The Koboi Project begins with the Koboi’s return to Kuala Lumpur in 2013 after a decade away in Vancouver. This homecoming was treated both as lived experience and as an enactment. This return was photographed and became the first Koboi series, titled Koboi Balik Kampung, published in 2015.
And then …. at the height of the offering, as I was deep in my incantation of Kata Prha Rahu Kam Duang and just as I was placing my Black Jelly Suriyan down on the altar of Phra Rahu the lord of eclipses, I heard a loud crash. It sounded like an explosion as it echoed under the umbrellas that protected worshipers from the sun (Suriyan!)
I was shaken out of my immersion in the moment and, as I turned towards the source, I was shocked to find that it has been the sound of my photographer, Durga Rajah’s massive 24-70mm Nikon lens crashing to the floor…. falling off the camera body … mid-photo! Durga speedily returned the lens to the camera body and tried to resume the shoot as I carried on with the proceedings but the first few images were black, the next set were overexposed and finally she got the damaged lens working, albeit performing poorly.
The whole temple crowd had been startled and Durga and I were deeply disappointed. We left the scene after completing an otherwise wonderfully successful performance, wondering how two serious professionals had been so unprofessional, … wondering if indeed events had been beyond our control … if, in fact, we had experienced the wrath of Rahu, who might have been displeased by our antics!
As I reviewed the images from the shoot late that night trying to salvage a series, I found my hands going up, almost autonomously, in a gesture of prayer … an epiphany …. I got it … Rahu had accepted my offering … He had eaten the sun! And in my realm of activity … in my medium of representation … in the photography of the event … there had been an eclipse … and a return of a queer penumbral light, and that, only as Suryian passed through Rahu, as we always knew he would!
The Koboi Project will be the basis of a Masterclass at the International Ismaili Jubliee Arts Festival at the Portugal Pavilion in Lisbon on the 6th July 2018. This class is part of an extensive visual arts programme which runs from the 6-9 July. I shall be presenting the praxis, poetics and politics that constitutes my work by sharing and explaining my preparation for street interventions that will take place in Belem between the 7th and the 11th of July. I will lead the workshop participants on a search for a meaningful action at the junction of art and everyday life, between performance and photography, and between intervention and conviviality. I will articulate a theory of performance without proscenium and a methodology for enacting contemporary rituals. We will begin the Masterclass within the designated presentation space of the Portugal Pavilion and finish outside absorbing the architecture Pavilion itself into the spectacle of the event.
Cowboys and Indians: Tokyo Edition, to be presented at Courtyard Hiroo Gallery on 11th May 2018, is the sencond installation/ performance of ‘Cowboys and Indians’, the 6th series of the Koboi Project. The first edition was presented at the Burning Man Festival in the Nevada Desert in 2017. The overarching Koboi Project is photo-conceptual work involving installations, traditional icons, story telling and performance elements. It is a transnational epic, presented as the adventures of my persona – the ‘Black Hat’ Cowboy, through whom I present my life as my art, as I explore my identity as a Malaysian, as an Indian, as a British Columbian and as a citizen of the world.