Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves
Noor Azizan Rahman Paiman

Third solo exhibition by Noor Azizan Rahman Paiman at Wei-Ling Gallery.

Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves is Paiman’s long awaited solo exhibition. The exhibition is based on ideas and materials that the artist conjured without any sketches or physical materials but purely from his observations of society around him in the burgeoning Malaysian economy of the 1990s. These ideas came to Paiman from his extensive observations and reading of all forms of conventional media as well as the vast amount of information from the internet and various blogs. With Malaysia’s freedom of expression, this information both supported and questioned the government’s efforts and policies.

As a thinking artist in a democratic society, Paiman had mixed feelings about the information that was so widely circulated and made available. The different situations and information influenced Paiman’s creative journey and beliefs.
Based on the story “A Thousand and One Nights”, Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves is set in Persia. There, lived two brothers, Kasim and Ali Baba. Upon their father’s death, the small estate was divided equally between the two brothers. Kasim married a rich widow and became a wealthy merchant while Ali Baba married an equally impoverished woman and made a living cutting wood and bringing it upon three asses to sell in the village.

The young Ali Baba’s fortunes take a dramatic turn for the better when he decides to steal the belongings of robbers from a cave. Hence Ali Baba embarks upon the slippery slope of the criminal mind, eventually becoming engulfed by jealousy, deviance, corruption, greed, conspiracy and murder. In the contemporary sense, Ali Baba would be seen as a most insincere, greedy, corrupt and petty criminal.

Ali Babas are synonymous with the characters who lobby and engage in securing lucrative projects. These lobbyists ensure the cogs of the machine keep turning so that the dividends from these mega projects are distributed downstream. Once the contracts are secured, signed, sealed and delivered, Ali Baba looks for a new replacement contractor, sells the project onward and makes a quick and tidy profit without any project risk and without undertaking any real work. Occasionally Ali Baba takes on a nominee role in these projects and becomes a sleeping baba…..

In the contemporary context, the rules by which Ali Babas play their role is through using new policies, by which they orchestrate the situation by using politics, economics, social issues and religious scenarios. Therefore they stand as either advisors or enemies of the state. In this body of work it is therefore dependent upon the audience’s ‘worldview’ to respond to this situation.
Paiman wishes to express his observations of these stage players and to study the subtle nuances of the intricate dance between awardee, recipient, nominee and the way the economy rolls, rumbles and grinds ever forward.

Ali Baba and The Forty Thieves features at Wei-ling Gallery, Brickfields from October 2012 –30th November 2012

Wei-Ling Gallery is located at:
8 Jalan Scott, Brickfields, 50470 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia