Simon Sien Yong Soon is Senior Lecturer in art history at the Visual Art Studies Program, Faculty of Creative Arts at Universiti Malaya. His research focuses primarily on twentieth-century art and visual culture in Southeast Asia, especifically Malaysia, the Philippines, Indonesia, Singapore and to some extent, Thailand. He has written on various topics related to twentieth-century art across Asia and curates exhibitions, including Bayangnya Itu Timbul Tenggelam: Photographic Cultures in Malaysia, Ilham Gallery, Kuala Lumpur (2021).

Soon is the co-founder and editorial advisor of SOUTHEAST OF NOW: Directions in Contemporary and Modern Art in Asia, a peer-review journal published by NUS Press and a team member of the Malaysia Design Archive, an archival, research and education platform on visual cultures of the twentieth century. He is also occasionally an artist, working chiefly through collaboration to explore cultural histories of the Malay archipelago. His practice focuses on the adaptive reuse of historical images found in the public domain to explore their myth-making and story-telling potentials.

His publications include Engineering the human soul in 1950s Indonesia and Singapore in Art, Global Maoism and the Chinese Cultural Revolution (Manchester University Press, 2020); The Woman and the Vista: Intimate Revolt of the Cultural Left in Charting Thoughts: Essays on Art in Southeast Asia (The National Gallery of Singapore, 2017); Images without Bodies: Chiangmai Social Installation and the Art History of Cooperative Suffering (Afterall: A Journal of Art, Context and Enquiry, 2016); and Converging Extremes: Exhibitions and Historical Sightlines in 1990s Malaysia (Yishu Journal of Contemporary Chinese Art, 2014).

Soon earned a BA in art history from the University of Melbourne and a PhD from the University of Sydney under an Australian Postgraduate Award fellowship, where he wrote a dissertation on the spatio-visual practice of political art in Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand, and the Philippines, 1950s–1970s.

He was born in 1983 in Kuala Lumpur where he continues to live and work.

SAF participation:
March Meeting 2023