There is a social barrier when it comes to art galleries. It might be because they are usually in obscure places, but it’s mainly the perception that art is only for a certain group of people that makes galleries an intimidating place for most.
The “cerita belakang” of Belakang Cerita is to bring art to a wider audience, but away from the intimidating setting of the gallery, with its little printed placards and minimalist decor. For this project, my friends and I wanted to get art down and dirty. We wanted to take it to the street. Literally.
Using two fridge-sized boxes, that’s what we did. We created a mobile art gallery and lugged it around to Bukit Kiara park, Bukit Bintang and to Publika over a hazy weekend. The boxes displayed photo portraits from KL and Penang by Jonathan Lim, an aspiring photojournalist and Monash University student.
As the city keeps expanding we are becoming more and more disconnected with those around us. Portrait photography is a great way of capturing these people, familiarising ourselves with our surroundings and the people around us and making the city a more personal place.
On each side of the box, we gave people space and a sharpie pen for them to jot down their thoughts or their own caption for the pictures. The responses we received really depended on the location. As you can imagine, the park brought about families, children and of course inquisitive aunties taking their morning stroll. Those making their rounds around the park had the chance to wonder what it was about and take a closer look.
Bukit Bintang on the other end received a different mix of reactions; it being in a crowded busy street gave us less of a chance to explain to passers-by the relevance of the project. People stopped to take a look and to write but more often than not left a few random “So-and-so was here”.
Publika, a shopping mall known for its artistic activities, drew out some thoughtful responses. Given that it was an indoor comfortable space as well, people had more of a chance to really take in the pictures. Next to a picture of a family at a fish spa, one person at Publika wrote: “The material and natural world collide to create an experience to refresh and rejuvenate the human body. Humans in turn feed the fish who cleanse their feet. A natural cleanser in an urbanised commercial environment?” This is one my favourite comments collected over the weekend.
Right next to this comment, someone else had a more visceral reaction: “Geli,geli,geli,geli, geli,geli,geli,geli!”
However, the end point was never about the captions. It was the social interaction we were trying to harness. We wanted to get people to stop and appreciate the pictures even for a minute, simply by breaking the boundary between art and the space it is showcased in.
For Belakang Cerita Volume II, we hope to work with different artists and take the artwork to more public spaces. Stay tuned!
Yasmin is the founder of Belakang Cerita and enjoys finding new ways of bringing people and art together. To learn more about this project, visit the Tumblr.