Chong Kim Chiew: Do Not Go Into The Mist, Do Not Go Back To The Dark, Do Not Stand Still



08 August 2018 - 01 September 2018
A+ Works of Art

Organised and conceived by Chong Kim Chiew (b. 1975, Malaysia), DO NOT GO ... is the artist’s first solo exhibition with A+ Works of Art. Occupying the entirety of the gallery, the show displays Chong’s most recent body of work, including sculptures, photography, new media and immersive environments. 


As a term, “Southeast Asia” can sometimes muddy more than clarify. The region encompasses a great diversity of countries, cultures and communities, and what often results is an idea of “Southeast Asia”, rather than what it actually is; it is difficult to represent the complex kaleidoscope of people, traditions, adaptations and expressions. And yet Malaysian art is susceptible to the stereotypes of Southeast Asian art — evocations of batik, or images of daily rural life, or cityscapes of bustling streets in the capital city. 


As more and more international curators cast their attention on the region, presenting its culture within the framework of “Southeast Asia”, Chong questions the validity and authenticity of such projects, but also sincerely wonders whether we can indeed gain insight from outsider perceptions. Chong has gone on to mirror this trend of internationally-curated regional shows, but on a local level, creating a show about Malaysian art produced by outsiders. 


He uses the exhibition structure itself to further explore what it means to be Malaysian,and through the lens of the “outsider”. Chong does this by adopting the role of the creator, conjuring a number of personas: Doppelgänger Labor, Alon Vedasto Cruz, Kim, Emran Aziz, Liam Smith, Paithoon Kuedbut and Zaskia Roesli. These figures all represent different aspects of Kim Chiew. Each with their own identities and each with their own experiences and perceptions of Malaysia and Southeast Asia, and their own narratives and bodies of work. 


The exhibition, with its multiplicity of artists, artworks and overarching themes are part of a larger dialogue anchored in questions such as: how can the perception of an outsider help to inform our own perception of who we are? Does making artwork about Malaysia as a Malaysian determine our identity? Would it be valid or acceptable for someone foreign to create art that informs us of our own culture? 


In conjunction with the exhibition, a publication will be launched, including an essay by Anca Rujoiu, In conjunction with the exhibition, a publication will be launched, including an essay by Anca Rujoiu, an independent curator and editor based in Singapore. Previously a curator at NTU Centre for Contemporary Art Singapore, Rujoiu was part of the Centre’s founding team and contributed to its first exhibitions and publications. 


Chong Kim Chiew: Do Not Go Into The Mist, Do Not Go Back To The Dark, Do Not Stand Still

The Double Bind


by Anca Rujoiu

Since 2013 there have been several fictional figures whom Chong Kim Chiew has employed in his works. There is TOPY, a young designer from the Czech Republic. There is Kim, an American of Asian descent, whose country of origin is uncertain, and who happens to be a recurrent character in Chong's latest exhibition presented at A+ Works of Art. Little information is revealed about each fictional artist, other than elementary biographical data (year, place of birth, residency); each imagined artistic practice is wrapped up into a deliberate "packaged ethnicity".1 Similar examples abound in press releases accompanying contemporary art exhibitions of different scales. Relying on biographical information to construct the identity of an artist has been a long-standing practice in Western art history. 2 The biographical approach in art history reached a peak in the Romantic era, where work and life narratives were blended together with anecdotes and the topoi about artists who were either heroised, invested with magical powers, or presented as exceptional members of the society. 3 Artists often associated themselves with recurrent ideas about artistic identity and appropriated them as part of their self-image, to the point that it became hard to distinguish between fact and invention - all this fed the audience's curiosity, and also the market. Even today, the intersection between an artist's life and her work brings us inevitably on the territory of fiction, where biography serves as a construction mode of an image, an image of its time.

In this context, the rhetorical question, "How fictional are fictional artists?" 4, raises an 4 important point. The question was addressed by Koen Brams, the editor of an anthology of fictional artists (hailing largely from Western literature). When one fictionalises the art world, one sheds light on how it is perceived from outside, but also how it functions from within. Fabricating fictional identities by using recognisable language and complying with the standards in the art world, Chong's work addresses the institutional system of art. He points out how artists often become tokens of representation in the process of exhibition- making. In the non-Western context, identity markers such as ethnicity or nationality serve as factors of inclusion and currencies of circulation within regional and global cultural networks. When value is assigned to the artwork and its meaning determined by such markers, how does one negotiate the desire of belonging to one place with the discomfort of being confined to it? Exploring the process of identity construction, Chong reveals various double- bind situations, where one is facing tensions, conflicting expectations or messages.

Artists made use of fictional identities as a conceptual form of practice where processes of production, self-reflexivity, and self-representation converge into the work. A plethora of examples could generate another encyclopaedia of fictional artists by artists themselves, if not a thematic show. Examples include Marcel Duchamp's alter egos, R. Mutt or Rose / Rrose Sélavy; Claude Cahun (b. Lucy Schwob); and Cindy Sherman's self-portraitures; but also artists collectives such as the Guerrilla Girls, Claire Fontaine, Reena Spaulings - all of whom make use of fictional identities to test the boundaries of the art system. Roberto Chabet and other peer artists, introduced the character of Angel Flores, opening for the artist a space of conceptual and narrative possibilities. 5 The artist Shubigi Rao has positioned herself as an apprentice of S. Raoul whom she invented as a male mentor and a father figure, highlighting the conventional distribution of gender roles.

Unlike some of the examples above, Chong does not invest efforts in passing his
fictional characters as real, but in producing a space of representation for each. Multiple identities correspond to the multiple spaces that constitute the exhibition.

Marking the lower surface of the gallery space, Chong points out to social hierarchies that divide Malaysian's society. Hybrid sculptures, half in the shape of a human finger, half resembling a piece of dung, are scattered on the floor. Pupuk Kandang (Manure) is the work of Zaskia Roesli, an Indonesian artist according to Chong. The work is the product of her collaboration with an illegal worker in Malaysia, a fellow Indonesian woman who wanted to remain anonymous. In their discussion, the woman confessed how she perceived herself as loathsome as dung, something that produces aversion, yet is not entirely useless. Internalising an image of self- abasement, the woman is left with little to hold on to herself. Planet, authored by fictional artist Paithoon Kuedbut, is an eyeball merged with an earth globe rendered as an inflatable object, as if an individual view was blown up at a global scale. It is a surrealist gesture extended also in the work Inclined 60 Degree - A Space Within A Space by Emran Aziz. The installation is a reconstruction of the temporary National Museum (Muzium Negara), which was 8 established in 1953 at the initiative of the British High Commissioner in Malaya at that time, Gerald Templer. The short-lived building was demolished in 1961 for the construction of the present-day National Museum. 6 In the gallery space, the museum is inclined at 60 degrees, the number matching at the time of the exhibition opening 7 the total amount of years passed since the Federation of Malaya became independent. The museum is another space of representation, where nation-building efforts take a unified visual form, where identities are fixed, often with insufficient room for nuances or contested narratives. Reflections on the role of a national museum of Malaysia are assigned to Aziz, an imagined artist hailing from Brunei, pointing to the two neighbourhood states' intersecting histories and cultures that unsettle a cohesive national narrative.

Chong's Muzium Negara displays four photographs from the series, We Have Not Changed by Liam Smith, described as a Singaporean artist, born in Hong Kong and educated in United Kingdom before his relocation to Singapore. 8 The figures in the photographs have the quiet, obedient, isolated presence of museum artefacts. They are in fact photographed male and female faces of mannequins from the Melaka Sultanate Palace (Muzium Istana Kesultanan Melaka). Used in displays of traditional clothing of the multiple ethnic groups that make up Malaysia's population, these mannequins bear resemblance to Caucasian facial features. By accident, the choice of mannequins on display complicate, if not undermine the efforts of cultural representation.

The Traversal Landscape, a three-channel video installation by Alon Vedasto Cruz and Kim, correlate the image of water with the notion of identity. Water operates as a connector, linking territories and making possible transnational exchanges, but also acts as a divider, creating secluded and isolated territories. Playing the same video, but at different speeds, the three screens can be navigated by the viewer through passageways in the projections. Altogether they create a space that can be understood as a "locality" in Monica Juneja conception of the term. Discussing the "burden of representation" 9 experienced by non-European artists in an 9 increasing global art world, Juneja proposes to rethink the notion of locality so as to avoid creating the traps of nostalgia, self-exoticisation or rigid cultural nationalism, which artists sometimes find themselves falling into. A locality takes form "on the interstices of spaces, cultures, and freedom", offering a space of belonging, but also the possibility of transgressing its containment. In this act of drifting, moving from one screen to another, one experiences both a sense of cohesiveness, but also fragmentation.





  1. Monica Juneja, “GlobalArt History and the “Burden
     of Representation”,” in Global Studies: Mapping Contemporary Art and Culture, eds. Hans Belting, Jakob Birken and Andrea Buddensieg (Stuttgart: Hatje Cantz, 2011), 274-297. 

  2. Sandra Kisters,
     The Lure of the Biographical, On the (Self)-Representation of Modern Artists (Amsterdam: Valiz, 2017), 23. 

  3. Ibid 30. 

  4. Koen Brams, The Encyclopedia of Fictional Artists (Zürich: JRP|Ringier, 2010), 7.

  5. Cocoy Lumbao, “Three Essays and One Elegy: Surface, Suture, Substance,” in Roberto Chabet, ed. Ringo Bunoan (Manila: King Kong Art Projects, 2015), 229.

  6. Muzium Negara, History, http://www. muziumnegara.gov. my/ main/?c=Sejarah_1 7 

  7. 8 August 2018.

  8. E-mail correspondence with the artist, 31 July 2018


  9. A term referenced by Monica Juneja from Kobena Mercer’s essay “Black Art and the Burden of Representation,” in: Third Text: Third World Perspectives on Contemporary Art & Culture 4, no. 10 (Spring 1990): 61–78.



Chong Kim Chiew: Do Not Go Into The Mist, Do Not Go Back To The Dark, Do Not Stand Still

08 August 2018 - 01 September 2018
A+ Works of Art

Organised and conceived by Chong Kim Chiew (b. 1975, Malaysia), DO NOT GO ... is the artist’s first solo exhibition with A+ Works of Art. Occupying the entirety of the gallery, the show displays Chong’s most recent body of work, including sculptures, photography, new media and immersive environments. 


As a term, “Southeast Asia” can sometimes muddy more than clarify. The region encompasses a great diversity of countries, cultures and communities, and what often results is an idea of “Southeast Asia”, rather than what it actually is; it is difficult to represent the complex kaleidoscope of people, traditions, adaptations and expressions. And yet Malaysian art is susceptible to the stereotypes of Southeast Asian art — evocations of batik, or images of daily rural life, or cityscapes of bustling streets in the capital city. 


As more and more international curators cast their attention on the region, presenting its culture within the framework of “Southeast Asia”, Chong questions the validity and authenticity of such projects, but also sincerely wonders whether we can indeed gain insight from outsider perceptions. Chong has gone on to mirror this trend of internationally-curated regional shows, but on a local level, creating a show about Malaysian art produced by outsiders. 


He uses the exhibition structure itself to further explore what it means to be Malaysian,and through the lens of the “outsider”. Chong does this by adopting the role of the creator, conjuring a number of personas: Doppelgänger Labor, Alon Vedasto Cruz, Kim, Emran Aziz, Liam Smith, Paithoon Kuedbut and Zaskia Roesli. These figures all represent different aspects of Kim Chiew. Each with their own identities and each with their own experiences and perceptions of Malaysia and Southeast Asia, and their own narratives and bodies of work. 


The exhibition, with its multiplicity of artists, artworks and overarching themes are part of a larger dialogue anchored in questions such as: how can the perception of an outsider help to inform our own perception of who we are? Does making artwork about Malaysia as a Malaysian determine our identity? Would it be valid or acceptable for someone foreign to create art that informs us of our own culture? 


In conjunction with the exhibition, a publication will be launched, including an essay by Anca Rujoiu, In conjunction with the exhibition, a publication will be launched, including an essay by Anca Rujoiu, an independent curator and editor based in Singapore. Previously a curator at NTU Centre for Contemporary Art Singapore, Rujoiu was part of the Centre’s founding team and contributed to its first exhibitions and publications. 


Chong Kim Chiew: Do Not Go Into The Mist, Do Not Go Back To The Dark, Do Not Stand Still