It’s hard to explain what Super Everything is to the uninitiated, especially when the title itself isn’t very self-explanatory (hell, it’s still a mystery to us even now). To borrow a term the makers use themselves, Super Everything is a live cinema experience – a non-traditional means of audio-visual entertainment where there isn’t a fixed edit, like the traditional wayang kulit the creators play their narrative live to the audience.
Images British Council Malaysia
Being the first of what is expected to be a series, Super Everything at MAP KL looks at Malaysia in relation to her socio-political and cultural backdrop from a foreign point of view. The two anchors to the show, The Light Surgeons (Christopher Thomas Allen and Tim Cowie), spent three weeks filming footage of the country in late 2010 and took nearly a year to map out what would become Super Everything. We’ll get to the effectiveness of the performance as a meaningful narrative later.
But as purely an audio-visual experience, Super Everything works with great potency. It’s really quite unlike anything we have ever seen here before. The wayang kulit analogy makes sense from the moment you walk into the performance space. The Light Surgeons and fellow collaborators work from behind a see-through partition, which acts as the foreground screen, while in the background is a second screen acting as the main visual point of the performance.
That might sound a bit busy, there are nearly 10 peeps working in the Super Everything crew, but their live performance never gets in the way of the visuals. It is a performance after all, their presence adds to the experience rather than marring it.
As modern art reflecting upon the contradiction that is old and new Malaysia, the music – partly composed by JUICE‘s Art Director, Euseng Seto (known by his stage name flica) – has everything from traditional instruments to even the theremin. Music composer Ng Chor Guan did a commendable job at marrying the contemporary and the archaic. Films have always used diegetic and non-diegetic sounds to transcend the visuals, but Super Everything one-ups that by having the latter come out live from the performance.
If Super Everything had a flaw, it’s their attempt at meaningful narrative. Live cinema is not new to The Light Surgeons, the difference between their previous works and this, is that this is the first time they imbue some semblance of story to the performance as opposed to just being a neat audio-visual piece.
Taking a documentary-esque approach, the narrative is ripe with blasÃ© third world country issues such as race, environmental problems and modernity. Now these are perfectly fine points to discuss but the everyday people interviewed speak as if they were led to talk about certain issues. It sounds calculated, like a Merdeka Day ad.
The three main talking heads, Bernice Chauly, Khairun Nisa, and Eddin Khoo, fare better and articulate their thoughts with the erudition that comes with being an artist, activist and author respectively. But like Eddin says, people mistake information for knowledge, and that’s what Super Everything feel like at times – an open-ended informational gluttony.
The see-through partition also displays live tweets from the audience and anyone who tweets using Super Everything‘s hashtag during the performance. It’s a cool trick, but one that doesn’t add anything to the piece’s meaning.
At the end of the day though, Super Everything is still a showy piece of performance art and should be judge solely on the experience of how it affected your senses live. In that regard, Super Everything is a transcendental audio-visual experience, we’d like to see more.
Held at MAP KL from 21 to 24 September, Super Everything was brought to us by British Council Malaysia. Check out The Light Surgeons at www.thelightsurgeons.co.uk.