On a spontaneous Sunday afternoon, my friends and I decided to give Ur-Mu aka Urban Museum Kuala Lumpur a visit. We booked our tickets online and off we went! Apart from the hustle and bustle of weekend crowds in KL, it was a refreshing sight to see our city recovering from the quietness of MCO. With curated events, workshops, and exhibitions going full-out, many of us finally get to experience a new artistic side of Malaysia.
And it is just going to get even better!
The easiest way (at least for us) to get around was through the trains. As you all know, Malaysia gets free train rides until July 15th so use that as much as you can (while staying safe and hygienic of course)! You would have to transit from Pasar Seni’s LRT station to the MRT and stop at Bukit Bintang’s station. From there, open up your Google Map and take a short walk crossing Malaysia’s very own ‘Shibuya’ road and passing by various delicious-smelling kebab shops, and into a residential-like area. There, hiding within the metropolitan jungle of our city is the five storey Urban Museum Kuala Lumpur.
Upon arriving, you would have to present your QR code to be scanned while a paper guide will be given to you. For all our readers who prefer a digital guide, that is also available. Now you can either take the lift or the stairs (highly recommend the stairs just because you get the full experience) and begin your five-level journey.
Beginning with the worlds of Sens-Asia&People, artists in Sens-Asia explore concepts of fun, beauty, and camaraderie through ethnicities, practices, and culture while contemporary artists in People feature diverse expressions of self-reflection and self-contemplation through self-portraits.
In Sens-Asia, these artworks show us a different perspective by delving into the underbelly of our city.
What immediately caught my eye was a series of found photographs titled Karma Karma Chameleon by Hoo Fan Chon, 2019. These were female nightclub entertainers of the 1980s with bombastic permed hair and costumes of sequins and sparkles from George Town, Penang.
When seeing each one of the portraits up close, the style of photography and fashion was similar to what we see nowadays. In fact, most have come back in trend with a modern twist. It was enlightening to see a part of an era that helped spark creatives today.
Moving on to the second-floor housing Kampung Kita &Power Play. Kampung Kita explores Malaysia’s rich agriculture and environments, showing us the roots and rural lifestyles of our people. Power Play, on the other hand, paints Machiavellian political landscapes.
“Composition plays a dominant role in the artworks as they draw you into them, locking viewers into a specific narrative of the paintings and leaving you to ponder your thoughts”.
The third level is my personal favourite where monsters and superheroes share a space. Not only will you be immediately greeted by a giant skeleton art piece, but surrounding art pieces bring to life stories you would normally come across only in myths, legends and some, our favourite childhood superhero, Ultraman. Some might even awaken a part of you you did not think you would have inside.
Here lies The Skeleton of Makara (The Myth of Myth), a mythical creature of Hindu religion by Tan Zi Hao, 2016. This half territorial half aquatic animal has embellished itself onto many entrances of Hindu and Buddhist temples within the Southeast Asian region, spanning as far as Japan.
Inspired by a Malay riddle found in Spirit of Wood: The Art of Malay Woodcarving by Eddin Khoo and Farish A. Noor which reads:
Berbelalai bukan gajah.
(English: It has a trunk but it is not an elephant)
Bermahkota bukan raja.
(It has a crown but it is not a king)
Bersisik bukan ikan.
(It is scaly but it is not a fish)
(What is it?)
Upon seeing its skeletal form up close, no doubt this was man-made and not found, still gave us shudders thinking about how it would look in real-life. Using fibreglass and metal, the Makara carcass “questions how history is constructed or represented, out of absence, fragments, and myths”.
What would you do if you ever come across an actual Makara, reader?
On the fourth floor is a collection of contemporary artworks exploring both traditional and modern eroticism, and architecture through models, hand-drawn technical drawings, paintings and photography.
Another favourite is by Tan Eng Hooi, 1958. The first two mixed media pieces illustrated a very cosy, intimate, almost romantic feel of Kirkby in the late 50s where the artist was attending the Malayan Teachers’ Training College.
And romantic it was! Kirkby was where he and his wife first met, making these pieces particularly dear to admire. His third piece was of a scenery at dusk, encapsulating the saturated skyline by the seascape. (P.s there is a water station on this floor to quench your thirst from gaping at the artworks! We know we did!)
At last, we reach the rooftop and the final floor (& world) of Ur-Mu which transports you into this serene place that has both outdoor and indoor seating for you to enjoy and admire the arts amongst the cityscape. While it may not be the highest floor for you to enjoy the view, it provides a nice breath of fresh air as you finish Ur-Mu’s journey.
This floor has … actually let me leave this part a mystery for you, reader, and take this opportunity to discover the art pieces from the last world of Ur-Mu yourself this weekend.
Why opt to read the ending when you can experience it yourself?
Don’t forget to grab your tickets and share your experiences with your friends and family. Signing off until the next RIUH Visit!
3, Jalan Bedara, Bukit Bintang,
50200 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia