Silver Noise: Sound Circuits of Peninsula Malaysia in Parts, on Exile (Sow-Yee Au)

2020.10.27

Silver Noise: Sound Circuits of Peninsula Malaysia in Parts, on Exile, Texts, Sound and Video Installation,  2020
Google Map, Seychelles island near the edge of Indian Ocean (Provided by Sow-Yee Au)

Peninsula Malaysia is not Malaysia in its entirety. The peninsula stretching from the southern part of Thailand and located in the north of Singapore, has ironically constructed the mainstream historical narrative of Malaysia. Here is a story that begins with exile. A tune or a song being heard while in exile had then become a self-dialectical allegory of a newborn country in the second half of the 20th century, affecting the complicated relations linking the Indian and Pacific Ocean.

In 1876, Sultan Abdullah Muhammad Shah II was put into exile in Seychelles, accused of being involved in the assassination of J.W.W. Birch, a British colonial officer in Perak. Seychelles is an island located somewhere in the southern Indian Ocean which used to be colonized by French as well as later by British. The island had been a place for exile of political detainees under British administration for a long time. The Sultan on exile listened to songs and tunes played in parties on the island and was particularly fond of one of the tunes.

This tune grew from steps of the “Others” then dived into the national anthem of a newly established country more than half a century later. It was said that the melodies of Malaysian national anthem were the creation of a French musician in the 19th  century. The melodies were then adapted into different versions, including Mamula Moon, a song with Hawaiian style laid-back melodies. This formed a strange opposite against the lyrics in the national anthem of Malaysia, “this is the land where my blood shed.” Mamula Moon as well as its various transformations, including Terang Bulan which is a popular folk song in the Malay Archipelago, remains banned until today in Malaysia.

Silver Noise: Sound Circuits of Peninsula Malaysia in Parts, on Exile is a construction process of the resisting consciousness and self-reflection. Just like what Friedrich A. Kittler argued in his book Gramophone, Film, Typewriter, “And what transpires then is indeed a strange and unheard-of silver noise. Nobody knows who is singing…”

Curator: Sow-Yee Au (Malaysia)

Born in 1978 in Malaysia, she now lives and works in Taipei. Au’s works focus mainly in questioning, exploring as well as expanding the relation between images, image making, history, politics and power, through video installations and other mediums. Sow-Yee’s recent works focus on re-imagined history of Malaysia, South-east Asia and its related region from perceptions and ideologies bounded by the Cold War.

She is a finalist for the 2018 Asia Pacific Breweries Foundation Signature Art Prize and Han Nefkens Foundation – Loop Barcelona Video Art Award 2018. Sow-Yee’s works were exhibited in MMCA (Seoul), Mori Art Museum (Tokyo), HKW (Berlin), Shanghai Rockbund Art Museum, Singapore Film Festival among others. Sow-Yee is a guest writer for online magazine No Man’s Land and co-founded Kuala Lumpur’s Rumah Attap Library and Collective in 2017.