ILHAM CONTEMPORARY FORUM is an experimental programme that aims to explore what is currently happening in Malaysian arts and culture by inviting a range of professionals from various fields and positions, all younger than 39, to collaboratively curate an exhibition of recent artworks and cultural projects. ILHAM selected seven Project Curators, who in turn were tasked to each select five Malaysian visual artworks or cultural projects, all created within the last eight years (“cultural projects” to include film, fashion, performance, comics, design and so on). The exhibition that has resulted from combining these various selections is meant less as a survey of contemporary trends than as a prompt to discuss and debate what has been happening in the local arts and cultural scene. Moreover, ILHAM Contemporary Forum uses the exhibition as a starting point for other activities, from public forums to workshops, which will further interrogate questions concerning art and culture in Malaysia today.
Unlike a museum exhibition, which would typically take a more authoritative approach in surveying contemporary art, the Project Curators in the ILHAM Contemporary Forum were asked not to assume a vantage point where they might survey the whole art scene as if from above. Rather, the exhibition was constructed through a series of enquiries from the ground, so to speak — a series of lateral conversations amongst different voices. After they made their selections, the Project Curators met to discuss and develop an exhibition from the artworks assembled. The exhibition is organised around four “groupings” — “themes” might be too strong a notion as our organising principle, and “groupings” we felt better captured the tentative and explorative sense of how we proceeded to curate the show. The exhibition groupings are titled: (i) “play, negotiation, resistance”; (ii) “discomfort”; (iii) “reassemble”; and (iv) “archive, narrative, world”.
Project Curators are Azzad Diah Ahmad Zabidi, chi too, Kat Rahmat, Tan Hui Koon, Mark Teh, Ong Jo-Lene, and Ridhwan Saidi.