Off Walls Off Pedestals

Notes from a Students’ Exhibition that Didn’t Happen (Gaza: A Visual Metaphor)

Posted in Students and Art by tsabri on January 15, 2010

Sometime in September 2009, an academic-friend asked me to write some notes for his students’ exhibition which he titled as ‘Gaza: A Visual Metaphor”. The exhibition was scheduled to be held at the eGallery, Faculty of Creative Multimedia (FCM), Multimedia University, Cyberjaya, but due to some unforeseen circumstances, the exhibition didn’t take place.

After seeing the works (the studio exercises), I noted as follows;

  • Exhibition. The exhibition displayed FCM Alpha students (semester 39) works based on Gaza as the major theme or topic of reference.. The works, both 2-dimensional (drawings & paintings) and 3-dimensional (assemblages & sculptures), were results from a creative as well as a critical process of identifying problems, justifying images, developing designs and appropriating the expressions to the given theme, Gaza.
  • Gaza. Gaza City; Palestine; Gaza Strip; Palestinian National Authority; Philistines; Egyptians; Romans; Byzantines; Crusaders; Mongol raids; Ottoman Empire; World War 1; British Mandate of Palestine; 1948 Arab – Israeli War; Six Day War; PLO; Hamas; Fatah; Jewish; Christianity; Islam; Zionism.
  • Where is Gaza? Gaza is millions of kilometers from here. So far away… like it’s at the edge of the world! Imagine! The world is flat and Gaza is situated at its very edge! You will have your fall of life if you miss Gaza. Next is hell, so they said!
  • Where is Gaza? Gaza is also just a few kilobytes away. So near… like it’s at the tip of your middle finger! Imagine! The world is cylindrical and Gaza is situated at its bottommost  / uppermost part! You may be floating, as the magnetic pull is the least there!
  • Between the Real and the Virtual. Blood has spilled hatreds. Tears have drowned the fragile hopes. Fear has been misspelled several times… Have you seen blood? My friend. Blood oozing out from the severely cut stomachs, from the cracked heads… and bodies, how does blood smells, my friend? Is blood red, my friend? Have you heard the bombs? Have you heard their laughter?
  • Do you think you know where Gaza is?
  • Is Gaza a metaphor? A visual metaphor?

What I Did Before (the Inside Series)

Posted in Inside Series by tsabri on January 15, 2010

This is to introduce a serial of installation works, the “Inside Series”, which I did individually or collaboratively since 1997. I see that installation art is a form of art that incorporates a number of media to create a visceral or conceptual experience in a particular environment. Audience participation is also sometimes encouraged through the process of making and exhibiting an installation art.

The “Inside Series” began and developed from a working-theme projected by Projekt-Gruppe Stoffwechsel, Kassel, Germany, for an international installation art exhibition-project organized in 1997. Together with a few friends, I was invited to participate in the exhibition as a group making one installation. A group of five artists was loosely formed and I was responsible for the installation’s conceptual framework. The artists were Zulkifli Yusoff, A Rahim Jalil, Aznan Omar and M Faizal Ramli. Another artist-friend, Syed Mohd, accompanied and assisted us.

In building the installation’s conceptual framework, we started with questions about the given working-theme. We eventually agreed to discuss the ‘insides’ of one-self. The ‘insides’ can be seen in two ways; i.e. a) the ‘tangible insides’, which include the internal organs, blood, bones and etceteras, and b) the ‘intangible insides’, which are the feelings, desires, intellect, wisdom and etceteras. The ‘insides’ comprehend each other and make the ‘self’ moves forward, gaining experiences, understanding sciences and seeking knowledge. The experiences, sciences and knowledge acquired are important to nurture and develop the ‘soul’ or ‘the hidden self’. Journeys and quests are made for the ‘self’, planned and unplanned. The ‘self’ encounters many wonders and sometimes miseries and tragedies too. The ‘self’ is to choose. It is the ‘self’ that decides.

Designing the installation was difficult; everybody seemed to have his own ideas. A combination of many approaches and styles were considered. Finally we agreed to have some kind of a stage or environment based on parts of the traditional Malay architecture as the installation’s setting. We were taken aback when we first arrived at the exhibition site. The project’s organizer just could only offered us an interior space (rooms) and it was not suitable for our intended design. Apparently it was not the site that was first offered to us. We were made to understand some of the organizer’s constraints. We then designed a new installation, making use of any available materials from the supply store. It was indeed an experience for us.

The group broke-up when we came back from the Kassel’s exhibition. We went back to our own undertakings, making and exhibiting art. I, however, took further interests to develop the conceptual framework of the group into new installations. I began by presenting an installation called ‘Inside 2: Assorted Experiences’, in an invited international art exhibition in Kuala Lumpur in 1998. From thence, I continue working and exhibiting the serial, either alone or sometimes collaborate with other artists.

A complete list of installation and other works of the “Inside Series” is as follows. The list started with the title, year made, individual or collaborators, materials, and exhibition’s location. All minor works are individually done. Works which are not here listed are not from the “Inside Series.”

Major Works (Installation)

  1. Inside: Exposition on the Deconstruction of a Labyrinth. 1997. Collaboration with Zulkifli Yusoff, A Rahim Jalil, Aznan Omar, M Faizal Ramli and S Mohd. Jut strings, wall drawings, texts, pebbles, clay, and grasses. Stoffwechsel, Kassel, Germany.
  2. Inside 2: Assorted Experiences (Exposition on the Deconstruction of a Labyrinth). 1998. Individual. Jut strings, used school exercise books, wall drawings, texts, wire sculptures, pedestals, tables and chairs, and a computer. Balai Seni Lukis Negara, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
  3. Inside 3: Deformation of a Corrupted Self. 1998. Individual. Jut strings, charcoals and canvas, chalks, wire sculptures, and found objects. Balai Seni Lukis Negara, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
  4. Inside 4: Reformation or the Assembling of Long Lost Labyrinth. 1999. Individual. Jut strings, texts, wire sculptures, charcoals and chalks, cabinets, and found objects. Sub-Station, Singapore.
  5. Appendix to Inside 2: Educational Implications. 1999. Individual. Wire sculptures, drawings, found objects, photographs, and a computer. UiTM, Shah Alam, Malaysia.
  6. Evanescent Labyrinth.  2000. Collaboration with Ivan Lam and Drawing Factory. Jut strings, pebbles, plastic boxes, fax machine, cabinets, and found objects. Balai Seni Lukis Negara, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
  7. A/The System. 2000. Collaboration with Ivan Lam, Sau Bin and Hanafiah Waiman. Plastic chips and boxes, caged mousetraps, and texts. Sculpture Square, Singapore.
  8. Inside Encounters (A Labyrinth Revisited). 2000. Individual. Jut strings, wire sculptures, twigs and branches, seashells, pebbles, texts, drawings, and furniture. Fukuoka Asian Art Museum, Fukuoka, Japan.
  9. A Few Notes to Akal diUlu. 2002. Collaboration with Mastura A. Rahman. Pebbles, garden refuse, and tapioca stems. Akal di Ulu, Hulu Langat, Malaysia.
  10. Inside: Continued Lessons. 2004. Individual. Drawings, found objects, furniture, and talks. Rumah Air Panas, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
  11. Lessons Continued: Hearing the Words, Seeing the Signs and Making the Choice Again and Again (or Some Lessons under the Tree). 2004. Individual. Drawings, texts, jut strings, and furniture. Balai Seni Lukis Negara, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Minor Works (Assortments)

  1. I made a Drawing. 1997. Used school exercise books, ink, charcoal, and fishing lines. Balai Seni Lukis Negara, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
  2. A Few Lecture Notes. 1998. Drawings, used school exercise books, wire sculptures, fishing lines, jut strings, and furniture, Galeri Shah Alam, Shah Alam, Malaysia.
  3. Lessons from Nationalism. 1998. Used school exercise books, inks, pastels, and wires. Private space, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
  4. Double Spirals. 2000. Grasses. Oita, Japan.
  5. A Few Models for Building Governments. 2001. Wire sculptures. Valentine Willie Fine Art, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
  6. Fragments from an Installation. 2002. Wire sculptures. Muzium Negara, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
  7. Let’s have Another War. 2002. Individual. Wire sculptures, texts, and canvas. Balai Seni Lukis Negara, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. (Collection: U-Wei Hjsaari)
  8. Variable Pieces. 2003. Wire sculptures. Valentine Willie Fine Art, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Inside: Exposition on the Deconstruction of a Labyrinth. 1997. Kassel.

Inside 2: Assorted Experiences (Exposition on the Deconstruction of a Labyrinth). 1998. Kuala Lumpur.

Appendix to Inside 2: Educational Implications (detail), 1999. Shah Alam.

Inside: Continued Lessons. 2004. Kuala Lumpur.

What I Am Doing Now: An Art Gallery and a Cinema

Posted in Wayang U-Wei by tsabri on January 14, 2010

I am working on an art project by the filmmaker, U-Wei Hajisaari (after this, U-Wei) since the last two weeks. U-Wei is organizing a project which he called “Wayang U-Wei dalam Seni Tampak” to be held at the Galeri Petronas sometime in April 2010. He has invited about 13 artists to interpret or develop his films (read, ideas) into visual art forms like painting, sculpture, prints or installation. He is also talking about converting the gallery space into some kind of a cinema and vice-versa, commenting on the similarities and differences of the two.

I heard about the project sometime early last year when Mastura, received an invitation to participate in the project from Gambar Tanah Licin, U-Wei’s film company. Mastura agreed to participate as she takes the invitation somewhat an opportunity to break away from the “Interiors” which has haunted her since the 1980s! The other reason was, we simply like U-Wei’s films and I was excited to see Mastura was drawing figures and landscapes – something that she never did in the “Interiors”.

Mastura A. Rahman | House of Flowers/House of Harmony | Mixed Media on Canvas | 1999 | 8 x 12 feet | NAG Collection

About some six or seven months later, Mastura succeeded making two 4’ x 8’ mixed media paintings. The paintings, titled “Zaleha Oh Zaleha” and “Zaiton Oh Zaiton”, were respectively based on U-Wei’s “Perempuan, Isteri dan Jalang” and “Buai Laju-Laju”. Mastura was anxious, as apart from first time drawing figures and landscapes into her works, she was also curious about audiences’ responses to her illustrative renditions of the films. During this time, U-Wei visited our studio-house to discuss the project’s progress with Mastura. U-Wei first visited our studio-house sometime in 2003 when he came for my “Lets Have Another War”, a wire sculpture that I exhibited at the “Bara Hati Bahang Jiwa” exhibition, National Art Gallery, 2002.


U-Wei Hajisaari | Perempuan, Isteri dan Jalang (Film still) | 1993 | 109 minutes

After the visit, U-Wei acquired one of the Mastura’s early “Interiors”, which she did in Jerteh in 1988. Then, U-Wei and myself started writing and commenting each other works. I visited him several times at his office in Danau Kota, talking about almost anything on the arts and culture. He was just beginning to work on his latest film, “Hanyut”, and it was at his office that I met Nishino, a Japanese architect-friend of U-Wei, who is designing a space to house U-Wei’s office and cinema, art collections, books and his other collections.

Conversations with U-Wei eventually brought up the idea of collaborating on making something for his exhibition-project. U-Wei was wondering how I would react to objects if he gave me certain film objects to work on, referring perhaps to the way the Dadaists and Surrealists did with their ‘found objects’ , and the wrapped objects of Christo and Jean-Claude. I thought it would be interesting as I had before experimented with “found objects” in some of my on-site installations. Thence I joined the project, rather as a late participant who is now hurrying to finish the works.

Hello World!

Posted in Uncategorized by tsabri on January 9, 2010
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