Artist talk – Roslisham Ismail ‘Ise’

EVENT: Art Forum with Roslisham Ismail ‘Ise’
VENUE: Cell Block Theatre, National Art School Gallery
DATE & TIME: 16 May 2012, 1-2pm

Malaysian artist Roslisham Ismail aka ‘Ise’ will discuss his current project Jalan Jalan Makan Angin commissioned by 4A.

During a previous visit to Sydney, he noticed from his weekly grocery-shopping trips at Paddy’s Markets that these retailers habitually spoke Malay amongst each other. Immediately intrigued, Ise decided that he wanted to work with this sub-community of Chinese-Malaysian workers. This micro-community of Chinese-Malaysians illuminated how a ‘secret’ language could be used as an identifying factor and is particularly interested in examining and looking further into the lives and habits of these vendors; their families, their homes, hopes and dreams, as new migrants. Here, the ‘secret language’ that was initiated through maritime Southeast Asia, is invested with a new agency and purpose, becoming a means of camaraderie adopted to stand for a communal sense of belonging that layers their multiple identities as Chinese, Australians, Malaysians and Singaporeans.

Ise describes his modus operandi as ‘making friends and talking to people’ or ‘hanging out and making friends’. However this humble statement conceals the deeply-rooted and long standing relationships that the artist forms with his collaborators and project participants. Since 2006, Ise has worked with various groups of Malay migrants across South-East Asia, attempting to draw into and focus upon the experience of migrant populations in their new countries and utilising an extensive network of collaborators all over the world he calls his ‘superfriends’ and often deals with the personal experience of urban communities through his interactions with different participants.


Jalan Jalan Makan Angin, or ‘walking around and eating the clouds’ draws on the daydreaming and aspirations of one Chinese-Malaysian couple from Paddy’s as the basis for a new way of seeing Sydney. Calvin and Ahmei migrated to Australia three years ago from Malaysia. They both work as fruit and vegetable vendors at the market. Yet despite their proximity to the city, have never ventured to Sydney’s most iconic locations. As such, Ise adopted the role of local guide and created a tour that includes popular sights, the Opera House, Taronga Zoo and Manly. By creating a temporary travel agency for this couple, Ise questions the positions of ‘local’ and ‘tourist’ when navigating a city.

Through collage, drawing and photography, Jalan Jalan… reconfigures Sydney – if only for one, and two people – as a city without it’s previous social and economic boundaries. To follow Calvin and Ahmei, on their tour of Sydney go to

Tune into Ise speaking about his project recently on Canvas on FBi Radio 94.5FM alongside Mark Feary from Artspace available on podcast

Ise’s recent installation project for Singapore Biennale 2011 explored a cross section of Singaporean domestic lives through an installation of six refrigerators storing groceries that the participating families would normally buy. The project provides an intimate portrayal of the way people live that is reflected through what they buy and eat.

Ise has participated in the Singapore Biennale, 2011; Asia Triennale, Manchester, 2011; Jakarta Biennale, 2009; Istanbul Biennale (with Ruangrupa), 2005. In 2006 he was the Australian High Commission resident at the Gunnery Studio, Art Space, Sydney and held his first solo exhibition at 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art in 2007.


Jalan Jalan Makan Angin is an initiative of the 4A Chinatown Mapping Project and has been supported by the NSW Government through Arts NSW.