The photographers of "BEYOND OUR CITY: LIGHTS & MYTHS" consist of city-dwellers from diverse disciplines and background, each with a keen eye for recording the time and space of the city. Capturing a city in constant motion, where even common sense perceptions are in constant conflict, the photographers have framed the cityscape into images that are strangely familiar and yet intimately alien. Amidst these seemingly random ideas is the same desire of each photographer to tell his or her own stories of the city.
This body of works contained in this exhibition is the outcome of continuous dialogue, sharing and reflection among the participating photographers during the past 5 months. After the completion of “Mapping Invisible Cities” project supported by the Goethe-Institut in June 2009, these 13 local photographers, who wanted to share their own personal vision of the city, came together to form the “Beyond the concept of city photography” project.
This project was initiated and led by Malaysian curator and photographer Alex Moh together with Azrul K. Abdullah and Kelvin Chan under the continuing support from Goethe-Institut Malaysia. Its aim is to open doors for young photographers to experiment and explore new possibilities of photographing urban subjects.
Assakhof Ab. Satar
Chong Yuk Jye
Liew Lee Yook
Lim Thian Leong
Nadia Jasmine Mahfix
Nur ‘Atiqah R.
Raja Indra Putra Ismail
Tan Chee Hon
Published Review in OfftheEdge Magazine
Lights and Myths
Lights are essentially the heart of a photographic image.
Photography has come a long way since its inception more than 170
years ago. The ontological discourse has moved from the debate for
photography’s status as art to the critical examination of the
transformation to digital imaging and beyond. Within these
transformations, photography has always been about light and its
journey into physical being. If you were to see through the night
photograph of earth taken by the United States Defence Meteorological
Satellite Program, the combination of over 400 over satellite images
showed only the lights illuminating the human inhabited spaces at
night. Our cities are essentially made of light. Amidst that luminous
landscape is where all our life stories are staged, and acted out,
each unique in its own way.
[The city ]
How do we even start to understand our city? Is it
architecture? Is it the people? In the tradition of the great
philosopher of the city, Henri Lefebvre emphasizes the importance of
our everyday actions – in the way we live our lives, our work, the way
we commute, our emotions, desires, beliefs, even our bodies and the
architecture. He values both the grand narrative of the city as well
as the individual expression, the megastructure and also the forgotten
and unseen spaces. In short, we make our own spaces in the city and
the spaces make us. In Roland Barthes’ words, we ‘speak’ our city “by
simply living in it and by wandering through it”. We invent our own
language of the city. It is easy to forget that we only occupy and
experience a mere tiny fraction of the city space in our lives. It is
that experience that forms our own conception of our individual city.
And this very personal experience becomes the epitome of our own city
Myths are fictitious creation, stories with arbitrary
meaning. They are often associated with legends, gods and the
supernatural. Even though the stories are non-factual, yet the content
possesses some timeless universal appeals to everyone that keep them
alive through the ages. Linguists and philosophers have different
concepts of myth. In the book Mythologies, Roland Barthes investigates
the secondary signification of encoded meanings in images such as the
characteristics of photographic images in our society. “Myth is a type
of speech”, Barthes claimed. Photographs, to Barthes, can be conceived
as a form of visual language because of the inevitable meaning
embedded in them. Myths do not hide their meanings. Instead, it
distorts, displaces and appropriates factual meanings. Photographs,
like myth have the inclination to do just that. Thus, the meanings
embedded in photographs often contain perhaps something more sinister,
ambiguous or even paradoxical in nature beneath the surface. In
order to better understand our city, we need to heighten our senses in
our daily encounter with urban spaces. We need more sensibility in
terms of how we view and feel our cities; not only for the
architecture, but also what is in between, the spaces less visible to
our attention. This exhibition, we hope will have the capacity to do
just that. This project is about a journey of discovery for the
photographers. We hope this will inspire more to see beyond the
surface, to further question the meaning of our urban environment and
to bring about changes for the better.
Alex Moh, Lim Thian Leong, Azrul K. Abdullah