The Buddhist Bug: A Creation Mythology
Wei-Ling Contemporary is pleased to present The Buddhist Bug: A Creation Mythology, an ongoing interdisciplinary series that combines live performance, installation, photography, and video art by Anida Yoeu Ali, an American, Khmer, Cham, Malaysian artist, whose body of work probes the issues of displacement and belonging. Intersecting performance art, exhibition, and audience engagement, the series comes from the artist’s personal spiritual and cultural turmoil, as a first generation Muslim Khmer woman born in Cambodia, where approximately 95% of the population is Buddhist. Created from a sense of play, The Buddhist Bug series utilizes a unique combination of humor and otherness. The series serves as a continuous exploration of Ali’s diasporic identities, as she was raised in the US, where she currently resides.
Through this series, Ali performs as a creature, evoking Franz Kafka’s famous novela, The Metamorphosis (1915) in which the protagonist metamorphoses into a human-sized Bug. Wrapped in an extensive orange garment that can span up to 100 meters long, Ali aims to converse with the public primarily through body language and gestures in various settings: indoor and outdoor, within urban and rural landscapes. The Buddhist Bug adapts to different spaces, dialoguing with the surrounding architecture and audience. More than a performance, it serves as a medium of storytelling.
According to Ali, “the project is a culmination of thematic interests in hybridity, transcendence, and otherness.” Ali considers the Bug as a displaced creature who travels and wanders amidst the “in-between,” referring to a space that exists between identity and surroundings. The artist commented that “The Bug is created as an assertion of paradoxes,” in that the Bug longs for stillness while on a constant journey in search for home. The Bug is both a bridge and an obstacle; the linear body becomes a connector between different cultures, religions and identities – yet it also refers to the artist’s longing and own attempts at reconnecting with her Khmer roots.
After thirty years of absence, Ali returned to Cambodia on a U.S. Fulbright Fellowship in 2011. It was under the Fellowship that she documented her performances in Cambodia through photography and video art, which will be showcased in this exhibition. She spent exactly five years in Cambodia, the same amount of time she had spent before her family fled as refugees from the Khmer Rouge earlier in life. “It is my hope that as The Buddhist Bug exhibition travels, people will catch a curious glimpse of a contemporary Cambodia they do not expect to see, one that is shaped by complexities, imagination and performance,” commented Anida Yoeu Ali.
Performing The Buddhist Bug in Kuala Lumpur is her first attempt of rediscovering her Malaysian roots. In addition, the artist hopes to raise awareness on the social issues that shape our time – mobility, migration, cultural hybridisation, and transnational identities – in a multicultural country such as Malaysia, where cultural identities juxtapose and constantly challenge the citizens’ sense of unity.
Born in Battambang, Cambodia (1974) Ali holds an MFA in Performance from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Aside from being an artist, she is also a founding collaborative partner of Studio Revolt, an independent artist run media lab initiated in Phnom Penh and the artist-in-residence at the University of Washington Bothell. Throughout her career, she has participated in numerous solo and group exhibitions internationally, namely in France, Australia, Myanmar, Thailand, Singapore, India, Korea and the Philippines. Among international fairs Ali has participated in are the 3rd Singapore International Photo Festival (2012), 5th Fukuoka Asian Art Triennale (2014), 8th Asia Pacific Triennale (2015), Dhaka Art Summit (2018) and Biennale Jogja XV (2019). The Buddhist Bug project started in 2009 and has since been exhibited internationally with upcoming exhibitions at the MOMA Warsaw, Haus der Kunst and MAIIAM Chiang Mai. This exhibition at Wei-Ling Contemporary is the most extensive showing of The Buddhist Bug series to date with all elements of the project on view.
‘The Buddhist Bug: A Creation Mythology is featured at Wei-Ling Contemporary from 19th June – 18th August 2019.
Wei-Ling Contemporary is located at RT01, Sixth Floor, The Gardens Mall, 59200, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Admission hours are Tuesday-Sunday 11am-7pm.
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