Malaysia-Indonesia art project reframes 'border thinking', regional connections


  • Arts
  • Saturday, 02 Apr 2022

A number of imaginary projects are presented as images of digital composites of development signboards against the natural landscape. Photo: Kapallorek

There is a proposed project to demolish and rebuild Kapallorek Artspace in Seri Iskandar in Perak.

But it is a fictional endeavour, much like the giant aquarium on the shores of Penang, the turtle statue in Perak, the giant binoculars in Kuantan, Pahang to admire the South China Sea, and the construction of a very long bridge between Melaka and Dumai in Sumatra.

These are all part of the Lintas_Laut research project currently on display at Kapallorek, a collaboration between Malaysian artists (KC Tan, Okui Lala, Mahen Bala and Izat Arif) and Indonesian art collective Tromarama, comprising Febie Babyrose, Ruddy Hatumena and Herbert Hans.

Building upon the literal translation of “lintas laut” (traversing the sea), the project examines infrastructures that traverse the sovereignty of Malaysia and Indonesia, facilitating movements between these two countries in the form of cultural, political and economic transactions.

Led by curator Roopesh Sitharan, the outcome of this exchange is presented in two projects: Pasir Berbakti Kepada Rakyat by the Malaysian artists, and La Rendition by Tromarama in Indonesia.

The idea of exchange

This project was conceived as an expansion of an initial exchange programme by Kapallorek, where the Lintas Batas initiative (2018) focused on artistic and pedagogical exchange between artists from Malaysia and Thailand.

Lintas Batas is not directly connected with this project, but it instigated me to propose Lintas_Laut to Kapallorek. It also serves as a precursor to Kapallorek’s ambition to connect with the region.

At the 'Lintas_Laut' exhibition, a round platform invites visitors to touch and play with sand, and to weigh in on the idea that sand is not static and stable, but an object of high commodity value that is being moved without us realising it. Photo:  KapallorekAt the 'Lintas_Laut' exhibition, a round platform invites visitors to touch and play with sand, and to weigh in on the idea that sand is not static and stable, but an object of high commodity value that is being moved without us realising it. Photo: Kapallorek

“I was able to put a more critical lens on the idea of exchange inspired by the earlier initiative of Kapallorek. The premise that connects these two programmes is the idea of ‘exchange’,” says Roopesh.

In Pasir Berbakti Kepada Rakyat, the artists observe the movement of commodity (sand) along the coast of Malaysia and Indonesia, and propose these imaginary projects as an effort to justify the shifting of the sand.

“It investigates the movement of sand both literally and figuratively. The work as a whole makes visible the movement of sand across state and international borders, and how sand is framed as raw material (construction and land reclamation) and as a commodity (mining and exports).

“It represents the sovereignty of Malaysia, literally the land in which we stand and claim ownership,” says the four-artist Malaysian group in a statement.

The team (from left: KC Tan, Mahen Bala, Izat Arif, Roopesh and Okui Lala) embarked on a research trip to several mining sites in Perak where sand samples were collected analysed. Photo: Roopesh Sitharan The team (from left: KC Tan, Mahen Bala, Izat Arif, Roopesh and Okui Lala) embarked on a research trip to several mining sites in Perak where sand samples were collected analysed. Photo: Roopesh Sitharan

They also reflect (real) ambitious projects that have been abandoned.

At Kapallorek Artspace, these projects are presented as images of digital composites of development signboards against the natural landscape.

“These sites were selected as a response to different issues, for example land reclamation in Penang, rampant privatisation of beaches on the East Coast, and sand mining in Perak. Despite concerns of rising sea levels, coastlines of South-East Asian countries continue to be aggressively developed with little regard to environmental impact or sustainability,” the statement continues.

As part of this project, the team embarked on a research trip to several mining sites in Perak where sand samples were collected and brought to Jabatan Mineral Dan Geosains Malaysia to be analysed.

“The purpose of the research trip was to expose ourselves to the issue that we have decided to address through this exchange programme. Guided by the idea of ‘traversing the sea’, the issue became apparent to us as we started looking at the shorelines of the Straits of Malacca when considering the possibilities of crossing over to reach Indonesia.

Founded by Fadly Sabran in 2014, Kapallorek is a non-profit, alternative platform for emerging/experimental artists and art researchers. Photo: KapallorekFounded by Fadly Sabran in 2014, Kapallorek is a non-profit, alternative platform for emerging/experimental artists and art researchers. Photo: Kapallorek

“Witnessing the abandoned projects and land reclamation in Melaka, we were driven to investigate the movement of sand. The visit to Jabatan Mineral helped us to better understand how the sand as a material is classified for commodity purposes and enabled us to see the distribution of various minerals and sands in the entire Malaysia, importantly the marking of potential sites for future sand mining and commercialisation,” says Roopesh.

Shifting sands

At the exhibition, a moving round platform invites visitors to touch and play with sand.

“The idea here is to elevate the materiality of sand as being something beneath us to a status of importance that demands our attention.

“This attention is essentially to convey the idea that the sand is not static and stable, but an object of high commodity value that is being moved without us realising. Accordingly, these sands were bought from a commercial vendor to illustrate the availability of sand for purchase by anyone,” explains Roopesh.

Meanwhile, La Rendition at ROH Gallery in Jakarta is an installation that examines the legacy of Negaraku. In this setup, 16 soprano recorders play notes from La Rosalie, a song that was adopted as the royal anthem of Perak in 1901 and later as the national anthem of Malaysia in 1957.

Okui Lala gathering sand from a mining site at Bota, near Perak river, to be analysed. Photo: Roopesh SitharanOkui Lala gathering sand from a mining site at Bota, near Perak river, to be analysed. Photo: Roopesh Sitharan

These recorders are connected to a computer where a programme translates any tweets with the hashtag #nation into binary codes that interfere with the song being played. This fluid adaptation of a melody across various regions is literally translated and represented as an information transaction that knows no boundaries.

The video of the physical set-up in Jakarta is broadcasted live and played at Lintas_Laut at Kapallorek.

“The audio from the piece is extended to the surrounding area of Kapallorek in a form of live audio broadcast using a horn speaker. The audio rendition is played loudly akin to a call for prayer, thus reaching audiences beyond the gallery visitors,” says Roopesh.

Kapallorek, founded by Fadly Sabran in 2014, serves as a non-profit, alternative platform for emerging/experimental artists and art researchers. It started as a small rented space in a shophouse.

The 'La Rendition' installation at ROH Gallery in Jakarta is broadcast live to Kapallorek Artspace in Seri Iskandar in Perak, as part of the Lintas_Laut exhibition.The 'La Rendition' installation at ROH Gallery in Jakarta is broadcast live to Kapallorek Artspace in Seri Iskandar in Perak, as part of the Lintas_Laut exhibition.

Today, in collaboration with Coffee Machine cafe, it has its own three-storey building with an indoor and outdoor showroom, merchandise store, mini library, cafe and rooftop.

“We conduct various art activities here, such as art exhibitions, discussions, workshops, performances and residencies. Based on my experience as an artist who has been involved in the contemporary visual arts industry for almost 15 years, I would say that we lack space and opportunities that give artists the freedom to experiment,” says Fadly.

“For example, new media works have been gaining popularity all around the world, but in Malaysia, they do not get the space they deserve. I believe new media art or cross-disciplinary art is something that is timeless.

“Art and technology need to move with the times to shape a society that is not only creative but also critical.

“Art activities in Malaysia are very much focused in the Klang Valley so I hope that Kapallorek as an independent art space outside the big city, can contribute in our own way to the development of the visual arts in Malaysia and help discover new talent,” he adds.

Lintas_Laut is on at Kapallorek in Seri Iskandar, Perak till April 10 (10am to 5pm daily).

Article type: metered
User Type: anonymous web
User Status:
Campaign ID: 1
Cxense type: free
User access status: 0
Subscribe now to our Premium Plan for an ad-free and unlimited reading experience!

Research , Project , Exhibition , Kapallorek , Perak , Lintas Laut

   

Next In Culture

Ai Weiwei launches new exhibit, tries to understand studio demolitions in China
Art therapy: expressing distressing emotions when words won't come
World champion says Rubik's Cube and violin go hand in hand
Takashi Murakami's 'kawaii' art reflects human yearning for religion
Japanese ballet company shines light on plastic waste
In India, deity decorating a calling for Hindu temple artist
Nigerian artist's exhibition showcases food preservation methods
Young artist draws inspiration from nostalgic scenes, family stories in Penang
British museums celebrate wildlife found in gallery collections
Pangrok Sulap mobilises art and community to bring light to rural Sabah village

Others Also Read