Monday, January 18, 2010

Strange/Familiar - Debut Solo Exhibition, November 2009

谭若瑜,马来西亚中国报,2009 年11月 21 日

“Left the homeland for many years, although he comes home to visit his family all these years but the rapid transformation of the city gave him a familiar as well as strange feeling. Does he feel more at home in his birthplace Kuala Lumpur or London? He thought for a moment and said that he was wandering the spaces between familiar and strange in both cities.” Tham YooYee, China Press Malaysia, 21 November 2009.

Setting up the exhibition

Strange/Familiar is my debut solo exhibition and major exhibition in Malaysia. The exhibition took place at Dasein Academy of Art between 10 and 21 November 2009 during my trip to Kuala Lumpur visiting my families. Thanks to the kind support from Dasein Academy of Art, Mouse Creative, Artprint, and YW Hardware Trading. Also, a big thank to my friend Kim Ng who is also an artist and lecturer at Dasein Academy of Art, offered his help, support and coordination throughout the exhibition on top of his busy schedule. Thanks should also go to Dasein’s student volunteers who offered their time and effort to make the exhibition possible.

Student volenteers, Kim and my wife help setting up the exhibition

Strange /familiar presents a mixture of my new works and a selection of works that I produced since 1999, it includes a body of cross disciplinary pieces consists of sculptures, photographs, and audience interactive performance. The work use familiar objects and mundane activities that people normally uninterested in and will not devote a second thought, they suggest the other side of the insignificant familiarity that potentially greet the viewers with strangeness.

Refreshment was served during the private view

Fried Italian fusilli Malaysian style, a cooking performance on the private view evening

The exhibition attracted interest from China Press, one of the leading Chinese newspapers in Malaysia, who published an article and interview on their paper on 21 November 2009 (Please click on this link to the article)

I also produced a piece of text for the exhibition that is published in the Strange/Familiar’s exhibition catalogue. The text is also published in an art magazine from Singapore called Nanyang Arts magazine (南洋艺术) later, alongside a special interview in their December 2009, issue 29 magazine. This is the text for the exhibition, and it was also being translated into Chinese:

Exhibition catalogue and guide

A life lived in hurry does not allow us to appreciate the many things around us; I choose to slow down my path and take a second look at things. I see devoting attentiveness to the everyday as the basis of my work; they reveal significance within what seems to be insignificant everyday objects and situations.

The seemingly extraordinary of our life can come from something quite ordinary. Therefore the strange can come from things that we are familiar with; they come along hand-in-hand, and exist in a contradictory structure that is simultaneously familiar and strange.

Visitors looking at the sculpture makes out of plastic mineral water bottles

Strange/Familiar is a self-curated exhibition, it is my first solo exhibition where I present a selection of my existing works as well as new works produced specifically for this exhibition. The exhibition contains cross disciplinary pieces including sculptures, installation, photographs, short film and audience interactive performance. The work chosen for the exhibition uses mundane objects and familiar situations that people are unlikely to devote a second thought to. Nevertheless, these pieces potentially greet the viewers with strange familiarity.

'Circumrotation' is another piece of work in the exhibition

My work is about devoting attentiveness to the everyday. The everyday is something ordinary, commonplace and familiar that surrounds us day in day out. Investigating the everyday compels us to confront the things and the totality of the world because the everyday is immanence, ever shifting, endlessly recurring and being. The everyday occurs in a cycle and interpenetrates; it is the beginning as well as the ending of each occurrence. It is endlessly building, deforming and reestablishing. The everyday includes everything, it is everywhere and nowhere simultaneously and one can never successfully draw a line where it starts and where it ends. It is everywhere when one looks at things and sees them, it is nowhere when one looks but sees nothing or trying to ignore. The everyday is present moment, it is right here, right now, and right in front when we are regardful and contemplating it, when our mind wander away the everyday treads past unnoticed.

'Every Corner of My Flat' consists a dust ball and a series of photograph

When we are trying to see something we are being attentive. We are being ignorance when we look but have no interest to see. The everyday in my work is the things that we often overlooked or have no interest to give a second thought.

Some visitors choose to interact with a floor projection piece called 'by the River of Windsor'

My art magnifies quotidian and shares living experience; these may be seen as the result of my interest on the matters of the everyday and Eastern thoughts. Exploring the as-it-is-ness of things, and interconnectedness between objects and people is fundamental to my work; my own cultural background and life experience are often revisited, examined, and evidenced in the work within this journey of exploration. They are not the representation of my life but the essence of my experience instead.

'Swan Cigarrete Folded into a Crane' is a tiny little sculpture

Socrates said that an unconsidered life is not worth living, what he meant is that we must observe important things in life that could enrich our life. I found simple pleasure in art making, like some people enjoy gardening, it enriches my life through observing and contemplating the everyday that is considered trivial rather than focusing solely on the important as suggested by Socrates. This is how my art became a form that relates to a space i.e. a space of self-development rather than self-complacence.

This is a less obvious piece stucks on the ceiling called 'Featherlite condom inflated with Helium'

This is a new piece makes out of used incense called 'BaoYou' (protectiveness)


A photograph piece called 'A single leaf trapped in Between Two pieces of Paving Stone over a Period of Thirty Days'


Visitors looking at the piece called 'Labelling Tags Attached to a Clothe'

陌生/熟悉是我亲自制作的展览,它也是我第一次个展。这项展览不但展示了我一些现存的作品,同时它也包括了我特为此展览准备的新作品。这一系列跨领域的作品例如雕塑,摄影, 短片以及观众参与的装置艺术应用了一些司空见惯的事与物作为媒介。一般而言这些事物都是甚少人会给予关注的。总而言之这些作品或许会使观者处于陌生与熟悉的感觉之间。

A visitor spotted another less obvious piece called 'Assemblage of loosed Bristles from the Brush painted the Wall'


Delivering the artist talk



Another scene during the artist talk



Emanuele Sbardella said...

Congratulations Mr. Pok!
From the photo it looks like a great exhibit. Certainly a significant and important step for your career as an artist. But certainly the term "career" is not appropriate for art, as it is not for life. But we can say that the flow of a river meets occasionally basins and dams that make it more "important". Perhaps this show is one of those stretches where the river increases its capacity. I'm sorry I couldn't come and see with my own eyes. So I thank you doubly for this article written in the blog with so many photos.

All best,

Chong Boon Pok (Andrew) said...

Nice to hear from you Emanuele; and thank you for leaving your comment here. This exhibition is an opportunity for me to put some of the works that I produced together and make a critical review. I certaintly connect with what you said about the term 'career' is not appropriate for art. Artists observe life in art making, and express or reveal it in their work. But, when art being express or revealed in life, art integrated into life and disapeared. Can art being consider as a 'career' in this level? or, art is just everyday life?

Welcome to the ground

Thank you for stopping over. The Ground We Share evolves from my research study where I make a comparative study between the concepts of the everyday in art practice and Zen.

My art practice may be seen as the result of my interest on the matters of the everyday and Eastern thoughts. Over the years, I have produced a body of cross-disciplinary work that explores the as-it-is-ness of things, and interconnectedness between objects and people. My own cultural background and life experience are often revisited, examined and evidenced in the work within this journey of exploration.

In Zen tradition, mindfulness to everyday trivial is important in their spiritual pratice, my research relates this notion of attentiveness from my work to this tradition. Historically, many important twentieth century artists and art groups who expanded Duchamp’s theory of the ready-made and the everyday were also influenced by Zen teaching from D.T. Suzuki and Shunryu Suzuki that can also be related to this research.

In contrast to the Western sociological perspective on the study of the everyday from important thinkers like Henri Lefebvre and Michel de Certeau; I look at it from a different perspective - through the prism of a contemporary artist that comes from an Eastern background.

This blog provides a space to share my activities and information arising from my work and research. You are welcome to be part of this interconnection by posting your valuable experience, thoughts and comments.