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WAY 2 DRAGON is a part nude performance and part documentary video that takes place in the capital of Malaysia. When the artist visited Kuala Lumpur in February of 2019, the River of Life project––an extensive effort to improve the Klang River––had been almost completed. However, a stretch near Chinatown remained neglected. One riverfront was severely damaged by poor construction and seasonal monsoon, thereby becoming a perfect home for Asian monitor lizards. These giant reptiles were thriving at the intersection of failed civil engineering and natural disaster. Belonging to an accidental habitat, they highlight the performativity of placemaking.

 

Of course, the voracious beasts, however large, are incomparable to dragons. Such powerful mythical figures bring human society to face its innate vulnerability, inspiring humility. But the resident lizards have only a small share of the brute force that humans ascribe to dragons. The opportunistic creatures, then, are on their way to “dragon”––approaching but never reaching that asymptote of symbolism. At most, they remind locals that the city is an ecosystem that does not cater to human species alone. And despite impending threats of eviction, the lizards have their way to drag on, maintaining their line of defense against the march of the anthropocene.

© 2020 by KAHN J. RYU