Little robots, like radio-controlled buggies, roam about. With computers and machines such an integral part of our lives today, encountering Ian Carlo Jaucian’s Viral Automata at the Between States art exhibition may feel like walking into any ordinary electronics showroom. Until the computer virus he created attacks the automatons and the infected robots “explode” in arresting glows and peculiar movements, that is.
The automata are intended to evoke how a lifeform reacts to “mutually chaotic entities”, or viruses. But as Jaucian explains, he is aiming for the “perfect virus” – one that would not kill the robots, but, rather, boost their “immunity” and give them a new lease of life.
This idea of a chaotic entity as life-giving rather than destructive is an interesting take on the transboundary haze that “attacks” Malaysia every year.
Viral Automata may not be a new work made for this exhibition, but its allusion to the regional malady provides an interesting contemplation of South-East Asia’s politics of cooperation.
The haze crisis is the starting point for the artists taking part in the Between States group exhibition being held at the OUR ArtProjects@The ZhongShan Building gallery in Kuala Lumpur.
The artists – Filipino “thinker and tinkerer” Jaucian, 31; his countryman Miguel Inumerable, 30; and Malaysians Candice Ng, 34, and Sharon Chin, 37 – use the issue to probe new framing possibilities for South-East Asia, beyond the established geopolitical and territorial borders.
With its amalgamation of science and visual arts, Jaucian’s Viral Automata challenges not only these dominant constructs but also the traditional boundaries of art itself.
As the show’s curator Goh Sze Ying puts it, the four artists were selected not because of their views on borders or geopolitics, but because of their respective artistic practice, and how that reveals their approaches in investigating subject matter.
“My concerns are not just about the finished objects but also about processes and frameworks in art-making. I am also interested in reflecting diverse modes of artistic practice and production beyond painting and sculpture.
“Through their own way of approaching their material and production, the artists inadvertently bring in their own specific views on borders and politics,” she says.
For Between States – which is a part of the Condition Report contemporary art show series organised by the Japan Foundation Asia Centre – Jaucian and Inumerable incorporated programming in their works while Ng and Chin chose everyday materials.
Inumerable, who graduated with a major in Computer Science, is also interested in the use of science and technology in his work, and explores them in his new media installation Area Of Responsibility.
Ng looks at documentation to examine the current values and belief systems in her piece The Politics Of Normal.
Chin, who has been exploring the aesthetics and materiality of the everyday in relation to power, labour and gender in recent years, chose used clothing for her canvas in Politics.
“The haze was an entry point to think about borders – what is allowed to cross easily, such as art, capital, weapons, pollution, and what is not, such as human bodies,” Chin says.
“There is also the question of scale and distance. The haze is a result of the actions of a huge global supply chain involving nation states and multinational corporations, yet its effects are felt on the local level, down to our individual bodies.
“For me, moving away from KL to Port Dickson (Seremban) five years ago, I can see the effect of this kind of centralised power and capital on my little town. In my work, I’m trying to see where the individual fits within this system, what kinds of power and agency are available to her, the different ways she can relate to her community and the place where she lives,” she says.
The need for institutional and economic decentralisation to break the hold of centralised power and capital on local autonomy rang out loud to her when working on Between States, she says: “So I find hope in the idea of neighbourhoods and place, much more than the nation state. At the same time, this idea of neighbourhoods cannot be in isolation, because that leads to parochialism.”
Ultimately, Chin notes, “At the same time that we think of decentralisation, we must also emphasise being networked. With communication technology what it is today, we can be.”
Between States is on at OUR ArtProjects@The ZhongShan Building (No. 80, Jalan Rotan, Off Jalan Kampung Attap), Kuala Lumpur till Oct 7. Opening times are 11am to 7pm, Tuesday to Saturday. For details, go to ourartprojects.com or call 03-2276 2624.