Saturday, September 25, 2010

What is Art?

What is art?

"Art is not just something you hang on the wall." Kids from the Hall

That is certainly true, as I wandered along the streets around Pudu area today to check out the Moon Walk Pudu Art Festival, marveling at the few art installations, enjoying the stories and the glorious bygone days of this unique community.

The artist reconstructed the recently demolished 115 year-old Pudu Jail entrance facade and the once world longest mural, using name cards. It put the spotlight on the heritage buildings preservation effort, or the lack of thereof, while at the same time highlighting the once thriving printing industry in the area. It's sort of a tribute to the contribution of those in the industry to the development of Pudu.
This one serves to wish the community all the best in her future. It resembles the bai jia yi (garment of hundred families) or bai jia bei (blankets of hundred families) custom of the Chinese community of which when a newborn is one month-old or 100 day-old, friends and family will each present a piece of palm-size cloth to the mother. The mother will then use them to sew into a piece of garment or a quilt for the baby. Babies wearing the garment or using the quilt are believed to be healthy and of course, very much loved. Some of the cloth strips were obtained from the community and the locals were asked to help out in tying the cloth strips, as a message of love to the Pudu community.
Another interesting installation which also involved the participation of the the local is wrapping of the trunks and branches of a few very old trees in the area with t-shirts and garments, some donated by the locals. The artist was exploring the interaction between the community and the environment along with the change of time. Therefore the work was asking us, with time, what was left? What was lost?
So what is art? More importantly, what does art do? I saw them telling stories about a community, about life. They silently remind us to treasure our history and tradition and encourage us to take time to discover or rediscover our community. These simple yet meaningful installations bring people into a community, bring community to her people and new folks, ultimately bring people together.

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