The Best Art Show Preview In The Univers! by Zedeck Siew
(Taken from KLue)
On Tuesday afternoon, two days from opening night, the three artists that make up The Best Art Show In The Univers (1 to 24 October 2009, 67 Jalan Tempinis 1) argue about how to properly frame and hang a number of their works. The gallery walls around them are still bare.
The pieces currently under scrutiny belong to Dill Malik: they are 1:1 scale prints of her friends' Facebook profile pictures. As of this point, they exist only on Dill's hard-drive; she is still trying to determine where to go to get them printed.
Why haven't you hung your work, Dill?
I just came back from college. I had a presentation this morning. It's my last year in Graphic Design, and I had to make a poster that sells cars.
So college is more important than The Best Art Show In The Universe?
My parents will kill me if I don't finish. I've got my priorities right.
Aside from the Facebook profile prints, what else are you doing for the show?
I'm doing a series of Abstract Expressionist paintings. These paintings have come from the visions I see. In my mind.
What do they look like? Which Abstract Expressionist most influenced your paintings?
Oh, they resemble - Rothko? Jackson? Pollock? Jackson Pollock? Yeah, them. All rolled into one.
Why is your "Univers" spelt without the "e"?
It's the Malay-language spelling. We are spelling it that way out of respect for the Malays. Hopefully, by mixing Malay and English, we will get more people to come and see the show.
Simon Soon (or, rather, Noos Nomis)'s joke essay on the The Best Art Show In The Univers's website - "Anchored Configurations of the Everyday" - is an inscrutable mass of art-speak. It styles the show as:
"a Lacanian postulation that seeks to reenact the maddeningly complexity of contemporary art tropes creating a clinical language through which the formal performance and innovation was to attend to symptomatic language - reflecting upon the arch-myth of the conflicted desires rooted in an Oedipus struggle against the father authority."
The what the what? Thing is, that's only slightly worse than the typical, unnecessarily dense - and totally serious - curatorial essay that comes with every art show, these days.
At a very basic level, the show is satire: a lampoon of the contemporary visual art world's inability to not take itself seriously. Even Marcel Duchamp (with his commode) and Damien Hirst (with his dead shark), while they criticised the highfalutin mores of the art world, did so with an air of academically-justified discourse. Flippancy has always been taboo.
Even at this late juncture, the artists of The Best Art Show In The Univers are remarkably casual, more inclined to mess around than to nail-bite about their work.
Filmmaker and dilettante chi too is contributing installations to the exhibition, so - while his video / photographic / miscellaneous components are already sorted out - these will not be put together until the eleventh hour.
Why are you making installation work, chi too?
Because I'm bored with video. I don't want to be a filmmaker any more. I'm so jealous. Why do people like Liew Seng Tat get to go to Korea? Why wasn't I invited to be part of 15Malaysia?
So why are you in The Best Art Show In The Univers?
I think I add a lot of value to the show. I also think I'm a piece of art, myself.
You mentioned, earlier, that much of your stuff is influenced by your relationship with your Spanish girlfriend ...
Yes. She is away, and it feels like we've already broken up - even though we haven't, yet. I'm channelling that energy. So a lot of my work is tragic. Romantic tragedy is my theme du jour.
Does your Spanish girlfriend actually exist?
Yes, of course! Why do you think I'm single? Is it just because I'm so monogamous?
The only works now on-site belong to illustrator and painter Munkao. One of the works sport text - from a comment thread that followed one of art-blog Arteri Malaysia's posts - superimposed on the painting of a parrot.
The comment thread in question was a moderately-sized flame war, in reaction to Natural, a joint show by Munkao and Saharil Hasrin Sanin in May 2009. Both artists had produced visually clever, easy-to-like, and perhaps discourse-bereft paintings. After a photo-gallery of that show's opening, artists Daniel Chong and Vincent Leong wailed against the stuff, calling them "twatty triptychs" and "gimmicky crap", styling painting itself as the "most boring art form out there".
"don't do paintings just because u think that will make u an artist!" Vincent cried.
See what we mean by flippancy being taboo?
It is difficult to judge how audiences and critics will take to The Best Art Show In The Univers. People don't like to be made fun of, after all. The fun of the exhibition - its wit and smiling rebellion - may be lost, on some.
What is the point of this show, Munkao?
We want to honestly represent everyone's opinion of each other, and accommodate the various belief-systems in visual art. It's 1Malaysia via art; it fits right into the Malaysian narrative.
What are your painting about? What issues do they explore?
These paintings explore my love of parrots. You know how parrots copy whatever you say? So parrots represent our tendency to copy each other.
Also, you'll notice that the text is written in cursive. You know how cursive handwriting is always connected? That's a literal symbol of our connections with each other.
Have you decided what to call it?
Dill and chi too are also collaborating in these works, so we will have to decide together. We are friends, we talk.
Are you going to decide by committee? You know: vote by raising your hands?
We don't restrict ourselves. We are like dolphins. We just want to swim in the ocean. If we are kept captive, we will hammer our heads on the walls.
What if I give you some fish?
Fish? But I'm vegetarian ...
(The Best Art Show In The Univers will open on 1 October 2009, 8pm. There will be a vegetarian cooking show hosted by Munkao on opening night - though he hasn't decided what dishes to present. The Best Day of Your Life, a "tastefully curated all day art bazaar" will happen on 17 October.)