ESCAPE from the SEA

In collaboration with the National Art Gallery (NAG) and Art Printing Works Sdn. Bhd. (APW), The Japan Foundation, Kuala Lumpur is thrilled to present ESCAPE from the SEA, a group exhibition that considers issues of identity, belongingness, and history through the politics of borders in this region and beyond.

ESCAPE from the SEA is an extension of Condition Report, a curatorial development programme initiated by the Japan Foundation Asia Centre. Currently in its sophomore edition, the programme in 2017 takes place in two parts: the first opens with four major collaborative exhibitions in Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur, Manila, and Bangkok. The second features fourteen local exhibitions, each curated by fourteen shortlisted curatorial participants from the programme.

The exhibition frames the sea as both physical and metaphorical, defining maritime and geopolitical boundaries as well as representing a fluid state of boundlessness. In this sense, the title invokes an escape from something equally political and poetic. If escape implies a line of flight from, a way of slipping past, an act of eluding a limit or a border, where do we escape to? Here, the borders between home and neighbour, self and other, historic and contemporary, factual and fictive, real and imagined are negotiated, and while escape is requisite, arrival is never resolute.

ESCAPE from the SEA includes works from artists who come from a range of contexts, practices, and media including film/video, installation, performance, research-based projects. Several works respond directly to issues pertaining to the political border: between sovereign lands and of bodies of water; others choose to navigate a more private border, drawing from personal lives to question public affairs; and yet others explore possibilities of the dissolution of borders altogether, hacking and blurring the space between what we know and imagine of history, of time, and of space.

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CURATORS Yap Sau Bin (MY) Hiroyuki Hattori (JP)

CO-CURATORS Alice Sarmiento (PH) Kurnia Yunita Rahayu (ID) Souliya Phoumivong (LA) Goh Sze Ying (MY)

ARTISTS Adam David (PH) Aoyama Satoru (JP) Au Sow-Yee (MY) Catalina Africa Espinosa (PH) Han Ishu (CN/JP) Ismal Muntaha (ID) Jeffrey Lim (MY) Ali Alasri, Faiq Syazwan Kuhiri, Mark Teh, and Wong Tay Sy (MY) Roslisham Ismail aka ISE (MY) Shitamichi Motoyuki (JP) Tita Salina (ID) Yang02 + Kenta Ishige (JP) Zai Kuning (SG)


24 Feb23 Apr

National Art Gallery (NAG) 10 a.m.6 p.m. daily 2 Jalan Temerloh, Off Jalan Tun Razak 53200 Kuala Lumpur Art Printing Works Sdn Bhd. (APW) 12 p.m.8 p.m. daily 29 Jalan Riong 59100 Kuala Lumpur


Curator’s Tour* NAG and APW Saturday, 25 Feb, 2.00 p.m.4.30 p.m.

Curators Hattori Hiroyuki and Yap Sau Bin alongside select artists from ESCAPE from the SEA will lead an exhibition walkthrough at both venues, giving visitors an opportunity to understand their curatorial framework, collaborative process, as well as themes of the exhibition.

* Registration is required

“The Complete Futures of Malaysia (Chapter 1)” by Ali Alasri, Faiq Syazwan Kuhiri, Mark Teh and Wong Tay Sy APW

The Complete Futures of Malaysia is conceived as a generative series of research and creative projects aimed at investigating changing perceptions of the future in Malaysia, and beyond. For the inaugural chapter, Ali Alasri, Faiq Syazwan Kuhiri, Mark Teh and Wong Tay Sy will be presenting three public events that focus on specific aspects of the future: ways of framing the future; science fiction scenarios of Kuala Lumpur; a Wawasan 2020-paraphernalia donation drive, and proposals for future Malaysias.

Event 1: Framing the Futures Saturday, Feb 25, 5.30 p.m.

A panel and presentation on different methods and frames of envisioning the future. Confirmed participants include Datuk Dr. Mazlan Othman (Akademi Sains Malaysia), Ibrahim Suffian (Merdeka Centre for Opinion Research), and Julian Ng (BFM 89.9).

Event 2: Speculative Scenarios: Sci-Fi KLs Sunday, Mar 12, 3.00 p.m.

A panel and presentation surveying and mapping trends, tropes, imaginations and locations in Malaysian science fiction literature. Confirmed participants include writer/radio maker/cultural critic Umapagan Ampikaipakan and writer Ridhwan Saidi (LiteraCity).

Event 3: Future Ministries Sunday, Apr 23, 1.00 p.m.

24 artists, activists, thinkers and citizens will be invited to take on current Malaysian ministerial portfolios and propose their visions, changes and ideas for the year 2063.

“Channel Surfing: The Necessities and Challenges of Curating a Region” Symposium NAG Sunday, 26 Feb, 3.00 p.m.

A symposium discussing the necessities of developing divergent curatorial agendas in Southeast Asia as well as the complexities and challenges of framing a region within specific curatorial practices. Panellists include curators Yap Sau Bin and Hattori Hiroyuki, Ahmad Mashadi (Head of NUS Museum), as well as two of the local curatorial participants, Hoo Fan Chon and Goh Sze Ying.

“Attachment”* by Jeffrey Lim NAG and APW Saturday, 4 Mar, 9.00 a.m.12.00 p.m. Sunday, 26 Mar, 9.00 a.m.12.00 p.m. Sunday, 23 Apr, 9.00 a.m.12.00 p.m.

Over the duration of ESCAPE from the SEA, artist/designer Jeffrey Lim will walk from one venue to another―alternating directions over different occasions―to install, retrace, and de-install his work, Attachment. He will be marking his trail through the city and tracing parts of Klang River using spools of threads, thus making his journey visible to visitors and simultaneously inviting them to make their own journeys.

* Registration is required.

Exhibition Bus Tours Saturday, 11 Mar (this includes a Q&A session with Roslisham Ismail aka Ise) Saturday, 25 Mar, 8 Apr, 22 Apr 2.00 p.m.4.30 p.m.

Bus tours from NAG to APW are available for visitors every alternate Saturday.


Adam David Born 1982 in Quezon City, Philippines Based in Quezon City, Philippines

ADAM DAVID (b. 1982, Quezon City) is a writer, book designer, critic, and community organiser, largely responsible for the Philippines' "largest" (if such a thing could exist) small press expo, Better Living Through Xeroxography. Having achieved notoriety for his appropriative work, It will be the same/but not quite the same, for which he was accused of four grounds of copyright infringement, David continues to experiment with hypertext, using JavaScript randomisers to generate new forms of literary criticism. He continues these experiments with Of Native Shores, presented here as both a 1,500-page book, printed and bound, and a hypertext randomiser that the audience can manipulate on site, further participating in the rewriting of history. On one level, it is an act of sacrilege, on another level a celebration of piracy and plagiarism, and on yet another level an alternate historical epic written by David in collaboration with Dr. Abad, the reader, and about two hundred Filipino poets throughout the 20th century.

Aoyama Satoru Born 1973 in Tokyo, Japan Based in Tokyo, Japan

AOYAMA SATORU (b. 1973) holds a BA in Textiles from Goldsmiths University and an MFA from the Fibre and Material Studies department of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Aoyama works with an old Singer sewing machine to create meticulously embroidered works, which range in subject matter from world maps to historical depictions of labour and craft. With painstaking and skilled precision, Aoyama’s intricate process reflects on the notion of the individual craftsman in an age of outsourcing and mechanised labour. Frequently working with found imagery, Aoyama further questions the cultural value of appropriation.

Au Sow-Yee Born 1978 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia Based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia & Taipei, Taiwan

AU SOW-YEE (b. 1978, Kuala Lumpur) is based between Taipei and Kuala Lumpur. Her work questions, explores as well as expands the relation between images, image making, history, politics and power through video installation and other mediums. Au’s recent work focuses on a re-imagined history of Malaysia and Southeast Asia from perceptions and ideologies bounded by the Cold War.

She majored in theatre arts at the Chinese Culture University, Taiwan before attaining her MFA degree from San Francisco Art Institute. Au’s works have been exhibited at the Shanghai Rockbund Art Museum, Singapore Film Festival, Experimental Film and Video Festival (Seoul), Bangkok Experimental Film and Video Festival, Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Centre (U.S.A), New York Squeeky Wheels Video Festival, et. al. Au co-founded the Kuala Lumpur Experimental Film and Video Festival (KLEX) and was a co-curator for the festival in 2010, 2011 and 2016. She also writes for online magazines Promethean Fire Review and No Man’s Land.

Catalina Africa Espinosa Born 1988 in Quezon City, Philippines Based in Baler, Aurora, Philippines

CATALINA AFRICA (b. 1988, Manila) works in painting and installation, often whimsically combining both to produce serendipitous encounters within everyday life. Simulated and sensate, these environments temporarily transcend the boundaries implied by the exhibition space and evoke more fleeting memories, worlds, and words.

Africa started joining group exhibitions in 2008 and held her first solo exhibition in 2010. She finished her B Fine Arts (major in Painting) degree at the University of the Philippines College of Fine Arts in 2012. Since then, Africa has completed artist residencies at 1335 Mabini in Malate (2013), the Skowhagen School of Painting and Sculpture in the U.S. (2014), and the Baler Artist Village in Aurora (2015).

Han Ishu Born 1987 in Shanghai, China Based in Tokyo, Japan

HAN ISHU (b. 1987) currently lives and works in Tokyo, Japan. Born in China but having lived most of his life in Japan, issues of identity, belongingness and migration are main features in his performance and visual art work from a young age. In his recent practices, he focuses on relationships and distances with others.

Han’s works have been featured in a number of solo exhibitions, among them Life Scan (Tokyo Frontline, Japan, 2014); Study Country (VCA Gallery, Australia, 2013); Form of Sea (Kyoto Art Center North Gallery, Japan, 2012); as well as groups shows like In the Wake (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 2015); Whose Game is it? (Royal College of Art, UK, 2015).

Ismal Muntaha Born 1987 in Bandung, Indonesia Based in Jatiwangi, Indonesia

ISMAL MUNTAHA (b. 1987, Bandung), is a multidisciplinary artist. He lives and works in Jatiwangi, Majalengka Regency, Indonesia. He is a Director of Education, Research, and Development at Jatiwangi Art Factory (JAF). Currently he is developing a long-term research and art project called Research Center of Clay Culture or Pusat Penelitian Kebudayaan Tanah (PPKT).

Jeffrey Lim Born 1978 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia Based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

JEFFREY LIM (b. 1978, Kuala Lumpur) comes from a background in communication design whose work explores a form of photography, urban surveying, and social/mapping projects. His interests are located at the intersection of identity and cultural heritage, taking forms of conceptual representation with the use of imagery, found-objects and spaces and through interactions. Several of his projects explore community building and community spaces. His works include: Door Left, Door Right (2015), a situational photographic installation; and Kanta (ongoing), a collection of photographic studies of portraitures.

Ali Alasri Faiq Syazwan Kuhiri Mark Teh Wong Tay Sy Based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Ali Alasri, Faiq Syazwan Kuhiri, Mark Teh and Wong Tay Sy are artists based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Over the past decade, they have worked on diverse research and creative projects―including performances, installations, exhibitions, online videos, and participatory projects―often produced by Five Arts Centre and involving a revolving cast of frequent collaborators.

Some of these projects include the Emergency Festival (2008); the documentary musical Something I Wrote (2013); When you read this letter, I am no more in this world (2016), an installation at the Kunstverein Braunschweig (Germany); and the documentary performance Baling (2015), which has toured to South Korea, India, Japan, the United Arab Emirates and Germany.

Roslisham Ismail aka ISE Born 1972 in Kota Bharu, Malaysia Based in Kota Bharu and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

ROSLISHAM ISMAIL AKA ISE (b. 1972) is a multidisciplinary artist whose works include installation, video art, and participatory projects. His practice is largely informed by expressions of popular culture, such as comics, and serves to represent alternative histories of place and culture. A graduate from MARA University of Technology (UiTM), the founder of Parkingproject, an artist’s space based in his apartment in Kuala Lumpur, and a co-founder of Malaysian art publication sentAp!, Ise has participated in numerous gallery and museum exhibitions and art residencies and projects both locally and internationally. He took part in the 9th Istanbul Biennial (2005); collaborating with Indonesia’s ruangrupa, Jakarta Biennale (2009), Singapore Biennale (2011), Asia Triennial Manchester (2011), Asia Pacific Triennale APT (Brisbane, Australia, 2012), Asian Art Biennale (Taiwan, 2013), and Scape 7 Public Art Biennale (Christchurch, New Zealand, 2013). In 2006, he was selected as the Australian High Commission resident at Artspace Visual Arts Centre, Sydney. In 2007, he held his first solo exhibition at 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art, Sydney. In 2008, he received a grant from the Japan Foundation Kuala Lumpur to travel to Japan, which resulted in the exhibition Super Fiction at JFKL Gallery, Kuala Lumpur. In 2014, he completed a residency and held a solo exhibition titled operation bangkok at Bangkok University Gallery, BUG. Most recently, in 2015, he was featured in the Archipel Secret show at Palais de Tokyo, Paris. For a period of six months, beginning December 2015, Ise will be joining a residency programme at Asian Cultural Council, New York.

Shitamichi Motoyuki Born 1978 in Okayama, Japan Based in Nagoya, Japan

SHITAMICHI MOTOYUKI (b. 1978, Okayama) is a travelling artist, known for his interest in borders. In the course of his wanderings, drifting from place to place without a specific destination, he accumulates objects that he stumbles upon, often relating to symbolic sites of exchange, or he photographs examples of hidden border crossings, such as the derelict remains of torii (shrine gates), encountered in foreign lands once occupied by Japan, or the remnants of wartime bunkers, scattered around the islands’ coastline.

Motoyuki’s poetics of ‘drift’ problematises our assumptions about borderlines, values and exchange. How do you find a value for a particular sample of seawater, from a particular place, that challenges its generality as just ‘seawater’? Is the water more valuable because it derives from the disputed borderline between two rival nations? Or because it has been presented for our attention by an artist? In the imaginary process of valuation, what does it mean to attach the flotsam and jetsam of time to particular narratives of history in order to invest them with significance?

Tita Salina Born 1973 in Palembang, Indonesia Based in Jakarta, Indonesia

To Tita Salina, art is "a collection of memories that have stories", each one capable of binding many things, from history, trends, and technology, to personal experiences. Her interest as an artist and designer is to test the limits of elasticity by linking art into life and social patterns, creating mutual emotional bonds between ideas and events. Her firm belief that art should be made as a field of ‘archaeology’, through the unearthing and study of it from various perspectives, is evident in 1001st Island. Using the waste that chokes the sea, Salina combines video, performance, and social practice to draw links between the issues of reclamation and land use, and the uncertain future and possible displacement of traditional fishermen.

Yang02 + Kenta Ishige Born 1984 and 1994 respectively Based in Tokyo, Japan

yang02 is an artist and designer, born in 1984 in Kanagawa, Japan. In 2009, he graduated from Tama Art University, having studied Media Art under Prof. Akihiro Kubota and Prof. Seiko Mikami. yang02 is a member of TYMOTE and Grandbase Inc.

Zai Kuning Born 1964 in Singapore Based in Singapore

ZAI KUNING (b. 1964) lives and works in Singapore. Having worked with an array of sculpture, installation, painting and drawing, experimental sound and music, video, film, performance art, dance and theatre for more than two decades, Zai resists convenient categorical claims to his art-making. Multi-disciplinary and improvisational art practice has always been important to him. Today he is considered one of the most versatile artists working in the region, and is at the forefront of avant-garde practice in Singapore.

Since 2001, Zai's work focuses on drawings, music and research on Melayu history and the Orang Laut (sea gypsies) who are indigenous to the Riau Archipelago. His journeys throughout the archipelago inspired him to create a series of drawings titled Brutality of Fact; a collection of original acoustic guitar compositions; a novel titled Segantang Lada (translated to "a bunch of a chilies"); and most notably the short film Riau. In 2005, the film was screened at the International Film Festival Rotterdam, Busan International Film Festival and 3rd Fukuoka Asian Art Triennial.

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