The years 1945–65 saw the decolonisation and independence of countries across Southeast Asia. Faced with economic challenges, political struggle and social change, these newly sovereign nation-states also had to negotiate access to natural resources, and rights to territorial control. These fluid contexts meant that individuals were sometimes subject to forces over which they had little influence, but also gained opportunities to change their own circumstances.
This work is part of an installation commissioned for Arin Rungjang's solo exhibition at Jendela (Visual Arts Space), Esplanade in 2017, based on the lives of a driver and a musician—both in their 60s and 70s—as told to him in a series of interviews. In the story of the driver, the Johor River becomes a metaphor for his movements between and his ties with Singapore and Malaysia from the days of his youth to the present. In the story of the musician, his travels while touring as a drummer with his rock band reveal regional influences on their music, which retain a profound effect on his life today.
Juxtaposed with their stories are recordings of texts that present contemporaneous events related to the countries and regions they have traversed. The ebb and flow of minor and master narratives in this exhibition suggest the ways that autonomy and contingency constantly play off each other in any account of an individual and the worlds they live in.