Kuala Lumpur, 2019. As the silent monoliths of the banking district watch on, a strange spectacle takes over the traditional Old Market Square.
Squatting in the square is an incredible bamboo structure. It’s adorned with vivid murals, and packed with televisions of all shapes and sizes broadcasting live mash-ups of images and audio. And there’s a noise, a harrowing, metallic scraping noise bouncing off the windows of the HSBC building and reverberating around the square like the death knell of an iron giant.
HuRU-hARa is in town.
Flash forward to Melbourne, 2020 and Beat Magazine chats to HuRU-hARa curator Thomas Henning. He and co-curators TerryandTheCuz are transporting the wild world that invaded downtown KL to Abbotsford Convent.
The installation-cum-performance-slash-party is a highlight of the Asia TOPA program, and seeks to bring together some of the most cutting-edge visual, performance, and sound artists from all over Asia. With street art, murals, sculpture, video, DJs, interpretive dance, live music, and an ever-evolving junkyard installation, HuRU-hARa is chaos one-and-done, but in the most glorious fashion possible.
Such is the commotion that HuRU-hARa seeks to inject into our otherwise controlled lives. It’ll be a cathartic mix of the traditional and new, the intimate and the impersonal, the ordered and the disordered.
“I think the nature of all things is chaos,” Henning explains. “The big bang is born of chaos. It’s made up of things that are and aren’t simultaneously. The nature of chaos is order and disorder and that’s the beauty. I think if life is dominated entirely by order it becomes completely unstable. But if you go totally to disorder then it becomes unstable as well. Commonly, we confuse chaos and disorder as one and the same thing but they’re not.
“Chaos is order and disorder.”
The theme for the installation is inspired by the Nusantara archipelago, which encompassed Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, East Timor, and the Philippines, long before any such territorial boundaries existed.
“I’ve been looking a lot at the history of the archipelago. I was looking at how people interact when there’s no law, because that was the nature of it, before colonisation and borders and this segmentation of society into us and them. The way society worked was that you had to negotiate with strangers for things and maybe that fella hates you but maybe they’ve got a bunch of stuff you’re gonna love.
“The miasma of information and possibility that was going on throughout the archipelago was huge. Trade was the education system, information was travelling like this. Materials were travelling like this. Weird influences would go from that island over there to that island over here. It was this grand chaos which was the second Silk Road. It was the wealthiest place in the world. And the nature of it was ultimately chaos: good or bad.”
HuRU-hARa will focus mostly on the good, with new and unique expressions of rich and diverse cultures, all wrapped around a dive bar serving mind-blowing cocktails and Asian street eats that will light a fire under your palate. The dive bar especially fits the lo-fi, DIY practice of many of the artists.
“It’s probably where we’d all drink, right?” Henning laughs. “Aesthetically it suits the whole world of it and the idea of something buried being resurrected and the idea of something plastic being the facade of all things – a bunch of odd elements colliding and coming together. A dive bar can have that ‘ship of lost souls’ feeling, as well as being littered with memories of lives you didn’t live.
“It’s that kind of world.”
In a city obsessed with new and unique experiences, it’s sure to be a wondrous world indeed.
HuRU-hARa takes over the Abbotsford Convent for Asia TOPA Thursdays to Sundays from Thursday February 20 to Sunday March 1. Entry is free, find out more here.