Bono Stellar’s ‘Arus’ more than just for Instagram

Bono waxes lyrical about her latest project in her studio. — Photos by Ahmad Zamzahuri
Bono waxes lyrical about her latest project in her studio. — Photos by Ahmad Zamzahuri

PETALING JAYA, Oct 11 — Malaysian artist Nawwar Shukriah Ali, known as Bono Stellar, wants to be more than just an “Instagram-friendly” artist.

Her new project “Arus” will be showcased at Urbanscapes this November as an experiential art experience but make no mistake about it, its beauty is hardly skin-deep.

According to Bono, “Arus” was born out of time where the artist found refuge in the seaside after facing struggles with her mental health.

“I had this phase of ups and downs like most people do. When I have this ‘down’ time, I would go to the beach. I think that’s the most therapeutic place to go and reflect and talk to the wind and the waves.

“This year has been tough for me. My mental health was not that good so I kept going to beaches and islands. When [Urbanscapes] approached me to create this installation, I thought why not dedicate it to something that actually helped me heal,” she told Malay Mail in an interview.

Bono arranges a mockup of ‘Arus’ which will be shown at Urbanscapes 2018 this November.
Bono arranges a mockup of ‘Arus’ which will be shown at Urbanscapes 2018 this November.

The installation, which will be set up in Medan Pasar, features several structures with iridescent film which will bathe the environment in light and cast shadows across the square.

“'Arus' is named after waves or currents. When you’re in the middle of the sea, these waves keep hitting you over and over and you have to get up again, just like in life when things hit you and bring you down and you keep getting yourself back up. ‘Arus’ is about that fight for life and that wake-up-call to remind yourself to always move forward,” Bono explained.

Experiential installations like Bono’s mark a departure from conventional art exhibitions where audiences are usually not expected to do anything more than passive observation.

Now, exhibitions like the one Urbanscapes will host this year include art pieces that encourage visitors to actively participate and immerse themselves in it and “Arus” is no exception.

Bono hopes audiences will be able to regard art beyond its worth on social media platforms.
Bono hopes audiences will be able to regard art beyond its worth on social media platforms.

This new trend in the Malaysian art scene is a hit in the Instagram-friendly generation but for Bono, it raises qualms about how people might perceive her work.

“I have a love-hate relationship with Instagram. People often approach me asking me to do Instagram-able art.

“I use and love Instagram for being this platform for me to showcase my work and be inspired but the downside is that here in Malaysia, when they ask to create Instagram-able installations, I think they sometimes forget the reason why we create art or design in the first place, or maybe they don’t know that we don’t really create art and design just for Instagram,” she said.

While Bono acknowledges the importance of social media when it comes to promoting a brand, she hopes that audiences will more than just a superficial understanding of her work.

‘Arus’ will utilise iridescent film to cast light and shadows across Medan Pasar.
‘Arus’ will utilise iridescent film to cast light and shadows across Medan Pasar.

“I feel like it’s the client’s responsibility to really credit the artist and focus on the artwork. Through that platform, hopefully it will mold the minds of the masses.

“So far, people just take photos and never credit [the artist]. I really want them to understand art not just as a beautiful thing for Instagram. It’s more than that,” she said.

Bono, who is an architect by training, put her studies to good use during the conceptualisation of her latest project.

"Arus" is the first outdoor art installation that the artist has worked on which required her to take into account its surrounding buildings and even the prospect of unpredictable weather.

“I’m definitely working on something that is using my architectural knowledge. When you’re creating something that’s outdoors you have to consider the context around it, the buildings, and whatever features you have around the site.

“Then there’s the wind, the rain, the circulation of people, and how I want them to move. It’s back to what architecture actually taught me. The structures alone need knowledge of architecture and how you want them to connect with each other and be stable,” she explained.

ono holds a degree in architecture from UiTM Shah Alam.
ono holds a degree in architecture from UiTM Shah Alam.

In line with Urbanscapes 2018’s theme of #ReimagineKL, Bono is aiming for her work to make untapped potential visible in the city’s aged surroundings.

“It’s so colourful and it’s full of lively character around the site. It’s a mix of everything [to do with] KL. When I put this colourful structure in the middle of that site, I feel that it will create an idea and effect on people for them to see something that is possible in the old setting of Kuala Lumpur.

“It’s about creating possibilities and giving people hope and telling them ‘you can do it’, you just have to not limit yourself to only one thing,” she said.

“Arus” will be showcased at Medan Pasar from Nov 3 to 18 as part of the Urbanscapes 2018 festival.

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