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A people that is grade, lasting, and propogating

Diagnosing the malaise of the country, Mahathir announces that we have “come late to the age of industrialisation”. To this, we can only have the “will to make sweeping changes”, to reconfigure our sense of selves, expressed as a mechanical mastery and modernisation over our bodies. Nothing short of a reordering of humanity can exhort this arrival of modernity.

This video explores the figuration of the new Cyberjaya Man of Wawasan by looking at man’s sublimation into the things and infrastructures that his labour built. Through humanity’s absence, the video invokes the uncanny dissipation of man in the accelerated era of Wawasan. Who remains to maintain this modernity? Who, or perhaps more fittingly, what does this blueprinted modernity serve? What does a Wawasan that has displaced Man look like?

Automaton manifesto:

Malaysia's new finance minister has called for Malaysians to embrace "the new normalisation process" and "do as the locals do as you would do anything to be a good neighbour to the locals". Dr. Mahathir exhorted the Malay community to follow a similar trend in “grade, lasting and propagating” their country in comparison to their European counterparts. The world was still to come, and Malaysia must forever be trivial. "Europeans will never be Europeans."

At the beginning of the decade, there emerged a great stir again

Like a glitch, social and economic crises in the accelerated timeline of Wawasan throws systems into disarray. Modernity does not merely stop, its vehicular chassis crashes along the superhighway.

There is another sense in which time crashes, as when we have arrived at the future promised in Vision 2020. As it turns out, the future must be furtively deferred through clever bureaucratese: Wawasan 2020 is substituted with Wawasan Bersama Makmur 2030. But a Wawasan ‘future’ stripped off its utopic projections, is just the banality of hereafter in bureaucratic, developmental time. Without the immanent, utopic future, the ‘now’ we live in is reduced to a static point. The present crashes into a moment of immobility, inaction and stasis.

Wrapped in an endlessly looping video narrating over economic, political and social crisis within Malaysia at the end of 1990s, the video magnifies the intensification of social inertia experienced by the public in the aftermath of Wawasan accelerationism.

Automaton reading:

The Malaysian Government put forward several options for ways to mend the damage made by the "bargain". Some suggested that the government's punitive stance be extended to include any non-Malays who might be attracted to the "Malay" brand. Others argued that the removal of the stigma of "bargain"ability was worth the risk. None of the options were able to capture the attention of the general public more than the U.S. audience. The Malaysian audience was largely ignored by the media, with a notable absence in Thailand where the "Bargain" was signed.

"Why am I being treated to such a debauched dinner (in the morning) when I might have been served a large plate of fish."

At the beginning of the decade, however, there emerged a great stir again when, as a few days earlier, Mahathir had warned a large gathering of dignitaries not to fight in the streets and had not warned the delegates not to join organized labour. It was this great stir that set off a great deal of speculation about the likely link between the two.

The state is now the main means of buying things, making furniture, setting things alight, and disposing of them

One of the most understated premises of Wawasan is the thorough reconfiguration of political society.

Modernity is incompatible with bureaucratic inertia—"Every transaction with the Government would take an unconscionable length of time”. The civil service, deemed a stumbling block of Wawasan with their “old attitude[s]” and “unacceptable delays”, must give way for a more efficient system. Malaysia Incorporated, birthed in this atmosphere, sought to break down the boundaries of business and government to achieve a seamless, frictionless unity between private and public. Governed by a ‘tech’-nocratic rationality, with Mahathir at its apex, Wawasan is a political vision and a performance of high authoritarianism.

The video dictates aloud some of the AI-formulated economic policies for Malaysia. Ranging from commentaries on oil businesses, workers’ productivity, mandatory training, resources efficiency, to the role of government, one is immersed in a world that is oppressively prescriptive in its techno-scientifism.

Automaton treatise:

Business elites believe that an economy without oil will be unable to thrive, that an economy built on oil will be unable to thrive, that an economy based on diplomacy will be unable to thrive, and that an economy based on rivalry and cooperation and mutual aid and cooperation and all the arts of diplomacy and cooperation and patronage and all the arts of manipulating the other's thinking will be unable to thrive. They believe that an economy based on rivalry and isolation and dependency and all the arts of patronage and control and all the arts of manipulation and manipulation and all the other arts of causing and responding to the other's effects will be unable to produce lasting change. And they believe that an economy based on rivalry and isolation and dependency and all the other arts of resistance and resistance and all the other arts of survival and growth and progress and all the other arts of consciousness and being and all the other arts of consciousness will be unable to produce either desired or desirable outcomes.


In this collaborative work between (A-Z) Chuah Chong Yan (artist), Lay Sheng (political theorist) and Zhi Wee (creative technologist), we take seriously Mahathir’s forewarnings of the supersession of the human in the time of modernity. We run scholarly exegesis, speeches, advertorials and magazines produced in the time of Wawasan through GPT-3, producing a stream of text that simulates the futurity of 1990s for our times. We submit an AI-automatic critique against Wawasan’s inhuman/inhumane modernism. We relinquish the cherished assumptions of humanism, to imagine new ways of automatic critique at the scale of computational speed.

Wawasan 2020—a blueprint for an advanced utopia, a superfluid modernity, a developmental fever, a tech-nocratic high authoritarianism, and a supercorridor of informational highway. Simultaneously an AI-authored manifesto for living, and a world-building project of an oppressively techno-scientific future, our work extrapolates the multiple and sometimes inchoate visions of futurity in 1990s for our times.

Full automaton transcript

The project can be viewed on www.wawasan.directory

We are Somnii. An art direction, digital imagination & research studio.

We are Somnii. An art direction, digital imagination & research studio.