.
What particular fAf memories have left an
impression on you?
I’ve written various editorials for fAf and tried to evoke
responses about issues from our readers and initiate a dialogue.
Only occasionally would I receive an email response. In fAf’s
March 2001 issue, I wrote an editorial just after my mom passed
away sharing my grief. To my pleasant surprise, a steady stream
of emails flowed from friends and practical strangers on the other
side of the globe encouraging me on. It was a moment when I felt
there was human emotion in the “cold” virtual network
that fAf thrives in.
Another incident that comes to mind is “fineArt in Motion”
- fAf’s 15th Anniversary Traveling Screening Program, which
I curated. It features 14 artists from everywhere and has travelled
to Manila, Australia, Thailand, USA, UK, Athens, South Africa and
other countries. (http://www.fineartforum.org/screen)
I’d applied for grant funding in 2000 to make it happen but
was unsuccessful. Because I thought it this was an important programme,
I devoted my time to it, going ahead without financial support.
I downscaled the programme as I felt fAf could still play an important
hand in supporting new artists and push beyond our existing web
Once again, I received support from friends such as Corinne Teo
(the programme’s video editor), Andre Ho, Juraimi Jumahat
(postcard designers), Tan Yiru (website developer), and Noel Tan
(website editor). Ngee Ann Polytechnic supported us with postage
and dubbing costs, and QUT with publicity. Without them, the programme
would not be possible.
I’m very pleased with how we managed to overcome these hurdles
and, with the positive support from partner organisations, screened
our programme. The success of this effort has spurred me on to try
and make it a biennial event.
What do you see as the challenges for fAf?
One of the greatest challenges working for fAf is our constant
search for funding. There is only so much you can do with a zero-dollar
budget. It’s only fair that writers and artists be compensated
where possible, and we’ve been extremely fortunate to receive
funding support from the Australia Council for the Arts, Queensland
University of Technology, its high-calibre Communication Design
students and in-kind support from individuals across the globe.
In no way, do I see this lack of funding as a major constraint,
QUT gives sufficient resources and technical support for us to keep
fAf running. Surprisingly, you find sometimes, one can achieve more
and better quality outcomes with limited funding. Having said that,
for fAf to continue growing and maintaining its leadership role
in the community, we need funding to support artists, and to evolve
the way fAf news & information is delivered to meet current
As the incumbent editor-in-chief, tasked to take fAf forward
in a competitive landscape, what is your take on fAf's future, and
its place in the new media/art/technology community?
I think all of us – Ray Lauzzana, Roger Malina, Annick Bureaud,
Paul Brown, Judy Malloy and Linda Carroli have suggested various
directions fAf should head towards. I think fAf and other arts organisations
need to be in dialogue and steer towards strategic aims.
The challenge now, is for publications to work strategically, together,
and to avoid duplication. All of us have our strengths, and there
are various ways we can work together. In Ray’s days, fAf
was on its own, and catered to a wider art & technology community.
Today, there are other publications that meet this need. The challenge
for fAf is to sift through the copious amounts of information that
exist and select quality material for our new media, art & technology
community, while continuing to support alternative points of view
and newcomers to the field.
Another role fAf and our parent organisation - the Art, Science,
and Technology Network (ASTN) should focus on is developing an international
arts, science, technology network, a one-stop resource for newcomers
and our existing readership. This is a joint project we are currently
pursuing with Leonardo, and UNESCO. This can enhance and fine-tune
our recently re-launched Arts Resources Section.
fAf is also actively scouring for Indigenous artists to offer them
a platform to showcase their work. We supported the Trophies of
Honor – Art Chronicles of Indigenous Peoples project. We’re
looking at re-initiating this exhibition and supporting artists
like Jenny Fraser who curated fAf’s Cybertribes gallery.
Although Nisar Keshvani is involved with art and technology, he
has always seen himself as a journalist first. He has worked for
international magazines and newspapers since 1993, including The
Straits Times and the Sydney 2000 Olympic News Service. From 1996
to 1998, he wrote and coordinated the Singapore Police Force magazine,
Police Life Monthly.
His interest in new media was inspired when as a student, he coordinated
Communique Online (QUT’s flagship online publication), which
won the 1998 Journalism Educators Association "Best Student
Publication" award and the inaugural Dr Charles Stuart Ossie
award for "Best Publication".
As academic staff and Managing Editor, he established Communique
Online as an academic unit and taught online production techniques
in QUT. Keshvani tutored units including news production and developed
websites, including the QUT Public Journalism Project website. The
prestigious project, funded by the Australian Research Council,
won the Print Media Peace prize by the United Nations Association
of Australia in 1998 and 1999.
He presented his Masters research, on the web’s impact on
journalists, their work practices and management policy in news
organisations, at several conferences including Computers and Writing
Online 2000 (USA), Journalism Educators Association (JEA) and the
International Association for Media and Communication Research (IAMCR).
The research was also published in the Australian Journalism Review,
Asia Pacific Media Educator & Journalism Australia Studies.
It was around then that he became involved with fAf. But rather
than leading with his own work and arts practice, as is typical
in arts organisations, he has chosen to perform a supportive role
for the community, putting his own creations on the backburner.
In July 2001, he joined Ngee Ann Polytechnic’s School of Film
& Media Studies as Digital Media Lecturer where he developed,
and teaches a web design and content management unit, see <http:://www.np.edu.sg/~knh>.
From 2002, he became editor-in-chief of the Leonardo Electronic
Almanac, the electronic arm of Leonardo – Journal of Arts,
Science & Technology, published by MIT Press (USA) and the Leonardo
Network. LEA is dedicated to providing a forum for those interested
in the realm where art, science and technology converge.
Keshvani sits on the Art, Science, Technology Network (ASTN), Leonardo/International
Society Art, Science & Technology (ISAST) boards, SIGGRAPH Singapore
Chapter Management Committee and is Program Advisor (Asia Pacific),
for the Brisbane Multimedia Art Asia Pacific (MAAP) Festival.
In his scant spare time, Keshvani pursues his passion in filmmaking.
Two films he co-directed with his brother were awarded the Special
Jury Prize in the 1993 and 1994 Singapore Film Festivals.
His website is @ http://www.keshvani.com
Click here to read fAf
editors virtual roundtable