About the Project

Visual art archives in Urban Malaysia
Planning Grant

The project team worked on three collections as part of this grant: the photomedia artist Yee I-Lann’s collection of print material, photographs and film negatives; performance artist and educator Ray Lagenbach’s collection of video, news clippings; and writer and photographer Bernice Chauly’s collection of photographs.

Through this work, the team uncovered a whole series of materials from the 1990s and 2000s that trace alliance making practices in cultural practices in Malaysia. The happenings, art events and projects that characterized these two decades of counterculture practice crossed the boundaries of racial, language and genre communities and occurred across multiple Malaysian cities, a coming together rarely witnessed in Malaysia’s contemporary climate of racial politics.

These materials offer multiple entry-points to understanding resistance against the state’s cultural ethos, which is largely framed through religious (conservative Islam) and corporate (Vision 2020) agendas. As cultural workers and activists explored different mediums in search of ways to register their singular experience of living in an urban environment in flux, many of them who came to urban centers from different corners of the country and around the world, found each other. The collection explores larger universally resonant questions on urban disenfranchisement, ground up strategies of cultural resistance and alliance-making across class, cultures and race. We hope that this playful cross-disciplinary spirit will encourage Malaysians - and other cultural communities - to think creatively about the role that culture plays in social justice. To that end, we have made finding aids to aid any potential researchers, makers, and fighters to use this archive.

Project Leads

  • Ezrena Marwan
  • Sheau Yun Lim

Host Institution

Malaysia Design Archive

More Information

Bernice Chauly Photography Collection

The collection consists of photography works by Bernice Chauly from 1994 to 2006. It comprises 20 envelopes of materials that are kept in a black portfolio bag, brought from Chauly’s home storage to Malaysia Design Archive for the purpose of this survey. Materials from the bag include print photographs and film negatives, and are largely concerned with art and culture, but with a focus on marginalisation, identity and performance art.

Ray Langenbach Collection

The Ray Langenbach Collection consists of works created and curated by Ray Langenbach from the year 1988 until 2001. It comprises three components, classified by the types of materials - textual records, print photographs and audio-visual records.

The first section comprises paper records of articles by artists and academics on Malaysian modern art. It includes curated press clippings of HIV/AIDS related news in Malaysia, as well as circulars advocating for safe sex activities to targeted communities published by IKHLAS Community Centre and PT Foundation. Another notable series is an assemblage of international press clippings and newsletters related to queer communities in the 1990s.

The second section is a collection of print photographs created and curated by Ray Langenbach in the 1990s. The photographs feature notable installations and performance art in Malaysia and Singapore, some by Ray himself, such as What About Converging Extremes? (1993), Votantu: Crossroads (1990) and Reinforced Concrete Simply Explained (1990), Kisses On All of Your Openings (1996), and Autologous Vampire (1998-2002). This is especially notable considering Singapore’s ban on funded performance art in 1994, and shows the porousness of the border.

The third section is a collection of audio-visual materials created by the creator documenting students’ works during his days as Head of Sculpture at The School of Humanities, Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM), Penang. Other videos are of protests in Kuala Lumpur, installations, and performance works by Ray Langenbach himself, set in Penang and Kuala Lumpur in the 1990s. These display the ways in which artists were mobilised as political and social actors in the 1990s.

Yee I-Lann Collection

The collection consists of works created and collected by Yee I-Lann from the year 1994 to 2003. It comprises 3 boxes of materials that include printed documentation of art performances - scripts, production notes, art direction notes, minutes, pamphlets, newsletters, magazines, newspaper clippings, posters, print photographs, ephemera, film negatives and film stills - covering a wide ranging in themes and topics, including Wawasan 2020, the AIDS epidemic, increasing Islamisation and corruption in Malaysia.

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