Posts from the “Exhibition” Category

Head in the clouds, haze in the gallery

Snow introduced me to someone as I came back from my work break. We very briefly talked to confirm that I previously worked in Kakiseni, and then

  • Me: What do you do?
  • HY: I flip books.
  • Me: Oh, okay. *walks back to desk to work*
  • Snow: You’re done with small talk? That was so small a talk…
  • Me: That was a lot of talk for me.

My mind is a cloud at work today. Possibly because I sat through two long sessions of electrocuting my butt in physiotherapy. Or because I’ve been editing numerous complicated multilingual citations in some texts.

I paid for petrol earlier today, and nearly drove off without filling up the tank. It’s not the best day to be an editor.

On the plus side, I’ve been watching the setup of Between States, an exhibition that uses the haze crisis as a starting point of examining Southeast Asia and its identity*It has little robots, and a copy of the ASEAN Agreement of Transboundary Haze Pollution**, moving pixels, medical records, and embroidered jackets — it’s almost like a collection of curios, and I’m keen on it. Also not often I get to see such an interesting exhibition with only four(?) works in a commercial gallery space. Having funding is always nice.

Don’t think I’ll be able to see the exhibition properly until after the opening, which is always the worst time to see a show. It is, however, the best time to get free wine and curry puffs.

Sze (who is curating this) mentioned the ideas behind this project quite a while back, which was difficult to visualise. I’m glad to have an opportunity to see the finalised exhibition (as in, it’s in Malaysia), especially given my personal interest in regional politics regarding the haze. I’ve been disheartened by the larger curator programme Sze is currently enrolled in (which resulted in this exhibition) after Sabahan art collective Pangrok Sulap was censored in Escape from The Sea, but I have faith in Sze’s personal politics and her trajectory as a curator. Can’t say this about a lot of people. Certainly can’t say that about some of the people I see wandering around in the gallery now, who I cannot help but see as the apologist faces of censorship***.

Hiding in the office and working now. Might duck out for some free booze later on, like a proper arts scene person. In the meantime, trudging through my deadlines as my own personal response to the haze in my mind.

**It bugs me that there’s nothing in the Agreement about disclosing haze information to citizens in ASEAN.
***in other words, 吃死猫, but these are the faces I recognise — even that meaning has changed. Where once I saw Borneo beloved and (vital/rare) allies, now I see them as compromised compromises.

You Are Here.

My mother is in KL for a short trip. I brought her to Antipodean in Bangsar for coffee and a late lunch. Since we were in the area, I decided to bring my mother to VWFA to see Vincent Leong’s show — You Are Here.

Vincent is one of the few artists who takes on the Malaysian identity likeably (remember “Run, Malaysia Run“?), with a light touch.

Karya Ahmad Bahaya

Anyway, the naughty part of this exhibition is Karya Ahmad Bahaya. This is not the first piece of work Vincent has done of something withering. Karya Ahmad Bahaya looks like the follow up to another by Vincent, called meLayu (worth a watch).

There’s quite a lot going on here: photographs from within derelict buildings, juxtapositioned against views of local landmarks within the building’s broken windows or demolished walls. A collaborative effort with the public to produce a hand-drawn map of Kuala Lumpur (the graphic designer in me loves this, but it still feels too short of content to be awesome).  Light boxes with images of reflections taken from televisions — of living rooms, the outside world, and more*.

My mother and I walked around the entire gallery, pausing before the two photographs for “Keeping Up with the Abdullahs”. You can see they’re done like those really old school official royal portraits.

It could be like the general tycoon’s family portrait too, but then the humour of the objects they’re carrying in these pieces wouldn’t translate as well**.

Vincent Leong | Keeping Up With the Abdullahs 1 | 2012 | Digital C-print on photographic paper | 65 x 99 cm (img from

Vincent Leong | Keeping Up With the Abdullahs 2 | 2012 | Digital C-print on photographic paper | 65 x 86 cm (img from

My mother and I disagreed on these very “ketuanan Melayu” portraits of non-Malay families. I said the first portrait still looks Melayu-ish. Maybe because the “Malay” side of my family actually all look quite Javanese/Chinese.

My mother wasn’t really interested in the exhibition otherwise. At the end of it, something in VWFA finally caught her eye. She walked to the huge, floor-to-ceiling window in VWFA that looks out at the many boutiques across the road,  and asked “Is that a sale going on?”.

When I gave her a (perhaps slightly judgey) look…

  • Mom: What? I always say I am Jennifer Yeoh, not Jennifer Yeoh-gurt.
  • Lainie: Hah?
  • Mom: I’m not cultured.
  • Lainie: AIYOH



*The Abdullahs are the easiest work to discuss, but I am more taken with the lightboxes idea. I need to take another look, the lightboxes were having some (electrical?) trouble the day I went.
**my family’s photograph from many years ago, when my aunt got married in Ipoh, and my grandfather only had ten grandkids (as far as I know):

Selipar Jepun, Kasut Tumit Tinggi (flipflops + high heels)

I caught the last performance for Selipar Jepun, Kasut Tumit Tinggi (flipflops + high heels) on Sunday. Inspired by the traditional performance dance-drama Mak Yong, this play was mostly done in Bahasa*.

Don’t really have the time to write about it, but here’s some notes:

  1. I liked it, say, 60% — mostly met expectations .
  2. Use of space was decent, particularly in the earlier part of the play. Blocking gets a bit basic towards the end, and the whole stage started looking needlessly messed up.
  3. Wish I understood better how Mak Yong was translated into the play. Transgendered representation, singing and dancing, sure — but I was picking up more physical theatre elements than Mak Yong. Did I miss something? If there were any Q&A session, I would have attended. Felt like there was a lot more knowledge driving the play that I would have liked access to 😛
  4. The actor lost her fake eyelashes on one eye. And carried on for the rest of the play with one eye looking bigger than the other. This really should have been fixed at some point.
  5. Shiny plastic chairs didn’t match the play’s direction. Maybe wooden chairs would have been better. Or at least, spray paint the plastic chairs. I know it seems like such a ridiculous thing to harp about, but there it goes. We had to wait a while before it got used, but the lesung scenes were funny — if expected.
  6. The most obvious thing lacking in the play was time. The actors could have used more time with the script, and each other*. The gap was showing too frequently onstage, be it during cues from each other, the careful accents, synchronising their movements, or simply remembering their lines.
  7. The characters were interesting. The actors are likeable enough — I think they’re capable of doing good work (and I’ve seen it) — but perhaps they needed more time to deal with the versatility required of their roles.
    Ahmad Firdaus as the storyteller is beautifully suited to the movements required of his main character — however, as the British lover or when doing kungfu moves, it stretches the imagination a fair bit la. Zamzuriah Zahari doesn’t seem as aged onstage when required, but is overall a respectable performer and sings well for this play. Rosman Ishak makes his character(s — I had difficulties telling them apart sometimes) look like a lot of fun.
  8. There were some awkward segues in the play, but the individual stories of the Mak Andam and the aged Mak Yong performer were interesting. Both had stories of love and unworthy men to tell.


Overall, I did enjoy the play — and I think that’s the most important. I also liked that the transgendered characters had strong voices/presence, and felt so normalised, and their stories were vividly painted.

I also visited a few galleries in Publika after the play.

Ali Baba Perut Kuali, by Aznam Omar

My favourite was the exhibition At First Glance in White Room @ MAP Publika. Its had its exhibition length extended, so you might still be able to catch it. I love some of the paintings there, especially the ones by Haron Mokhtar. You can read more about it here @ Rachel Jena’s article for Time Out KL.

Publika also has an Art Row (where the picture on top of this post was taken). It’s a prototype, part of an exhibition Kontak! is working on. You have to poke around a bit and get someone to explain things you do, but things get interesting once that happens. You may end up wearing a bull head, for instance.

And if you go up a few floors, UiTM has launched a new art space called Segaris Art Centre. They’re currently exhibiting some student works there. I quite fancied Aznan Omar’s aluminium work there.

*The performance is in Bahasa (not my strongest language) and I missed the first few minutes.
**Selipar Jepun was a separate monologue nominated for Cammies Best Original Malay Script in 2007.