Continuing the Horizons
HONG KONG, January 11, 2014 - Elaborating on the No Country: Contemporary Art of South and Southeast Asia, the inaugural touring exhibition of the Guggenheim UBS MAP Global Art Initiative, scholars, curators and artists from across the region gathered for a symposium to discuss the historical, political and social context of their region's contemporary art. The conversation, concentrating on these diverse cultures as one horizon rather than disparate nation-states, was supported by the SOMA Project at the City University of Hong Kong. During the morning sessions, topics ranged from colonial modernity to, with a Skype conversation with Naoki Sakai, professor of Japanese literature and history at Cornell University. Dr. Parul Dave-Mukherji presented a lateral look at Asian contemporary art, focusing on the Indian sub-continent and the role of diaspora. "Common to all of them is a central trope of race," she stated. She also highlighted that "uniquely Indian quality is not really meaningful, or expressive of anything at all," but that artists were transcending their national boundaries. Pandit Chanrochanakit spoke on Chiang Mai Social Installation and Asiatopia to Contemporary SEA Art and the emergence of modern art in Thailand, where performance art has taken form in the past 15 years. "We can sense something is changing. It's not something that we can name now, but perhaps in 20 years," he said. In conversation, Joel Kwong, program director of the Microwave International New Media Arts Festival, cited the mobility of artists and curators as an influence in the development of art in individual countries, which Chanrochanakit said had been an ongoing trend for the past decade. He also cited artists from India, Hong Kong and Singapore leaving and coming back to develop their art, and to establish contemporary art and culture. Chief curator of M+ Doryun Chong asked panelists about the relevancy of colonial networks and fracture histories, and how the destabilization of the term Asia. He also cited the cultural negotiations through interrogation of global initiatives, such as that at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, Tate Modern in London, and Asia Art Archive here in Hong Kong.
"One of the issues that we need to face collectively is what are the instruments for this decentering to happen," reflected Hammad Nasar of Asia Art Archive. "It's incredibly weak for most of Asia, these educational institutions which are not yet at a stage where they become centrifugal forces. Exhibitions are the primary sites; their exhaust leaves longer trails."
Reported by Blessing Waung