New-Write Map: Boundary Fluidity 新寫地圖:流動的界域

A genuine map doesn’t exist, for there isn’t a type of description which is truly dependable – Chong Kim Chiew

New-Write Map is a selected work of Chong Kim Chiew from three series, including MAGNITUDE, EXILE BOUNDARIES and BOUNDARY FLUIDITY.

MAGNITUDE is used as a metaphor to measure how we have come together and fall apart as a country. It expresses rapture in our political system, its division and contestation.

Chong Kim Chiew sees maps from different era as visual cues to make sense and question the ‘history’ of a place. More particularly of historicized social and political forces onto topological depiction, in manners of the shifting of territories, boundaries, borderlines, marking and remarking, naming and renaming of places. What intrigue him are the phenomena of the shifting hands and the maps produced in naming and claiming ownerships to such territories and the repercussions in erosion of memories and arbitrary construction of identity.

Initially working with the iconographic image of the Malay Peninsula and the thumbprint, Kim Chiew references expanded to maps of Malaysia and the surrounding region in South East Asia – from contemporary rendition to maps from the 70’s and 80’s which he has collected over the years. Referring to the political history of Malaysia/Malaya/Borneo Kim Chiew has also drawn on strategic maps by the occupying Japanese army in the 40’s and British colonial maps of the Peninsula and the Borneo states from pre-independent to Emergency era as reference.

Coming from his early questioning on and sense of identity crisis over idea of belonging and identification with place and nation, Kim Chiew reckons one’s cognition (of a place) in/through maps is ever incomplete, but always shifting, changing, due to constant social, political, cultural and institutional framing of geographical landscape – ever changing by renaming and remarking – which he equates as act of erasing, defacing and whitewashing memories and marginalized events and issues.

Kim Chiew expresses his binary dialogue quite literally. Each painting assembles two panels of visual marking, suggesting his antonym pun, schizoid and refracted dialogue.

Kim Chiew applies brute force as he places blatant layers of paint upon Malaysia’s historical maps that are collected from various sources. These maps function as the symbols of territorial marking and remarking process. The historical maps are then paired with images of heaven, earth, water, fingerprint, teeth, etc. Falling walls of colonial buildings in “Mirror/Falling Debris” which is inspired by a scene from a movie depicts the fall of an authority as a natural cycle. Meanwhile “Cover/Concealed Weapons, 2013” comes to the end of the narrator himself – a position of an exile.

In a Romantic setting, Chong Kim Chiew’s work invites the audience to drift away, raising questions of place and non-place, and the negotiation between the individual, fluidity and the territory. Chong’s white-on-white maps on tarpaulin are made of endless layers and erasures of paint, as if the memory of place is reset to zero each time when a destination has finally appeared to be recognizable. Chong’s handling with his soft-sculpture-like painting has created a significant twist in in-situ practice in the art of installation. The maps are no longer bounded to a place, but transformable and responsive to places wherever they are shown. By further confronting the maps to the physical yet unidentified deserted landscapes in his video work, Chong has dissociated the making of maps from the place, thus liberating the authorship/ownership from each other. However, if the audience is patient enough, stories of forgotten voyagers will slowly take off in Chong’s cinematographic waiting and gaze.

(edited from the essay of Simon Soon, Yap Sau Bin 葉紹斌, Tan Hui Koon 陳慧君 and Minstrel Kuik Ching Chieh 郭靜潔 )