Artist duo turn ancient fibre art into giant interactive installation in KL

Artists Hafizah Borhan (left) and Charmaine Kamal were inspired by neurons in the human brain to create the weaved tunnel installation in Kuala Lumpur. Photo: Maggie Samsudin

The next time you take a leisurely stroll – when the pandemic and MCO situation permits – along Kuala Lumpur’s River of Life waterfront, don’t be surprised to see a giant red and blue hanging tunnel that might remind you of a certain internal organ.

This giant interactive art installation, called The Brain Project, by artists Charmaine Kamal and Hafizah Borhan is made up of steel, steel wires, braided nylon and rubber ropes using the macramé technique (an ancient crafting technique that uses knots).

The fibre art installation, located next to Avenue J Hotel and right behind the Central Market building, is inspired by the neurons in our brains and the concept of connectivity surrounding us.

In the light of the pandemic, public art to cheer people up is something to be applauded.

“We want the public to explore and be immersed in this intricate tunnel of fibre rope mesh and let their imagination run wild.

“They can be creative with our art, expand their imagination and hopefully it will evoke some sense of awakening and make them appreciate the moment and their surroundings, ” says Charmaine, a macramé artist and owner of Nurtureknots Studio.

The ropes used for this project measure more than 6,000m and over 500 hours were spent building the 6m (wide) x 6m (length) x 3m (high) installation.

The ropes were hand-knotted and weaved by Fibre Tribe, a weaving team made of a group of textile design students from UiTM and macramé students from Nurtureknots Studio.

While the design process and preparation began last July, the weaving of the tunnel started in March this year and completed in April, including the production of the steel frames.

The Brain Project is the first venture by the KL-based artists’ joint venture called Mad Weave KL, a group on a mission to create more art projects for the public to enjoy and experience in the city.

This project is part of Cultural Economy Development Agency’s (Cendana) Art In The City Public Art Commissioning Programme, with the support of MyCreative Ventures, Dewan Bandaraya Kuala Lumpur (DBKL) and GMBB.

In 2019, the River of Life was listed in the world’s top 10 waterfront districts by The Independent, Britain’s online news portal.

“We purposely selected Kuala Lumpur River of Life as the location for our installation venue not only because we want a great space to showcase our art but we also want to help create awareness and spark interest in public on this iconic part of Kuala Lumpur that is surrounded by many other iconic landmarks and historical buildings, ” says Hafizah, a sculptor and creative director at a creative agency.

“We are working closely with DBKL and several other collaborators in creating mini campaigns around our art while at the same time helping to promote local tourism specifically in highlighting the iconic landmarks of Kuala Lumpur, ” adds Hafizah.

With the help of such independent arts communities and projects, the hope is the authorities in the capital will ensure maintenance work is carried out and public art protected from vandalism.

The multi-million ringgit River of Life site came under media scrutiny last July, especially parts of the Heritage Quarter area near Masjid Jamek, Sultan Abdul Samad building and the riverfront, which were in a state of disrepair.

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