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


What I Did Before (An Appendix to Inside 2: Educational Implications)

Posted in Inside Series by tsabri on March 3, 2010

In 1999, I built an installation which I titled as ‘An Appendix to Inside 2: Educational Implications’ at the then Galeri Seni KSSR, ITM, Shah Alam. The installation was exhibited in group exhibition called ‘The Eye, The Mind, The Heart’. The exhibition was actually our graduate exhibition, a part of a practical research project.

Following are my artist’s statement and guides on my exhibit, the installation.


N.B. The work presented is an extension or a continuation (it is not a reconstruction) of a previous installation,’ Inside 2: Assorted Experiences (Exposition on the Deconstruction of a Labyrinth)’, done in August 1998 for the Commonwealth of Art Exhibition at the National Art Gallery of Malaysia, 28th August through 30th October, 1998.

An Appendix to Inside 2: Educational Implications discusses the educational implications resulted from the exhibition of Inside 2. In Inside 2, the artist discussed a selection of his experiences which includes the educational experiences. The educational experiences mentioned referred to events of the artist’s early schooldays, his secondary and tertiary education. Used school exercise-books, for example, were assembled to represent the artist’s nostalgia towards homework, written exercises and of course the doodles and scribbles done during long bored school hours.

The artist also found that Inside 2’s audience, particularly art students and young artists, were interested with the explanatory charts and diagrams on art theories which were included in the installation. They discussed these with the artist and were allowed to copy them. The artist also held talks, mostly discussing topics about art, in the installation.

The presented work focuses on how to convey information, specifically on art and design education, in a more effective way. Topics on art theories, for example, are presented in forms of charts, diagrams and mind-maps for easy understanding. the work, of course, will invite criticisms on the nature of it’s contents or the educational topics discussed and it’s appearances as a whole, but that’s what it is – art and education will be much more meaningful with active discussions and constructive criticisms.

As an artist, he produces sculptures, drawings and installation works. He has exhibited his works in Malaysia, Singapore, Japan, Germany and England. A few of his sculptures are in the National Art Gallery’s permanent collection. He also writes essays for exhibitions and often invited to curate art exhibitions. A seminar paper of his was published in a compilation of papers on art and culture in 1998.


  1. The title of this installation is AN APPENDIX TO INSIDE 2: EDUCATIONAL IMPLICATIONS
  2. An APPENDIX is an addition, to clarify or strengthen something earlier discussed.
  3. INSIDE 2 is an earlier installation work done by the artist.
  4. EDUCATIONAL IMPLICATIONS are the educational elements associated with INSIDE 2.
  5. This installation is a discussion about educational experiences experienced and implicated during the exhibition of INSIDE 2 at the Common Wealth of Art Exhibition at the National Art Gallery, Kuala Lumpur, on August 25th – October 30th, 1998. It is hoped that audience will be able to relate these experiences with his or her own; widening personal experiences into collective experiences.
  6. Thank you.

April 1999

Installation View 1

Installation View 2

What I Did Before (Inside 4: Reformation or the Assembling of a Long Lost Labyrinth)

Posted in Inside Series by tsabri on February 20, 2010

In 1998, I was invited to participate in an exhibition entitled ‘Volume & Form’ in Singapore. I was given a space to build an installation at a place called Substation, on Armenian Street in the city. I wrote a proposal for the installation and made some necessary arrangements before went over building it.

Below is a part from the proposal:


Inside 4: A PROPOSAL

  1. The title of the installation is Inside 4: Reformation or the Assembling of a Long Lost Labyrinth.
  2. Inside 4 is the installation’s sequential position in the Inside Series.
  3. Reformation is the shifts and changes made to remove imperfections.
  4. Assembling is the act of putting things or matters together perhaps into a collection or category.
  5. Long Lost is a thing or matter of a long time lost and perhaps is already forgotten. Upon discovery, the long lost may be recognized as somehow related or known to us, perhaps.
  6. Labyrinth is a network of winding paths or ways through which it difficult to finds one’s way without help.
  7. The installation is proposed for the Singapore’s 1999 Volume and Form.
  8. It will be a mixed material installation using a broad range of materials quite similar to the previous pieces.
  9. It is proposed to be an interior piece. It will also be an on-site installation. Size and placements are to be considered after discussions with the exhibition’s curator, at least three weeks before on-site works begin. Estimated construction hours are about 3 days with 1 assistant.

Inside 4, Installation View 1

Inside 4, Installation View 2

What I Did Before (Inside: Continued Lessons)

Posted in Inside Series by tsabri on February 20, 2010

Sometime in 2003, Yap Sau Bin (Bin), who is an artist-friend and working colleague at FCM, MMU asked if I would like to have a show at his artist’s group exhibition space in Setapak, Kuala Lumpur. Bin is a member of the Rumah Air Panas Artist Group and sometimes acted as the group’s curator ( and I agreed and started planning to have some kind of an installation with drawings, found objects and furniture. I also included an artist talk where I talked, explaining things and answering questions from the audience. I named the installation as Inside: Continued Lessons. It was generally about my quests in understanding life by referring to certain parables, metaphors and other significations from my traditional and cultural pasts

Following are my statement for the installation/exhibition as well as a collection of photographs taken by Bin and his friends during the exhibition’s reception and artist-talk session in 2004.

A Note On Inside: Continued Lessons

There is not a day without education. Lessons are meant to be experienced every each day. It is about making, improving and managing the life we are living.

This exhibition of an on-site installation forms a part of a serial called the Inside Series started sometime in 1997. It is an on-going serial that;

‘discusses the insides of oneself. The insides can be seen in two ways: i.e. a) the tangible insides, which include our internal organs, blood, bones and etcetera, and b) the intangible insides, which are our feelings, desires, wisdom and etcetera. 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/the hidden self within us.

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.’ (1998)

Though, at times, the works in the serial are autobiographical in nature, they also seek to discuss certain themes such as education, as this exhibition presented. Inside: Continued Lessons calls to attention some simple existing (natural) metaphors for references or lessons in trying to improve human endeavours. We are to observe happenings and events, phenomena, that happen around us. We are to take lessons to teach and learn of our coming generation.

One main chosen metaphor is the tree. A good tree with strong roots, sturdy stem, soaring branches and bears fruits comes its season.  The good tree is likened to a/the self should be. A/the self must be strong, sure and resourceful in its foundation, firm and steadfast in execution, full of aspirations and surety of better produces.

Lets take some lessons.

Tsabri Ibrahim 2003/04


TSABRI. (1998). Artist Statement: The Inside Series, Inside 2: Assorted Experiences (Exposition on the Deconstruction of a Labyrinth). Kuala Lumpur.

Installation View 1

Installation View 2

Installation View 3

Installation View 4

Installation View 5

Audience 1

Audience 2

Talking 1

Talking 2

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.

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