The In-between Part 2: Notate and Stream
Review by Clarissa Lim Kye Lee

“A reflection upon the virtual is what guides our understanding of the real (or actual), while also retroactively affecting - and hence illuminating - the antecedents and the necessary preconditions of that reality" (Lefebvre 1991, p219)

In this second article in the series of The In-between, we shift our gaze towards arts and cultural production geared towards recalibrating our relationship with nature, embedding in the virtual. We will unpack two exhibitions and initiatives that begin to interrogate themes that expand the relationship of nature and art, earthly attention, kinship and community building between humans and non-humans.

“From Latin, natura course of things; natural character, constitution, quality; the universe,”1

The etymology of “nature” originates from the Latin term, natura, to embody and flow with a natural composition. This suggests a rethink of the possibilities of a kinship, drawing attention to our earthly connections. The first exhibition, “Feelin’ Biophilic, Love of Nature”, explores design and artistic practices that directly redraw our conversation with natural motifs, science, slow craft and performative design.

Presented as part of the 6.0 Design Showcase curated by Neue Artisans and Projek Sembang Sembang, the exhibition showcases 15 design initiatives and two installation pieces at Mari Café, Bangi, Selangor. The terminology biophilic is derived from biophilia, a hypothesis written by the biologist E.O. Wilson (1984) which suggests “the urge to affiliate with other forms of life”. It is imperative to shift away from the anthropocentric view of natural worlds and to relearn methods of embedding into living bodies of our earthly existence.

Curated as a biennale event expanding on the cross-section of design, art and architecture, this year’s iteration is a close examination of practices which expand on small-scale practices. As it was conducted during conditional movement control order (CMCO), all the sharings were streamed on the @neuartisan Instagram account, with one presentation every hour. On both days of the exhibition, a design discourse session took place with some of the exhibitors, interrogating designers and practitioners about their own trajectories in relation to the notion of biophilia.

From Neue Artisan Instagram

One of the exhibitors was Sunprint Studio, led by Balqis Tajalli whose printmaking using cyanotype sun dye prints captures local botanicals on indigo dye. Her works require immersing in nature to collect these natural elements to be used as part of art production. Human and nature intertwine to create beautiful prints that can be used for handicraft, workshops and accessories which Tajalli also sells.

From Neue Artisan Instagram

Another exhibit was by Ali Ifran, examining our relationship with sunlight and surfaces. His work adopts digital fabrication techniques of openings with cardboard frames overlaid upon one another. A form of algorithmic art, Ifran questions the possibilities of retracing, articulating and challenging the very notion of a border between man and nature, controlling the diffusion of natural sunlight as it shifts throughout the day.

The virtual livestream was fun, lively and featured an amalgamation of languages. As viewers, we got to speak and interact with the artist, practitioners and designers at Mari Café. Hand-held, a bit shaky, sometimes backlit and streamed in a portrait view, the event was a series of intense moments of homely delights sprinkled with waves of sound pollution. After about 20-30 minutes of sharing and Q&A, the audience waited until the turn of the next hour to be introduced to the next artist-practitioner.

Moving southwards to an on-going community effort run by the artist collective soft/WALL/studs based in Singapore, “The Garden as Question: Words will not save us” dismantled many of the pre-existing paradigms of exhibition making.

The website-Google Doc-rooftop garden is a site of practice, accumulation of records. These records are conversations between the collective members archived via international bound IM messages and iPhone photography on the exhibition space: The Google Doc. The garden is an experiment to experiment between digital, physical and exhibition. It is currently set up as a collective garden on their rooftop in the soft/WALL/studs premises in Geylang, Singapore.


“The Garden as Question” is part of the larger project titled “Beyond Repair”, funded by the National Gallery Singapore and Singapore Art Museum initiative titled “‘Proposals for Novel Ways of Being”. The collective presents a series of programming that expands from talks, collective gardening, research and learning platforms, to collective aid.

The production of artwork is tied to the physicality of the rooftop garden space and displayed online. Here the critical programming of soft/WALL/studs is a force of repair, a reconstituted natura allowing mutual care to permeate throughout art and cultural work.

I begin to draw a relationship between the two nature-embedded exhibitions to this quote by feminist theorist Donna Haraway: “Who are we? What are we? Who and what are ‘we’ that is not only human?”. She poses an urgency to shift away from the anthropocentric gaze and asks us to rediscover all living beings which all collectively share our earth. Both artistic practices intersect with our relationship with nature, presented through the virtual realm. When attention becomes an urgent currency, such forms of “hybrid kinship” remind us of our earthly ties as humans and to become kin with nature. To rekindle such earthly politics, these two exhibitions remind us to blur the boundaries between the virtual, nature and human, especially when our everyday life in Malaysia is still physically bound.

1 “Online Etymology Dictionary.” Online Etymology Dictionary, www.etymonline.com/.
2 Soft/WALL/Studs - https://softwallstuds.space/Garden

The views and opinions expressed in this article are strictly the author's own and do not reflect those of CENDANA. CENDANA reserves the right to be excluded from any liabilities, losses, damages, defaults, and/or intellectual property infringements caused by the views and opinions expressed by the author in this article at all times, during or after publication, whether on this website or any other platforms hosted by CENDANA or if said opinions/views are republished on third party platforms.

Clarissa Lim Kye Lee is a writer under the CENDANA - ASWARA Arts Writing Mentorship Programme 2020-2021

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