Publication: Thoughts on Re-locating and Re-seeing Zulkifli Yusoff's Power 1 by T.K. Sabapathy

Thoughts on Re-locating and Re-seeing Zulkifli Yusoff's Power 1 by T.K. Sabapathy

Inaugural issue of NUS Museum Occasional Papers on Museology and Curating

On 15 October 2011, the NUS Museum organised a symposium titled,
Between Text, Icon and Archetype: Narratives of Malaysian Art, post-1990s. Held in conjunction with the exhibition Writing Power | Zulkifli Yusoff, the symposium brought together a distinguished panel of scholars and practitioners from Malaysia and Singapore focusing on artistic and curatorial method, literary criticism and the rise of critical installation art-practices in Malaysia. The panelists were T.K. Sabapathy, Zainol Abidin B Ahmad Sharif (Zabas), Goh Beng Lan, Zanita Anuar and Ahmad Mashadi. The symposium was couched in relation to the landmark 1994 Balai Seni Lukis Negara exhibition, Vision and Idea: Relooking Modern Malaysian Art with a special focus on the artistic oeuvre of Zulkifli Yusoff. Whilst each speaker placed emphasis on different constellations of art-making and the varied contexts that emerge between art and nation, the symposium as a whole, responded to two propositions made as part of the 1994 Vision and Idea exhibition. The first being by Zabas, who had captured the post-1990s group of artists by noting: "notwithstanding their comprehension of Western theoretical and sociological bases of modern art, these artists are uneasy about the "dictatorship" of the so-called international avant-garde deeply rooted in the supremacy of modern western culture". The second being the T.K. Sabapathy’s observation: "There have also emerged contradictions within practices, especially in the course of artists advancing their positions or ideas; these clusters around attitudes toward tradition and paradigms, and are concretised in the difficult process entailed in constructing identities". Partly reaction to the Writing Power exhibition and almost two decades since Vision and Idea, T.K. Sabapathy returns to reflect on one of the most iconic artworks from the period, i.e. Zulkifli Yusoff’s Power 1, which is today in the Singapore Art Museum Collection. Re-looking at its iconographies, trophies, and the lesser studied aspects of its various showings, the author queries how artworks come to be encumbered by their past, how artworks assume particular positions as icons and archetypes, and if so, how does the critic develop a vocabulary to capture such a complexity.

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