After-image: Living with the Ghosts in my House
Minstrel Kuik

Wei-Ling Gallery is pleased to present After-image: Living with the Ghosts in my House by Malaysian photographer/artist, Minstrel Kuik, as the artist’s first solo exhibition with the gallery.

During her tenure as a university lecturer, the artist had assigned her students with the task of collecting paraphernalia related to the elections for a photography assignment. However, due to the manner in which the elections transpired, Minstrel had momentarily cast this assignment aside and these items remained untouched in their 1Malaysia recycle bags in a locker at the college, until the day of her resignation in March 2015.

They were, in the artist’s words, “tainted nylon flags from different parties, banners printed with non-photogenic figures and awkward body language of the candidates, odd free gifts decorated with each mascot or manifesto, poorly designed leaflets, newspaper clippings of advertisements from the daily newspapers etc.” The artist finally decided to bring them all home with her.

Living with these “ghosts” at home proved difficult for the artist as their presence heavily affected her, as she had hoped for some sort of change post-election. The longer Minstrel looked at these objects, the deeper her need to exorcise these unwanted “ghosts” that haunted her.

Thus, she began sorting through the items in the bag, first analysing their materialistic logic, classifying them in groups and studying their potential of being something else other than what they were intended to be. Gradually, she experimented with the idea of domestication – to feminise, to soften the once exuberant, masculine and heroic object. Flags were kept immobile by being folded and sewn, whereas the political iconography of the object is muted by the abstraction of form. Sometimes she would play with the mise en scene of objects and study them through the camera. In parallel, she also worked with pictures taken at different social settings, such as protestors at Bersih 3.0, which occurred in 2012 by focusing on small groups of individuals, or random villagers riding their motorcycles past the décor of the election in her hometown of Pantai Remis on Election Day.

The drawing process came at a slightly later stage when the artist decided to confront the difficult reality by turning the photographs into a hand drawn negative. With the help of grids, she measured each person and object in the composition through endless back and forth verifications, with the hope to anchor her subject matter to the space of action – the street where the Bersih rallies took place. In the analogue photography, the negative is a latent image that unfolds the image/reality to the future. Here, the artist’s wish is that the hand-drawn negatives in her drawing series will preserve that specific moment of hope from being condemned and consumed by history.

“To vote means to vow, and to make a wish. To vote, an individual learns to negotiate with a larger group of people to form a ruling government under a democratic setting. To vote, we participate in a long process, building a future interwoven between the personal life and the national destiny. However, here and there, movements of resistance from the people are growing stronger and more radical due to a drowning sense of powerlessness, followed by non-negotiable suppression from the authorities with stricter and conservative regime.

I would like to apologise for all these detours and gestures, but they are necessary if the aesthetic distance is a possible way for the individual to fight against the sense of being powerless, and furthermore, to revisit those passionate and empowering moments that embrace both the individual and the collective.

Courage of hope, urged a man once on the stage. Courage of hope, prays still the same man in the prison.”

– Minstrel Kuik, November 2015

Minstrel Kuik (b. 1976) lives and works in Malaysia. Aside from Malaysia, Minstrel has exhibited in France (Photoquai 2011), Indonesia, Ireland, Japan (winner of the International Photographer Award, Higashikawa International Photo Festival), Korea, and the United States (Houston FotoFest International Discoveries 2009). The artist was also the winner of the UOB Painting of the Year (Malaysia) competition in 2014.

After-image: Living with the Ghosts in my House will begin showing at Wei-Ling Gallery on the 15th of January and will continue until the 29th of February 2016.

Wei-Ling Gallery is located at No. 8, Jalan Scott, Brickfields, 50470, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Please call 0322601106 or email for more information.