Minstrel Kuik (2017) | Photography in SE Asia (I) at Lumenvisum, HK

1 April to 14 May 2017
Lumenvisum, JCCAC, Hong Kong

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[Artist Statement]

Photography in Southeast Asia (I)

走進風景 / P for Place (2007/2017)

郭靜潔(加影,馬來西亞)
Minstrel Kuik (Kajang, Malaysia)

I used to believe that a window and a beautiful view were indispensable to a room. After my return from France to Malaysia, not only has the landscape from my window changed significantly, my place-based practice in photography suffered due to limited opportunities. Unlike what the proverb claims, ten years have not passed in a blink. Since it is impossible to see through most things in a glance, it is also difficult to forget them in a blink. In the end, I have to spend more time reviewing and pondering over the things that happened. This tedious endeavour has gradually helped me look into the logic of my lived environment; whether the view is beautiful or not appears to be a rather indulgent question.

我曾經這麼認為,房間裡最不可缺的應該是一扇窗和一個美景。從法國回到馬來西亞後,不只窗外的風景變化很大,我在地的攝影創作也只能在有限的空間裡撐著。十年並沒有像俗語所說的一轉眼就過去。很多事物因為不能一目了然,也就不能轉眼就忘,結果得用上更多的時間將眼前的事物重新看了又看,想了又想。這些費神的練習卻又漸進式的幫助我去思考自己的生活空間是如何形成的;美景與否變得很奢侈。

At the end of 2006, I returned to my hometown, a fishing village in the northern part of Peninsular Malaysia, only to find my childhood home no longer there anymore. My parents were not satisfied with the new living environment, even though they still lived in the same town where they were born. For work, I relocated to the capital city of Kuala Lumpur (KL) in mid-2007, experiencing, first time, life in a urban-city apartment. My brother, my sister-in-law from China and my three-year-old niece lived at Kuchai Lama, a lively, crowded and predominantly Chinese area. At that time, the green space across the street was already encroached by a massive construction project. From the window of our ninth-storey apartment, we could see foreign workers toiling day and night at the site.

2006年末,我回到離開多年的故鄉, 一個位於馬來半島北部的漁村,可是兒時的故居早已蕩然無存。我的父母對新的生活環境不甚滿意,即使他們還住在出生的同一個鎮上。為了工作的緣故,我在2007年中旬南遷首都吉隆坡,第一次體驗了都市密集式公寓的生活。哥哥、中國籍的嫂嫂和我三歲的姪女就住在舊古仔路,一個以華人為主、熱鬧又擁擠的社區。當時對街綠意盎然的荒地已經被一個浩大的發展計畫所取代,從我們九樓的窗口望出去,就可以看見外勞以輪班制日以繼夜趕工。

In 2007, KL started looking back at its own history. As a young nation, Malaysia was preoccupied with its golden jubilee in August, commemorating its independence in 1957 from British colonisation. The “Visit Malaysia 2007” tourism tagline read: Celebrating 50 Years of Nationhood. Everywhere in the city, flags and billboards abounded, forming the everyday representation of banal nationalism, to use the term invoked by social scientist Michael Billig. It was a means to assert the national identity while exporting a harmonious image of a modern, multicultural country to the world.

2007年的吉隆坡開始回顧它自身的歷史。做為一個年輕的民族國家,馬來西亞忙著在八月份慶祝從1957年獨立於英國殖民地的五十年金禧紀念。當年的大馬旅遊年標語如此寫到:慶祝建國五十年。在城市的空間裡,旗幟和廣告牌比比皆是,形成了如社會科學家Michael Billig所提出的平實民族主義的日常再現,一方面做為一種手段來維護其國族身分,同時也對外輸出一個現代化的多元文化國家和諧的形象。

Ironically, as the second largest ethnic group in Malaysia, the Chinese are constantly being labelled by the state as foreigners, displacing and disconnecting them from the national history. Shuttering between my hometown and KL, when the highway scenery recurs and becomes a blur, it becomes a matter of survival to find one’s sense of belonging in a nation under the spell of extreme modernism. A place-based writing of memories becomes extremely urgent. According to humanistic geographer Yi-Fu Tuan, a place has history and meaning, and should be understood from the perspectives of people who have given it meaning. Hence, how should the offspring of migrants view their place of birth and growth?

反諷的是,身為馬來西亞的第二大族群,華人總是被國家機制不斷的提醒自己外來者的身份,與生俱來的格格不入似乎和建國的歷史脫了節。當往返家鄉和首都高速公路上的風景不斷的被複製和替換時,個體如何在極端現代主義和民族國家裡找到自身的情感歸依是一個生存的問題,在地記憶的書寫因此也變得異常迫切。根據人文地理學家段義孚的想法,一個地方有其歷史和意義,而且應該從那些賦予它意義的人的角度去理解。那麼移民的後代該如何看待出生和成長的地方?

Reviewing my artistic practice over the last ten years, the place as an ensemble (which includes the female body, home, environment and the public space) has always been an idea that I cannot let go in a blink—both in life and in my art making. A photographer is first of all a beholder of space. The act of seeing does not separate the beholder from the object being viewed. Instead, it raises the awareness of distance, prompting the viewer to readjust the relationship with that which is being viewed. When the discourse on images becomes increasingly centred on the visual, perhaps we should shift the focus back onto the entanglement between the photographer and the place in which s/he is based, in order to understand the politics and meaning of seeing.

回顧我過去十年的藝術實踐,地方作為一個整體的概念(其中包含了女性的身體、家、環境和公共空間)一直都是我在生活和創作裡不能轉眼就忘的事物。一個攝影師首先是身處在一個空間的觀者。觀看並沒有把觀者和被觀看的事物分開, 相反的,觀看讓人意識到距離的存在,接著進一步去調整彼此的關係。當關於影像的論述逐漸著重在視覺時,也許我們可以把焦點轉回到攝影師和其身處的時空的糾葛,藉此了解觀看的政治和意義。

Apart from photographs printed on fabric and collected materials relating to the issues addressed in this work, P for Place unfolds in three handmade photobooks: (1) National Baby, (2) Guest Room and (3) Today in Memory. They unravel different itineraries across different places: the Petronas Twin Towers, the living room where my niece played with her toys, the foreign workers and the construction site at Kuchai Lama, the skyline from our balcony, the now demolished Pudu Jail built by the British in 1895, the highway and its landscape, the oil palm and rubber tree plantation, the dilapidated KL Chinatown, and its flea market of used objects.

《走進風景》除了打印在布料上的影像和相關文檔資料,還包括三本手工攝影書:(一)《未來的主人翁》、(二)《訪客》、(三)《重遊》。由它們展開三段穿越不同地點的行程:吉隆坡雙峰塔、我姪女嬉戲的客廳、外勞和位於舊古仔路段的工地,從我們陽台望出去的天際線、於1895年完工而如今已被拆除的Pudu監獄、高速公路和它的風景、油棕和橡膠種植園,最後在吉隆坡殘破的唐人街和它賣二手貨的跳蚤市場中結束。

— By Minstrel Kuik

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[Curatorial Statement]

東南亞攝影(一):郭靜潔(加影,馬來西亞)
Photography in Southeast Asia (I): Minstrel Kuik (Kajang, Malaysia)

走進風景 / P for Place (2007/2017)

儘管攝影在東南亞早已極為普及,其藝術性仍然被質疑。推介攝影藝術的討論和活動往往始於民間。也就是民間的聯繫促成我和光影作坊合作的契機。未來三年,我將每年為香港觀眾推介一名東南亞攝影藝術家。

追溯歷史,香港一直是南洋想像內一個不可磨滅的環節。但東南亞和香港在這幾十年似乎漸行漸遠。近期,有關香港屬性的討論死灰復燃,間接為這一系列展覽提供切入點。我給參展藝術家設了兩個方向,希望他們用個人觀點審視中華性的意涵,或剖析自身地域和中國錯綜複雜的關係。透過東南亞的思考和經驗,我們期望能夠更深入地和香港觀眾對話。

首先為大家推介馬來西亞華裔藝術家郭靜潔。高中畢業,靜潔離開霹靂州的漁村到台灣和法國留學,轉眼12年。她在2006年末回到馬來西亞,成為了時空的遺民。慢步調的她花了很長時間從新體驗這陌生又熟悉的地方,攝影(拍照、節選、整理)伴隨著這段過程。攝影是她生活的規律,是審視環境的方法,也是自得其樂的過程。為了這次個展,靜潔回顧2007年所拍攝的照片,透過編輯和拼湊賦予作品一種詩的格律,藉此探討個體和移民/殖民史、國族、文化認同的角力。當“多元文化”成為流竄國際的東南亞藝術家常掛嘴角的簡單口號時,靜潔的影像和穿梭於多種語言和語境的書寫提醒我們,每個人的步調和旅程是不一樣的。做為開啟對話的契機,郭靜潔的《走進風景》(2007/17)並非純粹的紀實,其中也蘊含了她解構和超脫現實包袱的慾望。

Despite the pervasiveness of photography across Southeast Asia, its place within the visual arts remains uncertain. Discussions and events aimed at valorising the art in photography frequently originate from minjian (which translates roughly as “the people’s or commoners’ space”) initiatives, beyond the sustained interest of art institutions. My collaboration with Lumenvisum, Hong Kong (HK), started in a similar way. In the next three years, I will present three solo exhibitions annually, featuring artists from Southeast Asia who work predominantly in photography.

Historically, HK was always a crucial node in the Nanyang (literally, “South Seas”) imaginary. However, in the past decades, HK and Southeast Asia appear to have evolved along diverging paths. The recent re-emergence of discussions over the notion of Hong Kong-ness offers an entry point to these exhibitions. I have suggested two trajectories of enquiry for the participating artists: to use their art-making as a personal means to interrogate the idea of Chinese-ness, or to unpack the complex relationship between their place-of-origin (or residence) and China. Through the subjectivities of Southeast Asia, we hope to begin a dialogue with our HK audience.

The first practitioner whom I wish to introduce is Malaysian Chinese artist Minstrel Kuik. Upon graduating from high school, Kuik left home — a fishing village in Perak — for tertiary studies in Taiwan and France. She returned home at the end of 2006, after spending 12 years away, and became a loyalist of time. Typically slow-paced, Kuik took a long time to re-engage this strange and familiar place. Photography (taking, selecting and organising her photographs) accompanied this experiential journey. It is part of her routine, a way to view her environment and a means to attain pleasure. In this solo exhibition, she revisits, edits and sequences the photographs that she took in 2007, imbuing them with a poetic structure. The work visualises an individual’s negotiation with migration and colonial histories, nationalism, ethnicity and cultural identity. When globally circulating (usually English speaking) artists routinely evoke the tag of “multiculturalism” as a sign of their “liberal” inclinations, Kuik’s images and writings in multiple tongues suggest that each of us is bound to have a different pace and itinerary. As a trigger to further dialogue, Kuik’s P For Place (2007/17) moves beyond reified documentary, revealing her desire to deconstruct and release herself from the burden of reality.

— By Zhuang Wubin / 莊吳斌

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Watch a short video of the exhibition here: https://youtu.be/9mzBVcXkiBQ.

View and download the exhibition brochure here.

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Poster for the exhibition at Lumenvisum

29 Mar 2017 / Hong KongInstalling the works
29 Mar 2017 / Hong Kong / Installing the works
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1 April 2017 / Hong Kong / Being interviewed before the exhibition opening / Courtesy of Lumenvisum

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1 April 2017 / Hong Kong / The exhibition opening begins with an artist talk by Minstrel Kuik.
1 April 2017 / Hong KongExhibition opening Courtesy of Lumenvisum
1 April 2017 / Hong Kong / Exhibition opening / Courtesy of Lumenvisum

1 April 2017 / Hong Kong Exhibition opening Courtesy of Lumenvisum

1 April 2017 / Hong Kong Exhibition opening Courtesy of Lumenvisum

1 April 2017 / Hong Kong Exhibition opening

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1 April 2017 / Hong Kong / We are happy to receive the Malaysian Consul of Hong Kong SAR and Macao SAR (seated) and a representative (middle) from Tourism Malaysia during the exhibition opening.

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1 April 2017 / Hong Kong Exhibition opening Courtesy of Lumenvisum

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3 April 2017 / Hong Kong / A congratulatory note from Tourism Malaysia for the exhibition opening

1 April 2017 / Hong Kong Exhibition opening

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2 April 2017 / Hong Kong / Banner in front of Wai Chi Street Playground advertising Minstrel Kuik’s exhibition at Lumenvisum
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2 April 2017 / Hong Kong / Minstrel Kuik conducts a free four-hour workshop for eight participants in conjunction with her solo exhibition at Lumenvisum. She begins with a detailed introduction to her art making practice before inviting the participants to talk about their respective archives of images. / Courtesy of Lumenvisum

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3 April 2017 / Hong Kong / View of the exhibition from the entrance of Lumenvisum
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Curatorial statement
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“Woman Waiting at KLCC Station”, 2007/17. Digital print on fabric.
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Reproduction of a November 1963 edition of “National Geographic”, with an extended story on Malaysia (which included Singapore), is placed within the space to offer further context to the show.

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Three different Chinese papers, including the “Nanyang Shangbao”, all dated 16 September 2016 (Malaysia Day), are placed within the space to offer further context to the exhibition.
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Two videos produced by the Malaysian state in 2007 to celebrate its 50th birthday and to sell the country as a tourist destination
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The three handmade photobooks on display
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“National Baby” handmade photobook, AP edition
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“National Baby” handmade photobook, AP edition

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“Guest Room” handmade photobook, AP edition
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“Guest Room” handmade photobook, AP edition

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The short writings are first written by Minstrel Kuik in 2007 in French. For this exhibition, she translates them into English, which I help to tweak. The writings are then translated into Traditional Chinese.
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“Today in Memory” handmade photobook, AP edition
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“Today in Memory” handmade photobook, AP edition

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