Off Walls Off Pedestals

Lessons Continued: Hearing the Words, Seeing the Signs and Making the Choice Again and Again (Or Some Lessons under the Tree)

Posted in Inside Series by tsabri on March 31, 2010

The Round Invitation Card

In 2004, I was invited to participate in an exhibition titled Malaysian Art NOW / Seni Malaysia KINI at the Balai Seni Lukis Negara. The exhibition was curated by Valentine Willie. I made an on-site installation, continuing my Inside Series, and called it Lessons Continued: Hearing the Words, Seeing the Signs and Making the Choice Again and Again (Or Some Lessons under the Tree). The installation ‘occupied’ a large ‘almost empty and semi-darkened space’, saved for a table (which I borrowed from Yee I-Lann, but sadly it was lost after the dismantling of the exhibition. Poor I-Lann.), two chairs, a printed manuscript of ‘some kind of a poetry’, wall drawings, poetry on papers stuck to a wall and some netted wall parts.

Installation View 1

I was also excited to read an article by a young artist/writer, Hasmi Hashim, who criticized to whole exhibition as ‘tabloid styled’… Tidak ada tanda jelas akan setiap titik perubahan dalam perkembangan seni lukis nasional. Yang ‘lepas’, sangat tipis garisnya, perbezaannya, dengan yang ‘kini’. Kerana itu, pameran Malaysian Art Now, [Jun 26 – Ogos 31, di Balai Seni Lukis Negara (BSLN)] hanya persis dialektika pada tajuk utama talboid, a.k.a, koran nyamuk. Bunyi yang menggegar, tetapi, nyaris tidak ada apa-apa yang baru. Maksud saya, pandangan atau manifesto. (

Installation View 2

He went, saying something about my work… Yang lain lagi, masih terbelit dengan misterius akal-Tuhan, seperti yang terpapar dalam karya Tengku Sabri Ibrahim. Tajuknya, ‘Lessons Continued: Hearing the Words, Seeing the Sing ang Making the Choice Again and Again (or Some Lessons Under the Tree.)’ Sebuah ruang yang luas, seperti taman adanya, ada meja di satu sudut, dan benang-benang guni, yang, kita bisa menduga bagaimana semua itu, tersusun-tidak-tersusun secara sistematik, berinci, dan tidak berinci. Matematik dan tidak matematika, sifatnya. Dan, jelas dengan kabur, terus-terus-terus… tapi hendak ke mana itu semua? Saya kira, kita sudah meninggalkan jauh era “Mistikal-Realiti”, seperti yang gila-gila dibawa Sulaiman Esa lebih sepuluh tahun lalu.

Hasmi might be right_ where are we going?

Published here is that ‘printed manuscript of some kind of a poetry.’ It was written in Bahasa Melayu and English. The Bahasa Melayu version is to be found in the book, Tanpa Tajuk.

Some Lessons under the Tree

Lessons Continued: Hearing the Words, Seeing the Signs and Making the Choice Again and Again (or Some Lessons under the Tree)


A tree, or a plant, is a good reference for us as we ponder upon the meaning of life. A strong and steady tree, yet useful and exciting for us all.


A good tree comes from a good seed.

The seed, with enough water, sunlight and minerals, will give its shoot – growing in silence, but in a sure and lasting way.


The soil – the place of growth for the seed – needs to be fertile. And it needs to be constantly nourished by the gardener/planter.

The soil – the place to plant the seed has also to be in a suitable location.


A good tree is not easily uprooted.

A strong tree has roots firmly fixed.


Tree roots are seldom seen, being mostly hidden in the soil – moving, growing silently and continuously reaching deeper into the enriched and fertile soil.

Tree roots cannot usually be seen. Yet, those who are aware will know and understand what is in the soil beneath the tree.


  • chlorophyll
  • photosynthesis
  • oxygen
  • carbon dioxide
  • return to nature
  • greening of the earth
  • planter, planting, plant
  • roots, main root, root ends
  • what are storms, if the tree has many strong roots?


A good tree will surely have good stem _strong and stout.

A strong, stout stem is proof of the strength of its roots.

A strong stem, firm and stout to withstand challenges from the weather and environment.


The stem is covered with bark. It is structured in layers. The more it grows, the more it matures, and more layers will grow.

Unlike the roots, the stem is not covered with soil, and it can be seen.


  • How a tree stands firm when struck by lightning, because of the layered bark within its stem…


The branches of a good tree are also strong, rising forcefully upwards into the sky.

On the branches and twigs there are a few types of homes.


  • bee, bee hive, bee sting, honey
  • spider, spider web, trap
  • bird, baby bird, bird’s egg, bird’s nest
  • insects
  • squirrel
  • monkey, ape


A good tree brings fruit with every change of season (if it is a fruit tree).

The fruit of a good tree should be delicious, tasty and sweet.

A good fruit tastes delicious when we eat it. It is us who know if it delicious or not.


  • flower, pollination
  • busweet, sour, bitter
  • taste, tongue
  • heart/liver


The roots (in the ground) cannot be seen. How do we know that it is there if we cannot see it?

Listen! Yes, we listen.

Yes, listen to the roots creeping! Listen to it!

Listen carefully – listen to histories past: the lives and struggles of our fathers and ancestors, who had no doubts. That is our legacy, our roots. Listen! Then we will know and understand the roots.

Be a good listener!


Listening is important. It is a part of a learning process.

What we hear will be stored and processed.


  • ears, hearing, deaf, mute
  • hearing-aid
  • enters the right, exits the left
  • slim ears, hot ears
  • ear pus


What was heard need to be seen _ to proof what was earlier heard.


Sight. How is it possible to believe without an explanation? Without proof?

What we see will also be stored and processed.


  • pupil, tears, iris
  • eyes turned white, naughty eyes, eye signals, eye disease
  • spring, eye of the blade
  • cornea, sore eyes, blood shot, red eyes


Yet what can be understood as the mind is that it should not stop at listening and seeing. The heart also plays an important role to confirm or deny the truth.

Everything is decided in the heart.


  • Acheh is decorated with angsana flower, Going to Cik Siti’s home; The love is perfect, like a liver attached to the heart.
  • Water takes the shape of its boundaries, One voice through unity
  • Take care whilst on the road


A good tree gives shade – covering from the burning heat…

But take care when it rains, then a bolt of lightning may strike!


A place where good trees are planted can be called an orchard. Some say a farm (depending on the type of plants – vegetable farm, durian orchard. A plantation, if the crops are grown for profits).


A properly cultivated orchard or farm will produce – excellent and lucrative harvests.


We can feel peace and harmony while in the orchard. The chirping of birds, insects and rustling leaves can sooth the soul and the disheartened.

The orchard’s air is refreshing – clean.

Peaceful and calm.


A good orchard or farm can usually be found on higher ground (depending on the plant).

A lot of effort, time and tools are needed to build an orchard on the high ground.


An orchard or farm on the high ground will be first to receive sunlight and rainfall.


  • rain storm, drizzle
  • work hard, work together, cooperation
  • good results, prosperous, to the heart’s content, peace of heart


Finding good seeds, fertilizer, soil and location for the farm is the hard part. It takes a lot of initiative, creativity, physical ability and enthusiasm.


A good gardener is also one who can think.

A good gardener is a good listener, pays attention and has a good heart.


A good gardener is respected.


A good gardener can give useful guidance or lessons.

A good gardener understands the need for a practical system.

Such a gardener makes a fine example to others.


  • Accelerated Learning, Fun Learning, Action Learning
  • Intelligent Quotient, Emotional Quotient, Spiritual Quotient
  • Not A Day Without Education
  • A precious stone, even if it falls into a pit, will not lose its brilliance
  • Leave without being asked, appear without being called


Gardener – Human


Learn then teach.


Something of use.

Something of value.


There is no loss

There is no damage

There is no suffering


Hearing the WORDS

Seeing the SIGNS

Deciding on the CHOICE


…forever again.

Installation View 3

Audience 1

Audience 2


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