The dialog session titled Tradition as a Measure of the Contemporary: Towards a Post Traditional Praxis in Malaysian Art, takes place on 17th March 2018 from 2 pm to 4.30 pm at the Piyadasa Gallery/ Cultural Centre, Universiti Malaya. Presenting the lifework of work of Dr. Durai Raja Singam, the session will go on to explore the place of tradition in contemporary Malaysian art and life. To what extent do contemporary art and theory engage with the forms and values of tradition. Are traditional forms meaningfully conceived in isolation from the theories of modernism and postmodernism. Given our national culture and life, wherein diverse religious paradigms coexist, we need approaches that art that unpack and explore the deeper meanings of tradition and as a contemporary or a post-traditional practice. This dialogue is a part of my installation at the Piyadasa Gallery titled The Gift of Knowledge Installation Commemorating the Person and Work of Durai Raja Singam (1904-1995) which is a part of ALAMI BELAS – KL BIENNALE 2017, Bali Seni Visual Negara.
Apparently, concerns about this possibility were first expressed in internal documents in 2009 and it is suggested that as early as 2014, B.C. Hydro drew up an agreement with the B.C. Oil and Gas Commission (BCOGC), to create five-kilometer buffer zones around dams within which new fracking and drilling rights would not be issued.
While this alleged agreement indicates the serious concerns within BC Hydro, their public position seems a little more cavalier. In a response to Financial Times queries on this matter, BC Hydro seems to have responded with the following – “… our dams can withstand events many times larger than those associated with fracking.” The crown corporation holds that while, ” fracking does have the potential to increase natural seepage … ( this) … is an issue of increased cost, not dam safety … ”
The Oroboros, the serpent or dragon swallowing its own tail, is a visual paradox that symbolizes self-reflexivity and infinity. In Medeival Alchemy it represented the idea of primordial unity and imperishablity. I draw upon this eternal symbol to visualize the irony of the British Columbian Energy paradigm.
Fracking gives energy
Fracking takes energy
Dams give Energy
Fracking needs dams
The LNG industry in Northeastern B.C. is supported by the Peace Canyon Dam and the W.A.C. Bennett Dam, which is one of the largest dams in the world. There is also under construction, the controversial and contested $9-billion mega-project , the Site-C dam.
As Rajinikanth fans anticipate the April 27th 2018 release of Kaala Karikaalan, the Koboi Project is glancing off the SUPERSTAR’s look for the movie. While as a fan, I relish the simple pleasure of ‘being’ the Thalaiva, as an artist, I am cognizant of the aesthetic and critical connotations of my play. Is this a pastiche or a parody, and if it is a parody – what is it a parody of? What is the measure of similitude, how much ‘looking like’ does it take to ‘look like’ or signify another person or persona? What is the threshold of sufficiency? Is such similitude founded on ethnic, even ethnocentric, notions of identity? What is the inner dimension of such a representation? Hoe does one actually form a meaningful image of another? When does homage become piracy? What, beyond context, is the difference between a popular and a fine art image in the contemporary taxonomy of the arts? Most poignantly and pertinently, Kaala may be the last of my easy and heartfelt appropriations of the SUPERSTAR’s image as, having launched his political party in Tamil Nadu, he is now on the cusp of announcing his manifesto. Along with Thalaiva’s long-time college in the Movie business, and now political co-aspirant, Kamal Haasan, I fear that Rajinikanth’s avowed ‘spiritual politics’ will take on the saffron hues of Hindutva.
While I would love to accept all Thalaivar legends without question or qualification I have to say that after making my post on Rajinikanth’s famed avoidance of brand endorsements, I had a sudden flashback. I remembered a billboard I saw in Singapore in 2016 when I was there for the Biennale. It was for Lebra a global media and mobile services company. I then realized that while our Thailavar may not do personal endorsements his brand is associated with many others via the various movies he has starred in. I did some research and quickly found a list of Brand associations for Kabali. The associated brands include including AirAsia Airlines, Cadbury, Muthoot Fincorp, Airtel, PVR Cinemas, Amazon, Citi Bank, VS Hospitals. Most telling and disappointing of all was the apparent association of the Rajinikanth brand with Emani’s Fair and Handsome skin lightening cream which involves a contest in which 50 winners will get to attend the film’s success meet. A truly ironic pairing of brands – that of Kolywood’s first black SUPERSTAR with a Brand that addresses those who want to lighten up.
I am happy to announce the Tradition as a Measure of the Contemporary: Towards a Post Traditional Praxis in Malaysian Art Dialog Session which will take place on 17th March 2018 from 2pm to 4.30 pm at the Piyadasa Gallery/ Cultural Centre , Universiti Malaya. This Dialog Session is a part of the external programme of ALAMI BELAS – KL BIENNALE 2017, Bali Seni Visual Negara. This dialogue is a part of my installation at the Piyadasa Gallery titled The Gift of Knowledge Installation Commemorating the Person and Work of Durai Raja Singam (1904-1995). It will explore the historical and bibliographical researches of Durai Raja Singam who is a pioneering biographer and bibliographer of the great art historian and metaphysician Ananda Coomaraswamy. He was a serious amateur historian and a researcher who operated outside of the privileged circle of academic institutions. Indeed, Durai Raja Singam is an exemplar of cosmopolitanism in 20th century Malaysian intellectual life. Taking the work of Durai Raja Singam as point of departure, this session will investigate tradition might be a meaningful measure of the contemporary in Malaysian Art. The dialogue will explore the rapprochement of our diverse traditional world views, their relevance in contemporary moment and their significance for our national sense of being.
While Rajinikanth seems generally to have, as the myth goes, eschewed all commercial product endorsement. the above Palm Cola advertisement is a notable exception. It was made for the Tamil Nadu Co-operative, some say (see comments accompanying the above Youtube video) to support the Palm climbers. The advert seems to have been made during the shooting of Thillu Mullu in 1981. The ad features Thalaiva, Mahdevi and even director Balachandar. The sheer magnetism of the young Rajinikanth gives us a sense of the brute force he might have wielded in the endorsement of products, had he deigned to deploy his brand to this end. The fact that he has not done so is clearly a testament to his integrity with regard to his fan base, his ambition to partake in public life, or both.