Early Internet Art in Malaysia 7

One of the themes of my work in the 1990’s was a reclamation of the international contemporary art discourse from a national perspective. If postmodernism had displaced the hegemony of international of modernism with a disruptive array of regional, national and marginal discourses. While my own work was clearly located within the ambit of this postmodernist deconstruction, I had become disenchanted with its increasingly oppressive orthodoxy. Postmodernism promised an enabling relativity of signification but, by definition, it denied credence to all sign systems that acknowledged a transcendental signified. While this enabled alternative perspectives to rise over the overbearing horizon of modernism. it conflicted with contemporary approaches, like mine, that were grounded in the traditional world-view. As I worked on the protocols of a post-postmodern rapprochement of the traditional and the contemporary, I knew that my first obligation was to make a gesture of defilement.

In my web work of 1998, La Folie de la Peinture (1998), the ZIP‘ hyperlink took the user through to a photograph of an intervention I made in 1995 at the site of architect Bernard Tchumi’s work at the Parc de la Vilette, Paris. Speaking sculpturally, if the modernist work ‘occupies’ the physically empty, semiotically blank and ideologically neutral ‘non-site’ of the gallery or the urban plan, the postmodern work comes off the walls or blueprint and, arguably, ‘constitutes’ its ‘site’. There is no longer an object in view as the postmodern ‘figure’ becomes part of its own ‘ground.’ If the expansion of sculpture into the ‘site’ specific installation had deconstructed the institutional ‘white cube’ of modern art, the purposeless ‘red cubes’ of Bernard Tchumi’s‘ architectural installation, perversely articulate postmodernism’s negative ontology on a monumental scale. Conceived in collaboration with the progenitor of deconstruction himself, Jacques Derrida, and erected under the reactionary auspices of the French state, Tchumi’s follies epitomize the paradox of the 20th Century avant-garde – the inevitable institutionalization of its negative impulse. In my intervention at the site of this intellectually astute yet politically oblivious folly, I pissed on one of these futile structures and all that it seemed to represent!



Early Internet Art in Malaysia 6

In 1998, I made my 2nd web art work titled La Folie de la Peinture (The Madness of Painting), fragments of which are archived on the Wayback Machine site. This was a comprehensive, if condensed, articulation of my critique of the movement from modernist abstraction, via conceptualism, to the photographic ontology of postmodern installation and performance art. My own practice had been evolving along this trajectory until, in the mid 1990’s, I found the World Wide Web with its capacities for instantaneous connectivity, hypertextual linking and multimedia convergence. La Folie de la Peinture was featured in the 2nd Multimedia Asia Pacific Festival (MAAP) 1999,: COLLAPSING GEOGRAPHIES online exhibition which was part of the Third Asia Pacific Triennial, Screen Culture and Virtual Triennial program.

The opening image of this navigational work was a direct flatbed scan of a bottle of Cuvée Tradition French wine that we had recently consumed. The two hyperlinked hotspots on the image that took the user through to the rest of the work were a ‘black square’ and the word ‘ZIP‘, references to the endgame in American hard-edged abstraction. Black square took the user through to a set of photographic images, remediated documentation, of an installation made at the Tower House Studios, Goldsmith’s college, London in 1991. These images were linked in such a manner as to enable a simulation of the navigation of the space and the experience of each ‘work’ in the new web ‘space’ as a reinterpretation in multimedia for online viewing. This part of the web work was augmented with physical objects from the original installation and a new desktop VR interface, when La Folie de la Peinture was presented at the Substation, Singapore in 2001 in a two-person show with Joe Lewis titled, Layers … Reality … Memory.

ZIP‘ took the user through to a modified image of a vulgar performative intervention I made in 1995. at the site of Bernard Tchumi’s architectural reification of the deconstructive ethos at the Parc de la Vilette, Paris.




Who is Niranjan Rajah?

Zip (detail), La Folie De La Peinture. 1998 (Web Art). An early photo-performance (circa 1994) at the Parc de la Villette – a ‘gloss’ on Bernard Tschumi’s marvelous system of red enameled steel folies located systematically throughout the park.

Zainub Verjee asks,“Who is Niranjan Rajah?” She notes that this is a question she has been posed many times in the context of my successfully nominating her for the Canadian Governor General’s Award in Visual and Media Arts.

She begins her answer to this question most generously and I am delight to quote her here “So let me take this opportunity to bring to you an amazing Artist, intellectual, empath and a generous person. “She continues, “A photo-conceptualist, performance artist and theorist, his work is cutting edge and he doesn’t mince his words: Be it at the Burning Man in Nevada, or in Japan or in Lisbon or in Singapore Biennale or very much in Oshawa at the Ideas Digital Forum!”

I have decided to use this header ‘Who is Niranjan Rajah’ for a series of blog posts that introduce some images and ideas from my earlier art work. Thank you Z!