April 6th - May 6th 2022
A meandering email conversation
To put together an online conversational piece about and around All the Time I pray to Buddha, I Keep on Killing Mosquitoes for ArtAsiaPacific
Beverly Yong & Gan Siong King
Adapted for web by
Gan Siong King
With thanks to
With apologies, best viewed with Google Chrome
Wed, Apr 6, 3:57 PM
So my usual approach to an interview by email is to send a short series of questions following a tentative projected flow, follow up with any further questions that arise, and then edit into something reasonably tight and digestible. A nice efficient go-to method for interviewees who enjoy writing and when there are tight deadlines.
Or, if I’m working with, say, a four hour conversationxxxx xxx xxxxxxx xx xxxxx xxxxxx xxxxxx xxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxxxxxxxxx xxx xxxxxxx xxxx xxxxxxxxx xxxxxxxxxx xxxxx xxx xxxxxxxxxx xxxxxx xxx angel’s share xxx xx xxx xxxxxxxxxxx.
I’m hoping this slightly experimental approach (for me), as a leisurely e-mail conversation will fall somewhere in between (and not require too much editing)! xx xxxxxxxx xxxxxxxxx xxxxxxxx xx xxx xxx xxxxxxxxx xxxxxx xx xxxxx xxx, xx xxxx xxxxxxxxxx x xxxx xxxx xx xxxxx. Please bear with my rambling.
: the amount of an alcoholic drink (such as cognac, brandy, or whiskey) that is lost to evaporation when the liquid is being aged in porous oak barrels. Up to 1 percent of the volume of the cask can be lost each year through evaporation, sometimes called the angel's share.
— James Suckling, Wine Spectator, 30 Apr. 1992
Hidden for brevity
Lately, maybe like many other people, I feel I’ve been starting too many conversations in my head and even with others. Time of life, parenthood, the pandemic, the speed and fickleness of narrative shifts in recent years here and “globally”, natural introversion, and the projects I/we’ve been working on have really set off a lot of new questions and rethinkings/reconnections that I’m probably too eager to chase downAll the Time I Pray to Buddha, I Keep Killing Mosquitoes. From the moment the text appeared typed on screen, it made me feel, ok, a lot of people right now need to find ways of speaking to each other (because suddenly we understand how blind, deaf, mute and numb we might have made ourselves), and then, once we entered the visual narrative of the video essay, yes everything is happening at this kind of speed and randomness, thank God for that nice soundtrack you put on.. I think this is partly why I felt such release (and relief) coming into
Promo video for All the Time I Pray to Buddha, I Keep on Killing Mosquitoes
So I thought, let’s try to do this as a conversation, since conversation seems quite key to your work.
So I have some questions to start. What role does conversation play in your work and in what different ways does it manifest? Who’s speaking and to whom?
Beverly Yong (b. Kuala Lumpur, 1974) graduated from Cambridge University in 1995, reading English Literature and Art History. She went on to gain a Masters degree in Archaeology from the School of Oriental and African Studies at London University the following year.
She joined Valentine Willie Fine Art Kuala Lumpur as Curator shortly after its foundation in 1996. From 1998 to 1999, she worked in the Chinese Department at Christies’ London, returning at the end of 1999 to become a partner and Managing Director of Valentine Willie Fine Art, leaving this post to co-found RogueArt in 2008.
She has over twenty years’ art curatorial and management experience, curating and organising over two hundred exhibitions and projects both locally and in the region. She has worked closely with leading Malaysian artists including Nirmala Dutt Shanmughalingam, Redza Piyadasa, Joseph Tan, Syed Ahmad Jamal, Wong Hoy Cheong, Chang Fee Ming, Jalaini Abu Hassan, and Yee I-Lann, as well as a broad range of artists from across Southeast Asia and beyond, including Putu Sutawijaya, Agus Suwage, the Jendela Group, Geraldine Javier, Natee Utarit, Manit Sriwanichpoom, Tang Da Wu, Lindy Lee and Shaun Gladwell, among many others.
She has served as a curator for a number of major institutional projects, including: Chang Fee Ming – Mekong at Galeri Petronas, Kuala Lumpur, Chiangmai University Art Museum and Galeri Nasional, Jakarta (2004); Wong Hoy Cheong at the National Art Gallery, Kuala Lumpur (2004); Selamat Datang ke Malaysia at Gallery 4A, Sydney (2007); Between Generations : 50 Years Across Modern Art in Malaysia at Asian Art Museum, University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur, and Muzium & Galeri Tuanku Fauziah, Universiti Sains Malaysia, Penang (2007), and most recently Chang Yoong Chia: Second Life at the National Art Gallery, Kuala Lumpur (2018). Curatorial projects with RogueArt include Territories of the Real and Unreal: Photographic practices in contemporary Southeast Asian art for Langgeng Art Foundation in Jogyakarta (2011), and Thinking of Landscape: Paintings from the Yeap Lam Yang Collection at the Institute of Contemporary Art Singapore (2014), Yee I-Lann & Collaborators “Borneo Heart” (2021).
She has served as a judge for the UOB Painting of the Year (2016) and Young Contemporaries Competition, National Art Gallery (2001). She has been invited to speak on the local and regional art scene by institutions such as Galeri Petronas Kuala Lumpur, Bank Negara Malaysia and IVAA (Indonesian Visual Arts Archive), and has regularly served as moderator for discussions and forums including Imagining New Ecologies: Curators’ Forum at The Japan Foundation, Tokyo (2018).
She was formerly an art columnist for the Malaysian Business Times and The New Sunday Times (2000-2003). As an art writer, she has also contributed to international exhibition publications such as ARS01 (Helsinki 2001), Fukuoka Asian Art Triennale (2005), and Wong Hoy Cheong (UK touring exhibition by Organisation for Visual Arts, 2002-2003); and arts and cultural magazines such as ArtAsiaPacific, Art India, PhotoArtAsia, Off the Edge, and Kakiseni.com. She has edited a number of publications on local and regional art, including Between Generations: 50 Years Across Modern Art in Malaysia (with Hasnul J Saidon, University of Malaya, Universiti Sains Malaysia & Valentine Willie Fine Art, Kuala Lumpur 2008) and Wong Hoy Cheong: Slight Shifts (with June Yap, NUS Museum, Singapore 2008), Condition Report: Shifting Perspectives in Asia (with Furuichi Yasuko, Japan Foundation Asia Center 2018) and Imagining New Ecologies (with Furuichi Yasuko, Japan Foundation Asia Center 2019). Editorial projects with RogueArt include WORKING (2010), Yee I-Lann: Fluid World (2010), Eko (Space) Nugroho (2011), Today and Tomorrow: Emerging Practices in Malaysian Art (2013), and Thinking of Landscape: Paintings from the Yeap Lam Yang Collection. She is also co-editor-in-chief (with Nur Hanim Khairuddin) of the four volume Narratives in Malaysian Art publication project by RogueArt (2009-2019).
Apr 8, 2022, 5:53 PM
Thanks again for doing this. The deadline and this leisurely email format are great. Please feel free to edit my text for the AAP version. I think you should have authorship for this, and my grammar is suspect. I can share the unedited version (with a link to the AAP version) on my website if there are enough differences between the two. What do you think?
Since this is meant for the web, I imagine there are opportunities to hyperlink. To include images and sound in the text. I don’t know how you feel about this. I’ll probably add some, but feel free to take them out.
These greyed words
I’m surprised by your “...how blind, deaf, mute and numb we might have made ourselves” reaction. Please tell me more about how you came to that? This and all paragraphs in grey don’t have to be included for AAP. It’s just another part of my mind chiming in.
Crying (with The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra)
Thank you for the compliment on the soundtrack. The sound design for All the Time blah Mosquitoes blah (ATP) did a lot of the heavy lifting in terms of keeping people engaged. Or at least provided a space for people to make their own connections to the conversations on the screen. As with everything, words and images have their limits. I think those words/visuals carry the narrative forward (or somewhere), but it’s the sound that gives the viewing experience an emotional dimension. Anyways.
Starting our conversation with conversations as a topic is my cup of tea.
"Conversation" is one of those slippery words. Which I use interchangeably with others depending on context. But at the center of it, conversations simply imply there are others besides the self. Conversations in my work are a manifestation of that. That art and artist don’t exist on their own. It is always in relation or in context with someone else and/or their work. Which is a realization I found annoying when I was younger. But I usually trust and try to use my discomfort as a departure point.
Bev, do remember when we did the Artist Survival Workshop in 2001? That project came out from conversations with the gang about the K.L art scene. There’s an instinctive understanding that the vitality of the scene is important to the development of my personal practice. I still feel the same. The project report I wrote for ATP is a continuation of this belief. It’s about art and art-making from an artist's perspective. Written as a reference for younger artists. And a form of documentation with text for myself, perhaps useful for future conversations.
2 DIY publications on art and art-making 20 years apart.
Artist Survival Workshop’s booklet (2001, left)
and All the Time I Pray to Buddha, I Keep on Killing Mosquitoes’ project report (2022, right).
Link to the project report
Over the years, I‘ve come to believe that art and artists cannot exist on their own. A slight hardening of position. So, figuring out how to meaningfully include others in my practice became crucial. And conversations are entry points. A cost-efficient one I should add. I talk to different people in different phases of my art-making process. These conversations take on many forms for different purposes. And can be replaced with words like brainstorming, feedback, review, interview, discussion, planning, collaboration, dialogues, Q&A and etc. I’m interested in developing all these forms of conversation. Particularly its documentation. So, this thing we’re doing comes at the right time.
I’ve always felt after a dialogue or Q&A that so much was left unsaid. To somehow extend the dialogue and Q&A in other forms. Do you have any thoughts about this?
@meeting.people.is.easy (2017) Instagram account
Meeting People is Easy (MPIE) is a result of those thoughts. It’s an open studio project where the audience books a 3-hour block to hang out with me at my studio. To look at my paintings in various stages of completion. With a small group of people of their choice, or by themselves.
Part of the idea is to rethink how my paintings or my painting practice can be used as a form to interact with others. MPIE relies on conversations as means to understand my work, and theirs as well. And then, documenting some aspects of our conversations in short captions on Instagram. This project attempts to place my practice within the context of our local arts scene. It’s a way of saying, these are my works and these are some of the other artists in my arts community.
Conversations are also materials. Even those casual banters between friends. Kecek Amplifier Bersama Nik Shazwan is an example of this. Some of the things said in that video essay are not vital to the narrative. Which is essentially about guitar amplifiers. You'll find jokes, half-truths, and outright lies. All of these add a degree of humanity to the person saying those words. And helps create a representation of those casual conversations between Nik and me. Meandering, always with laughter and intimate at times, but not efficient. Because life is just not very efficient.
Nik Shazwan at CERIATONE Amplification