Aesthetics of Silence

Wei-Ling Contemporary is pleased to present Aesthetics of Silence. Through this curated project, the gallery will be working with a critically acclaimed lineup of international artists from around the world including Arin Rungjang (Thailand), H.H. Lim (Italy), Heather Dewey-Hagborg (USA), Ivan Lam (Malaysia), Melati Suryodarmo (Indonesia), Rajinder Singh (UK/Malaysia), Robert Schaberl (Austria), Roger Ballen (South Africa). The title of the show borrows Susan Sontag’s first essay from her famous oeuvre, Styles of Radical Will (1969), in which she examines how silence mediates the role of art as a form of spirituality, particularly in a globalised world.

In this essay, Sontag wrote, “Every era has to reinvent the project of “spirituality” for itself,” and that “in the modern era, one of the most active metaphors for spiritual projects is art.” To her, art is a form of mystification of the secular culture that characterises the modern times; although its practice could be a form of consciousness, it is also an antidote to consciousness. In an increasingly complex, and noisy world, Sontag believes in “the mind’s need or capacity of self-etrangement”. As the world demands so much from us, and information travels synchronously from all directions, do we give enough precedence to silence? It is at such times that the pursuit of silence is needed, as a space of reflection, or what Sontag calls “a zone of meditation.”

The exhibition focuses on this concept of silence during a timely moment, in which simultaneously worldwide, we are forced to live remotely. All of a sudden, we have been given the space to isolate, sit with ourselves, and unlearn things; a chance to look at what we crave “beyond knowledge” and “beyond speech”, as Sontag terms it. While the exhibition takes Sontag’s essay as an entry point, it offers secondhand interpretations by the featured artists, through their own explorations on the metaphorical notion of silence. And yet, as Sontag points out, silence itself is relational; while it may be the intention of the artist, the audience may have a different perception to their work. “Silence doesn’t exist in a literal sense, however, as the experience of an audience.” Thus, the exhibition interrogates the idea of an individual consciousness through the audience’s participatory experience, and challenges how it could be interconnected through a shared space.

Altogether, the collective exhibition explores how silence could be interpreted through different languages of art, starting from performance, installation, video art, photography, and the written word. In the Aesthetics of Silence, artists commemorate the concept of silence as a state of flux instead of a definitive event or subject, seeing it as a medium to access different notions: social injustice, truth, identity, reality, trauma, fragility, and the human psyche.

About the Artworks
Through his 7-channel video work Ravisara (2019), Arin Rungjang explores how memories can be expressed through performative gestures and physical presence without requiring verbal speech. Using text inserts, Rungjang reveals accounts of diasporic Thai women’s experiences of migration, violence, discimination, loss, and abuse of power.

H.H. Lim evokes the power of unspoken words through the neon light installation somanywonderfulsecrets (2021). The piece is accompanied by his two-channel video work Enter the Parallel World (2001/2006), which features himself conducting silent performative acts as metaphors of the life wisdoms he was brought up with.

How do you see me (2019) is Heather Dewey-Hagborg’s attempt to get closer to ‘the other’ that is watching us in silence. “We live in a world where we are constantly being looked at, studied, and analysed.” Two videos (Detection and Recognition) investigate how facial recognition is giving technology the authority and power over our identities.

Ivan Lam takes on performance art through Breathe (2021), a series of video works made on Tik Tok. The work features the artist simply sitting and breathing as an antithesis to the noise of social media. As an extension to his performance piece Human Experiences 66:66:66 (2017), the artist will be conducting a guided breathing session open to visitors.

Melati Suryodarmo’s single-channel film, The Dusk (2010), tangentially reflects upon her upbringing in a culture of silence. While silence is conventionally understood as nothingness or void, The Dusk reveals the elements of psychology and trauma, through abstract moments of silence and movements, or what she conceives as ‘poetical actions’.

During the lockdowns, Rajinder Singh channeled his introspectives into poetry, giving birth to his first poetry book entitled Trapping Silence (2021). Raw and personal, his poems explore human’s fragility in facing difficult times, dealing with isolation, and remembering the past; words that bear witness of a life.

Robert Schaberl continuously challenges himself to discover a perfect combination of materials and forms that engender a meditative feeling and vibration. His circular surfaces initiate transitions of colours when seen through different angles. Therefore to Schaberl, it is only through the experience of the viewer that his artwork is fully realised.

Photographed in Johannesburg between 2015 and 2020, Roger Ballen created and documented a part-human, part-rat creature who lives an isolated life outside of the mainstream society. In the series of photos and videos Roger the Rat, we witness the absurd aspects of human existence and psyche.

Aesthetics of Silence‘ is featured at Wei-Ling Contemporary from 11 August to 28 September 2021.

Wei-Ling Contemporary is located at RT01, Sixth Floor, The Gardens Mall, 59200, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Admission hours are Tuesday – Sunday 11am-7pm.

Exhibition is open by appointment only. For appointments and further assistance, please contact +60322828323 or email weilinggallery.amanda@gmail.com