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Citizen: Malaysia – TIME TO SHINE was an ambitious endeavor, planned as an exhibition propelled by electronic technology in 2012. Nothing but faces, expressions, and ultimately the beauty of life, the exhibition was originally planned to showcase 31,857 personalities from Malaysia with numerous facial expressions. The prominent use of the figure 31,857 represents the date Malaysia gained her independence on 31 August, 1957.


31,857 persons, 7 faces/expressions each, 222,999 shots, 15,929 male, 15,928 female, an average of 7,964 people per race i.e. 1,991 Malay, 1,991 Chinese, 1,991 Indian, 1,991 misc indigenous, 1 loving country. With hundreds of thousands of expressions to digitally loop for the entire week, it will also maximize the impact of the exhibition to truly bring forth the message of unity amongst those involved.


The first studio session was conducted on July 26th, 2008 in Jln. Ampang. Celebrities who turned up were Albert Law, Amber Chia, Atilia Haron, Daniel Lee, Ida Nerina, January Low, Nikki Palikat, William Quah, as well as personal friends and families. To have a better idea of the exhibition, imagine each person has 7 different expressions, projected onto a building façade, the faces morph from one expression to the other in a square format such as below: No names shall appear during the actual exhibition on the respective screen. The morphing, in tune to smooth jazz (optional), also adds to the look and feel of the exhibition. 


Each portrait and personality photographed tells a mixture of stories. Standing bare shouldered and photographed in black and white, the project brings a symbolism that every Malaysian is equal. From celebrities like Amber Chia, Ida Nerina, Atilia Haron, Will Quah and Albert Law to movers and shakers like the late Yasmin Ahmad and Marina Mahathir, Evan has since photographed over 3,000 people, each with a different story of happiness, joy, birthdays, pregnancy, new birth, cancer, HIV/AIDS, divorce, death, piracy, transgenderism, prostitution, disability.


Though seemingly different, but looking at the core of it all, humanity is actually quite the same. What ties us is the common bond of living together under one nation, one Malaysia. Putting aside race, colour and religion, rightfully we are Citizen: Malaysia. Yes we are uniquely different, but living in one country, under one nation, under one flag, photographed bare-shouldered in black & white, we realize we are uniquely quite the same; Se-bangsa, se-negara, se-Malaysia.


Unfortunately due to funding issues and governmental redtapes, the sensitivity, safety and security of this project was deemed as a potential cause for public unrest, and while the idea was to project the images onto the facades of sky scrappers in Kuala Lumpur using high-lumen projectors that digitally maps the images onto the building at night, that too posed a threat to public safety particularly pedestrians and drivers. With the many reasons given by the government, and the few bridges that burned in the dreams of seeing this through, the project was eventually scrapped. A smaller, more intimate exhibition was done in its place in Singapore using flat-screen televisions at The Arts House at the Old Parliament during Causeway Exchange 2010. 


Simple and lightweight, the electronic exhibition previewed the use of everyday digital home gadgets, displayed and creatively expressed on digital screens. The sub-theme “Love Life Living” was instrumental in the careful designing of the exhibition. The overall goal was to immerse visitors in an environment that presents a different perceptual experience and creates variation in their observations. Evan sees this exhibition as a starting point to play an integral part in the expansion of new art forms because new digital media increasingly enables artists to work collaboratively. Globalization, urbanization and the development of a media-saturated society have plunged us into a relentlessly fluid environment where today, change is the only constant.


Closer to home, Evan hopes art expressions in such manner can activate real emotions, causing people to lose their indifference, critical distance and get emotionally involved. Because Citizen: Malaysia – Time to Shine is neither a project, a stint, nor propaganda. It’s a burning vision. Fuelled by the spirit of one artist that his countrymen must be identified on the basis of citizenship, not skin color, religion or politics. An avenue to celebrate Malaysia's beauty, diversity and complexity.


The following collection of images are all the individuals photographed for this project. Nostalgic as it may to many, Evan would like to express his sincere gratitude to all that participated, as without these individuals, the project in whichever scale it turned out as wouldn't come to fruition. Thank you Malaysia. 


Click on the Citizen Malaysia logo below to view the archives. It's your TIME TO SHINE.  

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