‘Fair is foul and foul is fair…’

Fraidden Dewan, swimmer,2006

Andrew Sia, a senior writer from the Star newspaper, wrote about Victor Chin’s photographic exhibition, in the Statmag, Sunday 17 February (read more). He highlighted that in Victor’s show, ‘Traditional notions of beauty and ugliness are challenged and redefined in an unusual exhibition that invites viewers to look at things from different perspectives’.

In the review Victor said that in Shakespeare’s Macbeth, the witches cry: ‘Fair is foul and foul is fair…’ and that tragic play urges us to look at the human condition with all its varieties and varied forms when confronting difficult questions such as: what is beauty and ugliness, right and wrong, justice and injustice.

To the many disabled persons, either born with anomalies or was maimed through accidents etc. the first question in their mind must be ‘How can this happen to me, this is not fair, this is foul’. There are really no good or a bad, right or wrong, answers to this acute inquiry. Each individual has to find their own perceptive solutions to this question for themselves. Many of them do not find agreeable answers but there are also many who find their way out through sports and other recreations and creative endeavors.

From Victor’s point of view, the question of what is beauty or ugliness is not the issue. What is at issue is our generosity of spirit. How often do we find ourselves over crediting beauty of one type or group and under crediting others which seemed alien to us? To him beauty or ugliness is more plentiful then we can imagine and what is more useful is a sense of big-heartedness.

In his eyes what is asymmetrical and out of proportions can be beautiful and eloquent in a photograph or a painting. This is not done by hiding the unpleasant and unsightly parts but instead seeing it as it is, straight in the face of disability- there is beauty in ugliness.

A voice and a visual profile




Dr Shamsul Azhar Ahah works as a teaching doctor in epidemiology at University Kebangsaan Malaysia in the weekdays and is a wheelchair table tennis player in the weekends (when he is not traveling abroad) . He is also an active member of the Malaysian Paralympic Council.

Shamsul came to view the photographs In the Face of Disability at the KLPac and he is also one of the athletes portrayed in the exhibition by Victor Chin. Shamsul has been following Victor Chin’s photographic work on the paralympic sports over the last few years and together they have been trying to promote a wider exposure of the activities of this group of athletes.

‘This second collection of photographs by Victor Chin continue to raise the voice and the visual profile of this small group of athletes which is somewhat neglected by mainstream concerns. Seeing our pictures in an exhibition like this, taken in an artistic and engaging way, makes me proud and more determined. I am going to tell my other sports friends to come to see the show and of course I will bring my family too. My son will be proud of his dad when he comes here and then to spot my photo hanging on the wall among his father’s friends.’

In the Face of Disability will be on show till 27 February at KLPac. This exhibition is hosted by Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre and supported by Applied Imaging.


Rat Race

 the rat race

The Chinese lunar year of the rat has just started and here is wishing all my readers, who are in the race, a good run in the coming months. And to the rest, hopefully you don’t smell a rat along the way and become ratty (like me).

‘A rat race is a term used for an endless, self-defeating or pointless pursuit. It conjures up the image of the futile efforts of a lab rat trying to escape whilst running around a maze or in a wheel. In an analogy to the modern city, many rats in a single maze run around making a lot of noise bumping into each other, but ultimately achieve nothing (meaningful) either collectively or individually.

The rat race is a term often used to describe work, particularly excessive work; in general terms, if one works too much, one is in the rat race. This terminology contains implications that many people see work as a seemingly endless pursuit with little reward or purpose. Not all workers feel like this. It is the perceived Conventional Wisdom, for example, that those who work for themselves are generally happier at work.

The increased image of work as a “rat race” in modern times has led many to question their own attitudes to work and seek a better alternative; a more harmonious Work-life balance. Many believe that long work hours, unpaid overtime, stressful jobs, time spent commuting, less time for traditional family life, has led to a generally unhappier workforce/population unable to enjoy the benefits of increased economic prosperity and a higher standard of living.’

Quoted from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Meeting after ten years



Awang Goneng/Wan Hulaimi, author of recently launched Growing up in Trengganu , is one of Victor Chin’s few old friends. They have lost touch with each other for more then ten years. How this could have happen to their friendship puzzled both of them. However, last week they finally met when Hulaimi was in town to launch his book.

Victor invited Hulaimi to visit to his photographic exhibition In the Face of Disability currently at the KLPac until 29 February. Hulaimi later wrote in Victor’s visitor’s book, ‘Victor, I’m v. happy to see you progress from one neglected aspect of KL to its ‘neglected’ people, and you’ve taken in your embrace more then just KL people. Remember how we once tried to save ‘Court Hill’? Well done.’

Their meeting brings back a lot of fond memories of their early friendship and ‘activist undertakings’ in Kuala Lumpur (KL) in the late 1970s. One of their projects was a public campaign to stop the demolition of the first court building in the city, located in Court Hill, in the heart of KL, where the present Malayan Banking Headquarters is now standing. Obviously, and not surprisingly, their early efforts came to nothing.

Later, Hulaimi and his wife went off to London to work as correspondent for the local newspapers. In the 1980s and 1990s, Victor continued by using his paintings of old shophouses facades to crusade for a more humane conservation policy for old buildings in towns and cities. His drive at that time also did not add up to much against the continuing demolition of important inherited Malaysian historical architectural legacies, in the name of development.

There is a word in Growing up in Trengganu (page 233), kkenang’, that best describes the mood of their recent meeting in KL. ‘Kkenang‘ in Trengganuspeak can mean melancholy, lost, approval and includes remembering with rejoicing or reproach. But in this case it is not the latter. And they have both moved on in their own ways.

One of the many facets of the art of writing or photographing, is how sometimes the writer’s books or the artist’s visual statements; the beauty of their thoughts and constructions, might perhaps press the readers or viewers towards a greater concern for justice – ethical equality.

One of the many insights to the human conditions that Hulaimi writes about is ‘what we have lost in our deliberate acts of greed’ and Victor too shows what we have forgotten in our race to monopolies the few basic supply needs of human beings.

To ardent admirers of Awang Goneng this blog is not about Victor Chin claiming to have the same level of artistic talent or gift as the author. Far from it. It’s just about friendship.




New uses of photography




Paul Choo, a well known photographer/designer/blogger, was among the many hundreds of visitors to KLPac Open day on the 27 January and he walked round to the photography exhibition In the Face of Disability by Victor Chin.

What was written on his face as he gazed at the photos, which he had seen before displayed at Kimi Gallery, were many questions about photographers and their artworks. Pual perhaps may be thinking that this collection of images go beyond the normal range of pictures taken by today’s photographers that he had seen.

To him Victor’s portraits of the disabled group is making him rethink the uses of photography and how photographers may need to find new stories to tell or find new angles to present an old story – to show what is commonly hidden or over looked.

Hopefully, some of the visitors who came to this visual event may have seen an aspect of beauty in the human condition which they thought there was none.

Victor Chin’s exhibition In the Face of Disability is now extended to the 29 Febuary 2008 at KLPac by popular demand.