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Tuesday, 27 September 2011

A GEEKY AND NERDY EDITION OF 1MCAT : INSIGHT PENANG 2011

An exhibition with no 'artwork', or the artworks are 'text and diagrams'?

Some say this exhibition is too geeky or nerdy for the visual art scene in Penang. I would say that it is very pertinent, relevant and fitting (to be shown in a 'university'). 


But,.....whattheheck! just taste it first. 


Excerpt from the curatorial text by TC Liew and Kelvin Chuah

Exterior of Galeri 27 at USM.
Entrance to the gallery.

The history of text and its evolution may be read in great detail from the developments of cultures, linguists and artists, amongst others, who since time immemorial redefined their form of reading and writing. Take for instance the marked simplification and revolution of Chinese text from ancient manuscripts to contemporary publications. Fundamentally, text may be understood as a structural form for manuscripts, books and newspapers. Text in today’s context is essentially the wording in published/online writings that give shape to form and meaning of ideas. There are but many ways to decipher interpret and understand the writings and messages from authors of texts.

What about text in visual art?

Front sinage, notice the space between 2 and 7 on the logo.

Text in visual art generates detailed explication of the works of art, narrating and elaborating further the intention(s) and concepts of the artist(s). The explanation and contextualization of art writing defines the perimeters in which the visual operate; hemming the reading within frameworks that encompass but is not limited to socio-economic and political connotations. Text and their meanings also allow for further discourse and multiple trajectories with which visuals may be discoursed, positioned and interpreted (depending on locality and conditions that the art works are produced).

Caption for "Rumination" (2011) by Dr. Izmer Ahmad
"... of Malaysian Art" (2011) by Kelvin Chuah
A black border, a list of names, and information......who creates the narratives of Malaysian art, artists or writers? Who gives the conTEXT?
From Kelvin's work to Dr. Izmer's parade of cows (towards left).

So what happens when text IS the work of art? Or rather text is developed into a form of encoding, where text is no longer text but something else? How then do we read text, or is it art (not text)? Take for instance, a quotation from a passage is printed on the surface of a canvas, what then are the limits before plagiarism becomes an issue? 

Legally, copyright requires the quotation be cited. In a polar view, lines on an art work can be contested as art and not citation.

Encoding has possibly transformed the way messages, or text is interpreted. Structurally, the ‘text’ becomes metaphorically embalmed, possibly necessitating new methods of breaking codes. As in a piece of abstract painting contains of varied marks, strokes and colour which refer as the artist’s ‘text’ to express and convey his messages. Through the study of formalistic quality of artwork, basic elements such as dots, lines, shapes, forms, textual, colours and etc. are identified and unveiled. If those elements are tool(s) or ‘text’ that make meaning to a piece of painting; scientifically those are similar to a bit – the basic computer unit which able to entangle the gigantic databases; or microtubule associated protein (MAP), the tiniest element in human being brain that sparks complex thoughts and ideas. Those visual databases are graphically plotted, diagrammed and mapped into graph and chart format to show multiple layers of information. Diagram is another visual forms share similar function as ‘text’ does.

Again, what happens when diagram is the work of art? 


"Rumination" (2011) by Dr. Izmer Ahmad. Left turn into the light.

The diagrammatic data encourage and suggest different reading of a piece of art. It informs on both macro and a micro level; as micro level address audiences with detailed information of formalistic elements. On the other hand, macro level audiences is able to trace the thinking and behaviourist patterns of the man behind the piece of art; perhaps in larger picture the diagram itself showcase the thinking of the artists (the visual interpreters). 


(Pictures above : Glowing light in the shape of love, illuminating the 'alpha cow' at the center. The alpha cow is eating a scroll of 'art text'. What happens to the 'text' after the consumption? Shit?)

Making interlocution between research and art making, this exhibition may be seen as an attempt to integrate the very contrary practises within the field of visual art. Artists deal with the necessity for text as writers/researchers’ engagement with the visual is elevated from detached readings and critiques of images to a sense of meaning in presentation and portrayal. Perchance, such tensions need be negotiated to fashion future interdisciplinary practices. It may also be viewed as an open ended dialectic; obliging contradictory ideas in within a conformed space.




 (Cowing around. From Dr. Izmer's 'rumination' to Kelvin Chuah's 2nd. piece "...no art no writing", 2010.)

In terms of visual art, this exhibition is groundbreaking in its scheme to work, rework and integrate the usage of text in art works. Recent memory has not recorded many such conceptual exhibitions in the country using texts. One may recall Wong Hoy Cheong’s Text/tual. Yet this is a proposition to address the domain of text and art with tangential concerns ranging from the historical to cognitivism studies. Artistically, the show is of significance, not in monetary concerns but to push the boundaries of conceptual art as portrayed and seen in Malaysia.



(In recognition and in appreciation to what? Another layer of 'text' to ponder)


Text and Diagram in cognition, to cognize in texts and diagrams. by 4 artists/researchers, namely Hasnul Jamal Saidon, Dr. Izmer Ahmad, Kelvin Chuah and Liew Ting Chuang @ TC. Where text is thrust to its limits as symbols of meanings or even iconography, to a configuration beyond conventional boundaries? All the participants of this exhibition are affiliated as staff or postgraduate students of Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM). The idea of presenting a conceptual show like this in an institution creates exciting possibilities for other collaborations.

Kelvin Chuah & TC Liew


The following is an excerpt from a description on the 2nd. part of the exhibition. The description is by TC Liew.

Through the study of formalistic quality of artwork, visual elements are tools that make meaning to a piece of painting; therefore those visual database are graphically plotted, diagrammed and mapped into graph and chart to show multiple layers of information. It is another experience of reading a piece of art.

Visual Sampling Method was invented by Assoc. Prof. Hasnul Jamal Saidon and Liew Ting Chuang since 2008, under Tuanku Fauziah Museum & Gallery (MGTF), Universiti Sains Malaysia. Currently Visual Sampling Method (VSM) 3.0 is being developed to unveil curatorial framework, exhibition design and thematic study of an exhibition. VSM 3.0 was expanded from its previous versions such as VSM 1.0, used experimentally for a fine art collection by a prominent private collector. VSM 2.0 is an improved version and was used experimentally utilized for Syed Ahmad Jamal (SAJ)’s retrospective (2009) to generate statistical data of SAJ’s institutional collection. Grafix In Reality (2010) by a group of Penang emerging artists called the Third-Eyes adapted VSM 2.0 to summarize their artworks into barcode-like patterns. Instead of reading in essay form, the patterns provided artworks information through info-graphic.


VSM 2.1 (upgraded version) is the analysis instrument for this showcase.


 (What if an artwork is taken as a code?)


 (An excerpt from Dr. Zakaria Ali's essay about an artist was converted into a QR code (to be decoded). A VSM diagram about an artist's work is placed on the wall, instead of the artwork itself. What are we experiencing? Artwork? Information about an artwork? What are we deciphering or decoding? What are we referring to, an artwork or information about an artwork? What if the 'coded information' is the artwork itself?)

What is happening cognitively in our mind as we engage with an artwork, or as we engage with 'information' about the same artwork via written text? Are they similar? If not, which one represents a better cognitive experience? Are we relying more on artworks or written texts to encode an experience and form meanings? What creates meanings? Information and experience embedded in text and diagram? Or information and experience embedded in an artwork? What instigate endless discourses, artworks or written texts? What constitutes 'an art education' reading art or reading texts? What makes an art degree (bachelors, masters and phds), artworks or written texts?   

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