Friday, September 21, 2007

The Complete Ghoul

Here's an exhibition worth checking out this weekend, and the topic is one very close to my heart:
The Annexe Gallery, Central Market
presents

SENSORS
An exhibition of new works by Sharon Chin

Exhibition Opening:
Fri 21 Sep 2007, 8pm
The Annexe Gallery, Central Market
Refreshments are served

Exhibition dates: Fri 21 Sep – Sun 7 Oct, 2007
The Annexe Gallery, 2nd Floor, Central Market Annexe, KL
Opening hours: 11am – 7pm (Mon – Sat), 11am – 5pm (Sun)
Enquiries: 03 2274 6542, 03 2070 1137
Admission is free
'The totalitarian order depends for its very existence on a precarious equilibrium. Without the heretic, the rebel, the writer, the state crumbles: yet by tolerating him, the ruler equally well seals his fate. As least by implication, Big Brother's mighty system disappears because he wanted to eradicate the dissident - but could not do without him'.
-Andre Brink-

‘Sexual organs move independently of will… from this disobedience of the flesh, mark of a fallen state, none are exempt, not even in the guardians of our morals’.
-J.M. Coetzee-
Sensors is an exhibition that takes banned books as a motif. Central to the show is the idea that the process of censorship is essentially arbitrary in nature. A book may be banned in Malaysia according to detailed guidelines, but any attempt to objectively define these guidelines is difficult. The 1500 or so banned titles (since 1971) only suggest, not define, what is deemed forbidden, transgressive or offensive in our society. Thinking about censorship draws for us merely shadowy shapes of our fears, which disappear like wraiths when exposed in the light of knowledge and discourse.

Sensors comprises an installation in two parts, housed in two adjacent gallery spaces. The first consists of a buzz wire game – the sort commonly found at fun fairs, in which the player runs a little hoop along a bent wire, attempting to reach the end of the wire without touching it. If the hoop touches the wire, a buzzer goes off and the player loses. In Sensors, several buzz wires stretch along the length of the gallery. The shape of the wire follows a histogram chart of categories of books that have been banned in Malaysia from 1971 to the present day. The viewer is invited to play with the buzz wire. Each time the hoop touches the wire, a warning light goes off. In this way, information about banned books becomes a spatial entity negotiated physically by the audience.

The second installation is in the adjacent space, which is blacked out. Viewers are provided with handheld torches to navigate the work which consists of several ‘doors’ hanging in space. The viewers open the ‘doors’ to discover monsters and mythical creatures that have been painted on lists of banned books. They may examine these works only by the dim light of the torch. The secret, irrational atmosphere of this installation is in contrast with that of the other space, which is ostensibly characterized by objectivity, empiricism and rationality.

Rather than lament the lack of access to banned materials, this exhibition seeks to explore censorship as a paradoxical and complex process. The completion of this project was made possible with the generous support of a grant from the inaugural Krishen Jit Astro Fund.

Sharon Chin was born in KL in 1980. Returning from studies in New Zealand and Australia (Elam School of Fine Arts, Auckland, 2001; BFA, Victorian College of the Arts, 2003), this young artist has already made quite an impact on the Malaysian art scene. Working with text and sculpture, especially in site- specific installations, her work looks at how we negotiate geography, history, human relations and language in the contemporary imagination. Her most recent body of work, Fourth World, was shown at the Australian High Commission in Kuala Lumpur in 2006. She also writes regularly on art for various local publications, including The Star, Kakiseni and Off The Edge.

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

"Sexual organs move independently of will… from this disobedience of the flesh, mark of a fallen state, none are exempt, not even in the guardians of our morals’."

Seems too much like a justification for rape if you ask me. Sexual organs do not move independently of will. That's just saying people have no control over their sexual urges, which can't be true (can it ?)

People always have control over what they do and say.

Madcap Machinist said...

"Seems too much like a justification for rape if you ask me. Sexual organs do not move independently of will."

I disagree. Rape is action, governed by the mind; arousal generally happens on its own accord.

As a familiar argument goes: guns don't kill people; people kill people. :-)

Anonymous said...

But people have control over said guns. It would be nonsense to say guns fire independently of will, wouldn't it ? :) arousal is also an action, stuff happens. If you get smushed next to a beatiful woman in the LRT or wherever, and your "sexual organs move independently of will" you might still be charged with harrassment, would you not ? :)

It's silly to say you have no control over your own body, that could be used as justification for all sorts of crimes.

Madcap Machinist said...

I think Coetzee's quote is perfectly reasonable if you read the quote in its original context.

Then in reference to guns: you're validating my own argument. Just because a gun is loaded it does not mean that it will fire by itself. Similarly just because (excuse me for being bald) a penis is erect it does not mean that it is capable of harassing people by itself.

If one is squashed in an LRT against an attractive woman and gets a spontaneous erection it's only natural. I don't see any way that one can avoid it in such a situation. Extrinsic lechery notwithstanding (to extend Derrida, who said that masturbation is intentionality in action), that is, the pervert who purposefully presses his body (and hard-on) against his hapless victim in a crowded bus, I'd say that the woman should accept it (the involuntary arousal) as a compliment. It would definitely be a harmonious way to accept the situation. :-)

Finally: "It's silly to say you have no control over your own body, that could be used as justification for all sorts of crimes." It may be silly, but it is not a problem. If a criminal says he doesn't have free will, it follows that the policeman who catches him, and the judge that condemns him, also do so not out of their free will.

Madcap Machinist said...

p/s: regarding Coetzee's essay, not that he is in turn referring to St Augustine, who was of course writing in his time, and with what we understand philosophically and biologically now in terms of instinctual responses and intentionality, I think you're complicating matters if you're letting it get your goat.

Anonymous said...

"Just because a gun is loaded it does not mean that it will fire by itself. Similarly just because (excuse me for being bald) a penis is erect it does not mean that it is capable of harassing people by itself."

Exactly. It is not capable of doing this by itself. That it is not capable of doing it itself implies an external force acting on it. And who is in control of this external force ? it's your mind. And who is in control of your mind ? you, yourself and no one else. Not being in control of your actions implies a complete lack of willpower.

I think it's correct to say that the policeman and the judge do not do so out of their own free will. The external force here is force of law. They are compelled by law to do what they do.

What compels your body ? your mind. And what controls your mind ? nothing ? surely not. Your body is not capable of harrassment by itself. So if you say you're not responsible for it, are we to believe that a nameless nothing made you do it ?

A policeman cannot not arrest a criminal unless he consciously decides not to do so. A judge cannot not sentence a person that is proven guilty.

If I accidentally kill someone, I'm not going to be set free if I tell the judge I did it accidentally, or that I had no control over my own body.

It may mean a lesser sentence, but it doesn't mean you're not guilty of a crime.

Right, I suppose she should accept rape as a compliment as well :P I mean, it's only natural to jump a beautiful woman, I mean, that's what you're thinking of doing anyway right ? :) I think part of being human is having free will, and not being instinctual. I can choose to do it or not to do it, if I choose to do it, I will have to face the consequences of my actions. That's what being human means right ? as opposed to being an animal.

Anyway, I think you're probably right that St. A was right in his time and place. It's true that we as humans have "instinctual responses", but I also think these responses should be filed away until needed (for a book for instance.)

I stopped working out because women were harrassing me on the minibuses.. remember the minibuses ? I can't tell you the number of times I felt the imprint of sexual organs on my back, and the bus didn't even sway THAT badly. Trust me, it's not a compliment.

But yes he was right, in the sense that humans, like all animals, have instincts. What makes us human is that we can choose to not let them happen. We can behave like humans and not like animals. This is not to say that being an animal isn't fun, but there's a time and place.

And Coetzee is mistaken, there IS an outside to the theater, it's called the Internet. :)

Madcap Machinist said...

Hm. Are you a woman? Because I don't think you understand how erections work.

bibliobibuli said...

he is a bloke, machinist.

fascinating conversation. keep it up btw. (no pun intended)

Madcap Machinist said...

Oh thanks Sharon. Moving on:

"Right, I suppose she should accept rape as a compliment as well :P I mean, it's only natural to jump a beautiful woman, I mean, that's what you're thinking of doing anyway right ? :)"

Foul play mate, putting absurdities in my mouth. I don't see why you'd automatically assume that attraction automatically leads to rape.

And I still don't see what you're arguing about. Like I said, taking Coetzee's quote out of context like you're doing is no basis for argument. Sexual organs seem to have a will of their own, agree or disagree, what does it have to do with rape?!

Nobody is condoning rape, nobody is saying that their actions are ruled by their sexual organs. All he's saying is that even the pope has sexual urges, and even the most strong-willed can have problems getting it up.

That said, I'm not disagreeing with what you say here. Except for a couple of things:

1. The free will argument is simply what it is. You talk of criminals without free will, there can be law enforcers who are equally without free will. Talk of external forces are irrelevant because if law enforcers are compelled by the force of law, criminals are compelled by other forces. I can't add much because you provided arguments for both sides here, but just want to be clear that either you have free will or you don't, but either way it is trivial.

2. "It's true that we as humans have "instinctual responses", but I also think these responses should be filed away until needed"

-- This is not how instinct works. In fact, the reason that you can't just 'file them away' is the whole point.

3. "I stopped working out because women were harrassing me on the minibuses.. remember the minibuses ? I can't tell you the number of times I felt the imprint of sexual organs on my back, and the bus didn't even sway THAT badly. Trust me, it's not a compliment."

Yeah I know what you mean. I was harassed by women too, then I stopped working out when even men started to fight over me...

4."And Coetzee is mistaken, there IS an outside to the theater, it's called the Internet. :)"

of course, sigh, the Internet is theatre...