By Soon Li Wei
KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 26: Interesting artworks can break the monotony of any metropolis’ skyscraper-filled cityscape.
In Kuala Lumpur, the Cultural Economy Development Agency (Cendana) is making an effort to liven up the concrete jungle with unique public art installations that are visually appealing and make interesting conversation pieces.
(Cendana comes under the purview of the Culture and Arts Department, Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture.)
In 2018, Cendana — in collaboration with Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) — launched its Art in the City programme, aimed at promoting the local art community and making art more accessible to the public.
For the second edition of the Art in the City programme which took place from Oct 18 to 27 this year, the agency invited local artists and sculptors to submit ideas for artworks with a view to positioning the nation’s capital as a cultural and creative city.
Three artworks were selected for Art in the City 2019 and the artists were invited to put up their site-specific art installations near the River of Life (RoL) site at the confluence of Sungai Gombak and Sungai Klang and around the lookout point at the iconic Masjid Jamek in the city centre.
The artworks, ‘Dome of Disappearance’ by Pamela Tan; ‘Entwine’ by Joshua Teo; and ‘Wayang Tube’ by Filamen, will remain there for public viewing until February 2020.
ART IN THE CITY CENTRE
At first glance, ‘Dome of Disappearance’ resembles a birdcage. Situated at the space in front of the bridge at Masjid Jamek’s lookout point, the white-coloured dome-shaped sculpture is created with laser-cut metal and interweaved with cotton thread.
Its creator Tan, 28, has painted different facets of the city on pieces of fabric cut in the shape of a square that hang from the top of the “cage”.
Tan, a Kuala Lumpur-based architectural designer, said the idea for her work was inspired by the location of her art installation — set against the confluence of the two famous rivers and Masjid Jamek — which, according to her, suggests something fragile that is about to be forgotten by the denizens of the city.
“The rapid pace of development (in the city) is almost causing us to forget the history of this city and the buildings erected during the British colonial era,” she said.
‘Dome of Disappearance’ has a threefold purpose: it serves as a columbarium to archive the city’s memories and sites that are fading into oblivion; a safe house for sharing and community building; and to foster meaningful dialogue.
Tan, who has a degree in architecture from the University of Greenwich, United Kingdom, said she intends to produce more public installations that would inspire city folks to brainstorm and develop ideas.
“Creativity comes not only from the artists themselves but also from the public,” she added.
Interior designer Teo’s work ‘Entwine’ stands not far from ‘Dome of Disappearance’. Made of recycled plastic tiles, acrylic and metal pieces, ‘Entwine’ consists of two sculptures that merge into one, obviously inspired by the meeting point of Sungai Klang and Sungai Gombak in the heart of the city.
“I used recycled materials to stress the issue of waste management in Kuala Lumpur. Plastic, after all, is one of the major contributors to the occurrence of flash floods in the city,” said Teo, who is from Kuching, Sarawak.
Down the lane at the RoL site, behind the historic Sultan Abdul Samad building, stands the third art installation ‘Wayang Tube’ conceptualised by Filamen, a local art collective comprising its founder Abdul Shakir Shukor and his friends Fariz Hanapiah, Firdaus Rahman and Farhan Fathee.
‘Wayang Tube’ is inspired by the antique gramophone and is made of PVC pipes that are integrated with LED tubes, projector, portable speakers, makeshift projection screen and metal. It depicts the integration of the old with the new through visual arts and music.
“My friends and I created this loudspeaker which looks like a gramophone that is a ‘relic’ from the olden days that people have forgotten due to rapid advancements in technology and gadgets getting smaller.
“The gramophone also represents the community (in the old days) when people would gather together to listen to records and enjoy music together,” said Abdul Shakir.
EMPOWER LOCAL ARTISTS
Art in the City curator Snow Ng said the RoL site was chosen for the art installations as Kuala Lumpur had its early beginnings at the confluence of Sungai Gombak and Sungai Klang.
“The artists gravitated towards RoL, as if drawn by the same primordial spirit that drew the first settlers of Kuala Lumpur to the confluence… the same spirit that draws us all back to bodies of water.
“We were given three options for the location (for the art installations) — Medan Pasar, KLCC Pocket Park and Masjid Jamek’s lookout point. We chose the lookout point for the artists to showcase their works,” she said.
She said in Europe, public art installations and paintings empower the local artists whose works are appreciated by the local communities, who make it a point to visit galleries and museums and buy their works.
“Through our (Art in the City) programme, we want to create a similar culture here where people will not only appreciate paintings and the performing arts but also sculptures,” she added.
Translated by Rema Nambiar