Monday, July 28, 2008

Urbanscape 2008 - urbanescape installation art exhibition

Urbanscapes is organised by Klue and is the first and only all-day “user-generated” creative arts festival. Bringing together communities and participants from the fields of music, arts, fashion/lifestyle and film under a single banner, Urbanscapes aims to showcase the best of the local scene.

an Installation art exhibition curated by LGS

Lost Generations in Urbanscapes 2008 - Review by Dean Linguey

The carnival is a wonderful event.  It reconfigures the way we navigate our everyday world and reconstructs the borders of control.  Some could say it’s just shifting the power slightly to the left yet I think any shift is a good start to see how things are normally while also testing and moving these borders.  Apart from this, it collects many different people in the one place and everyone seems to get on just fine.
KLPAC (Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre) is normally used in a particular way – cars are parked in the car park, the main entrance is along a corridor bordered by a rock-garden that ends at the foyer and from here you move to the rooms where the events, screenings, etc., are held.  Our movements, most of the time without us even being aware of it, are regulated by the paths to and from various spaces.

Lost Generation’s contribution to Klue’s urbanscapes festival was curated by Yeoh Lian Heng and featured five installation/sculptural works which challenged the navigation of the spaces they were held in and therefore asked to be negotiated and interacted with.  Artworks in a festival like this quite often become a backdrop and the usual contemplative space of the gallery is replaced by the busy to-and-fro movement of punters as they go to listen to music, watch films, shop or get something to eat or drink.  This is just how it is and it requires artists to rethink the positioning and means of presenting their work in an environment which is vastly different and of a different focus to the usual places of art presentation.  Installation, performative and interactive works lend themselves well to this kind of festival vibe. 

Aisyah Baharuddin’s work, Overloads, made a gift of the main entrance to KLPAC for everyone to receive.  Pink ribbon wrapped large sections of the rock garden spaces while pieces of KLPAC’s wire furniture were wrapped in red while seating teddy-bears and painted rock “people”.  Rocks were also repositioned to form pathways, hollow spaces and mounds in what is usually a continuous sea of rubble.  The public space was offered freely to the public (as it should be) and drew attention to particular parts of KLPAC which were “off the beaten track”.  Without even being conscious of the installation, people had to move around and under Baharuddin’s work while the teddy-bear components seemed to be a popular photographic opportunity for capturing a moment at the festival.

Another popular photographic opportunity was under and inside the work red caution (artists Yeoh Lian Heng, Joseph Teo, Kim and Tsuji Lam) - a large space created by two cones of taught red cord, one inside the other suspended from a tree and fixed to pegs in the green lawn.  This moment in time would be captured while people were framed within the artwork - wanting to be seen within the space that the artwork created.  The simple relationship between a body and a space and the desire to interact with this delicately defined area was telling about our attraction to the height and shape of particular spaces.  This visually engaging work which could be appreciated from a particular distance to take in the whole of the sculpture or be physically entered into, seemed to define an empty space in relation to, and in comparison with, the solid space taken up by the tree that it was suspended from.  Following this relationship one could draw conclusions which highlight the absence the installation defines, and at the same time protects, with its brightly coloured borders – a danger or a warning perhaps?  As it grew dark, tea candles rimmed the perimeter of the grass area and light illuminated the installation.

Simon Keogh’s three parallel hanging planes, playfully entitled Absolute Naked – hanging music sheets, swayed in and out as a result of punters moving through the corridors the planes created.  The beauty and intrigue of Keogh’s work is that it operates on many different levels at once - a reflection of Keogh’s diverse background and interests.  The work can be viewed as a painting, a sculpture, an interactive installation, architectural space and, as the title suggests, even music.  Whether the work is some form of graphic score or the reference to music is more in the movement of the planes or some other poetic form (a combination of these elements even?) is really up to the viewer yet Keogh delicately brings forth an interplay between the poetic and the solidly stated (with a touch of humour).  While most artists would be overwhelmed by dealing with so many elements in an artwork Keogh seems to revel in the interplay and connections between them. This shifting of forms and definitions challenges our desire to name the work (painting, sculpture, installation, etc.) and thus can refresh our view on the most given of material circumstances.

Sounds Unreal was a sound installation consisting of four speakers, one suspended at each corner of the open corridor entrance to KLPAC, by Dean Linguey.  The sounds referenced natural sounds yet were just “off” or would distort and warp in synthetic ways unlike their obvious reference.  One could decipher the “unreal” sounds of birds, frogs, insects and the beloved mosquito.  Another feature of this installation was the movement of sound between the ends of the thorough-fare in which it was situated.  A sound would start at one end and over time move to the other or some would shimmer between the two ends immersing the listener into the audio environment.  What becomes problematic with this type of installation at a festival is that there is so much other sound going on that it is difficult to hear the finer elements of the sound pieces.  As with the “visual” art becoming something of a pretty backdrop at a festival, sound art can also be set back into the aural backdrop lessening the engagement that a viewer/listener might normally have with the work.  This is the challenge that artists face in these types of situations.

The work by Poh Ziyang, Habitat, was something like an architecturally modeled piece of furniture.  People were sitting on it and climbing on it and it looked about as comfortable as the wire and concrete furniture that already exists at KLPAC.  The main feature of this work, apart from its very strong construction, was the fact that it played with both straight lines and planes as well as curved planes.  This gave it a feeling of movement and an unending and cyclical sense.  What I like about this work is the strong link and equal weight between the artist’s concept (stated in Lost Generation’s flyer/catalogue) and the physical result.  I don’t think all work should demonstrate its concepts in this way (or necessarily have a concept) but here it makes sense in the solidity of the materials, the “contradiction” of straight lines and curved planes and the translation of the artist’s very personal vision and conflicted logic (the striving for freedom by working harder to attain it - which in turn restricts having this freedom).

As with the carnival, where social and physical boundaries are redrawn, the installation pieces here also “re-draw” boundaries by creating spaces and boundaries which promote some form of change in the physical navigation of the viewer.  This interaction is the success of these artworks and as mentioned earlier, the difficulty and challenge of artists participating in events like Klue’s urbanscapes is to rise to the level that this “carnival” atmosphere creates and not to fade away into the background.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Australia artist talk – Tobias Richardson & Hayley West


hi! I’m Hayley West, the current artist-in-residence at Lost Generation. On Saturday 5th January Tobias Richardson (who is the current artist-in-residence at Petronas Gallery) and i gave a talk on our practices, our involvement with DVAA (an artist run space in Darwin, Australia) and our views on the art scene in Darwin. We had over 20 people attend which was fantastic, sharing information for over 2 hours… alas i had no voice left at the end! thanks everyone for coming, it was a great night.