Reviews

GAMES PEOPLE PLAY

by Li-En Chong, The Star, 19 Oct 2003

A total of 26 international artists are involved in this year's Art for Nature exhibition organised by WWF-Malaysia, themed Games People Play.

Curator Laura Fan has approached the theme from a wide context, ranging from innocent play of children in s tructured games bound by rules and codes of conduct to wide-ranging consequences of real-life games played by adults.

Each of the participants has interpreted the theme with diverse mediums and subjects, including current events, cultural and spiritual concerns, and relationships amongst and between humans and nature.

One of the more notable paintings is Ahmad Zakii Anwar's Breath. On the left, a vivid ruby red rose with engorged petals draws us in. On the right, the taut, muscular body of a man is poised, straining upwards as if calling to the heavens.

Both are at their physical peak, yet it is the tissue-like, blood-coloured softness of the petals and the drawn veins of the tense outstretched arms that reminds us of the delicacy of life, irrespective of mortal or natural world.

God is omnipresent in all his creations; beauty and strength are but fleeting gifts. Zakii draws on his knowledge of Sufism to remind the viewer that life comprises far more than manoeuvers and tactics, twists and turns, experiences and decisions.

Aliens Invading Earth (Thank Goodness There's America) is a comic-satirical look at power relationships and the role of the media.

At first glace, Chang Yoong Chia's diorama of plastic toy soldiers, insects and pros is child-like. Yet parallels can be drawn between these play-at-war models and the harsh reality of bona fide big boys toys- the intention to cause genuine or imaginary pain and suffering remains.

The innocuousness of the google-eyed monster bug held at gunpoint leads us to question whether violence perpetrated is a neccesity against a genuine foe or a play against a costumed threat in a fatal game of death and destruction. After all, the title of the artwork is evidence of endorsement by a superpower.

This diorama is set within a mock television set with doors swinging open, bringing the tales of battles, victories ans losses that abound in live reporting on current events. Chang cleverly leads us to question the extentto which people play games: if they do, do they truly grasp the ramifications?

Whilst Chang's works plays on the adage "seeing is believing", Ramlan Abdullah's Cohesive Incoherence I illustrates the tangled web of communication. Here, aluminium cables have been intricately woven and wrought into submission, resulting in a clean and crisp structure shaped like an ear trumpet.

Displayed using the effect of shadows. the result is an ear trumpet that is double chambered at one end: veritable facts or verisimilitude. All are listened to and spoken in turn, building up and interlocking like the mesh scaffolding that forms this piece. In this information age of networks and hierachies, we are all to the diversion and detrimental entertainment of Chinese Whispers.

Humans have a need to quantify and classify- it is a form of verification for us. The discovery of new species qualifies an existence and following on from this, we are also thw ones responsible for the welfare and survival of each species.

Terry Law's sculpture is her creation of a life form, manifested to exempify the existence of the unidentifiable. As such, it has been tagged with a numerical code, 99.02, as its properties and behaviour remain a mystery for the time being. Nonetheless its importance and given name will be determined by its worth to us. Hence this grey matter is tightly and inextricably bound and shackled with man-made steel cables. For we determine the very existence of all life forms on earth.

Abdul Muthalib Musa's Pay to Play invitesthe viewer to seek out and shoot a target of his choice, be it tiger,deer, alligator, girrafe, camel or panda. The toy gun rattles in resounding mechanical imitation and the stained mild steel is reminiscent of the brown shades of mud and earth. We are transported from the solemnity of a gallery setting, with its pristine white walls, to a fairground stall or safari park and invited to interact with the display.

The gun is put into our hands and it is a sport, a means to and decorate oneself. Hunting has abandoned its traditional role as a means of survival. But at what cost? Certainly more than that of a bullet or a ticket to try one's luck. The immediate prize is a haul of game and glory but in the long run, it contributes to the extinction of animals and ultimately, humankind.

Bibi Chew's the GREATEST Malaysian Awards shows up our propensity to be labelled as the best of anythingvand everything, be it in the category of biggest, longest, tallest or oldest.

Nevertheless, as Chew illustrates in her work, these categories are transient. It is imperative that we begin to look at our resources as our greatest award, for we are a country blessed with an abundance of nature and wildlife.

Art for Nature has been an annual event since 1997. Games People Play is not just a means of financial funding for WWF-Malaysia; it provides enlightenment and education through art. This exhibition enables us to fully realise and comprehend the extent of our actions, whether amongst one another or with nature.

Games People Play will be on display from Oct 12-26 at Rimbun Dahan. Address: Kilometre 27, Jalan Kuang, 48050 Kuang, Selangor Darul Ehsan. For enquires, please contact Kevin Long or Azura at 03-7803 3772, or search online at www.wwf-malaysia.org