Among the projects presented at the 58th edition of the International Art Exhibition, the Venice Biennale, Holding Up a Mirror – the Malaysian Pavilion curated by Lim Wei-Ling (this is the first time Malaysia has participated in the Biennale) – represents one of the most healthy environments for those who want to breathe a large amount of high-quality creativity. Organised at Palazzo Malipiero (in Campo San Samuele, San Marco 3198) and open to the public until 24 November, this thrilling project focuses on the fragility of life, the insecurity of a pulverised modernity, the delicate and thorny link that is continuously established between a past that needs preserving, an uncertain present in which we must work and a future we aspire to in the hope of constructing brilliant cultural scenarios.
Following on from the entrance, where the theoretical theme of the exhibition is introduced, visitors are welcomed by the anthological force of H.H. Lim’s work, able to trace a powerful centrality while designing an elegant unity, around which the whole pavilion revolves. Here, to the right of the room, three historical videos are to be seen – Red Room (2004), Patience (2002) and Enter The Parallel World (2001-2006) – all highlighting a modus operandi produced at the cutting edge of equilibrium while, to the left, it is possible to enjoy, among other works, La via del falò divino (The Road of the Divine Bonfire, 2017), a video of the performance staged at Novoli.
At the centre of the room, visitors find an imposing site-specific installation (Four Seasons, 2019) consisting of a whiteboard where everyday experiences are listed and a group of chairs indicating the privileged viewpoint from which to start observing the world.
In rooms to the side (two to the left and one to the right), like satellites orbiting around Planet Lim – the title of the whole itinerary organised by Lim is Time Frame – whose power of attraction is its ability to reflect on the input coming from all the fields of human knowledge, we find three installations created by Anurendra Jegadeva, Ivan Lam and Zulkifli Yusoff.
Kebun Pak Awang (2010) by Zulkifli Yusoff, part of this itinerary, is an interesting project in wood that brings to mind the radio programme of the same name broadcast in the 1970s, a period in which Malaysia experienced significant economic growth (brought about by the industrialisation of agriculture) while still exhibiting unforgettable aspects of tradition.
Yesterday in a Padded Room (2015) follows. With this work, Anurendra Jegadeva imagines a space full of images at the centre of which there are two crystal chairs which do not invite visitors to sit down, but rather to suspend all judgment when confronted with facts and figures illustrating the vertigo of the present.
With its 19 different television screens showing films that cannot be watched by visitors because they are facing the wall, One Inch (2019) by Ivan Lam presents a new obscurantism, a silence of the mind, a background noise that serves to dull all reason.
«I have always asked myself why my country was not represented at the most important international art platform and my greatest ambition has been to lead the first National Pavilion», observes the curator and project director.
«So I decided to ask the honourable Prime Minister for his blessing in taking this project forward and I was very pleased to share with him our mutual desire to promote Malaysian art on the international scene. When selecting the artists, it was very important to work with professionals who could take up the challenge ahead and submit stimulating works that could best represent Malaysia’s contemporary art».
Malaysia Pavillon: Holding up a Mirror, curated by Lim Wei-Ling. Commissioner: Professor Dato’ Dr. Mohamed Najib Dawa, Director General of Balai Seni Negara (National Art Gallery of Malaysia), Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture of Malaysia.
Artists: Anurendra Jegadeva, H.H.Lim, Ivan Lam, Zulkifli Yusoff.
Palazzo Malipiero, San Marco 3198, Venice BIennale 2019, 11.05 – 24.11.2019
images: (cover 1) H.H.Lim, «Patience 2», 2004, performance and installation, Centre Régional d’Art Contemporain, Sète, France (2) H.H. Lim, «Red Room», 2004, performance, Villa Arson, Nice (3) H.H. Lim, «Four seasons», 2019 (5) Zulkifli Yusoff, «Kebun Pak Awang», 2010, wood Resin Aluminium Acrylic, variable dimensions, courtesy Zulkifli Yusoff (6) Ivan Lam,« One Inch», 2019 (7-8) Malaysia Pavillon, Venice Biennale 2019.