The Koboi Project is an expression of my search for an integral identity, across the gaps of an inter-generational diasporic experience, within the context of the contemporary crisis of globalization. Among the imperatives of this photo-performative project is the development of a deep engagement with place and people. This involves an immersion in the social history, popular culture, language, and religion of the places involved. The Koboi Project integrates its own abiding tropes – the ‘black hat cowboy and the ‘SUPERSTAR’ with the idioms, myths, and contemporary issues of each place of performance or presentation. An important aspect of the work is the circulation of its messages via a range of media, beginning with the megaphone and the banner as primordial transmitters of word and image. The Koboi Project is realized and disseminated by way of photographic prints, performances, installations, and online images/ social media.
Directed by M. A. Thirumugam and starring M. G. Ramachandran and Savitri, the Tamil film Vettaikaaran (The Hunter) was released in 1964. The song Unnai Arinthaal is from this hit movie’s soundtrack. The music is by K. V. Mahadevan, lyrics by Kannadasan and the unsurpassable singer is T. M. Soundararajan.
உன்னை அறிந்தால் நீ உன்னை அறிந்தால் உலகத்தில் போராடலாம்
Know thyself If you know yourself You can take the whole world on
“If you want to know what you are you cannot imagine or have belief in something which you are not. If I am greedy, envious, violent, merely having an ideal of non-violence, of non-greed, is of little value. But to know that one is greedy or violent, to know and understand it, requires an extraordinary perception, does it not? It demands honesty, clarity of thought, whereas to pursue an ideal away from what ‘is‘ is an escape; it prevents you from discovering and acting directly upon what you are.”
– PAKATAN | MAHATHIR | MUAFAKAT – – The Good | the Bad | the Ugly! – – The Malaysian Standoff –
Depending on how old you are and perhaps on your gender, regardless of where in the world you grew up, you will probably be aware of the great cinematic artistry of the Spaghetti Western. My 1970s boyhood in St. Johns Primary involved regular collective viewings of violent and engaging cowboy films. There were no good guys, no bad guys – just guys you identified with – no matter if it was the Clint Eastwood, Eli Wallach or Lee Van Cleef – we collectively learnt that there was small difference between the Good, the bad and the Ugly – In Malaysia, today we are having to learn that same lesson all over again, as adults! One classic plot device or trope in this Cowboy genre was the Mexican Standoff where parties face each other at gunpoint. There is an inability of any party to advance its position safely. At the same time no party has a safe way to withdraw from its position, thus making the standoff permanent, at least until there is an external event!
According to Malaysiakini, “the “Sheraton Move”, which refers to the gathering of rogue PKR MPs, Bersatu, BN, PAS, GPS and Warisan MPs at Sheraton Hotel, Petaling Jaya last Sunday night has “upended the conventional two-coalition political configuration in the country, fracturing Malaysian politics into three groups.”
The Koboi Balik Kampung photographic series was shot during my visit to Kuala Lumpur from Vancouver in 2013. The 13th general elections had just concluded in Malaysia and the excitement was still in the air. Meanwhile, the government of British Columbia had announced a multi-billion dollar LNG investment by PETRONAS. Indeed, I had returned home (balikkampung) to news of Malaysian hegemony in the British Columbian LNG market and to the stirrings of discontent, my ‘home away from home’. As the contradictory affectations of Malaysian pride and British Columbian dread resound in me, the irony of this merging of worlds has become an irrepressible muse and the impetus for starting this blog.
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