minstrel kuik (b.1976) graduated with a European Masters of Fine Arts in photography with felicitation of jury from the Ecole National Superieure de la Photographie of Arles, France. Inspired by the need to understand, deconstruct and reinvent notions of home, cultural identity and photography itself she takes multiple images of her family and hometown to create images which are displayed in various ways and formations. Her most recent solo exhibition See the Water toured the Alliance Francaise, The Gallery at Taylor’s University College and the Help University, all in Kuala Lumpur, 2008. Group shows include International Discoveries II, FotoFost Houston USA, 2009; Secured Area, National Art Gallery, Kuala Lumpur, 2009; Entry Points. 1948 art space, 2008; Out of Berlin, Pass the picture, Annexe Gallery, Kuala Lumpur, Artfest, Cork Institute of Technology (CIT) Cork, Ireland 2007; Future Image, Dun Laoghaire Institute of Art, Design and Technology, Dublin, 2008 and Sharing Space: Contemporary Photography of Malaysia & Japan, Biennale of Kuala Lumpur International Photography, Annexe Gallery, 2008. Minstrel is also a part time lecturer at New Era College, Kajang.

Curator’s Note:

minstrel kuik as a photographer continues to create a personal community of images that looks at individuality and collectivity as well as the past and present through the lens of Malaysian cultural identity. The March and Radical Chic Collar focus on such concerns through photography and textiles, the latter representing an experimental phase of the artist’s practice. The March is a new body of work that runs in parallel to the minstrel’s ongoing series Mer.ily, Mer.ily, Mer.ily, Mer.ily which looks at Chinese Diaspora as well as individual experiences of place and family in the artist’s home town of Pantai Remis. The March lifts 4 sets of images from Mer.ily and configures them in a long line that traverses through the gallery space. Running sequences of couples and friends -- mainly women-- walking in front of the soon to be demolished Pudu Jail wall murals, or riding motor cycles returning home from a fireworks festival, are interspersed with shots of the artist father’s mango tree in Pantai Remis and images of a photocopied drawing of Astro Boy flying against a blue sky. Her human subjects were unaware they were being photographed as the artist hid behind trees or stood in the distance randomly taking images. This spontaneity of process hints at a type of anonymous human fragility as well as the artist’s own isolation from her subject and personal loneliness at that time. minstrel states that anxiety can be comforted by populated public spaces but the work in the gallery addresses the context of the exhibition space itself. Looking at form and sequence she attempts to transform the mode of photography into a more objective experience of art. The succession of the figures and the title The March allude to a politicized notion of conformity and link to notions of social restraint that continue in her textile piece. Radical Collar Chic a series of hand made collars hung from the architectural beams of the gallery punctuate space even further, in order to reinforce notions of collective control and individuality. Ideas surrounding blue-collar manual workers and white-collar professionals are subverted to become a humorous take on the masses and the constraints of social and economic structures that reduce the personal to the public. Journalist Thomas Wolf coined the phrase radical chic itself in the 1970s in relation to the shallow adoption of political causes by high society in order to appear fashionable. This reference easily translates into a Malaysian context but comments upon the gallery space itself as a decadent or safe space that allows for such types of ambiguous juxtapositions. The playful prints of human butts on the fabric of the collars are an allusion to many Malaysian social taboos and political events. However through playful strategies overt references remain under the censor’s radar and become yet more subtle metaphors in contemporary art.