Postcards, Thumbprints and the Ordure of Things Sharon Cheah Looks at the Political Art of Hoy Cheong Wong
Cheah, Sharon, The Independent (London, England)
THE OBJECTS that Malaysian artist Hoy Cheong Wong have put in his installation art couldn't be more telling.
Three judges' wigs and police batons made from cow dung, video images of protesters in the streets and sidewalks of Kuala Lumpur, a statement on freedom of expression from Malaysia's federal constitution printed on a parchment and sprinkled with dust from a vacuum cleaner, an accumulation of thumbprints and debris from street protests including a tear gas canister.
The objects in the installation speak of the present struggle in Malaysia for political change and wider civil and human rights which was triggered by the sacking and trial of the former deputy prime minister and finance minister Anwar Ibrahim. After a long and sensational trial - initially on charges of sex crimes - Anwar was sentenced to six years for corruption. The installation - Vitrine of Contemporary Events - is the 39-year old artist's most overtly political installation yet. Hoy Cheong became involved in political and social activism in Malaysia when he returned from his education in the United States in the late 1980s. In 1994, Hoy Cheong set up an installation art piece by planting weeds in front of the Malaysian National Art Gallery then cutting and spraying them, in allusion to a 1987 crackdown, codenamed Operation Lalang, on 116 political dissenters. Lalang is the Malay word for "weed". After the sacking of Anwar, Hoy Cheong co-formed a group of more than 100 Malaysian artists to assert the right to question and seek answers. …