If you have been keeping up with the Nugget Factory these days you know that Daniel and I endured many hours of travel to arrive in balmy Singapore where we attended the 2008 International Symposium on Electronic Arts.
The time we spent was filled with sessions, preparing for our own presentation, keeping up with IMA work and seeing what the city had to offer. We did a lot of everything despite the inevitable jetlag. A 12 hour time difference is a doozie.
Nonetheless, we made the most of it. Of all the sessions we attended I found the last one to be the most compelling. It was a lecture by Khairul Azril Ismail called Pudu Jail’s Graffiti: Aesthetics Beyond the Walls of the Prison Cells.
The presentation had two main ideas: documenting the graffiti of the Pudu Jail in Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia and studying it to determine its cultural and historical meaning. Built in 1895, the institution had a reputation for cruelty and is an example of architecture that is vanishing from the Malaysian town. The site is currently slated for destruction.
K. Azril Ismail presented a brief overview of the jail’s history and then presented some of his haunting photographs. The black and white photos (give this link some time to load) document graffiti, architecture, vacant spaces and the memory of the people that passed through them.
His photos have captured a wide variety of graffiti, (the literal sense, not in the urban, underground style you might think of) and the second half of his talk was devoted to analyzing, sorting and categorizing the text and images left behind on the walls. Their work struggles to make sense of images created by motivations that all human beings share as well as others that few experience. And K. Azril Ismail continues this project despite considerable personal risk, a fact that he has seemingly suppressed with his dedication to the project.
Immediately following this presentation was the session Daniel and I led, Cramming Aesthetics, Art Appreciation & Education into a Fun Museum Experience. Our talk focused on the exhibition, Nature Holds My Camera: The Video Art of Sam Easterson.
We shared the ways in which we worked with educators, exhibition and graphic designers, the artist and others to juggle a variety of goals. Primarily we wanted to offer visitors a unique, fun and memorable trip to the museum that would also teach us something about how visitors participate in their own art viewing experience. Those in attendance at ISEA seemed interested in the project and some even stayed after to ask Daniel and I more questions and get more info about IMA. Of course we also took this public opportunity to run through IMA stuff on Flickr, Facebook, YouTube, iTunes U and the IMA Blog. How could we resist?!?
And of course, we saw Singapore: ate a bunch of food, met with staff at the National Museum of Singapore, checked out Chinatown and Little India…discovered a new point of view. As much as we gained from attending sessions, it felt equally invigorating as a person and as a professional to be exposed to the unfamiliar and allow the experience to overwhelm our senses. Both creatively and academically this trip was a great success.