Azizan Paiman: Aku Ini Binatang Jalang



12 February 2020 - 29 February 2020
A+ Works of Art

A+ WORKS of ART is pleased to present Aku Ini Binatang Jalang, a solo exhibition by Azizan Paiman. Aku Ini Binatang Jalang underscores the artist’s belief that education is a vital component for change in Malaysia, and features works that continue his exploration of the classroom as a space where individuals are moulded and influenced.


In 2019, Paiman was invited to participate in the exhibition, Pusaka: Warisan Kemudi Wawasan, organised by Bank Negara. For the show, Paiman created Menjejaki Kembali Kesah-Kesah Ekonomi Negara (MKKEN). The installation comprised 30 wooden desks and chairs, collected from a school in Lumut, Perak, which were organised in rows that imitated a classroom. There was also a teacher’s desk with an engraving of its origins, “donation from Old boys 1969”. 


Paiman’s installation used 1969 as a starting point, and, as an end point, 2018, the year Pakatan Harapan would triumph over the ruling party, Barisan National, which had a hold on government for 61 years since independence. The work attempted to reflect on the intersection between education and the political realm, and included four portraits of those in the Council of Eminent Persons (CEP). The curators had problems with the portraits and various remarks etched on the desks, and asked the artist to make changes. In response, Paiman wrapped the portraits in white material and used grids of red tape to cover the tops of the desks.


For his most recent photographic series on show at A+, Paiman draws upon this experience of self-censorship and the feelings of dejection that such conflicts can cause. 


The artist sees some parallels between his own experiences of being caught up in controversy and being harshly criticised with those of his good friend, artist Roslisham Ismail, a.k.a. Ise, who sadly passed in 2019. The two artists developed a friendship in university. In a crit session of Ise’s final project, Paiman observed the professors unfairly condemn Ise and his work. Paiman believes that their disparaging comments continued to trouble Ise, even long after he left school, and feels that Ise experienced the brunt of a flawed educational system.


With Aku Ini Binatang Jalang, Paiman explores the effects of such abuses of power in the inter-relationships of teacher and student, and offers that dynamic as an exemplary metaphor for the power dynamics that exist in our larger political landscape.


In this series of photographs, the artist is the antagonist, taking on the role of an educator in the midst of overseeing a class of students. The narrative unfolds to reveal a student’s humiliation at being disciplined by the teacher in front of his classmates; the student is further injured by being the subject of his classmates’ ridicule. 



Aku Ini Binatang Jalang testifies to Paiman’s ability to abstract and interpret larger systemic issues through personal anecdotes; his work allows us to empathise more deeply those who experience unjust condemnation and criticism.


Azizan Paiman: Aku Ini Binatang Jalang

Drifting


By Lienne Loy


Aku Ini Binatang Jalang underscores Azizan Paiman’s belief that education is a vital component for change in Malaysia, and features works that continue his exploration of the classroom as a space where individuals are moulded and influenced. 

In 2019, Paiman was invited to participate in an exhibition Pusaka: Warisan Kemudi Wawasan, organised by Bank Negara. The show had called for artists to create works that reflected present-day Malaysia in the form of installations. In response, Paiman created Menjejaki Kembali Kesah-Kesah Ekonomi Negara (MKKEN). The installation consisted of 30 wooden desks and chairs, collected from a school in Lumut, Perak, organised to simulate a classroom within the gallery. 

Placed at the head of the installation was a teacher’s desk with an engraving of its origins, “donation from Old boys 1969”. Paiman would use the inscribed date of 1969 as a starting point of his research and 2018 as an end point, the year Pakatan Harapan would triumph over the ruling party, Barisan National, which had a hold on government for 61 years since. The work attempted to reflect on the intersection between education and the political realm, and included four portraits of those in the Council of Eminent Persons (CEP). The curators of the show expressed problems with the portraits and various remarks etched on the desks and had asked Paiman to make necessary changes. As a result, Paiman wrapped the portraits in white material and used grids of red tape to cover the tops of the desks.

For his most recent photographic series on show at A+ Works of Art, Paiman has drawn upon the experience of self-censorship and feeling of dejection. 

The artist saw some parallels between his own experiences of being caught up in controversy and being harshly criticised with those of his good friend, artist Roslisham Ismail, a.k.a. Ise, who sadly passed in 2019. The two artists developed a friendship in university. During a critique of his final project “class room”, Paiman observed the professors unfairly condemn Ise and his work. Paiman believed that their disparaging comments continued to trouble Ise, even long after he left school, and felt that Ise had experienced the brunt of a flawed educational system.

With Aku Ini Binatang Jalang, Paiman explores the effects of such abuses of power in the inter-relationships of teacher and student, and offers that dynamic as an exemplary metaphor for the power dynamics that exist in our larger political landscape.

The production of Ise’s ‘class room’ (1997) and Paiman’s ‘Kesah Kayu Hanyut’ expressed the importance of our educational institutions as emblems of progress for the growing generation of Malaysians.

The exhibition presents itself as a critique of political exploitation, and the significance of Aku Ini Binatang Jalang’s finds resonance in recent news headlines: the appointment of Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad as the country’s interim Education Minister, effective 3 January 2020. Once again, the country turns its attention toward education and the systemic issues that underly some of our troubled racial politics.

The appointment of our Prime Minister cum Educational Minister was a decision made after the abrupt resignation on 2 January 2020 of Dr. Maszlee Malik, whose tenure was marked by controversy. The swift decision and agreement of his resignation has sparked criticism that Malik is being used as a scapegoat for larger issues riddling the nation. Furthermore, the appointment illustrates the power imbalances within Malaysian politics, and this is a concern Paiman has sought to highlight in his work.

In Kesah Kayu Hanyut there is a sentence extracted from Dr. Maszlee Malik’s resignation statement: 


“Saya dengan taat setia dan reda walaupun berat, dengan nasihat ayahanda Perdana Menteri, saya Maszlee Malik memulangkan semula jawatan sebagai Menteri Pendidikan kepada Perdana Menteri berkuat kuasa pada 3 Januari 2020”

The words hang like a placard on the wall, unavoidable and clear to the onlooking student who faces it. The statement and its explicit meaning is reminiscent of the Japanese proverb, “the nail that sticks out gets hammered down”, suggesting that for a highly efficient society to function, a level of homogeny is required and the pressure to conform is high.

In the series of photographs that fills one room of the gallery, the artist is the antagonist, taking on the role of an educator in the midst of overseeing a class of students. The narrative unfolds to reveal a student’s humiliation at being disciplined by the teacher in front of his classmates; the student is further injured by being the subject of his classmates’ ridicule. 

As teachers attempt to develop the minds of their eager students, their perspectives and opinions have the ability to both encourage their students to question and push the boundaries of existing systems, and adversely to stunt and hinder those that contrast the majority. Those who don’t fit the mould or conflict with existing expectations may risk being excluded. Aku Ini Binatang Jalang testifies to Paiman’s ability to abstract and interpret larger systemic issues through personal anecdotes; his work allows us to empathise more deeply those who experience unjust condemnation and criticism.

The title of the exhibition Aku Ini Binatang Jalang was extracted from Chairil Anwar’s poem “Aku” and alludes to the grief of being ostracised from a group. Much like how Paiman thought Ise may have felt after the critique of his work “class room”, the poem depicts an animal dejected from its pack and left to fend for itself from the perils of the world. “Aku” expresses the inner dialogue of an animal in a state of bitterness, “Wounds and poison I’ll take running, / Running, Until the pain leaves, / And I will care even less”. In the case of Ise, Paiman would suggest that the artist carried the “wounds and poison” throughout his career, using his artwork and successful exhibitions to refute his critics and their barking disparagements. 

It’s arguable that Ise’s practice was better appreciate outside of rather than within Malaysia. Despite his thirty-year curriculum vitae deserving much more recognition at home. Paiman has felt strong sympathy for the yearning and strife of both Ise and the animal of Anwar’s poem, and has been unable to un-see such injustice evident within our society.

The phrase “Aku ini binatang jalang” translates to “I am but a wild animal” but implicitly suggests a creature resigning to its sentence, as it roams the Earth in vicious defiance of a community that would never accept him. Paiman’s works echo a similar tone of surrender that rings throughout the exhibition. It is amplified by the weight encapsulated in the words of Dr. Maszlee Malik’s (not within the installation), “It is not the responsibility of a single ministry or a single minister, but it is the responsibility of all members of the community”. The impact of such words lingers as we continue to bare the burden and responsibility in our efforts to push for progress for our country. 




1 ‘Mahathir keeps Malaysia guessing on next education minister.’, Sing Pei Tan, 12 January 2020. [online] South China Morning Post. 
https://www.scmp.com/comment/letters/article/3045230/who-will-malaysias-next-education-chief-be-mahathir-keeps-them

2  This was implied during Malik’s resignation speech of which he confronted the media as targeting him and purposely not creating news around the Education Ministry’s successes and achievements. Additionally, other issues of economical disparaty, lagging economical recovery and environmental pollution are examples of issues that still persist in the country.
 ‘Malaysian Education Minister Maszlee Malik resigns, raising spectre of cabinet shake-up’, Tashny Sukumaran, 2 January 2020. [online] South China Morning Post

https://www.scmp.com/week-asia/politics/article/3044365/malaysian-education-minister-maszlee-malik-resigns-raising

3 ‘Maszlee swipes at negative press, politicking in resignation speech’, 2 January 2020 (Modified on 3 January 2020) [online] Malaysiakini,
https://www.malaysiakini.com/news/505701

Azizan Paiman: Aku Ini Binatang Jalang

12 February 2020 - 29 February 2020
A+ Works of Art

A+ WORKS of ART is pleased to present Aku Ini Binatang Jalang, a solo exhibition by Azizan Paiman. Aku Ini Binatang Jalang underscores the artist’s belief that education is a vital component for change in Malaysia, and features works that continue his exploration of the classroom as a space where individuals are moulded and influenced.


In 2019, Paiman was invited to participate in the exhibition, Pusaka: Warisan Kemudi Wawasan, organised by Bank Negara. For the show, Paiman created Menjejaki Kembali Kesah-Kesah Ekonomi Negara (MKKEN). The installation comprised 30 wooden desks and chairs, collected from a school in Lumut, Perak, which were organised in rows that imitated a classroom. There was also a teacher’s desk with an engraving of its origins, “donation from Old boys 1969”. 


Paiman’s installation used 1969 as a starting point, and, as an end point, 2018, the year Pakatan Harapan would triumph over the ruling party, Barisan National, which had a hold on government for 61 years since independence. The work attempted to reflect on the intersection between education and the political realm, and included four portraits of those in the Council of Eminent Persons (CEP). The curators had problems with the portraits and various remarks etched on the desks, and asked the artist to make changes. In response, Paiman wrapped the portraits in white material and used grids of red tape to cover the tops of the desks.


For his most recent photographic series on show at A+, Paiman draws upon this experience of self-censorship and the feelings of dejection that such conflicts can cause. 


The artist sees some parallels between his own experiences of being caught up in controversy and being harshly criticised with those of his good friend, artist Roslisham Ismail, a.k.a. Ise, who sadly passed in 2019. The two artists developed a friendship in university. In a crit session of Ise’s final project, Paiman observed the professors unfairly condemn Ise and his work. Paiman believes that their disparaging comments continued to trouble Ise, even long after he left school, and feels that Ise experienced the brunt of a flawed educational system.


With Aku Ini Binatang Jalang, Paiman explores the effects of such abuses of power in the inter-relationships of teacher and student, and offers that dynamic as an exemplary metaphor for the power dynamics that exist in our larger political landscape.


In this series of photographs, the artist is the antagonist, taking on the role of an educator in the midst of overseeing a class of students. The narrative unfolds to reveal a student’s humiliation at being disciplined by the teacher in front of his classmates; the student is further injured by being the subject of his classmates’ ridicule. 



Aku Ini Binatang Jalang testifies to Paiman’s ability to abstract and interpret larger systemic issues through personal anecdotes; his work allows us to empathise more deeply those who experience unjust condemnation and criticism.


Azizan Paiman: Aku Ini Binatang Jalang