Denmark-based Amir Zainorin takes multiplicity to surreal heights in lockdown photo series

How many artists in lockdown does it take to change a lightbulb? Denmark-based Malaysian artist Amir Zainorin has yet to come up with an answer to that question, but he has been keeping himself busy, getting behind the idea of multiplicity and how to clone himself.

Amir’s Covid Surreality online photography exhibition, presented by KL-based gallery Artemis Art is quirky, playful and absurd. That’s probably what we need right now.

“During these dark days of uncertainties, humour can help lighten up our spirits and perhaps help us see the positive side of life,” says Amir, 57, in a recent email interview.

This online exhibition, which is open-ended, is Amir’s first with Artemis and also his first show for the year.

Covid Surreality features 42 photographed “performance works” by Amir mostly done in his Copenhagen home.

From having clones of himself facing a “firing squad” in the living room or multiple “Amirs” participating in a Zoom conference, this exhibition is not short on humour and astute observations of the world now.

How about a man with a pineapple face? What about Amir with six hands? Or two small Amirs, cupped by a gigantic hand (also Amir’s), deep in philosophical discussion?

Here is the artist’s offbeat exploration of how art can still continue in this pandemic downtime. He only used his handphone to take the photos before digitally manipulating them. His two children have also helped in some of the creative ideas.

A work called ‘3 Olympians (After John Dominis) (digital photography, 2020).A work called ‘3 Olympians (After John Dominis) (digital photography, 2020).

All these works have been uploaded on his social media pages, but you can also view all of them in Artemis’ virtual gallery.

“The exhibition had its genesis in late April when I started seeing Amir’s works from the series posted on social media. I thought they were quite interesting and funny, a rather offbeat acting out of life in lockdown.

“So, I contacted Amir and asked him about the works, and it was during this online conversation that we agreed to go ahead and do a full-blown online exhibition for the series, ” says S. Jamal Al-Idrus, Artemis Art owner.

Covid Surreality has also given Amir the opportunity – through art and social media – to share his ideas and thoughts on a regular basis with a worldwide audience in the past three months.

“This series has helped keep me connected with my friends and family and even revived old friendships, ” says Amir.

Amir was inspired to start this new series when he chanced upon his collage artwork called Read (2006), which was uploaded on the National Art Gallery’s (NAG) Instagram account in early April.

This particular work is part of NAG’s permanent collection, and it shows three men reading on a sofa. Amir began experimenting with photographing himself and the result was an extended recreation of Read.

Amir’s ‘After Goya: 3rd Of May’ (digital photography, 2020).Amir’s ‘After Goya: 3rd Of May’ (digital photography, 2020).

“Right after I saw the post, there was this sudden impulse and idea to make something similar to that, and I thought the best medium to do it was photography. One idea led to another and finally with my handphone and half broken tripod, I started to experiment taking pictures of myself at home, ” he says.

The Muar, Johor-born Amir, who moved to Copenhagen in 2002 (after marrying his Danish wife Pia), has truly lived the life of a diverse self-taught artist. Since getting into the Malaysian art scene in 1995, he has constantly challenging himself with works spanning installations, assemblage, drawings, video, photography and sound installation.

He last exhibited in Malaysia as part of the Ipoh International Art Festival last December.

Now a full-time artist in the Danish capital, Amir also teaches art to schoolchildren there.

He mentions that working from home is nothing new to him since his studio is based in his house.

Amir's 'Read' (digital photography, 2020).Amir's 'Read' (digital photography, 2020).

The added surrealism to his new works, he mentions, is how he is dealing with the pandemic situation.

“This whole thing with the pandemic is somewhat surreal. It is like a dream but it is real, so real that sometimes you can’t believe it is happening, ” explains Amir.

At the moment, Amir is taking things slow. For him, travel and long haul art projects remain tentative. However, he has a few things lined up towards the last quarter of the year, including a Singapore screening of his film Voice Of The Jungle (which is about the Temiar people in Sungai Siput, Perak) in September, and an art project in Jakarta in December.

But Amir still chooses to be cautious.

“Who knows what’s going to happen in the future? But what’s certain is we have to learn to quickly adapt to our new surroundings and circumstances, ” he concludes.

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