How do we work collaboratively with, within and between power structures?
This last week, I’ve been in Venice and it’s been an all hands on deck situation for the set up of the exhibition, Pera + Flora + Fauna, at its venue, the Archivi della Misericordia. It brought me back to earlier days where everyone pitches in to get the space ready (before sometime in 2016, when a slightly grumpy but very efficient gallery manager advised us curators to step back, don’t touch anything and just point.) Whether it’s been about cutting fabric, cleaning or painting walls, it certainly makes for another conversation about the expansiveness of so-called curatorial labour – which so far, has also included much other-curatorial administration such as contracts, booking flights and hotel rooms (really not a fan), preparing media files and so on. (Newsflash for students of curatorial studies – you will be mostly behind a laptop!)
Amidst all this hullabaloo and growing excitement as we approach the opening day of the Venice Biennale previews, one of my favourite moments has been the opportunity to catch up with the artists, Dhan Illiani Yusof and Ranerrim, from Projek Rabak in Perak.
Projek Rabak is an interdisciplinary arts collective founded in Ipoh in 2011, with a goal of celebrating arts, culture and friendship. Their projects span film screenings and arts festivals, publications, performance art, music and videos. Dhani and Ranerrim are two younger female artists who joined more recently, and who bring their skills and knowledge of fashion, drawing and running community workshops to the fold.
We first met in February over zoom, where we had a long discussion about the various ways of engaging and collaborating within Rabak and with the Semai community. Since then they’ve been busy developing works with their Semai friends and collaborators Yahya Torek and Bhai from Kampung Ras in contribution to the Projek Rabak installation at Pera + Flora + Fauna. We got up over their reflections and insights, and discussed the complexities and challenges of working with questions of representation and agency within various power structures and ‘groupings’ of nation, state, visual arts and indigenous communities. So much to think about, and this is only the beginning of their journey.
To catch up on their work, join Dhani, Ranerrim and me on 22 April, 1730 – 1845, as part of the forum, Pera+Flora+Fauna: The Ownership of Indigenousness and the Social Construction of Nature, that will take place as part of the preview schedule of activities that includes performances through the week.
Also, thank you Financial Times, but the shout-out!