Hope floats: Poesy Liang's installation brings light in a shipwreck of a year


'The Pirate’s Daughter is about healing from dark times. Just like the sailors who lost their lives at sea, their souls were comforted by the piano of the Pirate’s Daughter, ' says Liang. Photo: Poesy Liang

It’s been more than a year since Covid-19 hit the world, forcing us to live in dark and uncertain times. If anything, this is a story of humanity in search of light and hope.

Artist Poesy Liang, through her new works, views these long days of the pandemic as a challenging voyage. Just like the sailors who lost their lives at sea, searching for a song to bring them home.

These are Liang's musings in her installation piece called The Pirate’s Daughter.

This new work (measuring 46.5sq m) is housed at Abundantia Kuala Lumpur, a private art space in Sungai Buloh. It reaches 4.3m in height, and consists of 62 ship wheels, 38 storm lamps, seven ship oars, three hunting spears, three Western swords, one oriental sword, two trumpets and other maritime artefacts.

The work resembles an underwater graveyard, the resting place of a pirate ship and its plunder that will remain in the depths.

Liang, 45, calls this installation a “very dark piece".

“Its message of loss, redemption and solace is particularly relevant in the era of Covid-19, ” says Liang.

“Think about the pandemic situation. Someone who is tested positive may never go home and face the end of their lives with their family members near them.

The Pirate’s Daughter is about healing from dark times. Just like the sailors who lost their lives at sea, their souls were comforted by the piano of the Pirate’s Daughter."

The Pirate’s Daughter opened on May 1 and was slated to run until the end of October but has since been closed due to the new movement control order (MCO 3.0).

To give this exhibit a virtual edge, Liang is planning Zoom tours for the public, where she will show the installation and explain the work. More details will be posted on Liang’s Instagram and Facebook pages.

Liang began working on this installation since 1996, assembling an exhibit inspired by memories. Photo: Poesy LiangLiang began working on this installation since 1996, assembling an exhibit inspired by memories. Photo: Poesy Liang

Beyond its connection to the pandemic, The Pirate’s Daughter is also a personal piece for Liang. Since she was five years old, her father had been collecting maritime artefacts.

However, his personal hobby almost bankrupted the family and resulted in the gradual deterioration of his mental health. He purchased the artefacts directly from the original makers and traders, with none of them actually having been at sea before.

“As I grew up, I kept thinking about how to solve this. My life is a dark riddle that came to light. The Pirate’s Daughter is that inner world of turmoil that took 40 years to publish and resolve, ” shares Liang.

She began working on the installation in 1996. It was then slowly assembled (13 years) at Liang’s family home in downtown KL from 2008 to 2021. A version of this installation was shown at her pop-up gallery in KL for in 2014.

The process of moving the home-based installation to its current residence was long and arduous. With the help of a two-person crew, the pieces were taken apart and reassembled at Abundantia over five weekends starting mid-March.

For this year, Liang's Abundantia received a grant from the Cultural Economy Development Agency's (Cendana) Arts Venue Recovery Programme.

However, Liang says the work is not complete. The artist intends the installation to be shown at a museum to suit her 2018 sketch which she developed at Art Basel Miami 2018. She says it is meant to look like it’s underwater, massive in scale and height.

She says she was inspired by giant installation works by Indonesian artist Heri Dono, Chinese artist Xu Bing, Bulgarian artist Christo and Argentinian contemporary artist Tomás Saraceno.

She even composed a piano tune in 2014 titled the Forgotten Star, intended to be auto played on a broken grand piano to accompany the installation.

The KL-based artist previous exhibitions include Poesy’s World (2018), Poesy Empathy: Hidden Messages (2018) and Fly Me To The Moon, Harry Putter (2017).

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