biennale pick#14: Rumah Sulaiman Belakang Kedai Ah Guat (House of Sulaiman Behind Ah Guat’s Shop) by Shoosie Sulaiman

The first biennale piece in 8Q SAM is an installation by Shoosie Sulaiman, Malaysian artist. She transported her house into the level 1 gallery of 8Q SAM and presented a couple of drawings and a humorous video piece.

Sulaiman literally transported part of her house, including the walls, wood and roof from Kuala Lumpur to Singapore. It is a direct approach towards the SB theme of Open House but deep inside her constructed studio, various drawings of hers reveal different stories.


The drawings are random but there are certain styles that go with them. Sulaiman seems to be very keen on mixed media works, combining various materials and methods of creating images. She also uses a lot of religious and cultural references, particularly unique to Asia. At the same time, there are hints of sexual connotations among these drawings. This is further explored on her video work.

Ah Guat, mentioned on the title of this piece, who is Sulaiman’s neighbor in Kuala Lumpur can be seen in the video work. The video is projected onto a blank white wall, hazy yet emphasizes on slight movement as it was generally still and the camera does not move.

In the video Ah Guat is seen having a conversation with a lady, whom we can assume as Sulaiman herself, or probably not. but the relationship between the two women seem to be really close. They are comfortable talking to each other, despite the difference in race, but speak in a common language, Malay. The different in age is also not an issue in creating bond and communication between the two, who look extremely opposite in many ways.

The conversation goes into personal story of Ah Guat, almost like the other woman is interviewing her past life. It covers Ah Guat’s husband, sister in law, desire to have kids marriage and even menstruation. It is as if the two are having girl’s talk (like Charlie White’s OMG BFF LOL but in an Asian context).

Despite the funny conversation, as Ah Guat seems to be replying heedlessly, the audience is placed in a position of guilt. Her story was touching and she reveals the hardship she had to go through but at the same time it is arguable if the stories were true after all. Despite that, the audience will find her answers hilarious and obscenely tickling at the same time.

Back to the overall installation, Sulaiman seems to be interested in bringing up gender issue in her installation. From the drawings and videos, women’s identity is clearly brought forward and this is interestingly contrasted to the house as a physical object represents a more patriarchal environment and masculine symbol.

Interestingly, Sulaiman also creates shapes through her installation that suggests a triangular form. Triangle is known as a symbol of female fertility, commonly associated with the vagina.

The attempt to ‘read’ the work may be argued to be a little overboard but hey, contemporary art is all about experience isnt it? This installation by Sulaiman is interestingly provoking as it provides spaces, literally, for audiences to explore and corners, textures of walls, different forms of material start to make more sense with the drawings and video.

Sulaiman welcomes you to her studio/house until 15 May 2011 where the Singapore Biennale ends then.

One response to “biennale pick#14: Rumah Sulaiman Belakang Kedai Ah Guat (House of Sulaiman Behind Ah Guat’s Shop) by Shoosie Sulaiman

  1. Pingback: Singapore Biennale 2011; OPEN HOUSE | rainbowartsproject – documenting LGBT art

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