Video, ping-pong balls, digital apps — at this year’s Young Contemporaries awards, non-traditional works win big.
IT’S easy to see why Mohd Fuad Ariff’s video, Pembukaan, strikes the right chord amidst the current political acrimony and tension in the country. It’s a healing catharsis, with the silent textual invocations from the Surah Al-Fatihah, and with the soothing strains of Johann Sebastian Bach’s Air (On The G String) acting like a leit motif.
The work won the highly coveted Major Award worth RM20,000 plus a working trip to an Asean country in the Bakat Muda Sezaman (Young Contemporaries) art awards at the National Visual Arts Gallery on Feb 12.
Five Jurors’ Award, worth RM5,000 each, were given out to Liew Ting Chuan, better known as T.C. Liew (Wheel Of Fortune: Abyss Of Malaysian Landscape); Yim Yen Sum (Where I Come From II); Samsudin Abdul Wahab (Katak Lembu Segar), Mohd Farizal Puadi (Memories Of Make-Up Cabinet); and Goh Chai Seng (Funny Believer/Untitled/Aura).
Faizul Ramli’s ping-pong aerial synchronicity, Nature Ware, won the Visitors Choice, worth RM2,000.
At the award ceremony officiated by Tourism and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz, electronic-multimedia art, which hogged half of the list of 28 finalists’ works, won big. The artists, all under 40 years of age, were shortlisted from a field of 137.
Fuad’s five-minute theatre presentation, Pembukaan, in a cocoon of darkness is a hypnotic salve for frayed nerves, flaring tempers and restlessness. Drawn from the Quran, the lullaby message takes on an universal appeal in a transcendental meditation mode, although the Bach can take a sinister twist in a different ambiance. The enclosed darkness of the theatre aids a release of inhibitions and of the Self as well as a sense of heightened concentration. It is, perhaps, just the balm needed after the ruckus over the taking down of works by Cheng Yen Pheng and Izat Arif Saiful Bahrin.
Penang-born T.C. Liew’s Wheel Of Fortune uses QR codes interactively, as entry points into his alma mater Universiti Sains Malaysia’s database of fine art works. Blown up QR codes, like floor and wall tiles, fan out radially from a central four-tiered colour-coded disc tower.
Samsudin rehashes printmaker Juhari Said’s Katak Nak Jadi Lembu woodcut – which was a spin on the Malay saying “katak dibawah tempurong” (referring to a person with a blinkered world-view) – into a macabre freezer of clinically cut beef to comment on greed, corruption and over-consumption in his Katak Lembu Segar.
The awkward elegance of Yim’s Where I Come From II is engaging for its light flexibility of forms despite resembling a mythical or prehistoric creature with a durian-spike epidermis. That “skin” comprises nuanced pictorial buildings in monochrome and dull colours in fabric hinting at human civilisation. The “shape” comes from the pulls of the fishing lines, making it vulnerable to shifts and changes, like a puppet.
Goh’s phantasmagoric triptych, Funny Believer/Untitled/Aura, is a hodge-podge of icons and belief systems in a grotesque rendition while Farizal’s antique-looking cabinet components in Memories Of Make-Up Cabinet allow for a peek, as if from a secret compartment, at the work across from it, Faizul’s motion-sensitive phalanx of ping-pong balls moving in a balletic rhythm.
Sukor Romat’s bleak FutureWorld of seven stand-alone installations on an elevated platform with hints of toxic and radiation pollution is a theatrical play on what could be the last bastion of human survival but suffers from overkill. Ditto works by Ali Bebit, with his psychedelic cat-and-dog cyber bicker called Provokasi Alam Maya, and Shahariah Mohamed Roshdi’s huge, mock biotech lab filled with beakers, test-tubes, flasks and jars called Visual Documentation Of Fungal Growth.
Of the electronic works, Haris Abadi’s Artificial Tide has a dual approach: that of the nostalgia of waves lapping the shore like a lullaby and the other of the changing tide and time; Joseph Dawi’s Raja Brooke invites the seated viewer to become a time-tunnel witness to neo-colonist history as the artist assumes both the role of White Rajah (superimposed image) and the Iban warrior.
Sufri Jaya’s two interactive works, Please Wake Up (one pretending to work and the other retaliating by scolding), are a wake-up call for cyber-dozers and those sleeping on the job – when Nazri interacted with the work, NVAG Development Board chairman Datuk Mahadzir Lokman quipped that that was the only time when Nazri could get a scolding!
Also interesting is Paveline Pilih’s Noise comprising a babel of regimented grids of Marilyn Monroe lips talking at the same time.
The other works were Greame (Tan Wei Ling), The Lost Childhood (Low Chee Peng), three conceptual inkjet print works (Azzad Diah), Who Will Win? (Al-Khuzairie Ali), Money Matters (Ekram Al-Hafis), Metropolis Woodland (Annabelle Ng Ying Wah), 365 (NorhasLinda Nordin), Treehouse/Do You Feel Happy (Cheong Kiet Cheng), Shuttle (Issarezal Ismail), Dimension Of Visualisation (Chan Ka Liang), Infinity Of Technology (Melcom Angkun), and Chandi Anak Umpuh (Muhammad Aidil).
The accompanying 352-page book is comprehensive in its analysis of the works of the finalists as well as in expounding on the curatorial practices and recommendations for the future of the Young Contemporaries competition.
> The works of the 28 finalists from the Young Contemporaries competition are on show at galleries 2B, 3A and 3B at the National Visual Arts Gallery (No. 2, Jalan Temerloh, off Jalan Tun Razak, Kuala Lumpur) until March 3; opening hours are 10am to 6pm daily. For more information, call 03-4026 7000 / 03-4025 4990, e-mail email@example.com or go to www.artgallery.gov.my.