Award-winning local animator Ben Lam to participate in upcoming exhibition at the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum

The designer also shares details about his new audio and comic series.

Options: Congratulations on being chosen to take part in a group exhibition at the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum this month. Tell us more.
Ben Lam: One of my works titled YAJH: MEVSME will be shown there as part of a joint exhibition with other artists. Originally crafted using 3D software, it has been rendered in a traditional illustration style and printed on a framed canvas measuring 60cm x 60cm. It will be showcased from May 29 to June 4 as part of the ‘Art Gathering’ Tokyo International Art Exhibition.

Tell us about the inspiration for the artwork.
I begin with a quote from Friedrich Nietzsche as a means of introduction. It says: ‘But the worst enemy you can meet will always be yourself; you lie in wait for yourself in caverns and forests.’ In the intricate tapestry of our existence, we embark on a ceaseless journey of self-expression and introspection, delving into the depths of our inner being. Amid this exploration lies a pivotal moment of encounter, a fleeting instance of profound terror that possesses the potential to shape the course of our lives. Despite its significance, we often find ourselves recoiling from this fear, desperately wishing it away, hoping it to be merely a figment of our imagination.

This artwork encapsulates the intricate dance between self-discovery and avoidance. Within its brushstrokes and deadly bass booms, it sparks the seed moment of confrontation, where the shadows of our deepest fears intertwine with the light of our aspirations. As viewers immerse themselves in the evocative imagery and haunting lyrics, they are invited to confront their own inner struggles, soul work and the transformative power inherent in acknowledging and embracing them.

YAJH is also the title of a short film of yours. Tell us about it.
YAJH is an animated music video featuring original music by the Australian-Japanese musician RHYME. I served as both screenwriter and director of this short film, which embarks on a musical journey centred around self-discovery. The storyline adopts a looped format, where each narrative thread circles back to its origin. Visually, the imagery is deliberately ominous to underscore our internal fears, achieved through a blend of traditional painting techniques and 3D rendering styles.

Ultimately, the story harmonises with the rhythm and tempo of the music, aligning with the composer’s vision. Our collective spiritual reflections, inspired by the music, are translated into a vibrant visual spectacle, giving rise to YAJH. The accolades it has garnered include multiple awards at esteemed festivals such as the Roma Short Film Festival, Tokyo International Short Film Festival, Seoul International Short Film Festival, and Magma.


YAJH: MEVSME (Photo: Ben Lam)

How did this opportunity to show your work in Tokyo come about?
The museum and exhibition organisers were seeking artworks for the showcase a few months ago. I submitted my piece, which underwent curation and it was ultimately accepted for display.

What are you reading right now?
I’m reading Hope Anyways by Peter Wan. It serves as a guiding light as I continue to nurture my relationship with God and strengthen my faith.

What are you listening to right now?
Currently, I’m listening to Channel Tres. My obsession with house music has me hooked on his beats.

What are your favourite sources of inspiration?
My primary wellspring of inspiration lies in the rich tapestry of traditional Western art, spanning from the Renaissance to contemporary periods. I often ponder how artists from these eras would approach their craft had they been born in our modern age, contemplating the technologies they might have employed to create their masterpieces. Imagining their adaptations in today’s world fuels my creativity. 

This inspiration propels me to not only delve into traditional artistic techniques but also to explore the latest advancements in art and technology.

Moreover, my creative process is deeply intertwined with human connection. Understanding the stories and emotions of those around me as well as introspecting about my own experiences enables me to craft narratives that resonate deeply with audiences. While art museums offer a sanctuary for contemplation and discovery, I find additional sparks of creativity in unexpected places such as theme parks and amusement rides. These vibrant environments stimulate my imagination and infuse my work with a sense of wonder and excitement.


Tokyo Metropolitan Museum (Photo: Tokyo Metropolitan Museum)

You are based in Taiwan now. Why did you choose to relocate from California?
The primary reason was to live closer to my wife’s family and be nearer to my own family in Malaysia. My wife is Taiwanese. Additionally, it’s easier to travel to Malaysia from Taiwan. The decision to relocate was also influenced by the flexibility afforded by remote arrangements during the pandemic. Both my wife and I were fortunate enough to be part of a company that permitted remote work from Taiwan. Seizing this opportunity, we made the move and are grateful for that decision.

Since moving here, I’ve also found it advantageous to do business with Japan, further expanding my professional network and opportunities. Overall, Taiwan serves as a central hub for me to maintain connections between the US, Japan, Malaysia and Taiwan, allowing for seamless collaboration and networking across borders.

What are you working on next?
At the moment, I’m deeply immersed in two exciting projects. First, as a co-founder and art director for m00m, an original IP that combines both a meticulously crafted audio and comic series. Our team is hard at work developing a social mobile game that offers players the unique experience of voice chatting while engaging in various entertaining activities within our
virtual world. 

In addition to my work with m00m, I’m spearheading the production of a children’s podcast tailored specifically for the Mandarin-speaking market. It features original stories developed by me, aimed at captivating young audiences and sparking their imaginations. Both projects allow me to combine my creative expertise with my entrepreneurial spirit, and I’m eagerly anticipating the journey ahead as we bring these visions to life.


What are your travel plans for the rest of 2024 looking like?
Tokyo, for my upcoming exhibition. Additionally, there are several places in Taiwan I’ve yet to explore, with Tainan being my next destination. I’ll definitely make a trip to visit my family in Malaysia as well. And if possible, Miami so I can finally meet my development team in person.

Describe your idea of a perfect weekend.
Playing video games with my son, inviting friends over to indulge in a delicious home-cooked meal paired with good wine, and leaving work-related worries behind to engage in light-hearted chit-chat and laughter.  

This article first appeared on May 20, 2024 in The Edge Malaysia.



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