GOVERNMENT policing affecting freedom of expression in the arts is not new. Comedy group Instant Café Theatre was banned by Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) for a period, over a decade ago. This was after the actors defied a government directive to remove “all references to government policies, government agencies and mention of any person dead or alive.” The Seksualiti Merdeka festival was banned by the police in 2011. In 2013, police questioned artist Anurendra Jegadeva for an art piece expressing solidarity with Muslim Iraqis, after a report was lodged alleging the artist was insulting Islam. From live performances to festivals to art pieces, the government is now demonstrating their interest in policing the showing of films. The latest government action impacting the arts…
This is the flyer for Sudden Death, a participatory performance in memory of Teoh Beng Hock.
1. Light a candle for Teoh Beng Hock.
2. Lie on the ground, on your right side.
3. Position left leg 90 degrees away from torso. Right leg should be pointed 45 degrees from your left leg.
4. Position both arms 45 degrees from hip.
5. Don’t cry. Don’t emo. Don’t ‘improvise’. Just stay still until candle burns out, and pay respect.
Sudden Death was directed by Mark Teh, and performed numerous times in 2009, the year of political aide Teoh Beng Hock’s death. It was first performed in Findars, 6 Aug 2009, as part of the final Improv Lab @ Findars’ Space. It was also performed at Pekan Frinjan 5.0, organised by Frinjan, in Dataran Shah Alam in 7 Nov 2009 — not too far away from the MACC building.
Following that, Sudden Death was included as one of the 7-part theatre piece DELUSIONS 惑 KHAYALAN: The Year In A Word 今年一字 Setahun Dalam Kata, produced by Pentas Project, which took place in Annexe Central Market, 17–20 December 2009. The Annexe performance also included a projection of Teoh Beng Hock’s silhouette by Bryan Chang, which the participants could lie down beside.
From the Sudden Death performance at Annexe, Central Market (picture courtesy of Mark Teh)
In this performance, Mark Teh was highlighting his concern over the deaths of many individuals in custody from 2003–2009, and noted that through the politicking and media spin, Teoh had become an abstract concept to Malaysians. Teoh was not the first to die in police custody, although as the first ‘political death’, he became a symbol of the power abuse all Malaysians could be subject to from the authorities.
In January 2011, a coroner’s inquest will rule that Teoh’s death was neither homicide or suicide. In July 2011, the Royal Commission of Inquiry then officially attributed the death to suicide, though many doubts lingered over the case.
Recently, on 5 September 2014, the Court of Appeal set aside the coroner’s open verdict in the inquest, and unanimously ruled the death was caused by multiple injuries from the fall, a result accelerated by an unlawful act or acts of persons unknown — inclusive of Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) officers who were involved in his arrest and investigation. [Click for more info]
The flyer in this picture above was taken from the Annexe performance. Mark Teh is (to gloriously simplify) a part of arts collective Five Arts Centre. You can follow his personal updates on Twitter at @whoismarkteh.
On 5 Oct, those in Johor will be able to enjoy Five Arts Centre’s production of Gostan Forward (performed by Marion D’Cruz and directed by Mark Teh) in JB Arts Festival. ∗
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