Visit this exhibit on Malaysian photographic history from the comfort of your home


Just over two months after its reopening on July 21, Ilham Gallery in KL has closed once again due to the conditional movement control order (CMCO) enforced earlier this month in the Klang Valley.

Although the public is not able to view its photography exhibition Bayangnya Itu Timbul Tenggelam – Photographic Cultures In Malaysia in person for now, the good news is that you can enjoy it from the comfort of your home, thanks to the gallery’s newly-launched 360 interactive virtual tour of the show.

The virtual tour will continue to be accessible even after the exhibition’s run ends at the gallery.

It will be permanently available on the Ilham Gallery website and will be part of its exhibitions archive and documentation efforts.

“We had planned to include 360 interactive virtual tours of our exhibitions last year, well before the pandemic hit. Of course, with the CMCO, these immersive virtual tours enable people to experience the exhibitions since we have had to close our doors during this time. I do hope though that when the CMCO ends, that the tour will encourage people to come visit the exhibition in person. Nothing beats seeing the photographs up close and in real life, ” says Ilham Gallery director Rahel Joseph.

For the online version of Bayangnya Itu Timbul Tenggelam, it was a challenge to organise more than 1,000 photographs and artefacts, and arranging them thematically to tell a history of photographic cultures in Malaysia.

“We have also provided links and files which allows the viewers to access further information. For example, you can download the extensive timeline the curators compiled, as well as a map that locates the photography studios that existed in Malaya, Singapore and Borneo from the late 19th century to modern times. You can access the videos in the exhibition too, ” says Rahel.

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.

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.

Rahel notes that many people who follow and engage with the gallery on social media are not from the Klang Valley, and such a virtual tour would be one way for them to experience Ilham’s exhibition.

“It is the same reason why we document all our public programmes and upload it on Ilham's YouTube channel: we want to make our programmes accessible to a larger public beyond KL, so you can watch a Music at Ilham event or hear an Ilham public lecture, whether you are located in Alor Setar or Kuching.

“One of the unexpected positives of the pandemic - if you can call it that - has been the fact that we are using social media now much more effectively, more as a tool for education rather than just promoting events. So we have had weekly YouTube videos uploaded each week where the curators expand on the various photographic techniques and photographic cultures highlighted in the exhibition, ” she says.

Rahel shares that in the two months that Ilham Gallery was open for Bayangnya Itu Timbul Tenggelam, the gallery received a lot of positive feedback also from visitors who came to see the exhibition.

“I think the curators did a great job with the show; there is so much to see and reflect on, you really need to visit more than once. Normally of course, we would have our very active public programming. But this time we have tried to create these discussions and conversations on a virtual platform, ” she concludes.

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