RUN & LEARN: New Curatorial Constellations

Three young curators were put in charge of their own exhibitions in Penang, Kuala Lumpur and Kota Kinabalu respectively. Lee Cheah Ni, Ong Jo-Lene and Harold Egn Eswar were part of RUN & LEARN, a long-term cultural programme in which participants receive guidance from their more experienced counterparts and are monitored throughout the progress of their proposed projects.

Below are the comments of each curator about their experience.

Re:Engage: The People’s Court
25 Jan_15 Feb, 2015
People’s Court, Lebuh Cintra, George Town, 10100, Penang

As an artist, my process has always been linked to life-related issues and the pursuit of narrowing the artist-audience gap through the medium of art. Since returning from abroad, I have actively sought to inculcate the practice of art in daily life and within Penang’s communities, and to explore possibilities of generating dialogue through art.

The Re:engage: The People’s Court site-specific art-residency project begins with the very idea of bringing art into an ordinary living space, through diversity rather than a homogeneous and bottom-up approach. The project seeks to link the artist with the local residents, to create a community, which learns and practises art together.

We started doing fieldwork at People’s Court at the very start of the project, from August 2014 onwards. This included introducing ourselves and also getting information from the residents. Artist residencies started in the middle of October. Over time, each artist found varying ways to approach residents.

Surprisingly, we got a lot of good response from the residents; they were thankful for us having this project in their community. They brought their relatives and old neighbors back to show them the exhibition, and it became a gathering space for them to talk about their childhood and memories.

We found that the residents could easily understand the artworks because they were involved in the process and also appeared in some of the archives. Some of them told us that the project helped them learn new things about their community and environment, and that they felt closer to art.

The response and involvement of the residents exceeded my expectations. Sure, we might do things differently in a different context, but I feel quite lucky to have been able to make this art project happen, thanks to the willingness and cooperation of the residents.

by Lee Cheah Ni

Making Space: We Are Where We Aren’t
31 Jan_9 Feb, 2015
Sekeping Sin Chew Kee, No. 3, Jalan Sin Chew Kee, 50150, Kuala Lumpur

It hardly felt like 10 months had passed between the time I answered the open call with the submission of my proposal to the opening of the exhibition. Looking back at the proposal I crafted last year in April, I could hardly glean from it the exhibition we put up, Making Space: We Are Where We Aren’t. It took an entire team to help develop this skeleton of a proposal into a well-received exhibition _ mentors, artists, curators and academics, as well as the support of the Japan Foundation in Japan and Kuala Lumpur.

Making Space begun as a broad proposition for an exhibition that engages the audience in thinking about the duality of space _ that space is the structure that shapes our actions even as our actions shape our spaces. In hindsight, it was so broad that it could have been about anything and nothing very engaging! Of course, I could not see this at the time and it was the comments by Mami Kataoka and Yap Sau Bin at the Kuala Lumpur workshop that led me to narrow and deepen the curatorial theme while locating the local context.

My horizon was pushed further after the two weeks of visiting various types of art institutions, galleries, and triennials and having the privilege of speaking to their curators. We also learned more about our own unique local context and common history using regional references through the conversations amongst the RUN & LEARN participants. My show presented a list of all Malaysian artists but the programme has opened the door for me to professionally engage in a long term and meaningful cross cultural collaboration within the region and with Japan.

Most importantly, this programme taught me that conceptualising an exhibition and realising that concept into a coherent and engaging exhibition are two very different skills. The latter requires humility, honesty, synergy of the project team, communicating with stakeholders, and the help of friends, as much as it does on individual creative vision. I now hold everything I know as tentative.

by Ong Jo-Lene

7 Feb_1 Mac, 2015
Sabah Art Gallery, Jalan Muzium Kota Kinabalu, 88000 Sabah

The concept of this exhibition is about the history of Maphilindo, but it’s more connected to the imaginations of the contributors on how they become the mediators between the past and the audience, the general public.

Being MAPHILINDO is a “revisit” of the historical event that happened in 1962. Many people nowadays have forgotten about that particular incident and due to this, a lot of misconceptions and misunderstandings have occurred.

I understand that Sabah has been on the hot seat when it comes to human migratory issues within the MAPHILINDO context. The exhibition is not here to solve the problem that has bogged leaders in and out of the country. The works are merely opinions. The reason behind the need for this exhibition is because we as a unit, as a fraction of a bigger entity, have this fixed perspective on the current situation. By coming to this event, I hope attendees would perhaps see the issue from a different standpoint.

We are not here to blame and condemn those who do not subscribe to our views, but to patch what has been broken and while doing that, we shall celebrate what is same and what is not.

by Harold Egn Eswar

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