Back for its highly anticipated third edition, this year’s Bangkok Art Biennale – which runs until late February 2023 – sees a whopping 73 artists from 35 countries showcasing their creations
Among the star-studded global line-up that includes British sculptor Antony Gormley and Japanese creator Tatsuo Miyajima is Malaysia’s very own Nadiah Bamadhaj, a sculptor and visual artist who was born in Petaling Jaya and trained in New Zealand, where her mother is originally from.
Audience members can visit Bangkok Art & Culture Centre to view Nadiah’s work, Terpesona Dengan Kegelisahan, a mesmerising digital video she created in 2022 after many years of working across other mediums. The piece depicts men dressed in military garb engaging in movement and song that’s reminiscent of the haka ceremony that many New Zealand sporting teams put on before their international matches.
According to Nadiah, she was inspired by the Indonesian military performances she came across on YouTube and TikTok. “These spoke of specific things for me – they intrigued me as an unabashed and spectacular display of masculinity and power,” she says.
Nadiah then searched for a military battalion she could work with to bring the piece to life. “This particular battalion was very receptive to my request for a collaboration,” she says. “I feel I was in the right place and time. All the people, production teams and permissions just came into alignment.”
The entire process took around a year, and the battalion even devised their own choreography. “The song they perform is a love song called “Terpesona”, but the delivery is a brutal show of strength, intended to generate fear,” Nadiah says. “This irony had to be bottled into an artwork.”
Terpesona Dengan Kegelisahan showcases Nadiah’s commitment to examining the complex, ever-shifting power dynamics present in our world today – not just in Indonesian society, but also in her birth country of Malaysia. Although she now calls the Indonesian city of Yogyakarta home, Nadiah makes regular trips back to Malaysia to see her loved ones. “Everyone who comes home always talks about the food, but [one of my favourite things] is sitting on the deck of my mother’s house and looking out over the hills of Negeri Sembilan,” she says. “Family and my relationship with my mother are the best parts of returning to Malaysia.”
Terpesona Dengan Kegelisahan is part of Bangkok Art Biennale and is on display at Bangkok Art & Culture Centre until 23 Feb 2023.