Bumi yang Berdarah
Written by Zena Khan
Bumi yang Berdarah is a 2014 mixed media assemblage by up-and-coming artist Azrin Mhd. This three-dimensional triptych was created as a reaction to recent events in the Gaza Strip, and what the artist perceives to be a lack of reaction from international governing bodies and world superpower nations to the ongoing crisis.
On July 8th 2014, Israel launched Operation Protective Edge in the Gaza Strip, a coastal strip of land bordering the Mediterranean, Egypt and Israel. Israel controls Gaza’s airspace and territorial waters thus having the ability to restrict the movement of people and goods into Gaza. The import of construction material such as steel, cement and bricks has been barred due to the ability to manufacture weapons from these materials. Israel is considered an occupying power in Gaza, where they regularly launch military operations. Operation Protective Edge is the deadliest military operation to have taken place in Gaza since the 2008-2009 Gaza War, and has resulted in the death of hundreds of Palestinians, mostly civilians. The Israeli Defence Force justify their bombing of civilian-populated areas with claims that Hamas hides in these spaces, a pattern that is repeated every time the occupying force launches a campaign in Gaza. Due to the ban on importing construction material, rebuilding bombed buildings is close to impossible, and Gaza is left with the permanent appearance of being ravaged by war. The background of each panel in Bumi yang Berdarah shows the literal devastation caused by bombing a city, and its inability to rebuild and move forward. Azrin digitally prints scenes of the landscape of Gaza, littered with shells of bombed-out buildings and rubble. There has been notable silence from several high-profile international media outlets, such as the BBC, CNN and Fox News, on the effects of Operation Protective Edge on the Palestinians. Noticing this silence, Azrin attempts to use his work to explore the immediate and long-lasting visual dimensions of this strike, which appear to be absent from a large majority of official current accounts of events.
Across the top of each panel, Azrin has added a carnival-like bunting, whose festive associations are at odds with the connotations of destruction and despair cast by the background print. Matching these are the carousel horses floating across the center of Bumi yang Berdarah. The left canvas features a full horse, while the center and right canvases share a horse that has been split in half. Azrin prints his horses three-dimensionally, a new technique he began experimenting with in 2014, as seen in his set of works Bila Pandangan Mata Hati Tertutup #1-#4. Historically, horses have regularly been used in warfare; Azrin makes this connotation by painting his horse in colours suggestive of a military animal. The horses seem to be suspended in an up and down movement, suggestive of the actual movement of carousels. In this way, Azrin speaks to the unending cycle of violence in the Middle East, likening it to a game controlled by a single source. This allegory raises the question: which power is the source constantly fuelling this unrest, and for what reasons? By raising this discourse, Azrin encourages his audience not only to broaden their knowledge on the Gaza situation, but also to analyze information from news sources or international governing bodies before drawing conclusions.
Azrin is known for composing his three-dimensional assemblages in the form of dioramas, and uses this format again here in Bumi yang Berdarah. He encases the work with a Perspex sheet overlaid with digital prints of objects associated with war. Images of weapons, aircraft and skulls provide strong associations with combat and act as palpable visual markers of cause and effect.
The term “war horse” is used to refer to soldiers or politicians who have fought several campaigns, and is an apt title for a work that speaks about an ongoing crisis. Although Azrin usually focuses on Malaysian issues, this time he was struck by what he deems a lack of sensitivity demonstrated towards civilians caught in the crossfire in Gaza. He comments on the expectation for world superpowers and governing bodies, particularly the United Nations and NATO, to stand up for the rights of civilians in accordance with their official charters. Bumi yang Berdarah is a personal analysis of Middle East conflict, and an attempt by the artist to resolve his own understandings of the reactions he sees. As a contemporary artist, he views his responsibility in disseminating information and encouraging discourse, and by hand-fabricating all the elements within this striking and thought-provoking assemblage, this has allowed him to tailor his message with a specificity that allows it to resonate within his audience long after viewing Bumi yang Berdarah.
Title: Bumi yang Berdarah
Artist: Azrin Mohd
Size: 115 cm x 218 cm x 10 cm (Diptych)
Medium: Mixed Media – 3D Printing, Bitumen, Acrylic Paint, ABS Plastic and Digital Print on Canvas