‘murmur’ at ROH Projects Deciphers the Multitude of Meanings

by Dini Adanurani
2nd June 2023
Showing from 2 to 25 June 2023, ‘murmur’ expands the multiplicity of meaning in language, symbol and object through the works of 11 multidisciplinary artists across Asia.

Stepping inside ROH Projects in Menteng, one can either spot or miss the two pieces of paper stuck on the right wall of the gallery by the entrance. These papers come from the first pages of different books: ‘The Image of the Future’ by Fred Polak, and ‘The Future of Image’ by Jacques Ranciere. A quick browse through the web reveals that the first title refers to social change and a collective vision of the future, while the latter talks about a new way of thinking about aesthetics. Even though the two titles are similar at first sight, the interchange of words and their emphasis in a sentence can completely alter its meaning.

This work by Thai artist Pratchaya Phintong, ‘Untitled’ (2023), is easily overlooked for its seemingly trivial placement. But upon closer examination, it fittingly sets the tone for what ‘murmur’, the gallery’s third group exhibition, is going to explore. As gestured immediately by the first artwork, a simple word holds a lot of possibilities. Take the example of the exhibition’s titular word: it is an onomatopoeia that represents soft, indistinct voices; but at the same time it is the plural version of mur, an Indonesian word for the hexagonal nuts generally used in constructions and appliances.

Here, the multiplicity of meaning is exercised through a curation of artworks by 11 artists across Asia, ranging from paintings, and sculptures to sound installation. This notion is intensified inside ROH’s Gallery Apple, which sees the white cubical space enveloped with rows of text from Hong Kong-based artist Tsang Kin-Wah’s work ‘YO UWOULDNE VER… YO U WO ULDN   EVE   R  ANDY  O   UWOULD  N EVER…’ (2023). The sentences on the wall spring towards many directions, interrupting each other, while some letters fall out and some sentences are rendered meaningless. 

Another level of disruption is audible through Bandung-based Bagus Pandega’s work ‘A Tea Poi on Moo’ (2016), a series of sound installations consisting of three vinyl players spread on the floor, each accompanied by the strobing light from study lamps beside them. The indiscernible sounds coming from each vinyl were sampled and distorted from Bagus’ interview on the streets of Bandung with three people who are struggling to make ends meet, in which he inquired them about their vision of tomorrow. Titled after a word scramble of ‘onomatopoeia’, the future depicted in this work fittingly reflects the sounds that it makes: a hollow ringing, eerily repeating itself. 

Moving away to the wider, high-ceilinged space of Gallery Orange, the artworks lose their firm grip on wordplays and sensational bursts, slowly coming into sculptures, paintings and drawings that invite the audience to envisage their meanings. A wooden sculpture of a round-edged car stands slightly slanted at one corner, but as one gets closer to it, a small painting of that same car is perched on the wall in response to the gallery’s structure. This is Koh Phangan-based Aracha Cholitgul’s work ‘LDR – Moving Mountain No. 1′ (2020), a memento of her experience travelling around Thailand with a pickup truck during the pandemic.

At another corner of the gallery, a house-like structure is hung above the ground, completely covered by a colourful pile of clothes. Titled ‘Holy Chamber’ (2023), the installation by Agung Kurniawan looks back into the country’s history; envisioning a praying quarters built from clothes of the 1965 mass killings survivors. “I helped iron the clothes, and it felt so eerie touching them because I can imagine [the survivors’] bodies,” commented Adinda Yuwono, Relations Manager of ROH Projects, on her experience preparing the work. 

Visitors are welcome to step into the chamber to experience this haunting past. As the Yogyakarta-based artist spoke of his work, “Objects or forms can never be freed from their meaning. These objects are born with their original sin.” 

The ensemble of ‘murmur’ has many layers of depth, as well as a range of forms that manifests the theme. Yet, the works run along the same thread and influence each other’s tone in the same space. From the visible play of words to the unspoken chapter of history, ‘murmur’ serves as a site of reflection on life itself. 


‘murmur’ will run from 2 to 25 June 2023 at ROH Projects. For more details, click here.