Malaysia Boleh, Dope and .44 Magnum
Written by Zena Khan
“Buying stuff is not just our popular culture; it is how we understand the world.” James Twitchell
Of all the issues provoking debates about the free economy and globalisation, the question of the culture of consumerism is one guaranteed to ignite heated debate. Are the material goods of today’s marketplace a result of dynamic entrepreneurial economies, or do they harbour a sinister aim to exert control by leading consumers astray from the higher things in life? On the flipside – does the culture of consumerism, in fact, contain much to be celebrated rather than disparaged? Azad Daniel continues this discourse into the role of commercialism in twenty-first century society with his three new works, Malaysia Boleh, Dope and .44 Magnum. A continuation of his limited edition iPhone cover works, he utilises ideas of art appropriation and hyper contemporary technique to discuss the role of materialism in the modern world.
Consumerism’s impact on the field of technology is widely accepted, and one of the most important technological contributions to society has been the refinement of the hand phone. Consumer demand has forced the evolution of multi-purpose hand phones for companies to keep a competitive edge; this can be seen as an example of the influence consumerism has over all industries today. Azad began his examination on the role of consumerism with an inspection of one of today’s most recognisable products: the iPhone and its cover. In a move towards a new base medium, he casts oversized iPhone covers out of Perspex. The process of casting allows for repetition, unifying the works across his iPhone series, and mimicking the mass-production process of actual iPhone covers. These six feet by three feet Perspex shells are detailed exactly as an actual iPhone case. The ergonomic spaces for access to the buttons and camera lens are present, strengthening the viewers’ immediate recognition of the object. The artist individualises each piece through the designs he applies via his innovative auto paint technique, switching the covers from a mass produced consumer driven product into a high end, one of a kind artefact.
Within Malaysia Boleh, Dope and .44 Magnum themselves, viewers can note technical advancements in the artist’s process, particularly in .44 Magnum and Malaysia Boleh. .44 Magnum marks the artist’s foray into the usage of candy paint to achieve a delicious watermelon red colour in a metallic finish, contrasted against black in a play of positive and negative space. In Malaysia Boleh it appears as if the entire casing has been wrapped in a Malaysian flag. The impression of fabric with the printed folds and shadows is startlingly real, and incredibly difficult given the flat, graphic nature of working in auto paint. It points to Azad’s mastery of his technique and exciting new directions opening up for him technically as he moves his medium forward. Dope shows a subtler experiment, where the artist contrasts a matte black background with shiny letters, as opposed to a fully lacquered, high-shine visual. The glossy impressions of these graphic works result from a highly technical process, mirroring the neat exactness involved in creating technology.
Despite the perfect uniformity from being cast, the varied finishes on the five covers lend an air of sporadic randomness, imitating the choices consumers face when walking into a store for iPhone covers. Playful and witty, they nonetheless make serious statements on the role of art in contemporary society by challenging their viewers on several levels. Almost mirror-like, Malaysia Boleh, Dope and .44 Magnum reflect their surroundings and audience. The seductively shiny finishes have a surprisingly historical connotation; for centuries highly polished artefacts have been displayed by the upper echelons of society in an attempt to portray material security and enlightenments of a spiritual nature. Their glossy appearances, whose appeal lies in the tastes and allegiances of the individual, are as appealing as the real objects would be in an Apple store. As such Malaysia Boleh, Dope and .44 Magnum perfectly utilise art appropriation in addressing luxury and consumerism.
As a shining example of the pinnacle of technological development, the iPhone can be seen as the perfect symbol to appropriate in discussions on consumerism. Recontextualising the iconic object allows Azad to comment on its original meaning while addressing the audience’s immediate associations by tapping into ideas of big business, consumerism, commercialism, and middle class values that permeate twenty-first century societies. The desire within humans for individualism however is revealed in the individuality of each perfectly executed work. Each piece is unique, propelling the covers from an assembly-line product into a desirable artefact that speaks about its collector. With his signature observant skills and dry wit, Azad has once again captured the two opposing sides of material society – the need to conform versus the innate desire to be an individual – with the perfect execution and stunningly clear insight his audience has come to anticipate from him.
Title: Malaysia Boleh, Dope and .44 Magnum
Artist: Azad Daniel
Size: 182 cm x 92 cm x 16 cm (Each)
Medium: Auto paint on Perspex