“Slumb-a-Chamber, an exhibition curated by Dhiyanah Hassan, was a week-long installation feature, part of Lightforge’s Northern Hemisphere event for George Town Festival 2016.
The installation ran from 13th to 19th August at Wisma Yeap Chor Ee, with an opening night on the 13th August, 6pm, organized by our sponsor and featuring a spoken-word performance by Bali-based Canadian poet, Skid More.
‘Slumb-a-Chamber’ was partially sponsored by Penang Women’s Development Corporation (PWDC). Northern Hemisphere was sponsored/supported by Epson and George Town Festival.”
– quoted from a project report for the purpose of documenting and archiving.
CONCEPT NOTE in past tenseVisual and poetic elements meet in ‘Slumb-a-Chamber,’ where audiences were invited to explore the subtle commentary of how personal and public merge in a woman’s life.
The word ‘chamber’ is used today to describe a space made for the purpose of formal meetings or official events. It was, however, historically used to denote a more private space, specifically a bedroom. In this installation, the Northern Hemisphere dome was transformed to look like a bedroom. A mattress lay in the center, blanket and pillow ready for strange heads to rest on – a clothes rack held painted shirts in which the titles and blurbs for each artwork could be found. The artworks themselves were projected on a loop onto the inner wall of the dome, distorting and dancing in a play of light, color, and shadows.
Here, a woman’s bedroom acts as symbolism for how the private issues of her life are often turned into matter for public scrutiny. What happens behind closed doors reflect how she navigates the public, and vice versa. Gender-based prejudices accumulate and her daily life is a constant compromise between herself and spaces that are easily hostile towards girls and women.
‘Slumb-a-Chamber,’ at the very core of it, is a creative execution of stories that resist the alienation of women’s narratives from the universal human experience.
Playing with conventions of Fairy Tales, slam poetry and stand-up comedy, Skid More presents ‘Madelyn,’ a live performance that asks, how old is too old to have a baby?
The performance was strong and engaging, delivering a powerful message through an ecstatically sharp humor. The audience easily followed Skid’s voice, her gestures and expressions, as she switched from being spotlit, to being projected via a live video feed onto the wall behind her, to whipping out a flashlight and squirting water from a syringe on her face. It was immersive and engaging, a delicious extension to the featured artwork in the installation.
“They said she was too old to have a baby – truth be toldMadelyn never really wanted toA Husband? I do?Sounds a lot like a free pembantuThen a baby? Going into labour?Labour? ….there’s more unpaid work?”
Side note: Skid’s performance was such a big treat for opening night. Fortunately, the press had left by then so we could experience the uncensored poem of the show. Not so fortunate was the last-minute cancellation of the performance on Sunday night. I found out later that, despite no one showing up before the scheduled performance, some peopledid try to catch it. And in the team’s utter exhaustion, I didn’t think to make a cancellation announcement. Now there’s a lesson to learn.
Four visual art series were commissioned for the installation’s projection. Each series of projection highlights an aspect of the lived realities of women, forming a narrative that invites viewers to look, listen, and question the oppressive social forms they witness in their own day-to-day lives.
The initial idea was to have these projections triggered by an electronic contraption. This fixture could not be finalized on time for the show and so we decided to proceed with a streaming slideshow of the series, projected on a loop – the show must go on!
‘In My Own Space’by ERYN A series of drawings depicting the inner world of a female character – the quirks, charms, and mystique that happens in an individual’s personal space. There are conversations with little mind-creatures. Acts of searching, exploring and mending are gleaned in the intricate worlds spun by ERYN’s pen.
The drawings were compiled into a video presenting each in their original black and white format. As each drawing spins across the dome’s wall, the colors change into inversions accented by a sequence of hues ranging from blue to red.
‘Maybe Baby’ by Kim Khaira A series of illustrations addressing the ridiculous pressure a woman’s community (friends, family, society) places on her to ‘settle down’ into motherhood. She faces these pressures and grapples with the stress of having her own decisions nearly taken away from her. In the sequence of drawings, she contemplates these external expectations while trying to find her own voice.
The illustrations were projected with their colors inverted, the high contrast and movements creating an experience wherein the audience could be immersed in the emotional atmosphere of the images.
‘Working Gal’ by Shieko Reto This series of animated GIFs highlights the reality of a woman in the professional work environment. Her abilities are questioned and her personality under social surveillance, just because she’s a woman. She works just as hard – or sometimes harder – than her male peers, and still gets less acknowledgment or compensation for her work.
The GIFs were lined up in a streaming projection, dancing around the inner walls of the dome. Each GIF presented a short animation of an instance of gender-based prejudice in the workplace.
‘Warrior Walk’ by Dhiyanah Hassan An audio-visual poem capturing the anxieties of a woman as she steps out of her private space into the public, peopled world. This piece aims to highlight long-term effects of gender-based discrimination, how these prejudices result in hostile spaces for girls/women. Every step then becomes a battle cry resisting aggression in favor of the hope for kindness.