In Merdeka, the Lonesome Club, Kuik continues her attempt at deciphering how Malaysian democracy and its representative system works vis-à-vis political rhetoric, strategy and tactic. More specifically, she investigates the state apparatus of Merdeka Day and general election, first through the deconstruction of political flags from different parties, and later by appropriating the national narratives through the mix-and-match of fabrics. The fabric assemblages were created through a string of actions such as tearing apart the fabric, ironing, layering, weaving, spacing, composing sand sewing. From this series, Kuik has developed a new visual language within her creative repertoire that emphasizes on materiality, whereby the aspects of material representation and process is inspired by her everyday experience, i.e. sharing and fighting for the same living space with the strangers and the unknown. More importantly, the series serves as personal reminder to the artist of the relations between art and politics.
In the history of Malaysia, the Merdeka Day marks the independence of Malaya from the British in August 31st 1957. When racial tensions in Malaysia escalated into a bloody riot in May 13, 1969, the National Operations Council that served as the caretaker government decided to use the Merdeka Day as a tool to reinforce national unity and nation-building, thereby setting the tradition of appointing a Merdeka theme each year. In 1970, Muhhibbah and Perpaduan (Goodwill and Unity) was proposed as the first Merdeka theme after the May 13th racial riot erupted in 1969, marking the beginning of a national tradition.
As stated by Kuik, “By mapping the Merdeka themes with the Prime Ministers of successive tenures, we can easily trace a vivid outline of the course of Malaysian history under its leaders who embody different political ambitions and figures of Father. When the past, present and future of the nation are deeply intertwined and rooted in the national narratives, how is it possible for the individual from any other ethnic or societal minorities to transcend the barrier?” Throughout the years, invisible boundaries that divide the social strata in the Malaysian society have slowly revealed themselves as a magmatic state of historical entanglement. For Kuik, it is a constant battle against this sense of alienation that renders social paralysis and slowly eats away at her desire for freedom. Hence, the spirit of Merdeka desperately needs to be revived in the lonesome club.
Minstrel Kuik – Merdeka, The Lonesome Club