07 April 2015

Picturing Change @ White Box

Despite good intentions to educate the public about visual culture, a dearth of visually attractive exhibits render this show a wordy affair, notwithstanding its concise wall notes. The wide time gap between seven posters from the National Archives, to Liew Kung Yu's majestic 2009 artwork, contribute to a lacklustre presentation. Sourcing difficulties aside, this incoherence can be attributed to the wide range of mediums on show, and its "one exhibit per medium" approach. Artful interventions include one clay tapir and a Photoshop-ed lightbox, while social awareness campaigns take the form of overhead photographs, typographic posters, and protest banners.

Jaguh/Pendatang (2014)

Highlighting an advertising agency's online video about racism, and its merchandise-based flood relief efforts, promotes the lofty notion about high-minded corporates. Old posters are interesting to the modern viewer for its message but not its style, while 1Malaysia products demonstrate the failure of traditional propaganda design in a contemporary social media landscape. Indicative of how power impedes creativity, unsanctioned graphic works project the strongest visual interest. Pangrok Sulap's grand green banner feature their own prints held up as demonstration placards, while depictions of Lee Chong Wei as hero/immigrant is provocative street art at its best.

[top] Liew Kung Yu - Pantai Gelora Cahaya (2009); [botom] 'Guide' to the artwork (picture from mapkl's Facebook page]

Mind-boggling at first sight, the five-panel 'Pantai Gelora Cahaya' by Kung Yu mesmerises upon reflection. With its visually arresting scale, multilayered cut-outs, and lowbrow sensibilities, photographs of kitschy constructs are put together and held up like a mirror to the astonished viewer. Are these real places? Would I not take a picture of it? What is wrong if such objects attract people to it? Why visit a place, any place? Is that Istana Budaya? An impossible number of perspectives from each individual photograph, are inserted into an inwardly slanting composition, its overall garishness accentuating the sense of make believe. Described as "...simultaneously glorify as they critique", the neutrality in Kung Yu's work, marks it as the odd one out in an exhibition about art & advocacy.

Pangrok Sulap - Selamatkan Hari Merdeka (2013)

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