Discourse on Sustainability and Indigeneity: PERA + FLORA + FAUNA 2022

By Nicole Chang

March 2023 FOR ART'S SAKE
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Far Before and After (Us)

Photos by PORT

PERA + FLORA + FAUNA (PFF) was one of eight “must-see” exhibitions held during the 59th International Art Exhibition of Venice Biennale, themed The Story of Indigenousness and the Ownership of History, from 23 April to 27 November 2022. It was a result of cross-border collaborations between the organising crew (People of Remarkable Talent, an Ipoh-based creative cultural agency), the curatorial team (four co-curators based in different countries) and the exhibitors (Perak-born/based artists and collectives, and an Italian artist). The show addressed the conservation of nature and indigeneity. It highlighted Perak’s context via cross-disciplinary aesthetic creativity, presented through live performances, sculptures, installations and video works.

Seven Perak-inspired creations engaged worldwide audiences through satellite events held at different places in conjunction with PFF, with the platforms being curated for conversations and debates over the interrelationships between man, culture and nature in the global context. According to People of Remarkable Talents (PORT), PFF engaged as many as 15,000 visitors.


Far Before and After (Us)

This video by Italian artist, Stefano Cagol, captured at the Dolomites in the Northeastern Italian Alps, shows how the human-nature relationship has evolved and the indigenous symbiosis. It relates the past and future experiences within nature (e.g. The Arctic) and the visions of the indigenous peoples (e.g. Sápmi and Inuit).

Karoog Kiha Nyep” – Rapuh Kian Lenyap

This is a video documentary production, co-produced by Kapallorek Art Space (in Seri Iskandar, Perak) and Ronnie Bahari (a photographer from the Semai tribe) was Inspired by Ronnie’s photo-documentation of cave paintings found within and around Kinta Valley. “The cave drawings illustrate Semai traditional, cultural and ritual ceremonies. These prehistoric drawings may disappear over time due to public ignorance,” Ronnie says.

Hik Bersamak: Indigenous Pop!

A collection of works produced by Projek Rabak (Ipoh-based artist collective) in collaboration with their Semai friend, Yahya Torek and the Semai community at Kampung Ras, Perak, the exhibit showcased Semai community life and culture. “In the Semai language, Hik Bersamak means ‘Let’s all together’ says representative, Dhan Illiani Yusof. Restricted from harvesting raw materials in the forest, the Semai have also stopped wearing clothes made from tree bark, losing not only their land but also their livelihood, identity and culture.”

Stesen Jana Kuasa Dari Sumber Alam (SJKDSA)

Stesen Jana Kuasa Dari Sumber Alam (SJKDSA), translated as Power Generator Station From Natural Resources, was a presentation by Azizan Paiman. He created two hot oven-shaped power generator station units consisting of two-level interior spaces to display miniature paintings. Paiman explains, “Instead of addressing issues about indigenous culture, I study the originality of Perak’s community and [its] formation. Within the tiny gallery spaces, I showcase different groups of the very important persons (VIP) who played a part in Perak’s modern history."

Ssegar Angin: The Healing Art Project

Inspired by Main Puteri and Mak Yong, the video and live performance presented how sound and body movements apply to Malay traditional healing performances in a contemporary manner. Kamal Sabran, in collaboration with Aida Redza, a contemporary dancer cum choreographer, performed over soundscapes of nature recorded from different natural environments in Perak.

Bunyi Senyap Benih (The Silent Sound of Seeds)

Using 12 different types of clay collected from different places in Perak, Kim Ng created a ceramic sculpture installation that relevantly implies the origin or the beginning of the life form. Kim addressed how mankind lives within nature and how nature grows, and how the symbiotic coexistence of the two.

Rumah Saya dan Angkasa

Translated as My Home and the Outer Space, Saiful Razman's creation was a video installation set against a wall collage made of tissue paper. It portrays the structural textures of the walls of a traditional Rumah Kutai (a traditional Malay house native to Perak since 1800). There was also a visual poem drawing the different hopes and visions for an ideal home between the past and present.

Reflections from the team

Nur Hanim Mohamed Khairuddin, PORT’s General Manager, shares her appreciation of the commitment of everyone in making PFF a remarkable success. “The collective efforts have enabled us to overcome our limits and to achieve such an ambitious goal. We are proud to be able to showcase Perak, its lands, nature and inhabitants to the global audience.”

As these exhibits have never been showcased in Malaysia, the team hopes to see a successful installation in the country soon.

Nicole Chang

has just completed her PhD programme at the Department of Development Planning and Management, School of Social Sciences, Universiti Sains Malaysia.