Nazreen Abraham’s review of HAUS DER KULTUREN DER WELT’S LATEST ART EXHIBITION ON ASIA’S USAGE OF TIGER AS THE NATIONAL IDENTITY
”Keris berdarjat 13 lok,
Buat pakaian panglima berjanggut,
Sarang tebuan jangan dijolok,
Harimau tidur jangan dikejut”
I am not an art critique. Far from it. In fact my history would show that I have supported and help countless of Art shows that many critiques will have a lot to criticize on. I have never had any academic backgrounds to support any review or comments to write on anyone’s else curation. But I am a jobless curator from Malaysia who just arrived in Berlin and representing Minut Init, the platform of the counter-culture in South East Asia. I will be damned if I didn’t have anything to say on one of the big galleries in Berlin that is showcasing a group of artworks that was supposed to derives it’s title from the main masterpiece by the Singaporean artist, Ho Tzu Nyen. The main artwork, “One or Several Tigers, 2017” according to the pamphlets ‘explores the shifting shapes of tigers and were-tigers in the ancient and modern mythology of Malaysia and Singapore’. This was too close to home to not have anything to say, therefore I apologize if this is a little harsh.
There was only one tiger in “2 Oder 3 Tiger” exhibition which is on display from April 21 till July 3rd 2017 at Haus der Kulturen der Welt in Berlin. The exhibition was only showcasing one Tiger from Asia . It is a bad representation of the cultures in Asia and the House of World Cultures should really consider having a better research team working on the exhibition or at least come up with a better title. The Tiger is a huge importance to many Asians, it is the national animal for Bangladesh, India, Malaysia and South Korea. So why do I only see South Korean representation of the great animal? The best work they had on display was from a Singaporean (whose national animal is a lion by the way). Has the bureaucracy of the art world in Berlin corrupted the system to the point they fail to include any other nation? Where is the diversity I’ve come to expect from Berlin?
It was slightly disappointing to see all the amazing installations and amazing artworks from all of these amazing artists but fail to live up to the name of the exhibition. And I had to pay 7 Euros to enter, that’s RM35. That’s 2 good kebab in Berlin, 3 great meal in Malaysia. I could have seen better a curation of the same theme in Publika (my main nemesis in Kuala Lumpur) for free.
No disrespect. I mean the artworks were amazingly thoughtful, the artists were on point in the stories they wish to tell in their works and the installations were inspirational but the only ‘tiger’ I could count was the one in Yichiro Tamura’s Hey Daddy, Hey Brother (2017) jackets and of course as stated before the main shinning piece of the showcase, an installation of synchronized 2 channel HD projections on automated screen with shadow puppets and a 12 channel surround sound by one of Guggenheim’s artist; Ho Tzu Nyen.
Singapura menceritakan kisah Harimau Malaya di Haus Der Kulturen der Welt One or Several Tigers, 2017, synchronized 2-channel HD projection, automated screen, shadow puppets, 12-channel sound, show control system, 33:33mins By Ho Tzu Nyen #nusantara #sundaland #whynomalaysianartistsinanexhitionabouttigers
This installation was perfect, I truly enjoyed the experience and felt that his work was honestly trying to depict the true fears living underneath the royal tiger’s monarchy of the South East Asian jungle. From it’s insight of the social self surveillance of the nations by having the tigers as the symbol of Sultans and other nationalist political parties as the ‘ghosts that haunt the imaginary of modernity’ to it’s usage of a medium to tell the silent histories. All these visuals taken cue from the historical image : a lithographic print entitled Road Surveying Interrupted in Singapore by the German illustrator, Heinrich Leutemann from the 1880s.
The other works by the other Korean and Taiwanese artists were great too but lacking in any proper relation to Tigers. I mean there is some sort symbolic connection if you stretch it wide enough but it’s really disappointing to see the laziness in the curation of the exhibition’s title. You choose to name your exhibition on an artwork more about Malayan Tigers (Singapore was part of Malaya until 1963) but your surrounding artworks are a whimpering roar of the South Korean Tigers and maybe you can count Taiwanese Tiger. I mean I wouldn’t have any problem going to an exhibition knowing that it’s mostly about South Korean and Taiwanese cultures and it’s struggles to achieve it’s current status in the modern era but change the name unless it is intentionally meant to make the audience felt like saying “Ich habe vielleicht ein oder zwei oder drei Tiger in der Ausstellung gesehen, ich bin mir nicht wirklich sicher.” I mean fair enough you might have 3 tigers if you want to count it like that but that’s not a very good result for an establishment that supposedly helping the German public to know better on the cultures from around the world. Especially when you’re capitalizing on someone’s else culture, you should have known better.
I mean you don’t even need much to justify the title of the exhibition, just add two more artist that’s focuses on the theme of the exhibition. With a name like “2 Oder 3 Tiger”, you could have easily find artists to talk about topics like ‘Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam’, the Sri Lankan separatist organization or ‘The Four Asian Tigers‘, the first four countries in Asia to have fast growth rate in economics after the industrializations in the 60s or anything else on to do with Tigers like how the Chinese Men eat Tigers penises as a Viagra or how the Malayan Tiger is critically endangered due to Malaysia’s rapid deforestation to make way for palm oil plantation because the world is addicted to Nutella. There is so many more topics more related to Tigers in Asia and it’s importance as a symbolism in Asian culture.
Overall just make my 7 Euros feel worth it. I was expecting more myths and cool stories about tigers as the important symbol it is in the jungle, I mean you used were-tigers as part of the unique selling point of this exhibition. I expected more amazing mythos of the Tiger that Asia is filled with. I don’t blame the Koreans , they are the majority of the Asian community in Berlin (or at least they are in the art world I’ve seen so far) and beside I work for a Korean. I love their culture, (잊지마(It G Ma), muthafuka). I just wish there was more Asian from other countries represented in the exhibition. The Tiger is an important aspect of Asia. I expect to see at least one artist who is native to the jungles of Asia where the real Tigers lives and not just diaspora of those cultures that have only echoes of the tiger’s roar and not the real claws itself. It could have been better. I cant complain much since I still enjoyed the experience. It was just my first disappointment in Berlin. And I love tigers.