To grow up in Malaysia is to become acquainted with different cultures and multiple histories. The construction of the Malaysian identity comes through a process of narration that hovers in-between the past and the present, often extending across different geographies to recount stories of diaspora, migration and integration.
One needs to look no further than the four featured Malaysian artists whose backgrounds reflect the diverse and complex narrative of Malaysia. While each artist is Malaysian, their diverse ethnic, religious and cultural roots illuminate the many histories embedded in the Malaysian national mosaic.
Anurendra Jegadeva, H.H. Lim, Ivan Lam, and Zulkifli Yusoff will represent the country in an exhibition titled Holding Up a Mirror during the country’s first ever National Pavilion at the world-renowned 58th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia in Venice, Italy.
The country’s inaugural National Pavilion marks a momentous occasion for Malaysia and Malaysian art and highlights the development of the country’s contemporary art practices. It celebrates the beauty and complexity of Malaysian culture and its recently renewed cultural identity and transformation.
Reflecting the overarching theme of the 58th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia, May You Live in Interesting Times, set by this edition’s curator Ralph Rugoff, the Pavilion of Malaysia’s exhibition Holding Up a Mirror is a discourse around the concept of identity within the larger context of society at a time of immense political, social and economic change. Holding Up a Mirror takes as its starting point the concept of national identity as the space where the personal and the public intersect, where myth and history collide, where national and international perspectives are constructed.
Together, the works at the National Pavilion of Malaysia represent an enquiry around self when perceived against a wider framework of the collective. They demonstrate that identity is heterogeneous and in constant flux; it is a weave of many personal narratives into a shared fabric of public consciousness that is at once diverse and unified.
Across different media – painting, video, sound and installation – the represented artists offer commentary on their own search around identity, embracing concepts and ideologies around alterity, cultural hegemony, patriarchy, and globalisation.
Malaysia joins 90 other countries who will be participating at Biennale Arte 2019. The Malaysia Pavilion’s commissioner is 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, and its curator and project director is Lim Wei-Ling.