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Monday, 1 October 2012


In The Precious Garden (Reading of a Silenced Wisdom)
Multi-channel Video & Sound Installation
  • Thesis Exhibition, iEAR (Integrated Electronic Art at Rensselaer), Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI), Troy New York

'Cahaya Mata' - Indah dan halusnyanya bahasa orang Melayu, membahasakan 'anak' (kita semua) sebagai 'cahaya'. Ia adalah 'bahasa' yang tepat dari segi saintifik (kuantum) dan indah dari segi estetik. Kita semua adalah getaran 'cahaya' yang dicerap oleh 'mata' untuk diwarnakan oleh getaran 'akal/minda'.

'Light of the eyes' - The Malay language is beautiful and highly refined, attributing a 'child' (all of us, also) as 'light'. It is the most appropriate phrase in terms of quantum and beautiful from aesthetic point of view. We are all vibrations of 'light' captured by the 'eyes' to be coloured by the vibrations of mind.

The following is an essay that provides some contexts for this particular work.

"My works during my  studies in the USA for my BFA and MFA reflect several ironies - embracing globalisation whilst retaining the 'songkok' (Malay headgear) on my head; crossing boundaries whilst occasionally enjoying the comfort of hiding under my 'coconut shell'. While I was swimming across this 'third wave' of mine, all the comforts of old Malay modenism and sentiment were shaken and strucked by so many 'clever-clever' discourses. Amongst them include:

media and technological imperialism, 
the impact of the power of knowledge and representation, 
the 'others' from the third world, 
globalisation and free market economy, 
semiotic and the confusion of meaning, 
chaos theory, 
quantum theory, 
post-wuantum theory and the 'new science', 
gender issues, 
feminism and guerilla girls (perhaps 'gorila'), 
branding and marketing, 
extreme consumerism and critics of commodity culture and society of spectacle. 

All my safe floats were decaying and became adrift. For many times, I was lost and sent adrift by such discourses. 

Ironically, it was in the United States that I felt a deep sense of 'returning', of 'home'. I received the arrival of my first heir - Adeela. The land of the USA became the witness for the seed of my love to Rozana. The impact was deep. I started to look at myself as a part of the larger whole. Before this, I was merely drawing human embryo, talking and theorising with the use of logical mind, mixing science and art. But now, I'm upholding, announcing and observing humanity in a more substantial way, through a replicated self-portrait. I am 'experiencing' and 'living' it. It is so beautiful and mesmerizing.

I lost myself in the light of Adeela's eyes.

Installation view of "In The Precious Garden" (1993). Rozana (my wife) moving along printed footsteps of Adeela.
Moving along Adeela's baby footspteps, borrowing her future.
The special bond between a mother and her child is heaven-made.
The audience.

The work was inspired by the birth of my daughter Adeela in the USA, and the 'struggles' encountered by my wife Rozana during her pregnancy in a 'foreign' land. The work is my interpretation of the notion of our 'first land/home' - our mother's womb. 

The work is a bit too technical to describe and explain. I have not presented this work in Malaysia or anywhere after my Masters thesis show in Troy, New York, USA. I guess, I felt that it was too precious to share again.

For those thinking and nerdy type, the following is my reflection of ITPG, taken from my essay "Journey Across Borders : Electronic Media and Performance" in "Relocations : Electronic Art of Hasnul Jamal Saidon and Niranjan Rajah". :

"Allow me to revisit Winter 1993, Troy, New York, USA.

"In this fashion of motion
We free our HORIZON
That never SPEAKS

We struggle to Remember
And Adorn gifts
That we assumed
Can only be adorned
When stripped BARE and NAKED
For consumption and greed
(From "Proclaim : An Artist's Book")

If a rupture can be taken as a pre-condition for a 'new birth', an opening, or a paradox of departure and return, the question is what lies beyond such paradox. This reminds me of the acumen of Taoism - the further and further one goes to the West, one will end up in the East (and vice-versa).

I perceive ITPG as a multi-dimensional space in which various sources were sought and brought together - a collage or fragments of insights inspired by and taken from different texts. The text-poem was inspired and taken from Sheikh Abdul Kadir Al-Jilani, Jallaluddin Rumi, Al-Ghazali and Liu I-Ming, all of which were complemented by scientific readings of fetus formation inside the womb. I perceive the text-poem as a co-mingling of multiple texts, with multiple entry points that presumably will lead to multiple readings and formation of meanings.

It was within the ruptures and slippery nature of language, signs, representation, forms and meanings that I wished for flashes or sparks of insights to appear, beyond the confines of my own notion of a stable reality. 

In ITPG, members of the audience became the performers, the software, and the moon, al-Hillal, illuminator of the inner. The media installation functioned as the hardware, the sun, as-Sham, illuminator of the outer. In semiological term, they became both the signifier and the signified as they immersed themselves in the installation. The nature of their interactions (performances), defined the meaning of the whole experience. The meaning of their collective performances then, became a constant flux of insights that kept on moving and changing like a streaming water that flows in different tempos and rhythms.

Structurally, there were several formal devices used in creating ITPG, namely :

1. Modularity and cyclical formations - that eventually connote inter-dependency, inter-linked and interlocking patterns, all of which create a sense of

2. Simultaneity and dynamism - as opposed to permanency/fixed view

3. Non-linearity - as opposed to sequence

4. De-centralization, multiple options, open-endedness and flexibility, all of which relate to

6. User/observer centered paradigm that allows the observer to decide his/her own pattern of perceptual experience according to his/her own option in a given confine of time and space. This leads to

7. Interactivity, participation, involvement and immersion, and 

8. the use of mathematical and schematic principles, including fractal abstraction (time is compressed or expanded and divided into smaller or bigger fractions or units)

The text-poem was constructed in a modular and cyclical fashion to negate linear logic of progression. It was written on a large white cloth in a spiraling fashion. The original version formed the base of the installation. Twelve smaller compressed copies of this original version were made and placed in equal distance at twelve separate points on the base. They functioned as the secondary physical branches. These secondary branches were then copied and compressed into twelve smaller units and placed in a similar manner to form the third branches.

I employed the same fractal formulation in translating modularity into time-based fractions. A single sixty minute tape consisted of both visual (images and texts) and aural materials related to 'a journey of life before time' was initially conceived. This sixty minute original version was then compressed (in time) and divided into twelve smaller units, each with duration of five minutes. These secondary branches (or fractions) were then compressed and divided into twelve smaller units, each with a duration of sixty seconds. These smallest units formed the tertiary branches - three times removed or compressed from the original version in terms of time. They appeared as flashes or sparks in relation to the original time version. 

Members of the audience may interact with the installation in numerous ways. Among them are:

1. They may read the text-poem by pacing their walk according to their own tempo and rhythm, progressively moving into the inner part of the physical installation

2. They may initiate and end their reading of the text-poem form any point of departure (and return)

3. They may stop and passively view the video

4. They may interact with each other or with how others interact with the installation

5. They may function as either the signifier or the signified or both. 

ITPG reiterated my early encounters with the reading of such ruptures - my effort in searching for a temporal reconciliation with the ruptures in me. It became a much-needed cushion for me, as I was feeling trapped and suffocated by the radical relativism of post-modernism." 

To avoid readers from only relying on my ramblings, here is an excerpt from Zanita Anuar, "Reading Jamal - Indulging in Beautiful Complexities", in "In Between the Lines - Solo Exhibition (drawings 1979 - 2008)", Muzium & Galeri Tuanku Fauziah, 12 and Chandan Gallery, Penang, 2008. (p. 8 & 9)

"Troy Samaritan Hospital labor ward attendees may have been witness to Jamal's significant crossing into a passage where he was intellectually unversed, yet destined to serve. The new born signified the very change, renewal and passing of being for Jamal - he himself being in constant flux. The entire corporeal world constantly renews itself. The "matter" of corporeal things has the power to become a new form at any moment by Allah's grace. And that realization of evanescence, coupled with his wonder in servitude, fueled his intrigue in the burning Muslim-father/leader mission which pushed him to seek the wisdom of Siddharta, Lao Tze, Nakula, Osman Bakar, Al-Ghazali, Qadir al-Jilani and Al-Arabi. 

Jamal refers most to the Hanbali theologian Abdul al-Qadir al-Jilani (1078-1166) from Baghdah. Al-Jilani stresses on philanthropy, humility, piety and moderation. His achievement as a thinker was to have reconciled the mystical nature of the Sufi calling with the sober demands of Islamic law. his concept of Sufism was that of a holy war or jihad waged against one's own will in order to conquer egotism and worldliness and to submit to God's will."

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