Look, Ma! I’m an artist?

On the 23rd of November, the National Art Gallery in Malaysia launched the inaugural KL Biennale that will go on till end of March 2018. I participated in an exhibition called Field Trip Project Asia that is founded by  a Japanese artist, Daisuke Takeya. This is a very late post indeed. Apologies! More photos and recounting the events below!

This is taken from the website about the project :

Field Trip Project Asia is a brand new open art initiative responding to recent natural disasters. From preparedness to relief, recovery process and networking, the project involves artists from Asia to freely share and exchange creative ideas.

Started in 2012, Field Trip Project is an interactive traveling art exhibitions that bridge communities in support for 2011 tsunami/earthquake in Japan. It consists of 75 artworks created by Japanese and Canadian artists within Japanese elementary school backpacks (Randoseru) originally sent as relief supplies. The Project has traveled to over 20 destinations in Japan started at disaster affected areas and currently touring in Canada.

Since then, the project has been extended to artists in different countries in Asia such as Singapore, Philippines, Indonesia, Hong Kong and finally to Malaysia. For the KL leg of this project, the curators and coordinators opted to bring in participants who bring in different views of social and cultural issues in Kuala Lumpur instead of fine artists. These participants bring in their voices regarding what they perceive as disasters either natural or man-made or both.

Some of the participants, curators and visitors at the Curator + Artist Walkthrough event on the 24th November.

I was brought in to collaborate with KL Sketch Nation, a group of urban sketchers who focus on Kuala Lumpur urban fabric. However, my anthropological interests and the group’s focus differ and so I was given the chance to give my own interpretation of Kuala Lumpur’s “disaster”.

At first, I wanted to write some “field notes” and place some “specimens” from the field but then I ended up getting overwhelmed by the stories that I collected from the field. Therefore, I decided to go for something more conceptual.

An ideation sketch of my interpretation. This sketch ended up as part of the exhibition too!

Below is the artist statement I prepared for this piece I call “The Collector”

In the cases of natural or man-made disasters, The Collector goes around and gathers stories that give us a glimpse of the lifeworlds of the citizens. A city is more than just the tangible aspects of urban environment (e.g. buildings, infrastructure). A city is a place that is made of the experiences, stories and movements of its people. This piece is a tribute to those voices that tell their stories through words, actions and reactions.

In this work, the bag can be seen as a depiction of a city itself. The balls filled with lights and coloured pieces of paper symbolises the lifeworlds and stories of every citizen that one may encounter in the city. The whole punctured into the bag gives us the awareness that a city wears down but also allows us to realise that there are more than meets the eye. Light shines through the punctured holes to signify how stories of the people can be a beacon of strength and hope at a time of need.

There are several repetition of symbolic movements and inter-relationships within this piece. The tangled web of wires and light within the balls are individual movements connecting to other lifeworlds in their experiences. The strings laced through the punctured holes also signify movement and connection but as an idea of meaningful places and spaces in the city. The drawings on the surface of the bag that mimic these interconnected holes signify that not all spaces in the city can be as meaningful, however carefully designed.

The Collector tells us a story that all cities in the world can relate to, however vastly different our culture or society may be.

There are other fascinating works by the participants which you can view at the gallery or visit the Field Trip Project Asia website.



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