Ilham Gallery in KL reopens with a visual feast, exploring photography culture in Malaysia

  • Arts
  • Tuesday, 21 Jul 2020

'Bayangnya itu Timbul Tenggelam - Photographic Cultures In Malaysia' explores an alternative understanding of the complex modern history of photography. This photo is from the 1960s. Photo: Ilham Gallery

After being closed for more than four months since the movement control order (MCO) was implemented on March 18, Ilham Gallery in KL reopens today (July 21) with photography exhibition Bayangnya Itu Timbul Tenggelam – Photographic Cultures In Malaysia.

This exhibition, curated by K. Azril Ismail, Hoo Fan Chon and Simon Soon, surveys the cultures that developed around photography and its relationship to Malaysia.

What are the different values and meanings people have associated with photographic images through time? How were they used, collected and displayed now and then?

“Rather than tell a history of photography as a progression of technological innovation and stylistic changes, the exhibition hopes to bring into public conversation the ways in which these local interpretive frames and ways of seeing, contributed to a larger global conversation about the staying power of the photographic image, ” read a statement from the curators.

Bayangnya Itu Timbul Tenggelam features more than 1,400 photographs and artefacts, arranged thematically and conceptually to tell a history of photographic cultures that have emerged in Malaysia around the photo studio.

The archival photographs here date from the early 1900s to the 1980s, with photographic materials loaned from private collections including from Alex Moh, Farish Noor, Penang House of Music and Duyong Art Gallery, among others.

A hand-tinted studio photograph from 1930s Malaya. Photo: Ilham Gallery A hand-tinted studio photograph from 1930s Malaya. Photo: Ilham Gallery

“Besides showcasing many original photographs, we are recreating a 1930s photo studio in the gallery. We also have a database of historical photo studios in Malaysia and Singapore from the 1840s to 1980s with over 400 entries that can be viewed online. Without giving away too much, visitors will find unexpected anecdotes and cultural objects connected to photography that will enrich their understanding on how significant photography was in shaping a new culture of modernity across the twentieth century in Malaysia, ” added the curatorial statement.

Bayangnya Itu Timbul Tenggelam is broadly divided into two halves, with the first section exploring the type of photographs that were taken inside a photo studio.

The second part of the exhibition telescopes outward to explore how the photo studio business is connected with the broader visual cultural landscape of Malaysia.

“I am very happy that Ilham finally opens to the public on Tuesday! We have incorporated procedures for the safety and well-being of all visitors and staff and we are not holding public programmes until later in the year. But we are continuing our virtual programming on Ilham@Home through our social media channels @ilhamgallerykl. There will be a curatorial tour we will be posting on our YouTube channel in the next two weeks as well as other interesting talks and discussions, ” says gallery director Rahel Joseph.

Visitor capacity will be limited to 20 persons in the gallery. Masks are required, social distancing encouraged and temperature screenings will be conducted. There will be no gallery tours until further notice.

The Ilham Gift Shop will also be open to the public starting Tuesday.

Bayangnya itu Timbul Tenggelam – Photographic Cultures In Malaysia is on at Level 5, Ilham Gallery in Kuala Lumpur, from July 21 to Dec 31. Opening hours: 11am to 7pm (Tuesday to Saturday), 11am to 5pm (Sunday). Closed on public holidays. Free admission.

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