Yee I-Lann

How much of our perception of the world is shaped by the way we measure it? Is there ever an adequate measurement for affection? These are among the questions one grapples with in Yee I-Lann’s exhibition “Allom! Amatai! Allom!,” one of a series or five concurrent events timed to coincide with the artist’s traveling survey “Borneo Heart.” The gallery show gathers three photomedia essays stemming from Yee’s recent collaborations with Bajau Laut weavers and other Bornean Indigenous communities. The first, “rasa saying”, 2014–21, manifests as a constellation of dye-sublimation prints on navy-tinted aluminum. From afar, the images resemble a cryptic alphabet of neon-orange hieroglyphs, inducing palinopsia through the juxtaposition of complementary colors. Upon closer inspection, this script shape-shifts into a pair of arms that hug, wrestle, and squeeze. These limbs bear no identifying markers, simply serving as an undiluted symbol of both love and conflict. With a little imagination, one can decipher the coded messages underneath these arm-scribbles, such as the snatches of love poems, soaked with longing for intimacy, that opens the fourth chapter of the series. The title means “to feel love” or “the feeling of love” in Bahasa Malaysia, a translation that subtly bleeds into the brightly printed sheets, with their encrypted poetry and their tinge of illusion. Perhaps it is at the intersection of these elements that we can potentially learn how to measure love: through the length of an embrace.

In the seven-chapter “Measuring Project”, 2021–22, Yee explores two systems of worlding: the egalitarian tikar (mat), an invitation to gather that is calibrated to the body of its weaver, and the regnant meja (table), which inflicts its inorganic geometries on bodies in proximity. Meanwhile, Untitled Self-portrait, 2017, weaves together threads of visual-kinesthetic memories from Yee’s artistic evolution. The work pays particular attention to the artist’s 2016 homecoming from Kuala Lumpur back to the Borneo heartland—a testament to her commitment to collective decolonization and her open embrace of Indigenous ways of experiencing the world around us.

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