To reclaim the site in between digital and physical realms of the arts
Review by Clarissa Lim Kye Lee

The arts ecology, for arts workers, now lives in-between – in between the sensory interface of the screen and spatial relationships. The recent exhibition Di Situ (there, 在哪里) by curator Low Pey Sien was organised with Japan Foundation Kuala Lumpur as part of two chosen exhibitions for the curatorial workshops which took place from Feb 17 to 19 last year.

Di Situ took the form of two “sites” featuring four artists. Site A sees two artists, Lee Soon Yong and Novia Shin, responding, building and creating pieces in-situ around Gudang Yee Sang 2, off Old Klang Road, where KongsiKL, an arts and warehouse space is situated. Concurrently, artists Lee Ren Xin and Ridhwan Saidi’s works exist in Site B: Meanwhile Elsewhere, which can exist anywhere. Participants meet collectively online through a series of workshops and exercises designed by artists Lee and Ridhwan.
This review will focus on one particular portion of the exhibition, “Site B: Fieldwork A - Where are you: A Walking Study with Lee Ren Xin” which took place between Jan 17-26, 2021.

In-Situ-Di Situ

The exhibition questioned the concept of “site”. Is it simply the material physicality of a place? Where is the intersection between the physicality – the hardware and the humans that occupy – the software? Since the advent of the Internet, the agency of the physicality of a site is overlaid with interpretations of memory, place and interactions.

Di Situ reads in tandem with the Latin phrase used today in the architectural practice, “in-situ”, to construct and build on-site. This is usually used as an off-hand comment during the design process, “are you going to cast in-situ or..?” referred to whether concrete columns would be constructed on site. Yet the phrase infers terraforming – changing the very landscape of the earth. As architects flatten and harden the surfaces of our built environment, the soft surfaces and porous soil have cemented the disconnection between nature and humanity. We have separated ourselves from the natural world.

Meanwhile and Elsewhere talk and sharing with Lee Ren Xin, Courtesy of Di Situ

Site B

My interest in the layers of how Di Situ exists enabled me to fall deeply into Lee Ren Xin’s interpretation of the theme. All the participants were invited to practise Lee Ren Xin’s daily walking ritual, which is a continuation of her existing body of research and dancing-choreography practice. Over the 10 days of participating in Site B: Fieldwork A, Lee kept in contact by sharing prompts daily for the participants to consider, such as to contemplate all the inhabitants surrounding where we lived, both animal or human, or to occupy spaces that we normally do not as we walked around. Tasked to discover our localised spaces, I walked within the boundaries of my own compound (my residential area had a few Covid cases and I did not want to leave unnecessarily).

I found solace in reinterpreting, reexamining and challenging my perceptions of the contained boundaries of my “site”. The “artwork”, framed as a workshop, gave me breathing room to reconsider the spaces my body occupied, where it can be occupiable, and the built versus non-built environment.

Meanwhile Elsewhere, Lee Ren Xin Interview Documentation by Mah Junyi and Amirul Rahman, Screenshot by Jeremy Tang courtesy of Di Situ

The exercise ended with a conversation with the other participants, whose 1:1 e-conversations with Lee spilled onto the zoom call. We had a productive conversation about walking as practice, not as function, to privilege the body as a mediator of knowledge and understanding the world.

“Where are You: A Walking Study” was reimagined everywhere from Singapore, Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur. The workshop, much like the physical exhibition in Site A and Saidi’s work for Site B, utilised the persistent in-between digital and physical current condition of the arts, the exercises prompted a reconsideration of the self in relation to our abundant environment. During moments of spatial separation, we should seek to recalibrate our bodies, to walk, to reconsider our worlds.

The project was completed with the support of Japan Foundation Kuala Lumpur for the Curatorial Workshop guided by Mark Teh and Iida Shihoko. It can be found on the Instagram page: @disitu.diary, as well as KongsiKL’s website, and it’s own Facebook page.

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

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