One of the exhibits currently on display at the Hokkien Association at Pulau Pangkor in Perak is an installation made up of pieces of wood scattered on the floor and suspended in the air, sourced from the nearby shipyard. They bear the marks of hard work, with their grooves and cuts left on display for all to see.
This installation is one of the highlights at Labour And Weight: A Travelling Exhibition, a site-specific artistic research and collaboration production between four artists and cultural workers, namely Lee Mok Yee, Okui Lala, Yeo Lyle and Koe Cheng Gaik.
“For this site (Pulau Pangkor), we wanted to explore the scale and weight of labour. We engaged a shipbuilder and a netmaker to look into how they use their body to construct something bigger than themselves,” outlines a statement from the exhibit.
In the video featuring the shipbuilder, visitors can catch a glimpse of life at the shipyard and the construction of a ship from scratch.
There is also a photo montage where a netmaker shows the tricks of the trade, include using one’s body to take measurements while making fishing nets.
Initiated by Lee, Labour And Weight is an extension of his installation with shipbuilders at Pulau Pangkor in 2013. Back then, the wood pieces were cut, painted and modified to look like a ship model.
But for Labour And Weight, the team focused more on the “language of materials”, allowing the collected pieces of leftover wood to exist as they are, imperfections and all.
The project explores the materiality of traditional craftsmanship, the art of this laborious work, its bodily memories, wisdom of building a ship, ways of living and the fishing villages of Kampung Segenting in Batu Pahat and Pulau Pangkor. With “manual labour” being a key term, the project aims to facilitate discussions among the different practitioners while exploring the theme of labour and weight.
Labour And Weight: A Travelling Exhibition is a beneficiary of Cendana’s Art In The City Public Art Commissioning Programme
The exhibition’s run at the Hokkien Association ends on Saturday (Jan 1).
Its first stop in September was at Rumah Haikao in Batu Pahat.
“Rumah Haikao is a Yeo Lyle’s family house; his father is a fishemen. We explore his memories and imagination through the house and its surroundings,” says the Labour And Weight team.
Due to the pandemic, it was presented as a hybrid show, comprising on-site exhibits and an online presentation. The wood installation, then located in Kuala Lumpur, was shown to the batu Pahat audience through a video.
There are plans to bring this exhibition to Kuala Lumpur next year.