An Afternoon With Victor Chin And Friends

View from the top at Victor Chin's photo exhibition at KLPac
View from the top at Victor Chin’s photo exhibition at KLPac.
Photo by Wuan.

Wuan and I spent a very casual and enjoyable afternoon at the Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre (KLPac). Our friend Victor Liew had invited me to join him there and I readily agreed as we had nothing planned for Sunday. Besides, we had always wanted to go to KLPac as we have read so much about it, especially the events that were hosted there.

Peter Tan, Victor Chin and Victor Liew at KLPac
Peter Tan, Victor Chin and Victor Liew at KLPac.

We woke up late on the appointed day. The trip to Ipoh the day before wore us out. When we reached Sentul, we lost our way and had to ask for directions at a petrol station. The attendant there was very helpful and drew a map for us. When we finally reached KLPac, we were already one hour late. Nevertheless, the other Victor who was also the host for the event made us feel at home the moment we stepped in.

Victor Chin and friends
With Victor Chin and friends.

The gracious host Victor Chin is a multimedia artist. He was exhibiting his collection of photographs titled In the Face of Disability. In fact, back in 2005, TV Smith had invited me to view Victor’s first photography exhibition on disabled people. Unfortunately, I had another engagement on the same day and had to give it a miss.

Godfrey Ooi and friends entertaining guests at Victor Chin's photo exhibition
Godfrey Ooi and friends entertaining guests at Victor Chin’s photo exhibition.
Photo by Wuan.

This exhibition is the second series of Victor’s work on subjects with conditions that I am familiar with. It features 30 black and white photographs of Malaysian athletes in action or at rest. They are members of the Malaysian paralympic team. I must admit that I have never watched disabled athletes in action and wondered the kind of message Victor wanted to express through those images.

With Victor Chin and and his exhibits
With Victor Chin and and his exhibits.
Photo by Wuan.

I am not one who knows how to appreciate good art but believe Victor had meant to illustrate the diversity of humankind – that we do not need to be “perfect” to be good at what we do. In essence, no human is perfect but we are living in an imperfect world that demands perfection from people we deem imperfect. That is a fact and the hypocrisy that disabled people have to face with everyday. What struck me most in those images was that they were faces of people just like you and I, faces of regular people doing things we thought they could never do. They did and excelled at it.

Victor Chin's In the face of Disability photo exhibition at KLPac
Victor Chin’s In the face of Disability photo exhibition at KLPac.

At the same time, I also hope that audience who have viewed Victor’s work on this subject will not use these athletes as a benchmark on other disabled people. It would be a gross mistake to assume that all disabled people can attain the same achievement with sheer hard work. We have to respect that there are people who are contented with what they are doing now without the need to be super achievers and that it is all right to be a regular disabled person.

Group photo of Victor Chin's guests at his photo exhibition at KLPac
Group photo of Victor Chin’s guests at his photo exhibition at KLPac.
Photo by Wuan.

Having said that, I am already looking forward to the third series. According to Victor, it will be about people at work. He stands out as an artist who is exceptionally comfortable working with disabled people and vice versa. That is evident from the laid back composure of his subjects. I have no doubt that the third series will continue to challenge his audiences’ perception of disabled people.

Dato' Faridah Merican, Wuan, Victor Chin and Peter Tan
Dato’ Faridah Merican, Wuan, Victor Chin and Peter Tan at KLPac.

The afternoon was equally fulfilling as I got to meet old friends like Godfrey who was entertaining guests at the exhibition with his guitar together with his friends who got out of their harmonicas in ways I never thought possible. Back in 1983, Godfrey and I were the guitarists for a group of carollers consisting of Scouts and Girl Guides. I just realised I have known him for a quarter of a century already. I cannot but have to admit that I am advancing in age. Victor also introduced Wuan and I to renowned thespian Dato’ Faridah Merican when she arrived towards the end of the event. One thing that I am sure is that Wuan and I will be visiting KLPac often from now onwards, all thanks to Victor and Victor.

Victor Chin’s In the Face of Disability photo exhibition runs from January 14 – February 19 2008 at the KLPac.