May peace prevails upon all beings on the earth and beyond. You may scroll down to browse the contents of this blog.

Wednesday, 30 October 2013


Sdr Hasnul:
Bila sdr semakin tua, mungking sdr akan banyak lupa, termasuklah segala kebisingan yang suka sangat sdr layan bagai nak rak tu. Jika dilayan dan difokus pada bising, lebih banyak kebisingan akan muncul dalam hidup sdr. Jika dilayan dan difokus pada segala yang sdr tak suka, lebih banyak yang sdr tak suka itu akan muncul dalam hidup sdr. Semua kebisingan mimpi benda tu mungkin akan sdr lupa, semakin luput, bila semakin tua. Tapi sdr akan masih terus boleh merasa. Oleh itu, buanglah kebisingan kocak minda dan rasa tu, agar dapat menjadikan pantulan hari-hari yang lepas dan bayangan hari-hari mendatang itu PENAWAR untuk HARI INI, SEKARANG, dan setiap SEKARANG. Basuhlah daki ego dan nafsu tu. Tanamlah, kekalkanlah dan sebarkanlah kasih sayang sejati yang merentas masa, benda dan rupa; setiap detik, setiap saat, setiap 'sekarang'. 

Semuanya ADIL, kecuali bagi minda dan hati bising yang tak reti bersyukur.

Ikhlas dari:
(Yang Senyap Tapi Sangat Dekat, Belakang Berlapis-lapis Hijab)

Saturday, 26 October 2013


Andy, tq for your unpaid reflective essay about me. Each of us is a mirror to each other, and thank God, you have been a good mirror for me (but not in a Snow White's Queen way). Tq for driving me up to Penang and back to KL, lepaked at Kebun Rupa, amongst so many things to be thankful for. Lepaked at Kebun Rupa can do wonders, one of which is to strip you bare into nothing. In the NOW, we become the silent witness or observer of Greatness beyond what our minds can conjure, including through words. After all they are nothing but just bunch of dots and lines. And yes, nothing is sublime. (You have to read the last sentence many times to 'get it' though).



July 5, 2013 at 4:49pm
In the past,when I meet anyone again after few years – my once ignorant mind always said this “its damn co-incidence”, fast-forward in the later years I found out that people whom I crossed paths actually it’s not coincidence, it’s a freaking lesson, you just need certain time to reflect on how a person whom you met teaches you, having a chemistry or being comfortable with and ultimately see how the person complement or improves with you. It can be your ex, your current love ones, siblings, parents, grandparents and etc.

Normally this sort of reflective piece you are reading now normally reserved and to be read for the person when he will be awarded an award, to publish it as a foreword or worst you need to read it at the funeral. So I figure out why the fuck we need to wait when you can do it NOW!.

Everyone seems to know about Hasnul, Hasnul this and Hasnul that, to students, they call him a teacher, for the ones who in the local visual arts, he is known as a super OTAI - a giant, Master, Sifoo,Legendary Grandmaster Funk, Yoda etc. Virtually every catalog involving with the arts contained his writings and reviews. For students who did Masters or even P.h.d in Malaysian visual arts, they need to read his writing for their research. Most of the time, his writing will help everyone to start Chapter 2.

So who the hell is Hasnul, you may wander? Few even are afraid to start a conversation with him due to his body of works, his writing, and now with his rock star persona courtesy of his rebonded  long hair appearances, few people looked “proud” or even “claimed”  they know him well enough or even I sense there can be few who are proud like shit when Hasnul mentioned their names or their artworks in his reflective writing in his Belaian Jiwa blog. ( note his blog is called Jiwa Halus )

One thing I have to say – his writings about anything are pretty well covered, comprehensive and supported by facts of primary and secondary datas. People seriously don’t question his works or his writings. Fortunately for me, we didn’t crossed path when he set his foot in USM as I was graduating, at first I knew him through his works dealing with electronics – but what strikes me, and this “giant” is a jolly good fellow, intelligent and most importantly not a pretentious prick when we finally meet. 

But bear in mind - He does know to start a conversation, control the conversation, expanding it – so beware if you meet him. He either can overwhelm you easily - resulting in you stand there, mouth open and you will think that you just met a DEWA or irritate the hell out of you. He knows a lot of stuffs as he reads a lot.

yet his best writing is not about Art, it's about his dad. A brutally honest to goodness - no holds barred about his dad. Here's the link

He has uncanny ability to attract a lot of lost souls, souls who wants recognition and ones who don’t give a shit. He is fluid, his words are grounded and mind you, his drawing skills are awesome, I forgot to add, and his mastery in colours is sublime (which is really rare now). Not many people can add as much colours like him and the result turn out to be super-awesome. No garish colors to blind your senses, but its pleasing like the you are in a subtle candy store – I loved the way of how he combines all the visual elements akin to any professional chef in a restaurant – everything is complete and cukup rasa. Tak kurang, tak lebih and there is no Ajinomoto.

Yet his best piece is the cartoon he did when he was in Form 3, Keluarga Pak Don. His drawings captured all the flaws of his family except him - make me laugh like shit.

The students or people in general can be confused or even can label him as a nutcase when he keep on mentioning about quantum stuffs. Bear in mind, its not something that you can understand within one day,but its not intellectual either, but the way of how he explains sometimes can put you in confusion level 99. We are all made of energies, if we are positive, then we attract positive ones, if we are negative like shit, we tend to attract the dark shit ones too.

He normally constantly will be wandering around, most of the time he will either deal with artists ( which until now I don’t know how the hell he got the patience as I dont ),being a responsible husband by lepaking in his wife’s shop and create ruckus to any heritage activists, visits his lovable parents back in Teluk Intan, being a supportive dad to his 3 talented daughters or chased - bogged down by someone to do a review or writings or worst participate in an exhibition. 

One thing I need to highlight here, he is the type of person that don’t know how to say NO to everything. He is not calculative, yet people who surround him are. People clamor for his name and his associations, Hasnul this and Hasnul that. That is the strength and yet a weakness for this man. Mind you, I don’t know how many people will turn up for his funeral one fine day.

I just pray you and your family tons of happiness and abundance HJS and yes why I need to write this as seriously as I don’t want to read any pompous shit about you written by any pompous so-called pseudo-intellectual academicians in a journal or in any publications. Seriously what i felt that you do deserve a pure honest reflective notes of someone you know through the years. 

As in the end of the day if we strip everything apart, what made us? Nothing.Strip off the pangkat, nama, baju, the car we drive and etc - we will turn out to be nobody. But the hardest part is being a nobody than being a somebody.

When being a nobody is harder than being a somebody. We are nothing.

p/s : Plus I glad to work with you in few funny projects.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013


A portrait by Soleha Hanafi, my sister's creative daughter. "Cu" stands for Pak Su, the youngest uncle. "Dogek", well,....there is a story behind it. Dogek is actually a name of my mother's legendary pet chicken, long, long, time ago before the age of fb. It had a peculiar head with some feathers missing. One day (I was a little kid then), my hair was cut and trimmed, coincidentally looking like the head of this chicken named 'Dogek". When my family bullies (big braders) saw my new hair, they said "hey, tengok, macam kepala Dogek!!". Until now, the whole family call me Dogek, even my nieces and nephews, and now my 'cucu-cucu' sedara ....Tok Cu Dogek. Initially I felt embarrassed, but now, I think its cool. Recently, I was pondering to send this work for the show "Wajah-wajah" curated by U-Wei (plus my own portrait), but then U-Wei might think that I'm trying to pull his legs. Yet, this drawing really whacked my artist's ego and pretentiousness with its raw honesty, perception and talent.


Debating and dialoging about God doesn't always bring one closer to GOD.
(Berdebat dan berdialog tentang Tuhan tidak selalunya membuatkan seorang itu dekat padaNYA)


19 years of watching you grow, has been a miracle. No masterpiece can beat the experience of witnessing you grow, its a gift (for me your forever learning rock kapak dad!) beyond anything that one could get or buy. Now go and spread your wing my little Mia, my future architect.


Congrats my dear Nina, for being selected for final in KL. Be thankful to Allah and use your God given talent to touch hearts, bring joy and love to your audience, regardless of winning or losing. Everyone wins in the embrace of love, so carry your talent with lots of it. Mama, Abah, your sisters and all our friends will always support u.



Bergambar depan karya "Mohon" (Pameran "Wajah-wajah", kurator U-Wei Shaari) bersama Kak Nornah Nordin di Galeri Morne, Kuala Lumpur.

Thursday, 3 October 2013


Originally published in "Relocations - The Electronic Art of Hasnul J Saidon & Niranjan Rajah"

1. Personal Account On Journey, Borders, Electronic Media & Performance

In our common notion of time-space, a journey necessitates a map (or perhaps vice-versa), with borders or boundaries and territories to abide to, to guard or protect, or to violate, to transgress, or to negate and negotiate or to mend, to blend and merge.  As a visual artist, my personal journey is perhaps traceable on oftentimes overlapping maps, borders and boundaries (artificial and ‘real’), marked by a web of crossing paths and occasionally blurred territories. Sometimes I found myself ‘in between’ borders or territories, flanked and suspended indeterminately by contesting territorial forces and overlapping discourses. 

For me, performance is a mediated act, a form of language. To use the language of physics, and through my occasional ‘transgression’ into the territory of performing art, I perceive the synthesis of electronic media and performance as invoking a single white light that contains myriads of electromagnetic waves in various frequencies. If we take both electronic media and performance as subjects of analysis in which a combination of Taoism, Sufism and ICT are employed as the meta-language or the instrument of discourse, performance then can perhaps be taken as the moon, the ‘al-Hillal’, the software that illuminates the inward. In compliment, electronic media is the sun, the ‘as-Sham’, the hardware that illuminates the outward. Expending on this binary compliment, and to appropriate the language of quantum physics, electronic media performance can perhaps be taken in as either a wave or a particle, depending on how our instrument of measurement interferes with and captures them.

This paper will focus on my personal account on electronic media and performance.  I doing so, I have decided to focus on my early encounters with performance, mainly for the reason that I have accumulated sufficient distance to be assured enough in using my own ‘journey’ as the object of discourse.   

2. Primordial Journey Across Borders: “Proclaim” (1993) & “In The Precious Garden” (1993)

Winter 1993, Troy, New York, USA
During this season, I produced two artist’s books, collectively entitled “Proclaim I & II”/1993. The books are off-springs of my multi-channel audio/video MFA thesis installation called “In the Precious Garden”/1993 (ITPG). By appropriating a ‘path’ taken by a ‘chosen’ human zygote to reach an ‘egg cell’ as a point of reference or departure, these works summarize my personal reading and interpretation of a ‘journey’ – physically, intellectually and spiritually. 

The ‘garden’ in the title of the work, refers to a dimension before time-space in which each and every one of us was conceived, nurtured, multiplied in fractions, protected or concealed, and later ‘revealed’ or ‘be born.’  Central to these works is a ‘text-poem’, written or rather constructed from several textual sources – mainly Sufism and Taoism, and scientific materials on the fractal-like embryo stage of human formation inside the womb.

In regards to this ‘garden’, I asked myself,  is it my primordial ‘land’ or ‘soil’ or ‘tanah tumpah darah’ (land of birth), or ‘negara’ (nation-state)? Is this a kind of primordial dimension in which my so-called personal ‘journey’ formed the ‘history’ (or shall I call it pre-history) of my life before time? Is this me in the larger whole of humanity at large?

This is a ‘time-space’ dimension that never fails to intrigue me, perhaps calling me back paradoxically to the dual nature of departure and return; reminding me of my original transgression across dimensions or borders or territories; a rupture; a catalyst: giving me a sense of place within the larger whole. My place in you, and you in me.

Allow me to share few excerpts from ITPG.

(Slides & LCD – Excerpts from “Proclaim”/1993)

In the face of this garden
We see creation’s mystery
As water doth appear
Within a crystal clear

In a day when there was neither we nor me

In the descending water that brings fruits of every kind
In the cause of pure water to descend in order to revive
Sown fields of different colors grow


A drop, mingled
As in a unified bright light
Pursuits of mingled colors
Each with its own fancy
In its own circle
Gracious and tolerance
In mixtures
Each a completion
Of ‘others’

In the chosen one
From a pool of a perished population
Embodying what to be revealed
Of opposite forces
From one mingled liquid
In successive stages
Well measured and balanced

In the receptive radiating garden
That displays the mobility of the Heaven
And the humility of the Earth
In a complete motion with grace
All in ONE light
In a round luminosity
Of a UNIFIED spirit
In a complete cycle
In its own orbit

Abiding” (Proclaim: 1993)

3. Contexts: The Ruptures

I would like to take a detour from this ‘recited journey’ to enlist several contexts and theoretical frameworks that have in many ways shaped and influenced the early web of my cross borders artistic journey. 

If the time-space dimension of our physical world can be neatly described as a linear progress from pre-modern to post-modern, or from pre-history to the ‘end of history’ as suggested by a mechanistic view of reality, then I suspect that the path of my cross-borders journey would be a jumpy progression towards a series of ‘ruptures’- ruptures of the notion of a stable progression of ‘time-space’ dimension that I used to refer to as ‘modern art’,  ‘culture’, ‘history’, ‘identity’, ‘language’, ‘representation’, ‘sign’, ‘meaning’ and even ‘self’.

On the other hand, this linear reading imposes singular rupture rather than multiple, serial rather than simultaneous or concurrent.  It implies singular progression rather than radiant expansion or multidimensional fractions, in which the fractions can be read as multiple ruptures. These ruptures are the results of multiple catalysts.  Within this range of multiple ruptures, each rupture will eventually nurture and grow its own ‘reality’ only to expand to a certain extent that it will in turn spark its own peripheral catalysts, hence more fractions or raptures. The pattern can go on and on and on (in multiple directions) until one is encapsulated in a multidimensional and overlapping network or web of multiple ‘realities’ (or to be intellectually hip – discourses)

Eastern mysticism reads such pattern as a downward mobility towards multiplicity – towards the world of shadows or Maya. Sufism called it the act of descending, as opposed to the act of ascending in which one struggles to free oneself from the complex webs of multiple realities to a singular Unity or Union. (See Al-Ghazali : 1997) Wayang Kulit or Shadow Play reflects its reading of such pattern through the dual nature of artificial/Real in its binary use of light and shadows, and the branching pattern of Pohon Beringin/Hayat.

Using similar notion of multiple networks of catalysts, branching and sub-branching, Quantum Physics coined the term multiple or parallel universes to explicate the paradoxically dual nature of subatomic elements or ‘ghost in the atom’ (see Davies & Brown: 1986). Using the language of astrophysics, expansion of whatever system to a certain state is paradoxically countered by unseen, non-observable and radical (or irrational) forces on its periphery.  In astrophysics, these forces, called ‘strange attractors’ and ‘dark matters,’ connote the “irresistible gravitational pull of the universe towards forces lying at its periphery.”(Horrocks: 1999, page 74)

Cybernetic Paradigm offers similar pattern in which information in living organism is based on the concept of system and subsystem that are organized into networks of hierarchies.  Cybernetic process relates to mental models of reality built through association of representations.  It allows humans to create and recreate to form paradigms and new models of reality.  Technological advances have accelerated contact of the individual with the external world through electronic media. Artworks and other creative disciplines increasingly reformulate models, due to efficient information flow and exposure. (Cox: 1989, page 7 –12) Cyberspace, as used by William Gibson in his novel “Neuromancer”, describes a composite new space that encompasses both extremes of scale: the vast global network of telecommunications, and the minuscule quantum space in the microchip, with its ever increasing capacity to store and manipulate data. (Refer to Baker: 1993)

Studies on human cognition reveal similar ‘tree-like’ network pattern in the way human brain functions.  Whole brain system as epitomized by the use of radiant mind-map in generating creative sparks reflects similar multidimensional fractal growth or expansion. (See Buzan: 1995)

This fractal or radiant pattern and their scientific as well as philosophical explications are perhaps the best graphic representation of the webs of ruptures throughout my ‘journey across borders’.  I would like to believe that it is the best representation for others as well.  I used to refer to it as a shadowy matrix that forms the webs for my journey. 

Can the so-called meta-language or meta-narrative and its peripheral counterpoints be equated into the above-mentioned pattern? If it could be, can each peripheral counterpoint functions as the meta-language or meta-narrative of its own peripheral counterpoints, on and on and on and on and on………? If I need to set a purpose for my journey, it would be to transcend these multidimensional and overlapping webs of ‘realities’ or ‘discourses.’  The question is whether such purpose is achievable? What would be the prescriptions or devices or instruments for such purpose? 

4. Contexts: The Catalysts

This particular section summarizes the catalysts of my ruptures. (Refer to the listed references used to help summarize my encounters with the catalysts) 

My ruptures came through rather sporadic and flirtatious encounters (especially throughout the 90’s) with an odd combination of postmodern condition and theories, Eastern mysticism especially Sufism and Taoism, cybernetic paradigm and Quantum Physics.  I refer to them as my ‘catalysts of ruptures’ that have significantly shattered (among constructed notions of many things) my previously deepest held conviction in ‘modern art’. 

Through postmodern, I began to develop a suspicion in the repressive expansion of the ‘meta-narratives’ of history (read Western).  As a result, I radiated towards ‘little narratives’ (even those so-called radical or irrational ones) and was keener in developing new ‘knowledge’ that could help to ‘deconstruct’ (or even destruct) the claim of power, hegemony, dominance and control in such narratives.

I became suspicious of the suppressive use of certain ‘meta-languages’ (as in the global media) as an instrument of analysis or ‘objective’ interrogation of lesser peripheral languages (object language or text –a community for example). I became more aware of the repressive role of certain sign systems in social formation, designed to control individuals through Repressive State Apparatus and Ideological State Apparatus (ISA, no pun intended). I became more sensitive to my own personal positioning in regards to the complex webs of languages and discourses, sign system and its apparatus, as I negated myself in complex webs of multiple binary contexts (as in local/global, Western/Eastern, White/Non-White, Me/Others, Malay/Non-Malay, privilege/non-privilege, Muslim/Non-Muslim and many more).

My perception of culture and tradition as a fixed or progressing phenomena was changed.  By looking at culture as all things produced by human intervention, especially ideological, I began to perceive cultural space as an open arena of contestation and changes. I began to realize that the value of cultural object in the whole spectrum of cultural production was permeated by the conditions of economic exchange. From this realization, I took upon the notion that cultural production of objects (including arts and artists) has become ‘myth creation’ in the process of universalizing their significance and to make them seem natural to human experience.  Meanings that myths induced were not necessarily natural, instead constructed to serve particular interests of a controlling culture.  

I began to accept my reading of nature as a conception constructed by cultural conditioning, not absolutely natural all the time. I began to read ideology as a tool to naturalize everything that is economic, political and social in order to make its contingency appear apolitical and timeless – creating myths like ‘common sense’ and ‘naturally given’.  From such reading, ideology thus came to signify in me as a tool used to maintain and reproduce social power. 

My stable perception of modern art and all that is modern as a commitment to a linear reading of history, material progress, entrepreneurial spirit and technological innovation began to crumble. I felt a strong dual sense of disappearance and simulation occurring simultaneously around me.  I perceived technological domination of the world as an integrated, over-rated, saturated, simulated illusion of reality that grew on its increasing supply of more radical illusion, added paradoxically by fatal proliferations of viruses and crashes beyond the rationalist, progressive enterprises that instigated it.  I read how gravitational pull of the universe towards forces lying at its periphery was seen as parallel to forces outside of rational, progressive, and humanist processes – the ‘strange attractors’ or ‘dark matters’ that functions as the counterpoints of global media and technological expansion.

Such notion of attraction to the peripheral forces brought me to Cyberpunk manifestos, noted for its diligent propagation of cult-like and do-it-yourself techno-subcultures, frontier spirit, cybernetic utopia and total distrust of any suppressive claim of expanding central authority. 

I was introduced to parallels between quantum physics and Eastern Mysticism – such as the notion of ‘light’, unity of all things, beyond the world of opposites, emptiness of form (or nothingness or ‘fana’, and ‘Maya’), interpenetration, and cosmic harmony. (See Capra: 1991)  In fact, my reading of Al-Ghazali and Al-Jailani probably sealed my own ruptures.

It would be impossible for me to explicate in details my encounters with these ‘catalysts’ of ruptures.   Even the nature of the encounters itself is hard to summarize – be it actual or physical, mental or intellectual, experiential, emotional and spiritual.  Furthermore, it is not within my keen interest to give a lecture on Postmodernism, or Taoism, or Sufism or Cyberpunkism.  I’m far from being an expert in any of these ‘discourses.’   To persist, would be like trying to contain a flowing water inside a ‘labeled’ bottle, only to stagnate and contaminate it, rather than allowing it to flow, mingle, and seep indiscriminately into whatever surface that can soak it within the path of its flow or journey.

5. Back to winter 1993, Troy, New York, USA.

Allow me to continue with the recitation

“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

(Proclaim: 1993)

6. The Reading of “In the Precious Garden” As A Media & Performance Work

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 “In the Precious Garden”(ITPG) and “Proclaim” (1993) 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 were inspired and taken from As-Sheikh Abdul Kadir Al-Jailani, 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 their immersed themselves in the installation.  The nature of their interactions (performances) defined the ‘meaning’ of their whole experience.  The meaning of their collective performances then, became a constant flux of insights that kept on moving and changing like 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 connotes 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. Emphasis on multiple viewpoints that reject a monopoly of single focal point (as in the use of a vanishing point in a linear perspective system). 
  5. 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
  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) (note)

(Slides and LCD)

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 minutes 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. This 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 from 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 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 Postmodernism.

7. Crossing Borders & Extending Media & Performance Work Through Collaborative Projects: 

“Rainforest Images” 1993 & “Jambori Rimba” 1996

Some of the above-mentioned formal devices resurfaced in “Rainforest Images”(RI) /1993 a collaborative project with an electro-acoustic duo from New York, Barton and Priscilla McLean, also known as the McLean Mix.  The project was produced in two formats – an electro-acoustic concert with video, and an experimental single-channel video piece. RI was a mix of rainforest’s sounds and sights around the world, especially the Peruvian Amazon.  

(Slides of “Rainforest Images” and “Jambori Rimba”)

“Jambori Rimba”/ 1996 was a sequel collaborative project with the McLean Mix, with music and video that were set in an audience-interactive installation. Five musical ‘stations’ were placed within the installation setting, calling members of the audience to add and explore various sampled aural motifs provided by the stations.  Their presence was captured, mixed with pre-recorded rainforest video and projected on a screen. Members of audience became the performers, while the artists (or perhaps the ‘authors’, to use Roland Barthes’s term) became mere collaborators.  If nature was perceived as a realm without human intervention, through this installation the ‘audience-performers’ were made aware of how their intervention in the whole setting effect their own collective aural and visual experience.  Through simulated ambience in an open-ended setting, the conception of nature as a detached independent object was taken by an awareness of nature as a complex organic system in which the distinction between the observing subject (human) and object of observation (nature) was blurred. In short, the audience became conscious of their own contribution in the whole organic experience of listening and seeing. Taking a clue from Quantum Physics, the act of observing becomes an act of intervention that will influence the result of the observation. 

(Screenings of excerpts from “Jambori”)

I was privileged to engage in several other collaborative performance projects that involved the use of electronic media.  Some of them like “Xpressi Xerimental”/1994, “Bernafas Dalam Lumpur”/1994, “Skin Trilogy”/1994 and “Rama & Sita” / 1995 reminded me of my earlier collaborative ventures when I was attached to CenterStage Performing Arts in the late 80’s.

Recent projects such as “Jati”/2000, “Antara Semangat”/2001 and “The Borrower of Light”/2003 will perhaps form a body of materials for another paper, when I have sufficient artistic distance to discuss about them.

(Slides & LCD)

8. Responding To My Initial Ruptures: “Listen to the Land” (1992)

Winter 1992. Troy New York U.S.A

I heard the sound of my daughter’s heartbeats in her mother’s womb, surrounded with what sounded like streaming water.   I listened to the sound of this ‘first land’ – a land in which this ‘little secret’ is nurtured, protected and concealed, and later ‘in appointed time’ – revealed.  According to her doctor, there will be a rupture – a sign of ‘ready for departure’ or ‘revelation’ or ‘delivery’ or simply ‘my daughter is ready to enter this world.’ 

Prior to this rupture, I experienced my own ruptures - my own sort of crossing borders, of entering a new world, in which all stable reality seemed to be fractured. 

One example is a rupture from an addicted and fixed attachment to the notion of a permanent or static subject confined by the x-y axis of a two dimensional space, to moving and flowing (visual and aural) subjects captured through a time-space recording device.  I crossed over a crossbreed between a two and three-dimensional space that allows motion to exist in time.  Time and all that can be contained by it became my canvas.  The sound of streaming water, the melodic call of billal, self-whispering and various studio improvisational acts were performed and recorded to be treated like a clay on my audio/video mixer – fractured, compressed, prolonged, filtered, cut, sliced, pasted, reversed, forwarded, wiped, dissolved, faded, constructed, reconstructed and deconstructed.  

“Listen to the land” (1992) – was perhaps my first sign of acknowledging the rupture of artificial borders within myself as well as without.  I crossed over, but not without struggles. Everything became fragmented, blown into pieces only to be consolidated by the sound of my daughter’s heartbeats in her mother’s womb, as well as her eventual cries.  The chorus of newborn babies in Troy Samaritan Hospital mesmerized me.  They came in different hues and colors, sizes and shape but yet echoed primal human voices without the burden of language; free from the haze of doubt.

(Screening of excerpts from “Listen to the Land”)

9. Studio Performances & Video Camera As A Witness: “Post-Colon: A Series of Video Shorts” 1992

Jump cut to winter 1992. Troy, New York.
My initial studio performances were ‘mediated’ by the language of video camera; the video camera became my witness, my audience.  They became a mediated representation of my journey across borders – within and without.  The borders suggest multiple readings and meanings – such as the artificial demarcation or boundaries within my thoughts and memories, within my own body, within my emotion, between various artistic disciplines, between nation-states, race and ethnicity, religion, culture, history, and even gender. 

Adding (or perhaps confirming) the rupture of borders was my encounter with Edward Said’s post-colonialism, his exposition of orientalism and exoticism (of which I discovered that I was a willing subscriber or ‘actor); his exposition of the writing of history and body of knowledge as an instrument of power and imperialist hegemony. (Said : 1978) 

I never look at the proclaimed truth of history and the so-called objectivity of knowledge (with its extended footnotes) the same way again. 

I responded by producing a series of video shorts that combined studio performances, computer graphics, computer music improvisation, and analog audio/video editing improvisation

(Screening of “Post-Colon: ….”)

Western’s enlightenment ideas of progress that I had been faithfully subscribing (through ‘proper’ training, indoctrination and canonization of ‘fine art’) crumbled down, dethroned.  Greenbergian dogma was mocked.  The notion of modern art as constituted an autonomous, self-referential field of human activity was assaulted.  Modernist faith in universality, artistic progress, shared meaning and quality was shattered to pieces.  Plagiarism (or ‘appropriation’) prevailed and ‘legitimized’.  Academic painting once relegated to the dustbin of history were resurrected. Mass culture and mass taste flooded the once guarded high art scene.  Post minimalism, body art, land art, performance, neo-expressionism, feminism, and multiculturalism began to flourish. (Heartney : 2001)

I fell into a post modern’s rabbit hole, struggling to find my way back to my primordial transgression – the first rupture.  But how shall I return?

I recalled Lao Tzu’s abstraction of the notion of a journey in which “going far means returning.”

9. The Return

Allow me to conclude with another recitation from my artist’s book.

“We will remember the day when it was so easy to disclose disagreement in Pain and Poison
Than to strive hard in disclosing through Dignity and Grace
In patient expectation of relief
We will remember the day when forgiveness was a lavish fashion
On an empty glass doll
Ridiculed as an insult
In receiving and giving

We don’t want to regret the time when we were to busy
We take a pause in action
Until its permissibility is clear
Free from the haze of doubt

We return to the First and the Last
The Outer and the Inner
The point of return and the point of origin
To whom all hearts belong
The sanctuary of spirits
The resting place of burdens
The giving of all gifts
And the bestowal of blessings

Night ends with the darkling of the day
Chill of winter takes its leave when summer comes around

We submit
Before we return to the state
Like a


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