Four Malay Stories
4 channel video installation
Various durations loop
Inspired by the work of Malay showbiz icon P Ramlee, a Malay Muslim who made over 60 movies from the 50s to 70s in Singapore and Malaysia. His popularity spanned across all racial divide and social strata, and his memory is often evoked as a beacon for cultural pluralism and racial harmony.
For this series the artist has re-created key scenes from four of P Ramlee’s best known films, playing a total of 16 different characters from a comedy, a melodrama, a social drama and a Malay period drama.
Many of the chosen lines are classic quotations that have entered the popular lexicon of Malay society.
The scenes were chosen also for their depiction of social and sexual mores of the local muslim community at the time, some of which have since been censored.
Relying on his limited knowledge of the Malay language, the artist can be seen repeating his lines in repeated takes of the same scene, along with a simultaneous transcription and literal translation in English in the subtitles – as in a foreign language instructional video.
The work traces the artist’s attempt in adopting a ‘foreign’ language and cultural traits, albeit in ways that are deliberately nostalgic, melodramatic, poetic, out-dated or outlawed.
Commissioned for Labilabu – a two-man exhibition (with Khairuddin Hori) as part of Pesta Raya Malay Cultural Festival at the Esplanade, Singapore Oct 2005 – Jan 2006.
Life of Imitation – Singapore Pavilion, 53rd Venice Biennale, 2009
And The Difference Is – Gertrude Contemporary Art Spaces, Melbourne 2009
The Agency of Words – Text Festival, Bury Art Gallery, UK 2009
Vain Efforts – Gallery 4A, Sydney 2009
Jakarta Biennale – National Gallery Indonesia, 2009
mononoaware – MK Galerie Berlin, 2008
WE – National University of Singapore Museum 2007
With thanks to Khairuddin Hori & Gene Sha Rudyn.