01 June 2014

1 CARES • 關懷! @ KLSCAH 隆雪中华大会堂

Timely held after another "woman's show", established artist Shia Yih Yiing gathers female artists to contribute works that "playfully engage the audience to ignite one's ability to care..." This curatorial strategy results in strong effort by individuals, although the overall exhibition feels incoherent, likely due to the scattered exhibition spaces. Louise Low's trademark recycled brassieres greet the visitor underneath an archway and sewn onto a sofa, its visual impact never failing to suggest meaning. Shallow thoughts surface within a gallery space, where crafted landscapes by Tiong Chai Heing compel one to inspect the details, i.e. to care, a similar observation applicable also to Fathimah Zahra's toy soldiers on tea trays.

Lam Tsuji - Pillow of Tomorrow (2014)

Fabric as flexible material is popular - Yim Yen Sum joins strips into a porous screen, while a room shows an assortment of white clothes painted over by three related artists. 'Pillow of Tomorrow' by Lam Tsuji extrapolates city planning strategies from one century-old document, its incomplete Chinese characters on headrests a refreshing take on urban life. As per the exhibition premise, art exhibits engage more when the audience participates, such as donating fruits to Chuah Shu Ruei's charity project. Fruit as diaspora signifier is inconsequential within the circular layout, although it did trigger my curiosity to discover that mandarin oranges originated from Southeast Asia. Active engagements also happens in a hall filled with urban vignettes (Aisyah Baharuddin), and a lecture hall with instructions to define love, marriage, and self (Annabelle Ng).

Installation view of Chuah Shu Ruei - Fruit in Kind (2014)

Opportunities abound for further iterations of this exhibition, as only few works qualify as site-specific in this 80-years old gathering place. Two stumps and a tree silhouette block a window and its streaming sunlight, Wong Siew Lee's installation reminiscing the loss of nature, then compelling one to sign petitions directed at the city council. At the top floor are rooms with historical statements about the association and its founders, also where Bibi Chew invites visitors to make self-sculptures from aluminium foil. This fun act is reflexive to the participant's experience of the space, as I ponder the last time I visited this assembly hall. As an excited primary school student trawling the aisles of a book fair, it is a pleasant surprise that art has drew me back to this old part of KL and its surroundings. This is one place I care about, after all.

Wong Siew Lee - The Art of Disappearing (2014)

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