Propaganda ke 13 & Demokrasi ke 13

Written by : Zena Khan

Demokrasi ke 13 and Propoganda ke 13 are two of a series of six mixed media works by internationally renowned artist, Shooshie Sulaiman. Created after the 2013 Malaysian general elections, they reflect Shooshie’s ongoing quest to document her life and the events that shape her world. Each work measures at 46 cm x 21 cm in size and feature a caricature like figure freely painted in profile against a stark white background.

Demokrasi ke 13 has the word “Demokrasi” cut from a newspaper headline and pasted across the middle of the image over the figure while Propoganda ke 13 has the word “Propaganda” featured in the exact same composition. It is interesting to note that Shooshie tends to produce artwork at the extreme limits of the size spectrum. Recently, she has been producing room size installations such as Kindergarten Muar, which she showcased at Art Stage Singapore in early 2013, and yet here she delivers a strong impact via smaller portrait works, which none the less effectively open the discourse on democracy and public perceptions, especially in Malaysian society.

The juxtaposition of the two words Demokrasi and Propoganda are highly efficient in summing up Shooshie’s main point of contention within her new mini series: the ideal of democracy is being used as a political propaganda tool. The ideals of democracy, those of equality, liberty and freedom, are meant to be positive. However, Shooshie contends that by its overuse in a political arena, the meaning flips into a negative propaganda based outlook. The advocates of particular political outlooks,by re-iterating the term democracy to energize support and emotion among constituencies, overlook the purity of the ideal and instead exploited the principle for political gain, in Shooshie’s opinion.

The crux of the matter can be summed up thus, is it possible to produce a Utopian democracy? The artist questions what are the elements for democracy to flourish, and what are the elements for a progressive, successful society to flourish? Shooshie questions the need for hierarchical systems within society to exist, and ultimately the responsibility citizens must shoulder in educating themselves and understanding the agendas of political parties from an unemotional standpoint, so that they will be equipped to make the choices that are most beneficial to the population as a whole.

Having closely followed the highly anticipated 2013 Malaysian general election, Shooshie’s natural response was to document her feelings and findings in this series of mixed media works. Internationally renowned for her thought provoking works that not only embrace Malaysian history, society and development, but also push for greater awareness and education. Shooshie raises the critical issue of democracy and propaganda emerging hand in hand, the shades of grey that color political landscapes world wide and the importance of awareness amongst individual citizens. Her ability to marry content and execution on these powerful small-scale works underline the reasons why Shooshie is one of the most eagerly watched stars of Malaysian Contemporary Art scene.

Artwork Caption 1:

Artist : Shooshie Sulaiman

Title : Propaganda ke 13

Size : 46cm x 21cm

Medium : Oil on Boxboard & Newspaper

Year : 2013

Artwork Caption 2:

Artist : Shooshie Sulaiman

Title : Demokrasi ke 13

Size : 46cm x 21cm

Medium : Oil on Boxboard & Newspaper

Year : 2013


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