“Theatre of Ships” installation were commissioned during the artist residency in Penang for the George Town Festival 2013. It was sited between the City and Town Halls on Jalan Padang Kota Lama, Malaysia. The work specifically designed to reflect the history and culture of Penang as sin hi tai or ‘new theatre’ for public space gathering place for recreation and performance as well as a cultural melting pot due to the strategic position as a maritime trading hub.
Joko Dwi Avianto, the artist, was using interwoven bamboo installation to create a boat-like structure to symbolise the importance of the sea in Penang’s identity. This idea reflects the development of Penang since it was founded and trading ships started to come to the island.
The piece is a reflection of the rich cultural heritage, historical progress and prosperity of Penang, as well as to convey the idea of theatre in becoming a public theatre for locals and visitors to come together and celebrate the enduring legacies of travel, trade and cultural exchange.
Joko Avianto had the first approach from George Town Festival in March 2012, after they saw his work at ArtJog; an annually contemporary art festival that is held in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. Joko was also presenting a large scale bamboo installation at the façade of Taman Budaya Yogyakarta (Yogyakarta Cultural Park). Later he was invited by the committee to have a site research at Penang. During the invitation trip, he developed some sketches with several sites options that he consider are able to represent his responses idea towards the festival; few of them are market area and an intersection at the old town area. Later he chose not to use those sites for the reason of public permit to block the area to build the artwork. Afterward he decided to choose the Penang City Municipal Council because he saw that site similar to a bridge in between City Hall and Town Hall and also because the historical reason of the site as an old theatre. The artwork was fully funded by George Town Festival, however they also give a fully trust to the artist to develop their work without any idea interference.
All copyright belongs to Shanghai Academy of Fine Arts, Shanghai University.