First, news from from the epic project front. “Mandi Bunga/Flower Bath” for Singapore Biennale 2013 officially launched last Thursday, if by launching you mean my comrades from Commas and Industry posted it on Facebook, while I stayed glued to my computer, freaking out.
Man, I was anxious. Every project scares me to hell, but the fear-levels with this one surprised even me. Would people ignore it? Would I have to beg in the streets for 100 people to join? Failure? Fail? Fail? FAIL? I didn’t realize until that moment how much this project means to me. For reasons I’ve yet to discover, I’ve put more on the line here – artistically, emotionally – than I ever have before.
(It may have something to do with this being a kind of ‘swan song’ before embarking on a new path that’s been two years in the making. But that’s coming straight from the unformed soup part of my brain; I should leave it there to cook until it’s done.)
The response to “Mandi Bunga” has been awesome. Humbling. Great. You guys shared that thing like a steamboat dinner! Thank you. I love you. We’ve passed the 100 mark, so I’m putting sign-ups on hold for now, while we figure out if we can fit more people in. You can still sign-up to get project updates. I will send you news and special stuff like sneak peeks at my sketchbook.
Yes, dear people, Happy Malaysia Day. We are 50 years old.
To celebrate, I drew Medusa, wearing nationalized Kanye shutter shades.
I’m not sure why, beyond acting on orders from the aforementioned great unformed soup, which is basically another name for my subconscious mind.
I think she says something about how I see Malaysia, or rather, how I refuse to see her properly, for fear of being turned to stone.
Medusa is one of those great stories, as deeply rooted and as unbreakable as Macbeth. In greek mythology, she’s a Gorgon, a monster with snakes for hair and the power to turn anyone who looks at her into stone. She’s beheaded by a hero named Perseus, who then gives her head to Athena, goddess of war. Athena puts Medusa’s head on a shield called the Aegis, which becomes a powerful symbol of protection.
The other version of her story is much more tragic: Medusa was a ravishingly beautiful human maiden. Poseidon, god of the sea, raped her in one of Athena’s temples. The enraged and victim-blaming Athena turned Medusa into a snake-haired monster, with a face so hideous that all who looked at her would turn to stone.
I used Bernini’s incredibly beautiful, 17th Century marble sculpture of Medusa as reference for my drawing. The nose is mine though. And the lips were inspired by Vivian Lee’s (of #Alvivi). I think it’s safe to say Bernini based his Medusa on the tragic version of her story:
I drew my Malaysia Day Medusa without the shades at first:
I added them so that we could look at her without turning to stone.
And also… so that she could look at us without turning US to stone.
I realize that I’m drawing Malaysia as a monster, which isn’t in the, you know, spirit of celebration, national pride, togetherness, etc.
But that’s how I see her, with racism, corruption, fundamentalism, ignorance and intolerance crowning her beautiful head. I draw her so that I can see her for what she is, and not be tempted by a nostalgic vision of peace and harmony.
I draw her so that I can learn not to be afraid of her.
The thing is, now that I see her like this, she’s more beloved to me than ever.
Image of Gian Lorenzo Bernini’s Head of Medusa from here.