It all began with a series of questions.
Ask yourself, what does a private space means? Do you think public spaces are more privatised now? Do we get more freedom in a privatised space? What are we allowed to do in public spaces now? With the increasing privatisation of our urban condition in Malaysia, these are the questions that often run through our mind.
In an effort to spark discussions around the theme of privatising space, The Japan Foundation Kuala Lumpur presents “Making Space: We Are Where We Aren’t”, an interactive exhibition that assembled artworks by Zedeck Siew, Sharon Chin and Maung Day, Saiful Razman and Ilham Fadhli, Okui Lala, Kontak!, Jeffrey Lim, Goh Lee Kwang, Engku Iman, and Daniel Chong.
Curated by Ipoh-based curator Ong Jo-Lene, the exhibition is located at Sekeping Sin Chew Kee, from 31st Jan to 9th Feb 2015. Having co-curated the last two MAP Arts Festivals in KL and the PUBLIKArt series of public art commissions under the direction of labDNA’s Nani Kahar, “Making Space” is Jo-Lene’s curatorial debut as an independent curator. It was developed after she joined the 8th Berlin Biennale Young Curators Workshop and Run & Learn: New Curatorial Constellations, a Japan Foundation cultural programme for young curators from Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Malaysia.
The artworks featured for the exhibition challenge the viewers to think outside the box so that their imaginations can run wild. The artists aim to engage the viewers with artworks that examine their assumptions about private and public through different aspects of space. The blurred line between public space and private space can be seen at the exhibition as it is located right above a speakeasy bar at the 1920s residential building-turned-guesthouse.
Artists at the exhibition provide people with tools to think about the topics and let their imaginations soar as high as they can. On 8th Feb, an artist sharing session will be held on 3pm at Sekeping Chew Kee and here’s a sneak peek of the artworks that are being exhibited:
“In The Name of Comfort”
“In The Name of Comfort”, by seasoned emerging artists Saiful Razman and Ilham Fadhli, is the first art installation you’ll see when you arrive at the exhibition. The two artists pair up for the first time to create this sculptural piece that was “moulded” at site using brightly coloured cheap plastic chairs of mamak stalls and community halls.
The artwork has a sense of banality and familiarity, elucidating in each viewer a spectrum of meditations on narrowing space, communal practices and city rhythms and scales. However, sitting on these chairs require some effort to adapt to their less than ideal form while facing others seated comfortably.
“The Limits of My Imagination”
During the exhibition, you may find yourself looking at this art installation by Daniel Chong, a roomful of 4-quadrant matrices written with pen on easily discarded tissue papers. Titled “The Limits of My Imagination”, Daniel engages viewers with acts of categorisation and perception. Some have a matrix relationship, some are sequential, some are just related words, and some are not entirely logical. It is a visualisation, an ideas generator – the four-quadrants bearing the sign of a cross, not of religion but perhaps of human endeavour.
For the artist sharing session, you can leave your footprint (not literally) by making your own tissue paper matrix with Daniel Chong.
“Local Fauna” requires viewers to go walk around in the city to search for art pieces about fictional animals that exist only due to human civilisation. It is a series of short stories written by Zederick Siew, featuring illustrations drawn by Sharon Chin and Burmese translations by poet and artist Maung Day. One of the posters is currently showing at the exhibiton in Kuala Lumpur. The artists attempts to bring art and storytelling out of the gallery and to the streets by placing their microfiction graffiti around the public spaces in Jalan Pudu/Kota Raya area at wee hours of night.
Although a map will be provided for you to look for these illustrations, these artworks can be easily encountered, enjoyed, or ignored by passersby. Zederick will be sharing his experience in doing so during the artist sharing session in Sekeping Sin Chew Kee.
Situated at Sekeping Sin Chew Kee’s back lane, “Peeterlizer” by Kontak! is an experiment in creating a closed system from human waste to human consumption, challenging the viewer’s sense of privacy and sensibilities as civilised urbanites with a public urinal cum vertical edible garden. A manual instruction will be provided for viewers so that they choose they want to contribute for the experiment.
The art installation is placed near Jeffrey Lim’s “Door Left, Door Right”, a laboriously produced image that was manually photographed, printed, and tinted onto oxidised zinc measuring 1006 x 1975 mm. For this project, Jeffrey’s intention was to reflect the reverse view when a viewer faces the door back to the viewer. When viewers face the artwork on the door, it shows the image of another door. The element of time is elucidated in this work through the zinc that was artificially corroded and the image printed on it that is quickly facing under the elements; is a door fading away or a portal opening up?
Members of Peetilizer project by Kontak! will make their appearances at the artist sharing session to share their inspiration for this project while Jeffrey Lim will demonstrate his silver emulsion on zinc printing process and how the process is very much a part of the work.
“As If, Home”
Media artist Okui Lala continues with her exploration of hidden narratives of migrant workers in Malaysia with her “As If ____” series. Having observed migrant construction workers leaving graffiti like marks in the houses they build where they also eat, sleep, urinate, and defecate in during the final stages of construction, Okui is instigated by the myth that we are the first inhabitants of our newly built houses or purchased houses.
So, for this exhibition, “As If, Home” is a work that straddles video and performance where Okui assists skilled construction worker Mostafa Kamal in building a model house that he will later use as a storage unit in his house. Both are engaged in a dance as people, neither will own the “house”, both leaving with a shared memory, process, and thoughts on home. Gleaning into the social relationships behind our economic relationships.
“No Sound Is Private”
Sound artist Goh Lee Kwang brings the aural element into the exhibition space with “No Sound Is Private”, a work consisting of an audio recording and essay entitled “No Art Is Private”.
It is a poetic wandering about sound that consists of an audio recording of passing trains from nearby Pudu LRT station. The actual trains cannot be heard from Sekeping Sin Chew Kee but given our city soundscape, particularly in areas un-posh, the sound hardly seems artificially inserted. The text speaks of private and public as states of the human mind; that the moment we utter a thought, it plays out in the public.
“Aku Keturunanmu Perempuan”
Engku Iman is the youngest artist in this show and she presents “Aku Keturunanmu Perempuan”, a 3-part self portrait consisting of a set of illustrations the she has drawn and then carbon traced onto paper, a set of love letters the artist received as an adolescent, and a rug patterned with used body-hair wax strips. Her works are characterised by a sardonic humour in her take on local cultural ironies, paradoxes, and colloquialisms. These artworks form a mosaic that reveals tensions in her identity as a young Malay woman in Malaysia. and her conception of a self-image is a nebulous intersection of private thoughts and public actions, repercussions and conformity, and independence and belonging.
“Making Space: We Are Where We Aren’t” exhibition will end on 9th Feb so if you would like to, make your way to Sekeping Sin Chew Kee today. The exhibition will be held from 11 am – 9 pm. Curator Jo-Lene already led a private walkthrough of the exhibition on 31st Jan and 7th Feb but you can register your preferred session at [email protected] before 9th Feb.