24 March 2016

Buang Bayi @ KerbauWorks

Shika/ Shieko Reto’s art output follows a simple approach. Draw the under-represented – a transwoman’s experience of living in Malaysia, in this case – to counter prejudice. In this cosy space, Shika’s output covers the walls from floor to ceiling, and various paraphernalia accumulated over the past years are put on sale. Her illustrations draw one into a world of constant anxiety, yet the motifs carry a positive, even joyful, connotation. There is the mak ‘yam feeding her anak ikan, pills & syringes, the stool, the police & the more sinister moral police, the backs of waiting prostitutes, flying objects such as jet packs & butterflies, the unicorn, the spliced open figures of a coming-out transgender person, and the ubiquitous (and personal favourite) ‘TEBABO!’

Installation snapshot

At a time when identity is a favourite subject matter among artists, Shieko’s works posit a fundamental challenge to a less common identity crisis – the one about gender. Age-old beliefs about the fe/male binary were documented and passed down as facts; this majority narrative has remain and been enforced ever since. Although the illustrations are straightforward, the charming stories in her zines are eye-opening to the commoner not familiar with the local transgender community. Looking at a mirror covered with the words ‘TAKE THIS SOCIETY’ in black duct tape, it is evident that this gesture cannot be an artist’s act of reclamation, because I already know who lost in this power struggle. The self-reflection engenders self-prejudice. TEBABO!

Installation snapshot

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