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Contemporary Visual Culture


ISSUE 111 NOV/DEC 2018

| NOV/DEC 2018 | ISSUE 111


76 84
Ma Qiusha Anita Dube

Cutting Through Naked and

Histories Knife-Sharp

96 106
Young & Emerging Then and Now

12 Essays
Editor’s Letter
Contributors 111
29 Inside Burger
Reports Collection
We Are Each One An Other
Hopping on a Broken Bandwagon
Ladies and Gentlemen of Leisure


One on One: 120-136
On Kawara Gwangju, TarraWarra, Tokyo, Busan,
30 Shanghai, Beijing, Hong Kong, Singapore,
Dispatch: Hanoi Metro Manila, Jakarta, Ramallah,
London, New York, New York,
Minneapolis, Los Angeles
Book Reviews:
The Point:
The Art of Place, the Place of Art
Gana (Hear, Think, Understand)
Art Directory
Whispering Gallery
Where I Work:
Izumi Kato
Auction Report
68 The Sketch:
Dale Harding Keiichi Tanaami
Art Fair Report
52 70
Previews Akiko Yamazaki and Jerry Yang
55 72
New Currents Khvay Samnang

10 | NOV/DEC 2018 | ISSUE 111

Editor’s Letter

Us, You, #MeToo

It has been one year since the New York Times published a For our special Feature Inside Burger Collection, Katharina
report on the numerous allegations of sexual misconduct Amman, head of the Swiss Institute for Art Research, and
against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein. The article Christina Végh, director of the Kestner Gesellschaft in
unleashed the #MeToo movement that has swept across Hannover, meet with artists Teresa Hubbard and Alexander
the globe in almost every industry, profession and calling, Birchler to discuss their project about the American artist Flora
including art and publishing. To mark the anniversary of Mayo, created for the Switzerland Pavilion at the 57th Venice
this historic moment for women to speak out and share their Biennale. Together they discuss feminism, power relations,
experiences of sexism and sexual harassment, in our Nov/Dec narrative structures and reframing history around a nearly
issue of ArtAsiaPacific we focus on artists who, through their forgotten figure.
work, highlight the challenges women face. In Essays, two guest contributors examine recent trends
For our cover Feature, AAP Beijing desk editor Tom Mouna in their respective art scenes. With three art fairs—Art Stage
met up with Ma Qiusha, an artist who came of age during China’s Singapore, SEA Focus and Art SG—lined up for 2019, critic
massive social, cultural and economic transformation. Mouna Reena Devi considers whether Singapore’s frenzied push for
considers Ma’s diverse practice encompassing performance, these commercial events will actually benefit all involved in the
video, installation, photography and painting, all of which country’s arts ecology. From Shanghai, curator Danielle Shang
revolve around personal and collective memories of growing up scrutinizes China’s new generation of private museums, asking
in China in the 1980s and ’90s. Ma’s most visceral works look if it is time for the many collector-driven initiatives to adopt
at the familial and cultural expectations of children, such as in institutional standards and social responsibilities. Rounding
the video From No. 4 Pingyuanli to No. 4 Tianqiaobeili (2007). out the essays, Joyce Wong, the winner of AAP’s inaugural
Here, the artist sits in front of the camera speaking calmly about Young Writers Contest, examines cross-cultural themes in the
her childhood, specifically her intensely academic-focused work of Shezad Dawood.
upbringing and her parents’ wishing she were a boy. Only at In Profiles, AAP reviews editor Ophelia Lai meets up with
the end does she appear to be in pain as she talks, and it is Cambodian multidisciplinary artist Khvay Samnang during
revealed, through the blood spilling from her lips, that she has his recent visit to Hong Kong. AAP Australia desk editor
spoken for more than seven minutes with a razor blade in her Tim Walsh sits down with Brisbane-based artist Dale Harding
mouth. Ma’s artworks looks at cultural phenomena beyond her after a whirlwind year of exhibitions in TarraWarra, Liverpool
own life as well, from the shifting colors of women’s hosiery to and Stockholm. Ink Society director Olivia Wang talks
online automobile subcultures. Mouna reflects, “Perhaps not with California couple-collectors Jerry Yang of Yahoo!
surprisingly for an artist whose practice deals with the idea of fame and Akiko Yamazaki about their shared love of both
control or the lack of it—over one’s own agenda, over the female traditional and contemporary art forms as well as their support
body, over the larger societal shifts occurring in Beijing and of cultural institutions.
China—Ma likes to collect objects, as if to temporarily possess Rounding out the issue, for Where I Work, AAP associate
narratives that they carry or for the purpose of allowing her to editor Chloe Chu visits the Hong Kong studio of Japanese artist
process conjectured histories.” Izumi Kato, whose solo show is currently on view at Beijing’s
In the second Feature, AAP contributing editor Jyoti Dhar Red Brick Art Museum. Do Truong Linh files a Dispatch from
examines the career of Anita Dube, an artist, writer and Hanoi and reveals a still conservative yet growing art scene in
curator who has played a pivotal role in India’s tightly knit Vietnam’s capital. In One on One, New Zealand’s representative
art scenes since the early 1980s. Dhar looks back at Dube’s artist for next year’s Venice Biennale, Dane Mitchell, explains
interdisciplinary practice—from her involvement as the his admiration for the late On Kawara, particularly his date-
leading spokesperson in the 1980s art group known as the related works. For The Point, we invited Quandamooka artist
Radicals, who sought to incorporate the voices and perspectives Megan Cope to elaborate on the importance of contributing to
of marginalized groups (whether Dalit, tribal, queer or female), the collective discourse of Indigenous Australian artists active
to her critical art reviews in the progressive Indian newspaper in the 1980s and ’90s. Working with similar concerns as Ma,
Economic Times. Dhar’s analysis offers some hints of what Dube, Hubbard and Birchler, Cope looks back and reflects on
to expect at the forthcoming Kochi-Muziris Biennale this her critical position in society, “Artists are often the first people
December, which Dube helms as curator. in society to carefully articulate their position in the world, in
This issue also concludes our two Feature series to mark ways that not only expand our visual literacy but also convey
AAP’s 25th anniversary. Then and Now, a selection from our what it feels like to be on the receiving end of injustice and
archives of articles and images that capture the social, political prejudice.” In the year since #MeToo, it seems more imperative
and cultural mood over the past two and half decades, revisits than ever to pursue discussions around issues of social justice,
Peter Robinson’s rise on the 1990s New Zealand art scene at and explore ways to fight inequality.
the time of the country’s debates on the return of land and
rights to indigenous peoples, and spotlights the emotionally
raw performances by Indonesia’s Melati Suryodarmo in the
late 2000s examining ideas of struggle, powerlessness,
resistance and loss. We continue our visual portfolio of five
up-and-coming artists in Young and Emerging, this time ELAINE W. NG
with those whose practice utilizes new kinds of digital media:
Hayoun Kwon, Miao Ying, Jess Johnson, Refik Anadol and See our website for the Chinese version of this article.
Foundland Collective.

12 | NOV/DEC 2018 | ISSUE 111

BUSINESS MANAGER Linda Da Cruz Contributors
Hsin-Yi Hung
ASSOCIATE EDITOR Chloe Chu Tel +886 922 935 870 Megan Cope is a Quandamooka Dane Mitchell is an Auckland-
COPY EDITOR Michael Lacoy
artist from North Stradbroke based artist who will represent
Hong Kong
Jeremy Orritt
Island, Queensland. Her works, New Zealand at the 58th Venice
Tel +852 2375 2311 which probe issues of identity, Biennale in 2019. In 2018, he held
Fax +852 2555 0841 the environment and mapping solo exhibitions at Mori Art
CHINESE TRANSLATOR Esther Chan practices, have been exhibited in Museum, Tokyo; Institut d’Art
Faredoon Kuka
Tel +91 22 5570 3081/82 institutions such as the Chapter Contemporain, Lyon; and
Fax +91 22 2851 3735
Arts Centre, Cardiff; Musées de la Auckland Art Gallery Toi o
Civilisation, Québec; Al-Ma’mal Tāmaki. He has also participated
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Tel +82 2 785 8222
Fax +82 2 785 8225 Art, Jerusalem; National Gallery Gallery of Contemporary Art in
Australia Tim Walsh
of Australia, Canberra; and Art Krakow; City Gallery in Wellington
UK & Europe
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Sydney. Cope received the PLAY Kortrijk, 2018.
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16 | NOV/DEC 2018 | ISSUE 111


2018.11.07 – 2019.01.21

One on One

On Kawara
By Dane Mitchell

series) that commenced in 1966, as of these canvases often have a

much as a work such as the reading similar logic of selection (paintings
of One Million Years (1993– ). made on Sundays, during one
Each canvas or utterance calls up week, etcetera). Formal repetition
the past in the present, as words encourages concentration on the
conjoin with time itself over and to work and what lies beyond it. Some
form a reality within reality. viewers find that a diferent order
Post hoc, my project to be of perception is required by the
presented at the 2019 Venice paintings’ systematic call on seeing
Biennale for the New Zealand and reading. Like a mantra, the
national pavilion, connects with this repeated dates allow Kawara’s work
concept of duration in highlighting to penetrate consciousness.
what has become extinct, lost, Sound also directly infiltrates
defunct, withdrawn or disappeared the mind without being distanced
over time. Lists of obsolete, by the codification of aesthetics.
vanished, subtracted, extinct While invisible, a speech-act can
and disappeared things will be be considered an artwork-as-signal
broadcast across the city through and sculpture-as-transmission, and
a network of ersatz trees. These as a time for the inception of ideas.
ON KAWARA Typographic forms inscribed on past entities are recalled through Art historian George Kubler’s 1962
One Million Years (Reading) canvas, stamped on cards, printed the act of speech when uttered text The Shape of Time: Remarks
Documentation of reading and bound in volumes, punched out for transmission. The aesthetics on the History of Things makes the
performance, one month. on telegrams, voiced over airwaves. of the work requires an attentive, poetic suggestion that astronomers
View of “One Million Years” exhibition
On Kawara’s date-related works listening subject to comprehend and historians are both concerned
at David Zwirner, New York, 2009.
Courtesy David Zwirner, Hong suggest a level of remoteness and its full (and partial) extent, as only with appearances noted in the
Kong/New York/London. detachment in their use of data and part of the lists will be visible at any present but occurring in the past
a set-based logic of numeric and one time. The quality of duration, (as in the way light takes millions of
systematic languages. Abstract and so formative in experiencing years to reach Earth, and in the way
serial in nature, the works describe Kawara’s work, is foundational historians deal with objects from
time with a cool distance. However, to the relevant events, acts and the past). He suggests that both
Kawara’s language-objects are consequences that have amassed astronomers and historians collect
anything but hermetic codes: they over the era of humanity, and to ancient “signals”—from objects
are warm and generous spells the experience of Post hoc. and starlight alike. Following Kubler,
that transport us through those As Kawara’s works summon the “signals” observed and re-
very inscriptions. the past, they invite reflection transmitted, for example, returning
The devices that Kawara on what has been and what will time or a vanished species into
subscribes to—the attempted come. Each canvas, line in a existence momentarily, as in Post
absenting of the hand in painting journal, or newspaper clipping hoc, might be thought of as both an
the sans-serif type of those associated with the date paintings “event” and an object: emanations
beautifully endless tracts of dates; highlights a subjective, personal that are both real and metaphysical.
the reliance on telecommunication presence within objective reality. Flows of information seem to
technologies to prescribe existence The date paintings sit on an edge: have no beginning or end. Each
but that arrive minutes, hours, days becoming history as soon as they symbolizing 24 hours and existing
late; the temporal nature of a voice are created, like the phenomena as material evidence of the time
reading out loud the dates of a of yesterday’s news, as newsprint they took to make, Kawara’s date
calendar across the airwaves—all (and newspapers) yellow (or close), paintings insert a pause within a
point to something deeply elegiac, fade and disappear. The sense of field of constant change. I was here.
sensitive and poetic. Moreover, his relativism in time at the center of We were here. To mark time even
practice implies, and encourages, these works ripples outward. with the most minimal gesture is
an exploration of the far reaches of In its strident minimalism, the to recognize mortality, to act as
ontology. In their recounting of form of Kawara’s art consequently memorial while encouraging us
time departed, the works send also ofers the realms of the to step into the event flow of the
signals from the past—a past abstract and immaterial. Each artwork as signal.
imprinted on us in the present and date painting is similar to its
competing for possession of the predecessor, varying only in its *With thanks to Zara Stanhope.
future. This applies to Kawara’s background color, scale and slight *Visit our Digital Library at
daily date paintings (the “Today” modifications in script. Exhibitions for more articles on Dane Mitchell.

Reports 29


For better or for worse

from foreign art foundations and artists and ofering a truly playful
institutions, or a financially viable space for experimentation.
art market. In December of last Although local, independent
year, the city saw the closure of art spaces are lowkey, some in
the temporary physical space of more deliberate ways than others,
Nha San Collective, one of the public government-funded
most prominent arts organizations projects are on the rise, aiming to
in Hanoi and a second-generation inject new life into the arts and
ofshoot of the historic Nha San cultural heritage of Hanoi and to
Studio, which opened in 1998 and foster cross-cultural relations. An
closed in 2011 due to government initiative supporting the creative
pressure over its staging of a nude industry, established this year by
performance piece. Nha San, the Vietnam National Institute of
which means “stilt house” in Culture and Arts Studies and the
View of Hanoi in 2014.
Copyright and courtesy Flickr user Guerretto. Hanoi prides itself on its 1,000- Vietnamese, was founded in the British Council, has launched a
year history and diverse mix of private home of artist Nguyen project focused on the revival of
Chinese, French and Soviet cultural Manh Duc, who had converted two the Vietnamese film archive and
influences. It is much like a living traditional wooden houses built traditional musical heritage. This
theater, with all aspects of life by the ethnic tribes of Northwest joins the eforts of two existing
played out in the streets, including Vietnam. The very first art exchange-program organizations:
eating, drinking, talking, singing, happenings there in the late 1990s Heritage Space, in Nam Tu Liem
driving, dancing and fighting. manifested out of the founding district, and Six Space, located
The city is full of national members’ personal desire to create in Hoan Kiem District. Heritage
museums, such as the Vietnam an alternative and open space for Space runs MAP – Month of Arts
National Fine Arts Museum, the young artists—eforts that helped Practice, an annual residency
Vietnamese Women’s Museum and pave the way for contemporary program that invites local and
the Vietnam National Museum practitioners today. international artists to collaborate
of History. However, these sites Other major nonprofit spaces on a group show over a period of
seem to only attract foreign include the alternative Manzi one month. Six Space collaborates
visitors. Internationally, there is café and art gallery, whose annual with Barim, an arts venue in
curiosity and demand for arts public art project “Into Thin Air,” Gwangju, to foster relationships
and culture from Vietnam and initiated in 2016 to encourage between South Korean and Hanoi
historical information around the interaction and intervention of artists, which resulted in a series of
Vietnam War, but the local people, public spaces, was presented for public events at this year’s Gwangju
especially the younger generations, the first time in September as a Biennale. And to highlight the
are generally more interested virtual exhibition, a move by the little-known connection between
in the latest Korean fashion organizers to avoid the burden of Hanoi and the Eastern Bloc, artist
trends or the next Hollywood having to deal with the authorities and curator Tran Luong (also a
blockbuster. The exception to this and censorship. The audience co-founder of Nha San Studio)
is the new, private Vincom Center can download an app and view recently invited a group of local
for Contemporary Art (VCCA), diferent locations as “occupied” performance artists, including
situated inside a huge luxury by various new artistic creations. the Appendix Group, for a series
shopping mall in the Royal City The nine-year-old independent of public performances across
residence complex, which since space for film and moving image, diferent Polish cities.
its debut last year has attracted DocLab, formerly funded by While international relations
massive crowds of young people. the Goethe-Institut, moved are strong, local organizations are
The popularity of the VCCA has from its enclave in the Goethe- struggling. Many artists from the
contributed to the mainstream Institut building and declared its capital, as well as from the nearby
appeal of contemporary art, which independence by relocating to city, Hue, are now moving to Ho Chi
was once considered underground a space in a less busy location. Minh City where they can connect
and alternative. Newer, smaller initiatives operate with international curators, gallerists
Despite this shift in perception, below the radar, like Puppets Café, and collectors, and be supported by
other nonprofit or independent founded in 2017 and run by a group local patrons and its burgeoning art
key players in the contemporary of young artists and curators, and market. Whether this is for better or
art scene remain quiet, possibly A Space, which opened in 2018 and worse, only time will tell.
due to the lack of commercial is run by artist Tuan Mami, who See our website for the Chinese version of this article.
galleries and external funding has been active in mentoring young

30 | NOV/DEC 2018 | ISSUE 111


Global Uproar Over Shahidul Alam’s Arrest


At Seoul’s National Museum of Modern and

Contemporary Art, multimedia artist Siren Eun
Young Jung was presented with the 2018 Korea
Artist Prize on September 19. Jung was selected
for her ongoing research project investigating
gender through the Korean all-female theater
genre Yeoseong Gukgeuk.

On September 25, Sydney-based painter

Natasha Walsh was awarded the AUD 50,000
(USD 35,430) Mosman Art Prize for her oil-on-
copper self portrait The Cicada (2018).

On September 30, a plane with a banner bearing SHAHIDUL ALAM’s portrait and the message “FREE OUR TEACHERS”
circled above New York in protest of Alam’s arrest and incarceration in Dhaka. Courtesy Wasfia Nazreen.

Portrait of NATASHA WALSH. Courtesy Art Gallery of New

South Wales, Sydney.
The esteemed 63-year-old photographer, Hasina’s address to the UN General Assembly.
photojournalist, educator and activist Shahidul Several days later, on September 30, Bangladeshi On October 3, at Frieze Art Fair in London,
Alam was arrested on August 5. Earlier that day, activist and National Geographic Explorer Wasfia artist and animator Wong Ping was announced
Alam had appeared on Al Jazeera and openly Nazreen and her pilot friend flew a private the inaugural winner of the Camden Arts
criticized Dhaka authorities’ excessive use of plane over Manhattan, with a banner featuring Centre Emerging Arts Prize. He will stage an
force in breaking up student protests calling for a portrait of Alam and the message “FREE OUR exhibition at the Centre within the next
improved road safety. TEACHERS” trailing behind. 18 months.
At around 10pm on August 5, plainclothes Alam’s arrest hit a nerve among artistic
policemen arrested Alam at his Dhaka communities in South Asia. The Kochi Filmmaker and performance artist Wu Tsang,
residence. He has been charged with “spreading Biennale Foundation started a petition in recognized for her explorations of marginalized
propaganda and false information against the August demanding that Bangladesh authorities gender and racial identities, was named a 2018
government” under Section 57 of Bangladesh’s “allow journalists to do their job.” Nepali MacArthur Fellow on October 4, receiving a
Information and Communication Technology artist collective projected quotes cash award of USD 625,000.
(ICT) Act 2006, which criminalizes the and photographs by Alam on buildings across
electronic dissemination of content that Kathmandu during a regional political summit in Obituaries
“prejudices the image of the state” and may late August.
cause “deterioration in law and order.” Multiple open letters demanding Alam’s Multidisciplinary artist Shirin Aliabadi died on
When Alam appeared in court on August 6, immediate and unconditional release have October 1. She was acclaimed for her works
he was visibly bruised and stated that he was been signed by renowned artists including that examined the influence of consumerism
tortured in jail, an allegation that the police Anish Kapoor, Lubaina Himid and Rasheed and globalization on popular culture and the
denied. If convicted, Alam faces up to 14 years Araeen; leading cultural figures such as Chair lives of women in Iran.
in prison. According to Al Jazeera, in 2017, at of Arts Council England Sir Nicholas Serota
least 25 journalists and hundreds of bloggers and Serpentine Galleries artistic director
and Facebook users were prosecuted under the Hans Ulrich Obrist; and more than ten Nobel
ICT Act. Prize laureates.
Alam has been denied bail twice. On On October 4, Cuban artist Tania Bruguera
October 7, the High Court gave the government staged a performance in solidarity with Alam
one week to explain his pre-trial detention. at London’s Tate Modern. On the floor of the
The photographer’s incarceration sparked Turbine Hall, Bruguera arranged prints from
outrage within and beyond Bangladesh. Protesters Alam’s “Crossfire” (2010) series that captures
from human-rights groups and journalist extrajudicial killings committed by Bangladesh’s
associations gathered outside the United Nations elite police task force, along with flashlights and
headquarters in New York on September 27, copies of the photographer’s book, My Journey Portrait of SHIRIN ALIABADI. Courtesy The Third Line, Dubai.
during Bangladeshi prime minister Sheikh as a Witness (2011).

News 33

Portrait of YASUFUMI NAKAMORI. Photo by Dan Dennehy.

Courtesy Minneapolis Institute of Art.

international art (photography), commencing his

role in October. He has served as head of the
Minneapolis Institute of Art’s department
of photography and new media for the past
two years, and was curator of photography at
the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, from 2008
Installation view of LUKE WILLIS THOMPSON’s Autoportrait, 2017, 35mm black-and-white silent film: 9 min 10 sec,
at the Turner Prize exhibition, Tate Britain, London, 2018–19. Photo by Matt Greenwood. Courtesy Tate Britain. to 2016.

Controversy: Publicity Storms with sexual misconduct allegations. On July 19, Public Domain: Creation/Destruction
Throughout 2018, the polarization of public Choi Hyo-jun, director of the Seoul Museum On September 24, Do Ho Suh unveiled a public
opinion on the ongoing, worldwide refugee crisis of Art, was suspended from his position artwork titled Bridging Home, London (2018), a
has become increasingly apparent. In the United following a complaint filed by a female museum steel, timber and plywood replica of the artist’s
Kingdom, Banu Cennetoğlu’s contribution to employee, who reportedly claimed he had sent childhood home—a small house with a bamboo
the 2018 Liverpool Biennial, The List (2007– ), an inappropriate, albeit not sexually explicit, garden in a traditional Korean architectural
a public display of the names of 34,361 refugees video to her. Choi had previously been warned style—installed on a footbridge in the City of
who died while fleeing to Europe between 1993 by the museum’s union not to contact female London. The work was co-commissioned by
and mid-2018, was vandalized three times. colleagues at night via the Korean messaging public art initiatives Art Night and Sculpture
On July 28 and August 15, the list was ripped service KakaoTalk. in the City, and reflected on the multicultural,
from public hoardings, where it was installed, In Beijing, writer and curator Li Bowen migrant histories of the neighborhood where it
by yet-to-be identified perpetrators. On resigned from his position as associate editor was on display.
September 7, the remnants of the display were at Ocula on September 26 after an anonymous
graitied with “INVADERS NOT REFUGEES!” cultural worker with the internet pseudonym
prompting Liverpool mayor Joe Anderson to “qiaoqiao” accused him of “repeated patterns of
brand the vandals “fascist thugs,” while calling deceit, gaslighting and abuse” in a WeChat post,
on volunteers to protect the work. which was then corroborated by other women
As the UK grapples with rising xenophobia on social media. After AAP published the story
and racism, issues of racial representation came online, however, qiaoqiao sent a second, follow-
to a head on September 25, when members of up statement, explaining that “the case does not
the collective BBZ London held a sit-in at Tate involve typical abuse of power, direct physical
Britain to protest Luke Willis Thompson’s harm, sexual harassment or non-consensual
Turner Prize nomination for his video sexual conduct,” and that her intent was for
Autoportrait (2017). The 35mm film depicts an power structures to be more widely discussed
Ullens Center for Contemporary Art Dune opened in Beidaihe in
African-American woman, Diamond Reynolds, in China. October. Photo by Ni Nan. Courtesy OPEN Architecture, Beijing.
as her chest rises and falls in measured
movements, presenting a deliberate contrast Career Moves: International Transfers Beijing’s Ullens Center for Contemporary Art
to Reynold’s Facebook livestream of the police On September 12, Bartomeu Marí announced (UCCA) opened UCCA Dune, its first permanent
shooting of her partner Philando Castile in that he will be stepping down from his post as exhibition space outside the Chinese capital,
2016, which perpetuated the aesthetic of terror director of the National Museum of Modern on October 13. Located in the coastal resort of
and victimhood, according to the artist. The and Contemporary Art (MMCA) in Seoul this Beidaihe in Hebei province, the new 930-square-
protesters claimed that Thompson—who is of December, when his three-year contract ends. meter space is the first major contemporary art
mixed white and Fijian ancestry—is profiting According to the Korea Herald, MMCA oicials institution in the district, and will hold two or
from “black pain” with the work. An essay by said that the South Korean Ministry of Culture, more exhibitions a year. The institution, which
BBZ member Rene Matić that was published in Sports and Tourism decided not to renew Marí’s was designed by OPEN Architecture, was named
May also decried Thompson’s frequent artistic term due to domestic pressure to steer the for the surrounding mounds of sand, in which
interrogations of the representation of black museum toward a more Korean focus. Marí parts of the museum’s cave-like structure are
identities due to his status as “a white-passing became the first non-Korean to helm a public submerged. The inaugural exhibition, titled
male.” Thompson previously stated that he cultural institution in South Korea when he joined “After Nature,” presents works by international
worked closely with Reynolds for Autoportrait, in 2015, and has been instrumental in expanding artists that engage with urbanization in China,
and that she approved the final piece. the MMCA’s program to include international art. and society’s shifting relationship with the
As the #MeToo movement continues to In London, Yasufumi Nakamori was natural environment.
gather steam, more women have come forward appointed Tate Modern’s new senior curator of *For more news, see our website:

34 | NOV/DEC 2018 | ISSUE 111

The Point

Gana (Hear, Think, Understand)


In Australia, the white colonial settler culture, community and Saltwater Country.
fantasy has historically positioned When I create work about my cultural
Aboriginal people at the lowest rung of identity as a Quandamooka woman, it is
society. The government maintained this critical that my Quandamooka community
stance until the 1967 referendum, in which also relates to these works, ideas and
Australians voted overwhelmingly to amend histories. Our Quandamooka cultural
the constitution in order to introduce laws identity is communal and collective.
protecting Aboriginal people and to include My practice is often centered around
them in the census. This change in the our relationship with our traditional
legislation saw a wave of community action language and concepts of ownership,
across the continent. Having finally been whether it be of our ancestral lands or
given the chance to oversee our own affairs, sovereign bodies, the role maps have
Aboriginal communities began to establish played in our dispossession or the effect
housing co-ops, legal services, health of mining in our economic systems.
centers and vital community organizations. These artworks and ideas move outward
Although we have managed to establish from Quandamooka Country and across
basic infrastructure for ourselves, art is one many nations through the contemporary
of the few spaces where Aboriginal people art world. The hegemonic process of
have a true sense of autonomy, can practice in those days, Aboriginal people were keen colonization and collective experiences
self-determined economic independence to support each other at every corner. endured by many Aboriginal people might
and feel secure in the knowledge that our Blackfullas were keen to connect and then translate into larger narratives and
work is respected. support each other in general. This support national concepts of Aboriginal identity.
The time of self-determination (post 1967 took place often within the organizations I like to think that my practice
referendum) is critical for understanding born in the time of self-determination. contributes and adds to the broader
the complexities of Aboriginal identity in My elders talk about this because there discourse and greater collection of visual
Australia. This year in May, as we laid an has finally been enough black critical literacy that was founded by important
important Elder to rest, we were reminded discourse and dialogue—enough for us to be artists such as Trevor Nickolls, Robert
of the dramatic changes our Aunty Margaret able to move away from the anthropological Campbell Jnr and Gordon Bennett in the
had experienced and the consequences gaze and definitions of our cultures, and 1980s and ’90s, whose works challenged
of government policies that she saw in into our own pedagogies. Australia’s construct of our individual and
her lifetime. I believe the role of art has absolutely shared identities as Aboriginal people in the
Aunty Margaret was born under informed Aboriginal pedagogy in this urban space.
“The Act” (Aboriginals Protection and country. Artists are often the first people in I have found that through constant
Restriction of the Sale of Opium Act 1897), society to carefully articulate their position art-making, my work has informed me just
which allowed appointed authorities to in the world, in ways that not only expand as much as I have informed its materiality.
govern Aboriginal communities, often our visual literacy but also convey what it As this relationship grows, so does my
resulting in children being removed from feels like to be on the receiving end of legal ability to articulate the issues that the art
their families and forced to work. She injustice and racist prejudice. relates to.
lived in the Myora Mission and was in her With this in mind, I’m often conflicted Over the past decade, I have witnessed an
prime by the time the 1967 referendum about the notion of cultural identity being increasing awareness and desire for diversity
occurred. Within this context of newfound “discovered or explored” in art. I believe in the arts. I believe that curators have to
freedom, nothing was going to stop this artists who create in this context are start taking a greater responsibility for the
strong black woman from starting up every problematic as their works often display amount of cultural production that occurs
important piece of infrastructure and images and concepts that perpetuate white within institutions and practice rigor when
growing the organizations that a healthy and prescribed notions of otherness, thus it comes to ensuring that the fetishization
community needs. reinforcing the social barriers constructed of otherness that has always overshadowed
My elders often talk about their identity by the concept of race. our autonomy does not precede critically
as black people and a time where everyone My practice always starts with my engaged artists and artworks.
was united in poverty. They say that, back identity: one that is firmly rooted in family, ILLUSTRATION BY TENG YU

Reports 37
Whispering Gallery

Spinning Up, Winding Down


As the autumn art season kicked Some speculated that the to chill and bubble at Paradise Kiran Nadar, art patroness and
of in the northern hemisphere, China-heavy gallerists who signed City Hotel’s new Paradise Art the wife of India’s sixth-richest
a cross section of the art world up for Beijing Contemporary Expo Space, and attached, foreigners- entrepreneur; London-based
ventured to the 2018 Gwangju were still licking their wounds only casino. Known for their love hedge fund manager Taimur
Biennale on their respective trains, after subjecting themselves to a of contemporary art, Elizabeth Hassan; and fashion designer for
planes and automobiles. In typical financially flat art fair. This left and Phillip Chun believe their Karachi’s well-heeled socialites,
biennial fashion, there was plenty them unwilling to travel to yet hotel—located one hour from Sonya Battla. Also turning heads
of chaos to navigate, especially Seoul, but only five minutes from with his golden Gandhi cap was
with the appearance of Korea’s Incheon Airport, is a winning bet the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s
first lady Kim Jung-sook and the for jetlagged blackjack and DJ’ed assistant curator for South Asian
US ambassador for the opening dance parties. The event was art, Shanay Jhaveri, who was

ceremony, all while VIPs and press an extravaganza even by casino recently voted best-dressed by
crisscrossed the city looking for art h a n C ro c ke standards, with traditional Korean Vanity Fair for his elegant, Indian-
by hundreds of artists, the majority dance performances followed by tailored pajamas.
from Korea, Japan, Southeast Asia Emmanuel Perrotin, Phillips’s

and, yes, Finland. Despite this Jonathan Crockett and Art021’s


overflowing abundance, something Kelly Ying gyrating to the sounds

seemed of-kilter at Asia’s longest- of heartthrob K-pop boybands and
running biennial, specifically the stars including Rain and Super

lack of the Three Cs from China Junior’s Siwon Choi. The guest

n Nadar
and South Asia—the curators, another “noncommercial” art of honor was American artist Jef
collectors and compradors. So event—even if there were major Koons, who unveiled one of his
where were these cliques and international museum trustees “Gazing Ball” sculptures at the
chattering classes during the crucial in attendance. Some participants site—a must-have for auction
first week of September? who had made it to Korea noted punters. Perhaps the Paradise
that the Beijing Contemporary owners felt they needed some good
VIP preview was thronged with
the press—not exactly VIPs by South Asia, and the whole
China standards—and that sales MENASA region, has found
slipped into debit territory. With collectors to be ever rarer,
a notable drop in spending by especially in the United Arab
China’s new collectors, let’s see Emirates, now that Arif Naqvi’s
Kim Ju

how the mega galleries from Europe private equity firm, the Abraaj

and the US will fare in November Group, is in liquidation. In 2008,



during the double whammy of the Naqvi signed up his company as



West Bund and Art021 art fairs a major sponsor of the Art Dubai

in Shanghai. Western galleries fair, backed the Abraaj Group Art

without many contacts on the Prize of USD 100,000, and was
The groupies attached to mainland have high expectations even appointed honorary fellow
Beijing-based digital darling Cao for the event, but between the feng shui for their gambling den— of the prestigious Royal College of
Fei—from Ullens Center for oicial mandate against “fostering Jef Koons’s art seems to be a lucky Art in London. As there’s a warrant
Contemporary Art’s Philip Tinari money-worshiping tendencies” and rabbit’s foot for American casino out for Naqvi’s arrest in the UAE
to Cao’s longtime gallerists Zhang the government campaign to rein mogul Steve Wynn. over writing bad checks (for a mere
Wei and Hu Fang—had made in credit lending, many Chinese Meanwhile, New York City was USD 48 million), it seems the avid
their way south to Hong Kong to art buyers are now thinking twice the place to be for the South Asian art collector is holed up in London.
celebrate the artist’s first major solo about whether that pretty painting art world. India’s and Pakistan’s Art Dubai says the fair will continue
show at Hong Kong Jockey Club- is really worth it. most active collectors flew in for without its biggest supporter, but
backed Tai Kwun Contemporary. For the art world’s high rollers, the bash to celebrate Asia Society’s many are placing their bets that
Those who attended Cao’s opening a Korean island other than Jeju exhibition “Progressive Revolution: the prize saw its final days last
were impressed by her new, slickly was the place to be in September. Modern Art for a New India,” March. It’s anyone’s guess if the
produced film. But where were all Following the triple-billed biennial which featured some of the most Abraaj Group Art Prize Collection
the others from the Sino Sphere, if week, gallerists and auctioneers revered blue-chip artists from the of 30 major commissions by
not in South Korea’s politically left- from all the major art markets— Subcontinent. Among those who artists including Kader Attia, Wael
leaning city or the now-less-than New York, London, Hong Kong flocked to Manhattan’s Upper Shawky and Nadia Kaabi-Linke, will
Fragrant Harbor? and Shanghai—traveled to Incheon East Side Asian jewel box were succumb to the winding-up process.

Reports 39

Where Art Thou?

Hong Kong
Clockwise from immediate left: artist Wang Yuyang at the opening of his solo exhibition
“The Moon” at Massimo De Carlo; independent curator Tan Vatey with Phnom Penh’s Sa
Sa Bassac gallery manager Chum Chanveasna, president and founder of the Cambodian
Association of Hong Kong Ngo Ravindra, contemporary dance artist Nget Rady and
Cambodian artist Khvay Samnang at the opening of the group exhibition “Constructing
Mythologies” at Edouard Malingue Gallery; Tai Kwun’s head of arts Tobias Berger with
multimedia artist Cao Fei and director of Beijing’s Ullens Center for Contemporary Art
Philip Tinari at the opening of Cao’s solo exhibition “A Hollow in a World Too Full” at Tai
Kwun Contemporary; American artist Hank Willis Thomas with Ben Brown, owner of Ben
Brown Fine Arts, at the opening of Thomas’ solo exhibition “My Life is Ours” at the gallery;
director of de Sarthe gallery Willem Molesworth with Hong Kong artist Carla Chan at
the opening of the group show “Black: Recategorize” at Galerie Ora Ora; multimedia and
installation artist Mona Hatoum at the opening of her first exhibition in Asia, “Remains of
the Day,” at White Cube gallery.

ArtAsiaPacific’s 25th anniversary party at Belles Artes Project Outpost, sponsored by Engkanto Brewery, Cibo di M and Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar.
Front row (left to right): AAP’s editor at large HG Masters, Bellas Artes Projects (BAP) founder Jam Acuzar, collector Marcel Crespo, AAP’s editor and
publisher Elaine W. Ng, BAP’s artistic director Inti Guerrero, artist Judy Freya Sibayan, BAP’s deputy director Fatima Manalili, artist Patricia Perez
Eustaquio, artist Maria Taniguchi, and assistant to the director and manager of conservation at Lopez Museum and Library Marga Villanueva.
Middle row (left to right): BAP’s head of development Kaye Aboitiz, director and curator at Manila’s Museum of Contemporary Art and Design (MCAD)
Joselina Cruz, artist-in-residence Hera Büyüktaşcıyan, chairperson of the arts management program at Manila’s School of Design and Arts Geraldine B.
Araneta, artist and 2018 Manila Biennale executive producer Carlos Celdran, Silverlens gallerists Rachel Rillo and Isa Lorenzo, jewelry designer Macky Fah,
2018 Manila Biennale organizer Tesa Celdran, writer Mara Coson, curator of the Philippines Pavilion at the 2019 Venice Biennale Tessa Guazon, Ateneo Art
Gallery curator Yael A. Buencamino.
Back row (left to right): Hacienda Macalauan’s head of marketing Sandra Soriano, BAP’s architect Teymour Benet and MCAD’s deputy director
Chris Green.

People 41

Clockwise from top right: artist Suki Seokyeong
Kang at the Gwangju Biennale; artist Byron Kim
with San Francisco Museum of Modern Art’s curator
of contemporary art Eungie Joo, Tate Modern’s
Daskalopoulos senior curator of international art
Clara Kim, chief curator of Mori Art Museum
Mami Kataoka, artist Zhu Jia and Tokyo-based artist
Taro Shinoda in Gwangju; the Los Angeles County
Museum of Art’s associate curator of contemporary
art Christine Y. Kim with LACMA’s curator and acting
contemporary art department head Rita Gonzales,
independent curator and art critic David Teh, Clara
Kim and artistic director of Bangkok’s Jim Thompson
Art Center Gridthiya Gaweewong (all of whom are also
curators of the 2018 Gwangju Biennale) at a Gwangju
Biennale party organized by Kukje Gallery in Seoul;
artists Kim Yong-ik, Minouk Lim and Chung Seoyong
at a makgeolli bar in Seoul; Dhaka-based photographer
Munem Wasif, artist Tom Nicholson, Amsterdam and
Chiang Mai-based artist Sawangwongse Yawnghwe
and Melbourne-based artist Rushdi Anwar with
artistic director of Ho Chi Minh City’s The Factory
Contemporary Arts Centre Zoe Butt at the Asia Cultural
Center in Gwangju; artist Seung Yul Oh at his solo
exhibition “View & Hide” at One and J. Gallery in Seoul.

Left to right, all taken at the Sydney Contemporary art fair at
Carriageworks: Gallery directors Ursula Sullivan and Joanna
Strumpf pictured in front of a painting by Sydney Ball at the Sullivan
+ Strumpf booth; artist Patricia Piccinini in front of her multisensory
installation The Field (2018).

42 | NOV/DEC 2018 | ISSUE 111

Auction Report

The Inevitable Descent

ZHANG DAQIAN though respectable, this sum pales

in comparison to the estimate-
the auction market. The angular,
bust-like portrayal of Pontius
BRIDGE TO MOUNTAIN TEMPLE SHROUDED busting results of the auctions held Pilate against a corn-yellow
BY PRISMATIC CLOUDS IN SPLASHED COLOR in March 2018 and September 2017, background tripled its
Ink and color on paper, 42 x 86.7 cm. which raked in USD 56.6 million USD 200,000 high estimate to
Courtesy Sotheby’s New York. and USD 43.5 million, respectively. hammer at USD 612,500.
The fall South Asian Modern and Sotheby’s New York’s concurrent
After the astonishing results of their Contemporary Art (SAMCA) Asia Week series brought in
spring series, expectations were sale also saw a dip in its sales USD 33.9 million over five auctions
high at Christie’s and Sotheby’s total, bringing in USD 8.3 million spanning antiquities and fine
New York and Hong Kong outposts across 70 lots, down from the Chinese paintings—a considerably
this fall. The Asia Week auctions USD 10.3 million achieved in smaller afair compared to the
in New York achieved satisfactory the 61-lot March sale. The top March series, which grossed a
results that were nonetheless ofering that day was Tyeb Mehta’s combined total of USD 75.6 million
underwhelming in comparison to the painting of truncated orange over ten sales. Of the modern
March sales, proving that what goes figures, Diagonal XV (1975), works ofered this September,
up must come down. Fall auction which fetched USD 1.39 million, Zhang Daqian’s Bridge to Mountain
earnings in Asia, on the other below its USD 1.5–2 million Temple Shrouded by Prismatic Clouds
hand, remained impressive, led by estimate. It was the only lot to in Splashed Color (1981) led the
oferings from the usual big names, exceed the USD one-million mark sale of Chinese paintings and
while emerging auction favorites in the auction—an unspectacular calligraphy from the collection
also enjoyed good sales. result considering the top lots of of Tang Hung and Fung Bi-Che,
the previous two New York SAMCA former students of the Chinese ink
New York sales surpassed USD 4 million. master. The landscape found takers
Christie’s New York Asian Art The cover lot, Akbar Padamsee’s at USD 915,000, more than tripling
Week—which took place from painting Rooftops (1959), a gray its USD 280,000 high estimate.
September 11 to 14, and included cityscape punctuated with shades
Chinese antiquities along with of maroon, also sold under its Shanghai
classical Indian, Himalayan and high estimate of USD 1.2 million, While New York auction results
Southeast Asian art—marked a hammering at USD 912,500. this September were a comedown
lackluster start to the fall auction A notable transaction was for after record highs in March, total
season. The series earned a FN Souza’s oil-on-board Jesting sales for Christie’s Shanghai fall
combined total of USD 34.7 million; Pilate (1956), which was fresh to series have showed a steady climb.

Reports 45
Juin-Octobre 1985 (1985). The USD 7 million high estimate to
monumental ten-meter-wide attain USD 8.8 million. Chinese
triptych, with a central sunset- modern master Wu Guanzhong’s
orange haze surrounded by deep pastoral oil painting Sunshine After
ultramarine and green, hammered Snow in the Mountain Village I (1964)
at USD 65 million, making it the also exceeded its USD 1.9 million
most expensive oil painting by an estimate, selling for USD 2.9 million.
Asian artist ever sold at auction. A dark-horse lot was Guan Liang’s
The piece was last put on the childlike oil-on-canvas portrayal
block at Christie’s Hong Kong of Beijing opera characters, Monk
20th Century Chinese Art & Asian Tang and Wukong (1978), which
Contemporary Art sale in 2005, hammered at USD 1.27 million,
finding takers at USD 2.3 million, over eight times its USD 153,150
which indicates a nearly 30-fold high estimate. Richard Lin, whose
increase in value over 13 years. The geometric, abstract compositions
same night, another work by Zao, are steadily finding favor in the
23.05.64 (1964), from his gestural secondary market, attained
“Hurricane” series, sold for USD 1.16 million with his mixed-
USD 11.5 million, although below a media work of white blocks, Painting
SERGE POLIAKOFF USD 15.3 million high estimate. In
line with the seemingly unending
Relief 12.12.63 (1963), above a
USD 740,225 high estimate.
1954 hunger for Chinese-French modern Ofered at Sotheby’s
Oil on canvas, 97 x 130 cm. painters, Chu Teh-Chun’s No. 268 contemporary art evening sale was
Courtesy Christie’s Shanghai.
(1967–68)—a three-meter-wide artist du jour Joan Mitchell, whose
snowy mountain landscape, gestural abstraction Syrtis (1961)
The two modern and contemporary and the largest single-canvas debuted at auction, and found
art sales made a combined total work in his oeuvre—sold for takers at USD 7.2 million, under a
of USD 17.9 million, up from USD 9.66 million, inching above USD 8.9 million high estimate. Jean-
USD 13.5 million in 2017 and its USD 8.93 high estimate, while Michel Basquiat’s oilstick, acrylic
USD 10.7 million in 2016. The Sanyu’s oil-on-masonite painting and silkscreen on canvas, Logo
top lot was Zao Wou-ki’s abstract of white peonies Pot de Pivoines (1984), featuring an appropriated
painting 13.02.92 (1992), evoking (c. 1940s–50s) shot past its Navy Cut tobacco logo within a
a cloudy mountain landscape,
which fetched USD 6.6 million,
exceeding its USD 3.8 million high
estimate. Lots by Western artists
were sold out, indicating their
continued popularity in China.
Salvador Dalí’s bronze sculpture
Piano Surréaliste (1954/84) sold
for USD 1.3 million against a
USD 510,000 estimate, while
Serge Poliakof’s abstract oil
painting Rouge Bleu Jaune (1954)
tripled its USD 349,400 estimate
to attain USD 1.1 million.

Hong Kong
It has been a good year for
Sotheby’s Hong Kong, which
netted a combined total of
USD 466.1 million over 20 auctions
from September 29 to October 3,
just shy of the USD 466.5 million
achieved in the spring series.
The modern and contemporary
art evening sales raked in WU GUANZHONG
USD 200 million—the highest FORGETFUL SNOW
total for an evening sale in Hong Oil on canvas, 91 x 100 cm.
Kong—led by Zao Wou-ki’s Courtesy China Guardian Hong Kong.

46 | NOV/DEC 2018 | ISSUE 111

partially filled crimson background,
similarly dipped below its high
estimate of USD 4.85 million, selling
for USD 3.77 million. Nevertheless,
the work had last surfaced at auction
in 2010 at Sotheby’s Paris, where
it sold for USD 1.1 million; over the
last eight years, Logo has more than
tripled its value. Other works far
exceeded expectations, including
Yayoi Kusama’s black-and-yellow
painting of her iconic vegetal motif
Pumpkin (PLOE) (2013), measuring
162 centimeters wide, which sold
for USD 4.3 million against a
USD 2.55 million high estimate.
Liu Ye’s Red No. 3 (2003), depicting
a little girl who recurs throughout
his oeuvre, standing against a
scarlet background with a sword
in her hand, fetched USD 2.77
million, more than doubling its high
estimate. George Condo’s The Aztec
Cosmologist (2009), a portrait with
a cubist-style head in bright blues,
pinks and yellows, distinguished
by fine black-and-white lines
dissecting the composition, sold 1967
for USD 2.47 million, well above its Oil and aluminum on canvas, 127.7 x 127.7 cm.
Courtesy Poly Auction Hong Kong.
USD 893,375 high estimate. Wang
Xingwei’s referential painting Still
No A-Mark (1998)—depicting a (“The Villagers”) (1939), which USD 14.4 million across 119 lots—a
young boy being reprimanded for attained USD 781,100, quadrupling significant drop from its March sale,
low grades à la Fyodor Reshetnikov’s its USD 191,440 estimate, and Le which raked in USD 52.3 million over
Low Marks Again (1952), in a room Pho’s ink-and-gouache-on-silk 114 lots. The fall cover lot, Richard
with Allen Jones’s 1969 “furniture” portrayal of a mother and three Lin’s oil-and-aluminum-on-canvas
sculptures of women in leather children, La Famille (“The Family”), January 1967 (1967), hammered
fetish gear—more than tripled its which sold for USD 750,400 against at USD 979,000, above a
USD 382,875 estimate to hammer at a USD 319,000 high estimate. USD 830,000 high estimate,
USD 1.27 million. Sotheby’s appeared China Guardian Hong Kong’s further attesting to the artist’s
to be testing the market with Xu October series, including jade growing popularity. A notable
Zhen’s XUZHEN SUPERMARKET carvings, ceramics, jewels and contemporary work ofered at
(2016), the first conceptual piece fine art, made a total of USD 87.9 Poly’s October 1 Fine Chinese
ofered at auction in Asia. The right million, up from the USD 53.9 million Paintings and Calligraphy sale
to commission physical re-creations achieved by the spring series. Top was Wu Guanzhong’s Li Jiang
of the mock-Chinese convenience lots in the fine art sales were by the River (1982), spanning 140
store was sold for USD 255,250, usual heavy hitters. Zao Wou-ki’s centimeters across, which doubled
above a USD 191,440 high estimate. bronze and deep-brown gestural its USD 765,900 high estimate to
Southeast Asian art also fared abstraction 06.10.68 (1968) fetched fetch USD 1.58 million.
well at Sotheby’s fall series, with a USD 2.2 million; Wu Guanzhong’s Record-breaking sales totals in
100-percent sell-through rate for 1996 oil painting of a wintry the previous year have tended to
Vietnamese artists across fine art landscape, Forgetful Snow, sold for rest on a handful of eye-poppingly
auctions, and the dedicated Modern USD 2.07 million; and Yoshitomo expensive modern masterpieces
and Contemporary Southeast Asian Nara’s acrylic-on-canvas portrait by highly sought-after artists. As
Art sale bringing in USD 7.9 million, Submarines in Girl (1992) attained these types of works are snapped
up from USD 6.1 million in April, USD 1.56 million, all slightly below up and kept of the market until
suggesting that demand for works high estimates. their next flip at auction, one
from this region is growing. Notable Over at Poly Auction Hong Kong, can expect results to reach less
works were Nguyen Gia Tri’s the Modern and Contemporary astronomical heights.
lacquer-on-wood Les Villageois Art sale on September 30 attained *All prices include buyer’s premium.

Reports 47
Art Fair Report

Survival Strategies

posted a record sales total of

USD 14.9 million.
Indigenous art proved popular,
with the USD 100,000 sale of
celebrated bark painter John
Mawurndjul’s Ngalyod – The
Rainbow Serpent (1999) at D’Lan
Davidson (Melbourne) setting a
record for the artist. Melbourne’s
Alcaston Gallery found a taker for
a USD 54,000 abstract painting
by the late Sally Gabori. Sullivan
+ Strumpf (Sydney/Singapore)
sold Tony Albert’s small collages
of Aboriginalia—kitsch items with
caricatures of Indigenous peoples—
from his “The Hand You’re Dealt”
series (2016) for USD 3,200 each.
The fair noted that emerging
artists did remarkably well. Yavuz
Gallery (Singapore), for instance,
placed 11 out of 13 works by
Abdul Abdullah from his series
View of the 2018 edition of Beijing New and veteran fairs alike are (Beijing/New York) brought of embroidered portraits with
Contemporary, held at the National
continuously tinkering with their an eclectic array of works, including superimposed smiley faces, “Call
Agriculture Exhibition Center.
Courtesy Beijing Contemporary. formats and programs, trying Ulay and Marina Abramović’s Me By My Name” (2017), in
to maximize their chances of video installation Relation in Space Australian private collections,
securing high-quality works and, (1976), priced at USD 200,000, for prices between USD 6,500–
more importantly, big-spending and Ou Jin’s wood, linen and acrylic 16,000. Melbourne-based Arc
collectors. Fairs in Beijing, Sydney, composition Untitled 125 (2018), One Gallery reported excellent
London and Seoul presented a on ofer for USD 30,000. Beijing sales of photographs featuring
range of strategies for helping the Commune’s solo booth of Zhao Yao partly obscured women by artist
bottom line. focused on his 2018 photographs of duo Honey Long and Prue Stent,
snowy mountains in Yushu, with a including Neptune’s Necklace (2018)
Beijing number of them going to Chinese and Wind Form (2014) for
Art fair fatigue appears not to private collectors for under USD 4,700 each.
alict the Chinese capital, which USD 10,000 each. Chambers Notable transactions of works
saw the inauguration of yet another Fine Art (Beijing/New York) sold by established artists included
fair this year, Beijing Contemporary Yan Shanchun’s mixed-media Imants Tillers’s multipanel
(August 30–September 2), after depictions of natural landscapes paintings Fiction of Place (2018)
JINGART launched in May. A total and Guo Hongwei’s watercolors and Philosopher’s Conquest (2017),
of 32 Chinese and international of diferent colored stones for snapped up for USD 144,000 and
galleries participated in Beijing USD 3,000–6,000. USD 32,000, respectively, also at
Contemporary’s two gallery sectors, Beijing Contemporary was Arc One. At Tolarno Galleries’s
while the other sectors highlighted a decent art showcase with a (Melbourne) nearly-sold-out
design, fashion and lead organizing respectable lineup of galleries, but solo booth of paintings by Ben
partner Cadillac’s new luxury SUV. the focus on promoting art as part Quilty, the grotesque, oil-on-linen
Beijing’s Ink Studio ofered works of a trendy lifestyle suggested that The Easter Bunny (2018) and The
by prominent ink artists Li Jin, it was targeting wealthy Chinese Biggest Bottom Feeder (2018) were
Yang Jiechang, Zheng Chongbin hipsters rather than international, purchased by private collectors
and Li Huasheng, selling the latter’s bona fide collectors. from New York and London, for
USD 205,000 large-scale grid USD 50,000 each.
painting 9401 (1994) to a Chinese Sydney Sydney Contemporary 2018 was
buyer. Galerie Urs Meile (Beijing/ The fourth edition of Sydney the first annual edition after its
Lucerne) sold Xie Nanxing’s oil- Contemporary (September 13–16) organizers switched from a biannual
on-canvas triptych depicting wisps brought more than 80 international staging with the aim of becoming
of smoke, Elusive Literature (2018), and regional galleries to the bigger and better. It is too early to
for USD 230,000. Boers-Li Gallery Carriageworks arts precinct, and gauge whether this will pay of in

Reports 49
the long run, but strong enough Cairo’s Gypsum Gallery sold two
sales provide reasons for optimism. untitled 1996 etchings by Ahmed
Morsi for USD 5,500–6,000; it also
London ofered an installation of bricks
Frieze London (October 4–7) and dried flowers from destroyed
returned to its usual Regent’s Park Palestinian villages by Basel Abbas
location for its 16th edition, which and Ruanne Abou-Rahme for
featured over 160 galleries. USD 16,000.
Participants by and large stuck to Of note was the curated
showcasing wall-based works in the section “Social Work,” dedicated
hopes of moving as many pieces as to trailblazing female artists who
possible. Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac responded to contemporary
(London/Paris/Salzburg) went sociopolitical challenges in the 1980s
with its usual strategy of bringing and ’90s. Galleries across the fair
blue-chip works to the show, noted good sales of works by female
selling Georg Baselitz’s oil painting artists. Kate MacGarry (London),
Schwarzes Pferd (Black Horse) (1986) for instance, sold Rana Begum’s
for USD 920,000—the highest colorful, geometric, mixed-media Installation view of RANA BEGUM’s No. 794 (2018) at Kate MacGarry’s booth,
reported transaction at Frieze compositions No. 794 and No. 800 Frieze London, 2018. Courtesy the artist and Kate MacGarry, London.
London. Pace (London/New York/ L Fold (both 2018) for USD 52,400
Beijing/Hong Kong/Palo Alto/Seoul/ and 37,000, respectively. Shanghai/Paris/New York), which
Geneva) sold two wall sculptures Frieze London 2018 established its Seoul outpost in
including a porcelain work from demonstrated the viability of two 2016, presented a solo booth of
Yin Xiuzhen’s “Wall Instrument” savvy strategies for recouping hefty Daniel Arsham’s cartoon character
series (2016– ) for USD 86,000, costs of fair participation: returning sculptures, finding buyers from
as well as a piece made of wooden to tried-and-tested market Korea, Taiwan, Japan and China.
window frames from Song Dong’s favorites, and capitalizing on the Of the Korean exhibitors,
“Usefulness of Uselessness” series feminist zeitgeist by spotlighting Seoul-based Gallery Hyundai’s
(2013–17) for USD 65,000. Lisson women artists. booth included 2018 acrylic-on-
Gallery (London/New York) found canvas gestural abstractions by
takers for Wael Shawky’s Cabaret Seoul Lee Kang-So. A highlight at Johyun
Crusades: Relief of the Siege of Antioch Sales at the 17th Korea International Gallery (Seoul/Busan) was Kim
1097–1098 (After Jean Colombe’s Art Fair (KIAF) (October 4–7) Chong Hak’s untitled, over-five-
‘After the Siege of Antioch’) (2018) for reportedly amounted to USD 24.7 meter-wide painted scroll from
USD 173,000, and placed Haroon million, up from USD 23.7 million 2018, depicting dense, verdant
Mirza’s kinetic installation last year. Among the 174 galleries foliage. The gallery sold several
Counterfeiting the Counter Fitters were 43 international participants, smaller untitled canvases by Kim,
(2018) in the collection of London’s including David Zwirner (New York/ priced at USD 54,000 each, as
Fortress Contemporary Art London/Hong Kong) and Pace. well as two untitled monochrome
Foundation for USD 59,000. Perrotin (Seoul/Hong Kong/Tokyo/ paintings by Lee Bae for
USD 40,000 and USD 85,000.
While the galleries that spoke
to ArtAsiaPacific were reportedly
pleased with sales, a common
remark was that KIAF remains a
homegrown afair, with exhibitors
and attendees mostly coming from
Korea, and that they would like to
see greater eforts on the part of
fair organizers to rope in art—and
buyers—from around the world.
Fair organizers and galleries
alike face the challenge of striking
the right balance between creative
and commercial interests; local and
global. As costs rise and markets
IMANTS TILLERS, Fiction of Place (2018), displayed at Arc One Gallery’s booth at Sydney Contemporary
wobble, these choices can have
2018. Courtesy the artist and Arc One Gallery, Melbourne. significant financial consequences.

50 | NOV/DEC 2018 | ISSUE 111


Here and There

QIU ZHIJIE, People Who Claimed to be Messiah Crowding History, 2015, ink on paper
(detail), 245 x 126 cm. Courtesy Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing. NADIM ABBAS, Camoufleur, 2017, installation with durational performance,
dimensions variable. Courtesy the artist and Power Station of Art, Shanghai.
Qiu Zhijie: Mappa Mundi
Shanghai Biennale: Proregress – Art in
an Age of Historical Ambivalence
Politics, mythology and history come together in “Mappa Mundi” at
the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, a presentation of the large-
scale calligraphic works of Chinese artist Qiu Zhijie. Taking its title “Nothing recedes like progress.” In this antithetical provocation of
from the Latin phrase meaning “chart of the world,” the exhibition modernist poet EE Cummings lies the crux of the 12th Shanghai
will foreground Qiu’s ongoing circular map series, which delineates Biennale, curated by Cuauhtémoc Medina. Centered on the paradox
and condenses disparate ideas, objects and historical incidents into of progress, “Proregress,” or Yubu (the Chinese title, referring to a
a playfully schematic representation of mountains, rivers, islands and Daoist dance technique in which the dancer appears to move forward
seas. Probing topics of politics, religion and folklore, these drawings while actually moving backward), presents a topical examination of
provide insight into the artist’s research over the past decade. A contemporary anxieties and uncertainties. Sampling the works of
highlight of the show will be the six-panel ink painting Map of “Art international artists—from Nadim Abbas to Amalia Pica, Yang Fudong
and China after 1989: Theater of the World” (2017), which traces the to Kader Attia—this biennial will examine subjective experiences of
sociopolitical events and movements that have shaped contemporary recent geopolitical tensions and social change, while also exploring
Chinese art in the last three decades. relationships to the past and fears for the future.

MONIRA AL-QADIRI, DIVER, 2018, still image of four-channel video projection with color and
sound: 4 min 3 sec. Courtesy the artist and Queensland Arts Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art.
KHVAY SAMNANG, Rubber Man, 2014–15, still image of three-channel video installation
with color and sound: 4 min. Courtesy the artist and Taipei Fine Arts Museum.
Taipei Biennial: Post-Nature – A The 9th Asia Pacific Triennial of
Museum as an Ecosystem Contemporary Art
11/17–3/10/19 11/24–4/28/19

The 11th Taipei Biennial, “Post-Nature – A Museum as an Ecosystem,” The Asia Pacific Triennial returns for its ninth edition with a
will bring together 41 artists, architects, filmmakers, activists and NGOs remarkable range of works by 80 artists and collectives from more
from 19 countries and territories to explore the topic of ecosystems, than 30 countries, presented across the Queensland Art Gallery and
and how their dynamics can help us reassess the roles of museums in Gallery of Modern Art. Allowing for a broad view of contemporary
the 21st century. Curated by Mali Wu and Francesco Manacorda, the art from the region, established figures such as Cao Fei, Roberto
show will consider the museum as a social model, tackling notions of Chabet and Shilpa Gupta will be showcased alongside rising stars
community and structural interdependence. Highlights include Khvay like Waqas Khan and Joyce Ho. Highlights include a retrospective of
Samnang’s Rubber Man (2014/15), which looks at the displacement Australian Indigenous filmmakers Karrabing Film Collective; a new
and destruction of indigenous communities and places of spiritual site-specific cartographic ink painting by Qiu Zhijie; and Kuwaiti
significance in northeast Cambodia, and Nicholas Mangan’s installation artist Monira al-Qadiri’s new film DIVER (2018), which examines a
Termite Economies (2018), which provides a sly critique on humankind’s speculative future where petroleum drilling becomes obsolete in the
exploitation of nature for financial profit. Middle East.

52 | NOV/DEC 2018 | ISSUE 111

New Currents

In Between
Three artists explore contemporary urban environments
and social interactions in their installation works

Xuan Ye
IN BETWEEN () WE OSCILLATE, 2018, screenshot of website, dimensions variable. Courtesy the artist.

Zhang Ruyi
Installation view of Mount, 2018, concrete, ceramic tiles, glass and
floor drain, dimensions variable, in “Walking on the Fade Out Lines”
at Rockbund Art Museum, Shanghai, 2018. Courtesy the artist.

Sam Samiee
Design for a Money Note #3, 2018, acrylic on canvas, 180 x 185 cm. Courtesy the artist.

Reports 55
New Currents

1 Sam Samiee
Xuan Ye
TORONTO Zhang Ruyi Sam Samiee experiments with the thresholds
of painting. His treatment of two- and three-
Xuan Ye, born in 1989, is a Toronto-based dimensional forms directly correlates to his
artist, but she would like people to think of In Pause (2016), a site-specific work by research into the medium’s significance in our
“Xuan Ye” as a “prototype of many objects.” Zhang Ruyi, cement-cast electrical sockets evolving understanding of human culture. The
This distinction borrows from object-oriented inconspicuously dot tree trunks at Goodwood, idea of art-as-currency, for example, is the
programming, a software design paradigm in a woodland park near the southern coast of focus of Samiee’s series of painting-installations,
which code is organized into distinct objects England. Commissioned by Cass Sculpture “Design for a Money Note” (2018). In these
that can interact with one another. For Ye—one Foundation, the work is a perfect example of abstract paintings, which he drapes from walls,
of whose “objects” is the artistic persona also how Zhang juxtaposes industrialized and organic the Tehran-born artist simultaneously mocks,
known as A Pure Apparatus—this post-human, forms, shifting the familiar into the realm of the and attempts to revise, our crude, capitalist
pluralist approach to the many “dynamic, uncanny and commenting on human’s growing obsessions with object valuation, suggesting that
networked roles” brought together in her alienation in the sprawl of globalization. these canvases of fuzzy-edged, peach, blush
practice opens up possibilities for navigating As a post-1980s generation Chinese artist and cerulean markings on similarly pastel-hued
complexities in art as in life. and a witness to the meteoric reconstruction backgrounds—which are ultimately meaningless
Ye’s deployment of digital media technologies of China’s metropolitan spaces surrounding gestures—can be stand-ins for cold, hard cash.
to investigate instability in contemporary the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Zhang draws upon Based in Amsterdam, Samiee synthesizes
contexts is exemplified in the website work, IN the vocabulary of China’s urban environment Western and Persian art histories and cultures
BETWEEN () WE OSCILLATE (2018). The work to question the country’s hasty nation- in his paintings, installations, essays and poems,
presents the titular words in flickering neon building approach and to highlight the spatial reinventing traditions for the post-binary age.
yellow over antonym pairs such as “bad/good” consequences of such development. In her In his multipiece installation work Bedroom
and “bravery/cowardice,” which are presented in seemingly austere installations, comprising Posters (2015–16) Samiee aligned portraits of
color-changing font, scrolling horizontally across construction materials like concrete and steel, young men sleeping, sitting or standing in relaxed
a black background and alternating direction and square ceramic tiles, she explores the mind- postures—in the style of a teenage youth’s
at regular intervals. An accompanying looped numbing homogeneity and translocalization of chamber of crushes, or a hall of devotional
soundtrack was created by encoding the moving architecture that has grown alongside China’s imagery—alongside readymade objects such
pairs, visualized as a spectrogram, into audible explosive urban growth, sometimes transforming as a yellow couch that he painted on, as a way
frequencies, generating an undulating, tinny entire rooms or tunnels into an immersive to explore the versatility of the medium and its
whine. The programmed, continuous fluctuation Cartesian matrix that feels simultaneously art-historical use in religious representation,
of the antonym pairs from one end of the screen placeless and curiously familiar. symbolism and abstract expressionism. A similar
to the other invalidates the fixed dichotomies In Potted Plants (2016), a thick, waxy cactus display of installations and paintings, titled “The
that they represent, literalizing the inherent stands erect and immobile, sandwiched between Unfinished Copernican Revolution” (2018), at
mutability of language. The source of the words, two identical, nondescript architectural models the 10th Berlin Biennale, featured new prints
an English textbook for non-native speakers, cast in cement, and aixed to a wall of glossy of abstract, narrative-less iPad “paintings” as
additionally brings into sharp relief the power white tiles—a mundane and ubiquitous object an ironic, contemporary take on critic Clement
dynamics embedded in language, questioning identified by the artist as a significant agent Greenberg’s exultation of flatness in modern
another set of oppositions that have returned of urban transformation, and evoking local painting. As part of the same work, he re-created
with a vengeance in our post-globalization era: subjectivities of home. The cactus is recurrent a ceramic-tiled shower stall, inside of which he
native and foreign. in the artist’s practice, standing in as a self- tacked up A4-size printouts of psychoanalytic
Similarly focused on language is Ye’s portrait and a metaphor for a hard-boiled figure books, and images of a nude man posing in the
“EveryLetterCyborg” (2017– ), a series of stifled within the postindustrialized society; style of a classical sculpture in front of his own
web-application-based installations inspired by since 2011, Zhang has sketched these plant abstract paintings—perhaps a tongue-in-cheek
computer-generated poetry that explores how shapes on gridded graph paper, which she draws reference to closeted queer individuals as well as
people filter information, and, in the artist’s herself. Her latest floor-to-ceiling ceramic-tiled a further probing of art-historical tropes.
words, “how we perceive the topological textual installations, featuring door fragments cast from Samiee’s most recent exhibition at the
reality that is mediated by systematic generative cement and petrified cacti, is a continuation of Gemeentemuseum in The Hague rifs on the
algorithms.” V 1.2 (2017–18), an iteration of this these seemingly limitless gridlines. Shown at the philosophical question of love’s relationship
project that was recently shown at the Goethe- 2018 group exhibition “Walking on the Fade Out to intellect. By showing a mix of his early and
Institut in Beijing, involves a printer mounted Lines” at Shanghai’s Rockbund Art Museum, new pieces alongside works from the museum’s
on a microphone stand that spews out texts the works encapsulate Zhang’s meditative and collection by three artists who have inspired his
generated by Ye’s @qletrcyborg Twitterbot. rational approach in organizing an undefined practice—Constant Nieuwenhuys, Paul Thek and
With such technological experiments, Ye is not ambiguous space, underscoring the artificiality Emo Verkerk—Samiee attempts to demonstrate
only developing unexpected tools with which to of constructed environments and providing a how contemporary painters are constantly
process contemporary life, but also investigating nuanced critique of the changing relationship contextualizing and recontextualizing past,
the multifaceted nature of creativity itself. between a city and its inhabitants. present and future art histories.

56 | NOV/DEC 2018 | ISSUE 111


We Are Each One An Other


The winner of ArtAsiaPacific’s Young Writers Contest 2018 examines

cross-cultural themes in the works of Shezad Dawood

SHEZAD DAWOOD, Towards the Possible Film, 2014, still of single-channel HD video: 19 min 29 sec. All images courtesy the artist and Timothy Taylor, London/New York.

Rarely are artists as expansive as Shezad appropriation and mimicry—mainstays in in the wake of the 9/11 attacks in the United
Dawood, in their subject matter and Dawood’s strategy to this day—he created States and subsequent attacks in the United
methodology, and in probing the fault lines what Sara Raza called, in a 2005 article Kingdom, the series rejected the “clash of
in contemporary society. For nearly two for ArtAsiaPacific, “a new hybridized civilizations” cliché. This excavation of
decades, the London-based artist of Indo- vocabulary,” to expose how similarities can cultural convergence and empathy propels
Pakistani descent has grappled with themes exist between ostensibly opposing cultures, Dawood’s projects and is especially necessary
of cultural identity, migration, displacement, and to argue that the notion of otherness is a amid the current rise of right-wing populism
systems of power and structures of belief matter of perspective. fueling xenophobia, racism and separatist
through diverse contexts and histories using a Dawood favors juxtaposing different thinking in the Euro-American sphere.
spectrum of media. contexts to reveal unexpected commonalities. Tracing Dawood’s evolving interest
Given Dawood’s South Asian heritage This exploration of otherness through in deconstructing traditional readings of
and diasporic experience of growing up in multiple perspectives distinguishes his otherness, we can see that he has developed
Britain, exploring the idea of otherness has approach from conventional identity politics. upon early works stemming from his own
figured prominently in his work since the In a series of sculptures he produced starting cultural specificity to wider narratives.
start of his career. In his notable early project, in 2007, for instance, he considers Islam and Towards the Possible Film (2014) is a self-
Make It Big (2002–03), Dawood attempted early American frontier culture as ideologies proclaimed turning point for Dawood. The
to destabilize the binary of East and West that each sprang from desolate environments. 20-minute film follows two blue-skinned
by restaging film stills of Michelangelo The objects themselves merge aspects from aliens emerging from the sea who encounter
Antonioni’s classic mystery thriller both doctrines, such as The Judge (2007), violent indigenous land dwellers. While the
Blow-Up (1966) using Pakistani actresses, a tumbleweed-coiled neon sign that spells aliens appear futuristic in their spacesuits,
with himself as the director, and by hiring a out one of the 99 names attributed to Allah. their green- or blue-colored skin alludes to
Karachi billboard-painter to create variations Coming at a time when many Western ancient archetypes of deities or holy figures
on canvas of the original film poster. Through governments had declared a “War on Terror” such as the Egyptian god Osiris or Krishna

Essays 59
from Hindu mythology. In comparison, Moving beyond cultural specificity,
the indigenous people seem premodern, however, is not a renunciation of world
yet could also be postapocalyptic. The film’s affairs. Far from it—Dawood is embracing
nonlinear temporality and ambiguous the whole world as context. This is evident
Martian-esque landscape create a “context- in his latest, most ambitious project to date,
less context” that allows the narrative Leviathan. Debuted last year, the ten-
to become symbolic of alienation and part film cycle and related sculptures and
antagonism in our shared human condition, paintings are to be completed in 2020, and
as Dawood explained in a 2014 interview with the work’s unfolding chapters tackle pressing
Stephanie Bailey in Yishu. issues such as the European refugee crisis,
climate change, resource inequity, mental
health and their potential interconnections.
In his practice, Dawood has often created
projects through collaboration, whether with
other artists, academics or communities,
to make seemingly disparate discourses
speak to each other. In its four chapters
to date, Leviathan is his most extensive
collaboration yet, involving marine biologists,
SHEZAD DAWOOD, Life Jacket, 2017, mixed media on Fortuny
oceanographers, political scientists, textile, 195 x 146 cm.
neurologists and many more to come.
Equaling his collaborative spirit is to those living. Dawood’s end goal in his
his increasing community engagement. art practice, he told Bailey, is to move away
Just as Dawood’s postapocalyptic, from specificity to speak to humanity’s
quasi-documentary created in New York, “illusion of cultural difference and
It was a time that was a time (2015), was otherness.” Leviathan chronicles his leaps
cathartic for the victims of Hurricane Sandy toward this goal in an epic film cycle
whom he involved as actors, the textile pertinent to our times and prescient of
paintings that are also a part of the Leviathan our collective future.
SHEZAD DAWOOD, Fragment of a Carton of Cigarettes,
project depict actual personal items lost by *Visit our Digital Library at for more articles
2017, mixed media on Fortuny textile, 193 x 154 cm. refugees at sea, and project a hope for closure on Shezad Dawood.

Installation view of SHEZAD DAWOOD’s Leviathan, 2017– , ten-part film cycle, dimensions variable, at “Leviathan,” Palazzina Canonica / Fortuny Factory, Venice, 2017.

60 | NOV/DEC 2018 | ISSUE 111


Hopping on a Broken Bandwagon


Singapore’s confused art fair-industrial complex

Image of Marina Bay Sands Hotel and Casino, taken from Merlion Park, Singapore, 2015. Photo by Sasin Tipchai.

Despite evidence to the contrary, a network fair in Singapore called Art SG, slated for come to Singapore have to factor all the costs
of fair organizers, galleries, so-called November 2019. These newcomers join a of shipping, booth rental, show building,
tastemakers, and even government bodies in landscape already filled with fairs that have etcetera . . . What sense does it make for an
Singapore continue to cultivate an art fair- tried to make their mark in Singapore over Indonesian gallery to come to Singapore
industrial complex under the assumption the last few years, with little to no success. to sell to their Indonesian collectors? They
that introducing more art fairs is a winning Art fairs in Singapore have struggled would rather go to an art fair where they can
strategy for the local economy and art scene since 2016 as the country’s art market has be assured they will recover their costs.”
alike. The individuals and organizations in floundered. In 2018, mainstay fair Art Stage Yet, almost everyone in the local scene
this network will do anything to impress Singapore shrank from 170 galleries in 2016 is supportive of the proliferation of art fairs
the cool kids of the art world—namely to just 84. This followed the surprise move in Singapore. These events are perceived as
mega galleries, mega fairs and mega-rich by Affordable Art Fair to revert to hosting its opportunities to draw new international and
buyers—social and financial consequences Singapore iteration just once per year after regional collectors, which could be beneficial
be damned. four years of biannual editions, while the to all involved in the Singapore arts scene.
Recently, it was announced that the Singapore Contemporary Art Show, after two Why does this mindset persist despite high
inaugural edition of SEA Focus, a commercial editions, quietly folded in early 2018. costs and shaky prospects?
showcase of around 30 galleries featuring And then there’s the issue of cost. One factor is the agenda of the Singapore
Southeast Asian art, will be held in the gallery According to Gil Schneider, consultant for state. The future Art SG is supported by
enclave Gillman Barracks, during Singapore a regional rival, Art Jakarta: “Singapore as the National Arts Council, Singapore
Art Week next January. Soon afterwards, it a fair venue is expensive. The Marina Bay Tourism Board and the Singapore Economic
was revealed that MCH Group, the owner of Sands venue is expensive. Show-building is Development Board, the same government
the Art Basel brand, will launch a new art expensive. The Southeast Asian galleries who agencies that have been supporting Gillman

Essays 61
Barracks and Art Stage Singapore since their Contemporary gallery, told AAP that art fairs countries such as Indonesia, Malaysia,
development. As Khairuddin Hori, newly are “trading grounds and offer the public Australia and India, citing Singapore as
appointed president of the Art Galleries a glimpse into the celebrity of art. They an accessible hotspot for them. As for the
Association Singapore, told ArtAsiaPacific, are not museums, art centers, biennales struggling fairs, Angus asserted that any
the explosion of art fairs in Singapore or similar events or institutions that are fair is susceptible to being judged by its
has been mainly driven by government- consequential to the essence of art and lowest-quality galleries. In his view, Art Stage
led ambitions to “industrialize” the arts, being of artists.” Singapore was successful until it allowed
presumably in the lofty hope that the sector So why do we continue this charade of these lesser-quality galleries in, causing the
will eventually sustain itself. blowout events that do not seem to bring initial support from collectors to plummet.
Whether the commercial arts scene in any real innovation, development and This is not a mistake Art SG intends to make.
Singapore is self-sustainable without these sustainable financial benefits to the scene? However, the idea of the wealthiest in the
ventures is debatable, but the economic Why do we keep returning to the same tired region making Singapore their playground
imperative behind the country’s ambitions format of showcasing art? for arts, shopping and entertainment
to become a regional and international art Saltz argued that the Basels of the art might be a tad whimsical. While the city-
powerhouse is quite obvious. Over the last world will continue because these events state is a destination for some members
decade, the government has channeled more benefit those at the very top—high-end of the global rich, most expats tend to use
money and support toward the visual arts galleries, big-name artists and their Singapore as a place to work and live while
with the SGD 532 million National Gallery clientele—more than anyone else. Art Stage traveling across the region and playing
Singapore, the ongoing SGD 90 million Singapore director Lorenzo Rudolf sees the elsewhere. Expats whom I’ve spoken to have
revamp of the Singapore Art Museum and arrival of Art SG as an attempt by MCH to described Singapore as “quiet” in terms
the SGD 10 million makeover of Gillman provide “direct and exclusive access to the of entertainment and nightlife. Tellingly,
Barracks. This is most likely because a single extremely potent economic elite of one of Marina Bay Sands, Singapore’s luxury
piece of art sold makes far more money than the world’s fastest-growing regions.” Gaining integrated resort and the venue for Art Stage
a book, cinema pass or theater-performance “total market control over the ever-more and Art SG, reported a four percent drop
ticket. The hope is that the global and professional and self-confident Southeast in convention, retail and other business as
regional ultra-rich coming to buy and sell Asian art world,” Rudolf says, is particularly well as a 4.2 percent drop in room revenue
art in Singapore could be a potential source pertinent given the emerging market in 2017, despite growing casino revenue at 16
of economic wealth via extended touristic competition in major Chinese cities like percent. Senior executives also “lamented”
activities as well as dining, shopping, Shanghai, Beijing and Chengdu, which have the fall in VIP turnover. One of the reasons
gambling and so on. been welcoming both a growing number of cited for this dip was competition from other
It would therefore be easy to mistake fairs and high-net-worth individuals looking places in the region, such as the Philippines,
the Singapore government’s push for to invest in art. While commending it as a Thailand and Macau.
art fairs as part of a national economic smart step from the perspective of a global So why is Singapore doubling down on
agenda, but that would ignore how the player aiming to dominate and control the an outmoded spectacle like the art fair to
art fair–industrial complex has become a international art market, he questioned attract a demographic that is not really into
global affliction. A growing international whether the global art market would benefit the locale? It smacks of the naive behavior of
backlash against art fairs is hardly news. In from diversity rather than the “complete a desperate trend-follower. Singapore could
a Vulture article published in May, art critic and comprehensive orientation of a global invigorate the art scene by shifting taste-
Jerry Saltz eviscerated today’s global mega luxury market.” making and art appreciation from cultural
fairs, characterizing them as “great malls Sandy Angus, chairman of Montgomery traders and dealers to local and regional
curated to lure people in without focusing Arts, which is also one of the organizers of artists, educators and cultural managers.
on business, employing a stagecraft of Art SG, spoke openly with AAP about the Instead, it chooses to keep up with the global
entertainments, fine foods, wine-tastings, new fair’s objective to reach out to the richest status quo and succumb to post modern
valet parking, VIP lounges . . . [and] panel collectors and highest-quality galleries. vulnerabilities currently faced across
discussions . . . with a rotating few of the Angus pointed out that there are a lot of affluent cities. Attracting the ultra-rich to our
same 55 movers-and-shakers providing self- high-net-worth individuals in Singapore shores could be a happy by-product rather
congratulatory, self-flagellating gravitas to who have yet to venture into art collecting; than a primary objective; originality and
the traveling caravan.” these individuals comprise the key target vision are bound to draw attention. But it
Earlier this year, New York gallerist Jose demographic for Art SG. Moreover, it intends looks like Singapore has some growing up to
Freire publicly announced that he would to tap major collectors in the region from do before it learns that lesson.
never participate in another fair again, after
a final showing at Art Basel Hong Kong,
stating that people would be better off
scrolling through Instagram to view works
of art on sale, rather than trudging through a
fair. In an interview with Artnet, he claimed
that he hadn’t met a single new person at
various editions of Frieze or Art Basel in the
past decade and that there is no longer a
curatorial presence at fairs. Most crucially,
his gallery suffered its biggest losses at art
fairs due to booth costs, exchange rates,
fabrication costs, and shipping. For Freire,
at least, fairs aren’t the moneymakers they
purport to be.
Back in Singapore, Khairuddin, who also
serves as curatorial director at Chan+Hori Installation view of Art Stage Singapore at Marina Bay Sands Expo and Convention Centre, 2017. Courtesy Art Stage Singapore.

62 | NOV/DEC 2018 | ISSUE 111


Ladies and Gentlemen of Leisure


Looking at the priorities of Shanghai’s private museums

Installation view of “Art Patrons” at Qiao Space, Shanghai, 2018. Courtesy Qiao Collection, Shanghai .

Earlier this year, club owner and clearly on those who had acquired the art, fascinating progression which will allow
entrepreneur Qiao Zhibing invited 36 rather than those who had produced it. art patrons and artists alike to influence
fellow art collectors from the greater Qiao elaborated on his perspective in the and complete each other, and eventually,
China region to submit works from their press release: to shape the future of art.
private inventories for a group exhibition
in Shanghai. Out of these proposals, Qiao Aside from a collector, whose ultimate After I read such a blatantly self-serving
handpicked around 50 artworks—of which purpose is to promote contemporary statement, the resounding questions of
approximately 40 were by men and fewer art, they have gradually taken on more performance artist, educator and writer
than 10 by female artists—for the exhibition, roles and public responsibilities—not Andrea Fraser came to mind. In her 2011
entitled “Art Patrons,” which was on display content with merely collecting, but essay “L’1%, C’est Moi,” she asks: “How
at the two initiatives he founded in the also through establishing museums, do the world’s leading collectors earn
West Bund Culture Corridor: Qiao Space, alternative spaces, art foundations their money? How do their philanthropic
and the 60,000-square-meter cultural and fairs; in the meantime, actively activities relate to their economic
hub Tank Shanghai. The show opened in supporting the art education programs, operations? And what does collecting art
late March, catering to the international exhibitions and institutions. mean to them and how does it affect the art
museum directors, curators, collectors The exhibition will also make a world?” The last question, in particular, is
and art professionals who might have survey of art patronage from a historical pertinent to the situation in China today.
stopped in Shanghai on their way to Art viewpoint. Art patrons with their larger- In an academic paper co-published in
Basel Hong Kong. than-life character and cutting-edge 2009, economists William N. Goetzmann,
It was revealing that the exhibition vision have always played a pivotal role Luc Renneboog and Christophe Spaenjer
invitation listed all 36 contributing throughout history, across ancient China, concluded, “Art booms whenever income
collectors and collections, yet not a single Renaissance Italy and 20th Century inequality rises quickly.” As China’s
artist was mentioned. The emphasis was America. It is also a complicated but economy has grown, increasingly favoring

Essays 63
big business and the super-wealthy, the Tiehai to spearhead the West Bund Art and elevate institutions and cultivate a healthy
country has also been at the forefront of Design fair, supporting private institutions infrastructure. Concurrently, the emerging
art prosperity. Prices for art are as high such as the Tank and the Yuz Museum, art market, sustained by the upper classes,
as ever at the moment. But as Sotheby’s and encouraging galleries to relocate to was gradually replacing royal and religious
former principal auctioneer Tobias Meyer the corridor. The municipal government is patronage in supporting artists and
once explained in an interview with Vanity responsible for the success of the area, but, their artworks. As a result, art since then
Fair magazine: “The prices [for art] are not as art historian Xing Zhao observed in a has been evaluated through the lens of
prices, they’re relationships to individual recent issue of Yishu magazine, West Bund’s economics, as art critic Boris Groys has
worth.” It is important to consider that allure is largely enhanced by the efforts of written: “Aesthetics, as a philosophical
not all wealthy Chinese are automatically “individual collectors, entrepreneurs and tradition and academic discipline, relates
granted entry into high-society circles. It foreign investors at their own initiative and to and reflects on art from the perspective
depends crucially on which families they for various reasons.” of the art consumer.”
were born or married into, and how they Indeed, nearly all contemporary art When private collections enter the
make their money. Therefore, art patronage museums and alternative spaces in China public domain, the relationships change.
is a way for many to signify their cultural are privately owned or administered, and Aside from enhancing the patron’s legacy
superiority and mark a position of privilege, are dependent on patrons to fund the and attracting tourists, private museums
in the hope of climbing the social ladder. So, programming and keep the staff on payroll. need to adopt institutional and social
as the rich are rapidly getting much richer But unfortunately, when money is the responsibilities. While their owners’ role
in China, as elsewhere in the world, Qiao’s determinant, the person who funds the as actors in the market is crucial for the
exhibition “Art Patrons” extolled the virtues program often becomes its self-appointed art ecosystem, private institutions have
of philanthropy. Yet, it also ostentatiously author, turning the institution into a circus the potential to offer enjoyment for
celebrated the trophy-hunting practices in which the patron performs as producer, visitors no less than public ones. They
of an elite group of 15 women and 22 men director, connoisseur, curator, head of can also provide intimate viewing
who are constituents, and competitors, acquisitions and even docent. Artists, experiences not possible in heavily
in a hierarchy of prestige built on the their artworks, curators and other didactic public institutions. But when
conspicuous consumption of luxury goods, art professionals become disposable standards of research, conservation,
including fine art. accessories, garnishing the patron’s ego. design, management, education and
Many of Qiao’s fellow collectors have Most private museums in China do collection are disregarded, especially
established their own museums and private not meet the qualifications and code of when curatorial values are repudiated, the
spaces. Several of these are now located ethics of the International Council of typical grandiosity of these physical spaces
in West Bund, the riverfront property Museums, established in 1946. Some appear becomes the magnified manifestation of
founded in 2012 with an investment of to reduce the notion of serving the public to intellectual poverty, undercutting any
RMB 660 million (USD 96 million) from merely giving a guided walk-through at the possible sociopolitical agency in art. For
the government. This state-guided and opening. Institutional exchange might be instance, when the collector Wang Wei put
market-based initiative of establishing an no more than having dinner with a highly together a show of women artists at her
outsize arts district aims to put Shanghai on publicized museum director from the West. own Long Museum, not only did she fail to
the international culture map and stimulate I’m not aware of any Chinese museums articulate the extraordinary contributions
China’s soft power. The local authorities fulfilling the responsibility of keeping of those women to the field of contemporary
have taken various measures, including complete records of the removals of objects art, but she also completely overlooked the
inviting the well-respected artist Zhou from the collection. Though it opened in historical and social contexts in which the
2014, the Yuz Museum, for example, does art was made.
not yet have a curatorial team to take care of As a freelance writer, consultant and
the collection and organize exhibitions. exhibition organizer, I am very aware of
In the press release for the “Art Patrons” the risk of biting the hand that feeds me.
exhibition, Qiao delves into the history However, my critique is a matter of sincere
of the practice of patronage, in an attempt conscience and urgency. This is not a
to align himself with the Medicis of personal attack on individual collectors.
Florence and the Yangzhou merchant- Rather, it is my constructive attempt, as
patrons in the Ming and Qing dynasties. a member of the art community, to evaluate
But those benefactors lived in times when the current state of private museums
private collections stayed in private or and spaces, and to confront our willing
exclusive spaces. The concept of a modern participation in a system that perpetuates
museum, as a secular space for public economic inequality.
engagement through the presentation The art world has always been dependent
of objects to educate the masses in areas on and in close contact with the leisure
of cultural refinement, began in Europe class. However, a healthy autonomy from
in the 18th century. The Louvre Museum it has been shown historically to be
in Paris, opened in 1793, was the first crucial for art’s critical and discursive
institution to provide free access for development, as well as for institutional
people regardless of their social status. sustainability. It is precisely in this spirit
In the 19th century, academically trained that I am scrutinizing the institution of
professionals emerged to oversee the art against, in the words of Andrea
institution, specializing in acquisition, Fraser, from her 2012 essay “There’s No
curation, research and conservation. By Place Like Home,” “the critical claims
not only providing content for exhibitions of its legitimizing discourses, its self-
but also contributing to the academic field representation as a site of contestation and
Portrait of QIAO ZHIBING. Courtesy Qiao Collection, Shanghai. of art, professionals help broaden topics, its narratives of radicality and revolution.”

64 | NOV/DEC 2018 | ISSUE 111


Dale Harding

Akiko Yamazaki
and Jerry Yang 72
BY OLIVIA WANG Khvay Samnang

Profiles 67
Courtesy the artist and Milani Gallery, Brisbane.
Portrait of Dale Harding. Photo by Karen Lawton.


Always Painting, Always Sculpting

Installation view of DALE HARDING and JORDAN UPKETT’s Wall Compositions from Memory, 2018,
ochre pigment, dimensions variable, at TarraWarra Biennial, TarraWarra Museum of Art,
2018. Photo by Andrew Curtis. Courtesy the artist and Milani Gallery, Brisbane.

Carnarvon Gorge, a nearly 20-mile canyon were spent in Moranbah, more than 250 sewed in soft, mohair wool collars—under
situated in Central Queensland, Australia, miles north of the Gorge, a small town “built his mother’s tutelage—around the neckline,
is a space uniquely defined by its rock out of necessity, for the two coal mines there” tempering the abrasive material. Yet his
art paintings and by the sculpting of its and which exuded “a pervasive 1990s grunge recent practice—especially since his
landscapes, the cliffs forged by the coursing and griminess. It felt like a slow-moving presentation in Documenta 14—has been
of creeks and springs. The place carries the adolescence for multiple generations who guided by a desire to deliberately pivot
ongoing histories of communities including lived within the town.” His cultural points away from “urgent histories of abuse and
the Garingbal and Bidjara people of Central of reference came from his mother, a highly suffering of previous generations in the
Queensland who have maintained their skilled artisan, and his father, a respected [earlier] work,” a conscious decision made
stories in the region for at least 20,000 years, cattle farmer—both of whom were involved by himself and his family once they felt that
one descendant of which—Brisbane-based in the broader Aboriginal community in these issues had been properly addressed.
Dale Harding—has made it his mission Central Queensland. In 2001, Harding “Presenting Indigenous suffering had
not only to sustain these narratives but to moved to the Sunshine Coast, north of the begun to feel like a convention to me—
articulate their futures through his own Queensland capital of Brisbane, to continue beyond historical redress. It was time to
painting and sculpting. developing his practice and to broaden his offer myself some notes to future bodies
At the two-city Documenta 14 in 2017, cultural horizons—he recalled a period of of work,” he explained. “I am an artist,
Harding presented different bodies of work obsession around Anglo-Australian artist and I’d been longing to return from the
that opened up streams of discourse between Brett Whiteley’s paintings of birds, with a political arenas of contemporary art to the
these dual mediums. For Athens’ EMST- particular focus on the Fijian fruit dove. studio, where I could work at dreaming up
National Museum of Contemporary Art, In 2009, at the age of 27, Harding enrolled futures through visual culture.” His 2017
Harding, who descends from the Ghungalu in the Queensland College of Art’s renowned solo exhibition, at Brisbane’s Milani Gallery,
people, installed the sculptural Body of Contemporary Australian Indigenous represents this shift: the formally engaged
Objects (2017), comprised of black silicone Art program, where he began to examine work incorporated the same technique of
replicas of ceremonial spears, boomerangs, sculpture on a more academic level. His pigment-blowing used in the wall paintings,
throwing sticks, nulla nulla (hunting clubs) first solo exhibition in 2012, “Colour by but this time the paint was sprayed across
and other tools re-created with permission Number” at Brisbane’s Metro Arts, featured pieces of glass, scaled to the human body
from his communities’ elders. a body of work with a strong sculptural bent and installed so that some would catch rays
In Kassel’s Ottoneum, three white, that referenced his matrilineal family’s of natural light from the space’s skylights.
freestanding walls became “canvases” experience of the Queensland Government’s The central piece, Blue Rest (2017), is coated
for a large-scale painting, created using brutal laws. In No Blame Rests with on one side with a uniform layer of Reckitt’s
ancestral techniques of ocher blowing and Them (2012), a suspended wooden fighting Blue. When struck by a sunbeam, the work’s
stenciling. As a derivation of Aboriginal stick rests its narrow point on top of a color throws a subtle blue light across the
pictographs, typically painted in naturally “plinth” carved and painted to look like a floor—revealing a soft radiance that exudes
occurring clay pigments of red, brown, tin of the chocolate-malt powder drink Milo a sense of optimism.
white and black, Composite Wall Panel: (albeit without the signature green label), This future appears bright for Harding,
Reckitt’s Blue (2017) includes a vibrant, blue the rod pointing downward at a graceful but with an upcoming survey at the Institute
powder, as a reference to the hue mixed by threatening angle. Its poise and elegance, of Modern Art, Brisbane, opening in early
French artist Yves Klein. This particular coupled with the subtle detail of scalloped 2019, as well as a major, multi-venue
synthetic powder was developed as a popular edges on an upper section of wood, alludes public commission for the University of
whitening agent for laundry in the mid- to the relationship, in Harding’s mind, Sydney. His sources of creative energy—
19th century and was used domestically between the works of iconic modernist the cultural knowledge of his people and
across colonial settlements. In the context sculptor Constantin Brancusi and the art historical references in rock art sites,
of Harding’s family history, however, traditional nulla nulla: “Brancusi’s tapered ceremonial objects, avant-garde works by
Reckitt’s Blue conveys contrasting, complex bird forms were the same forms I grew up Klein, Brancusi, Whiteley and Harding’s
narratives. Harding’s grandmother and with and look just like the nulla nulla made contemporary peers, along with constant
great-grandmother both worked as domestic by my grandfather. So when I saw Brancusi’s inspiration from his wider family—remain
servants and, like many Aboriginal women works, in a sense, I knew them already.” a consistently renewing fount. In the recent
and girls at the time, were indentured under In the years since then, Harding has TarraWarra Biennial, Harding and his cousin
the control of the Queensland Government developed his material exploration of his Jordan Upkett presented a vast 30-meter-
through the Aboriginals Protection and family’s history through works that describe wide wall painting, Wall Compositions from
Restriction of the Sale of Opium Act of trauma, tinged, in marked contrast, with Memory (2018) using earth from Harding’s
1897. Reckitt’s Blue was also utilized, tenderness. For example, for Bright Eyed grandmother’s country, which they blew
unconventionally, by Harding’s matrilineal Little Dormitory Girls (2013), Harding made from their mouths and rubbed into the
ancestors to decorate their shields. small, raw hessian-sack shirts embroidered structure of the gallery. Among this red
As Harding noted, “‘Doing’ and ‘being’ with the Crown of England symbol, recalling ocher painterly composition, incisions were
culture was always something very natural the young Aboriginal dormitory workers made by Harding and Upkett, referencing
growing up for me. I’ve been learning typically forced to wear the rough garments their communities’ important stories and
processes of communicating culture since as punishment for resisting their employers. songlines. Even when painting, Harding’s
I was around ten years old.” His early years Intervening in a reparative fashion, Harding sculptural instincts persist.

Profiles 69
Photo by Angela DeCenzo.
Portrait of Akiko Yamazaki and Jerry Yang.

Understated Visionaries

IRENE CHOU, Untitled, 1995, ink on paper, 152.4 x 106.7 cm. Courtesy Akiko Yamazaki
and Jerry Yang, and Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Center for Visual Arts, Stanford.

“When I first started to think about thought to criteria such as provenance, New York. “There is something just so
collecting, I really had no basis for judging beauty, condition and rarity. The couple now compelling about his art,” she explained.
what was good or bad,” the ever-humble own 50 antique ceramic pieces. In the pair’s characteristically understated
Jerry Yang said when I asked him about the Though Yang and Yamazaki developed manner, they approach their roles as
beginnings of his journey as a collector. Yet different passions, their interests converge collectors with reverence. “As for the art
after getting married in 1997 and settling when it comes to collecting contemporary we collect, we own it for now, but we’re
down together in California, he and his wife Chinese ink paintings. They made their first ultimately passing it down to the next
Akiko Yamazaki agreed that they would purchase in 2001, and have since amassed generation of collectors, whether it is ours or
focus on “collecting works that reflect more than 100 works, focusing initially on someone else,” Yang said. “The contemporary
[their East-Asian] heritage.” They have works by artists whom they came to know artworks we collect are a reflection of the past
since built a three-tiered collection, which personally through specialists in the worlds and present, and hopefully will be around
comprises traditional calligraphy, overseen of calligraphy and traditional painting, in the future.” Yet they have no plans to
solely by Yang, Song-dynasty ceramics— such as Li Huayi, Gu Wenda and Wang establish a private museum to house their
Yamazaki’s pursuit—and their joint passion, Tiande. “It was more like relationship- collection. “I prefer the model of lending,”
contemporary Chinese ink paintings. based collecting, but obviously with explained Yamazaki, “whereby institutions
Yang’s penchant for traditional calligraphy good guidance from [experts such as] can curate their exhibitions according to
might be surprising to some given his Michael Knight [who is also consulting their audiences.” Yang continued, “There’s
profession. He holds undergraduate and curator of the couple’s collection] and the goal with those who want to establish a
postgraduate degrees from Stanford in Mee-Seen Loong,” Yang explained. At the private museum to leave their legacy in art. I
electrical engineering, and co-founded time, these artists were still in the early don’t know if we feel that strongly about that
Yahoo—an acronym for the ironic phrase to mid-stages of their careers; some have being our legacy. But who knows, check back
“Yet Another Hierarchical Officious become leading figures in the genre—a with us in the future!”
Oracle”—in 1994 with his friend David Filo testament to the couple’s discerning eye. Beyond collecting, the pair have
while he was still a doctoral candidate. With Many of the paintings were acquired from donated generously. In 2017, they pledged
the official job title “Chief Yahoo,” he was the artists directly, but there are also a USD 25 million toward an architectural
propelled to dot-com billionaire status within portion that were commissioned for special and programming revamp at the Asian
two years of the company’s launch. occasions. To celebrate their 20th wedding Art Museum—the largest donation in the
His exposure to art, however, can be traced anniversary, for example, Yang and institution’s history. “We’re relatively private
to his childhood in Taiwan, where he was Yamazaki asked Zheng Chongbin—known people, but when it comes to art and loaning
born and raised before moving to the United for fusing Western principles of abstraction our art to exhibitions, we feel it is important
States with his family at the age of ten. He with Chinese ink traditions—to create a to use art to initiate cultural dialogue,” Yang
practiced calligraphy as a student in Taipei, work. The result was a large-scale, abstract said. “China, Japan and Korea are involved
and when he made his first acquisition, in collage spanning over two meters in height, in so many facets in the world today,
1998, it was a piece by Ming-dynasty master composed of overlapping and folded paper particularly politically, economically and
calligrapher Dong Qichang. Calligraphy fragments painted with ink and white geopolitically. I think having art encourage
struck a chord, Yang said, because of his acrylic. Zheng is extensively represented such a dialogue is very important.”
familiarity with the medium. He has since in their collection, with roughly 12 works For the couple, engaging with art starts
put together an impressive collection of more dating from 1995 to the present. Liu Dan at home. Yamazaki recounted having a
than 300 calligraphy works dating from the is another artist whose oeuvre the couple mini-version of Yayoi Kusama’s Obliteration
13th to 19th centuries. has followed closely. They own six of Liu’s Room (2002– )—an interactive installation
While Yang cultivated his eye for works, including his monumental 1991 where viewers are invited to cover a space
calligraphy, Yamazaki directed her attention painting of an open Chinese dictionary with brightly colored dot-shaped stickers—
to Song-dynasty ceramics. Yamazaki was bearing traditional characters—as opposed constructed for their younger daughter’s
raised in Costa Rica, where her father was a to the simplified characters that emerged eighth birthday party a few years ago. Their
Japanese expatriate, and earned an from the Maoist era—illustrating Liu’s daughter and friends primed the installation
undergraduate degree in industrial reverence for traditional culture. To provide first with white paint, so they could
engineering from Stanford in 1990. Though historical context for the contemporary understand that artists have to work very
she took painting and calligraphy classes at ink works in their collection, the duo have hard physically, before affixing the stickers
her school in Costa Rica, her passion for art also acquired paintings by pioneers of the anywhere they wished. Their daughter’s fete
and collecting ceramics was sparked only genre who were active in Hong Kong in indicates the couple’s earnest and genuine
after she joined the San Francisco’s Asian the 1960s and ’70s, such as Lui Shou-kwan, efforts to share their passion for the arts
Art Museum as a board member in 1997. Liu Kuo-sung and Irene Chou. with others. With all the attention-seeking
Gradually taking on a more active role in the Given the couple’s deliberate approach collectors that exist in the contemporary art
museum’s leadership, she was elected chair toward collecting, I was curious to know world today, it is inspiring and refreshing
of the board in 2014. Yamazaki explained that if they had ever made an impulse purchase. to see those who approach collecting
over the years, with the advice of Hao Sheng, Yamazaki spoke with enthusiasm as and patronage with as much respect and
former curator of Chinese art at Boston’s she told me about a 17th-century Rinpa- deliberation as Yang and Yamazaki.
Museum of Fine Arts, she has taken an style flower painting by Takashi Murakami
increasingly critical and disciplined approach that she unexpectedly acquired after See our website for the Chinese version of this article.
to collecting ceramics, giving considerable a recent visit to the artist’s studio in

Profiles 71
Courtesy Edouard Malingue Gallery, Hong Kong/Shanghai.
Portrait of Khvay Samnang.


The Long Way Home

KHVAY SAMNANG, Preah Kunlong,, 2016–17, detail of still from two-channel HD video:
18 min 43 sec. Courtesy the artist and Edouard Malingue Gallery, Hong Kong/Shanghai.

“If I hear there are protests in an area, I masks he had created for them after they World Wars as a result of French colonial
go there. I want to know what happened, voiced their fears of repercussions for rule. In the installation Yantra Man (2015),
and I want to show it through art,” Khvay participating in what could be construed as pieces of medieval-looking metal armor
Samnang said to me. He was explaining his anti-government dissent. The masks became are scattered on the floor. Each is engraved
artistic process, which has involved dumping emblematic of the government’s erasure with designs inspired by sacred yantra
buckets of sand over himself in a series of of lower-income social groups from the drawings and tattoos traditionally believed
performance-protests, or filming a dancer increasingly privatized urban landscape, as to offer protection, asserting the cultural
embodying rainforest animal spirits. The well as representing the hidden anxieties of identities of Cambodian soldiers who have
bucolic settings and humorous antics often those being forced from their homes. been whitewashed in history books. The
belie the seriousness of the subject matter, Similarly concerned with the struggle arrangement recalls body parts dispersed
as his works are urgent, if unexpected, over property is Khvay’s iconic 2011 after an explosion, emphasizing the tragedy
responses to contemporary issues such as performance-based series, in which the artist of dying for a foreign cause, but Khvay
environmental degradation. At the same poured a bucket of sand over himself while offered a sweeter interpretation: the yantra
time, he tries to steer clear of didacticism, standing in various lakes across Phnom engravings symbolize victories clinched with
instead conveying empathy, compassion and Penh. A protest against land reclamation the help of “magical Cambodia.”
spiritual wonder. and the displacement of residents, these For his two-channel film installation,
Born in Svay Rieng province, Cambodia, performances arose after Khvay saw a family Preah Kunlong (The Way of the Spirit)
the artist studied painting at the Royal refusing to leave their stilt house, an act (2016–17), commissioned for Documenta 14,
University of Fine Arts (RUFA) in Phnom which construction workers ignored as they Khvay returned to more familiar territory,
Penh, where he is still based, though his dumped sand into the water. “It really hurt to hearing of the Cambodian government’s
practice has largely encompassed everything imagine how it would feel to try to escape the plans to allow a Chinese company to build
but painting. “There weren’t many mediums mud, the sand,” he explained. a dam in a patch of rainforest inhabited by
I could choose [at university],” he explained. The gesture of tipping a bucket over the indigenous Chong community. After
He had also trained in photography while himself became a way to interrogate gaining the trust of the Chong villagers, he
a student at RUFA, but it was a trip in 2009 relationships between humans and the learned of the indigenous spiritual belief of
to Japan for a residency at Tokyo Wonder environments they inhabit. Khvay traveled honoring animals who assisted them, and,
Site that opened his eyes to a wealth of to Fukushima only months after the collaborating with local weavers, crafted
artistic possibilities. “I saw something that earthquake and tsunami that led to the vine masks of various revered animals. He
Cambodia didn’t have. It made me think that Daiichi nuclear accident. There, standing in then invited his frequent collaborator, the
it’s not only painting that can show what I front of picturesque orchards and forests, dancer and choreographer Nget Rady, to put
want to say; there’s also photography, video clad only in black boxer briefs, he “poured” on the masks and to embody these creatures
and my body.” The residency culminated in air over himself for a series of images titled through improvised dance. Juxtaposing
an early performance work, Samnang Cow “Air” (2011). “Everyone was scared to go to close-ups of Nget’s writhing body as he
Taxi at Asakusa (2010), in which he donned a Fukushima,” he explained. “I just wanted to transitions to animal form with wider shots
headpiece resembling buffalo horns and gave test myself. What if it had happened to me?” of him reveling in nature, reclining at the
free rickshaw rides to strangers as a gesture In Rubber Man (2014), the emptying base of a waterfall as a crocodile or running
of thanks to his host city. The horns had been of buckets appears again, though Khvay’s through a field as a peacock, Preah Kunlong
crafted from hair collected at Phnom Penh’s environmental concerns take a mystical simultaneously captures the survivalist
roadside hairdressers, bringing a slice of the turn. During a trip to the forests of Northern struggle and breathtaking beauty of nature—
artist’s native country to Japan. Cambodia to investigate controversial and existence within it—in equal measure.
Home is an important theme in Khvay’s government concessions of indigenous- This dualism pervades Khvay’s work,
work, and it’s at the heart of the photographic occupied land for commercial interests, such which so often is centered on hardship and
series “Human Nature” (2010–11), initiated as the rubber industry, he dreamed of a white destruction but maintains a lightness
upon his return to Phnom Penh. “I try to figure. When he saw how the rubber was of touch, a willingness to see humor
follow what’s happening in my environment: collected from the trees, he felt a strong desire and beauty in difficult or even hopeless
land issues, human-rights violations.” At to pour the substance over himself. Later, situations. Responding to this observation,
the time, the pressing problem was the when he viewed the footage, he was struck by he said: “I think this is life in the work. This
impending demolition of the historic Bassac how his rubber-coated self looked identical to is what I see.”
Riverfront municipal housing complex the man in his dream, making him wonder if Khvay is busy these days balancing
after the government had sold the land to it had been a displaced tree spirit: “Maybe it his teaching duties at Sa Sa Art Projects,
a property developer. The issue was also came to me in my dream to ask for help.” which has an education program, and is
personal: the nonprofit Sa Sa Art Projects, Khvay’s solo exhibition, “Footprints of preparing for an upcoming show in 2019
which Khvay had helped to establish in 2009 Yantra Man” (2015), at the Berlin residency at Munich’s Haus der Kunst, where he will
as part of Stiev Selapak, or “art rebels”—a space Künstlerhaus Bethanien, marked again tackle subjects of land rights and
collective he co-founded with fellow artists a major shift in subject matter away from the new colonizing forces in Cambodia.
Lim Sokchanlina, Vuth Lyno and (now geographically specific issues to historical Khvay may move on to a different area of
ex-member) Vandy Rattana—was located relations between Europe and Cambodia. contention each time, but he always circles
in the building. Wanting to document the After visiting the German Historical Museum back to a theme with universal resonance:
place before its demise, Khvay photographed in Berlin, the artist began to think about the his deep-seated commitment to the place
residents in their homes. They wore colorful Cambodian soldiers who fought in the two called home.

Profiles 73
Anita Dube

Ma Qiusha


Features 75


Ma Qiusha

By Tom Mouna
(Previous spread)
2007, single-channel video with color and sound: 7 min 54
sec. All images courtesy the artist and Beijing Commune.

(This page)
FOG NO. 6, 2012, watercolor on paper, 98.5 x 152 cm.

(Opposite page)
ROOM NO. 1, 2007–08, digital print from the
series “Story of Space,” 86.5 x 118 cm.

78 | NOV/DEC 2018 | ISSUE 111

Beijing traffic flows around six concentric ring roads. No. 6 (2012), appears to be a minimalist painting of a dark-blue
Demarcating the megacity and carrying its infamous traffic, these background, with a single thread of white paint worming through the
quadrilateral highways are in many ways markers of growth. darkness. On closer inspection, one can see a textured, floral pattern
Much like the layers of a tree trunk, Beijing’s rings have expanded in the dark backdrop, the result of Ma affixing a thin gauze over the
with age as the city’s population has surged, and the need for surface and painting over the fabrics with watercolor. For this project,
living space has increased. Ma had returned to the area around her childhood hutong, and asked
Although Ma Quisha works out of a studio situated just inside residents to swap their old net curtains—which she planned to use
the sixth ring road, her early childhood was spent in the city’s for the series—with new ones. This type of curtain, Ma explained
core. Born in 1982, Ma lived with her mother, father and great- to me, is essential to hutong life. With space so tight and lives
grandmother in Shijing hutong, located a kilometer and a half south overlapping, the thin material provides privacy while allowing light
of Tiananmen Square, for the first three years of her life. These through. It is this semi-opaqueness that Ma wants to highlight in Fog
narrow alleyways, framed by clusters of courtyards found within No. 6, with the white line hesitantly drawn across the canvas serving
the second ring road and laid out within the ruins of a demolished as an exaggerated signifier of suffused light passing through her
Ming-dynasty city wall, were traditionally occupied by single great-grandmother’s net curtains—one of her earliest memories.
extended families dating back to the Yuan dynasty. With the arrival An earlier photographic series, “Story of Space” (2007–08)
of socialism in the mid-20th century, many were divided up and are is a study of two places familiar to Ma: Beijing and the exurban
now mostly inhabited by dozens of intergenerational families, giving community around Alfred, New York, where she completed an
these complexes their compacted, swirling energy. MFA program at Alfred University. For each artwork in the series,
Academics and critics of Chinese modern and contemporary art Ma photographed the interiors of spaces such as a public toilet, a
often emphasize the massive impact of generational differences on laundromat and a church, with a piecemeal focus on the entirety
artists’ output, categorizing those who were born before 1980, during of the spaces. She then took these individual, zoomed-in parts
the 1980s, and after 1990. Distinguishing the various generations and stitched them into a collage, creating a flat, two-dimensional
can seem logical, particularly because of the seismic social, political representation of the space.
and cultural shifts that have taken place in post-1949 China, which For the photographs she took in Beijing, one of the things that
are often reflected in artists’ works—beginning with the Cultural Ma wanted to highlight was the city’s flux, as it appears at both an
Revolution (1966–76) and continuing with the period of “reform and individual and an aggregate scale. For example, in Story of Space:
opening-up” starting from 1978; the more than tenfold increase in Shoe Shop (2007–08), Ma captured an unadorned, utilitarian shop
asset valuation since the late-1990s; the official beginning and end of crammed with hastily stacked piles of shoeboxes, as a metaphor for
the one-child policy (1979–2015); and the contentious 2008 Beijing the constant and rapid changes in proprietorship seen in similar
Olympics, which catalyzed a massive urban renewal of the capital locations across the city. She explained: “I’d seen the shop, like
and attempted to usher in a new era of soft power. many in Beijing at this time, switching owners and transforming its
Ma does not shy away from highlighting these sociocultural stock on an almost monthly basis.” In contrast, Story of Space – My
transformations in her installations and videos that are understated Grandma’s Living Room No. 1 (2007–08) depicts, in close-up detail,
yet deeply complex in their mining of personal and collective
memories, offering audiences insights into lived, human
experiences. Revolving around her and her family’s experiences
as well as wider networks of collective cultural memories and
experiences, her practice demonstrates an acute awareness of
intergenerational differences.
Much of Ma’s work focuses on her hometown. The watercolor-on-
paper series “Fog” (2012) draws on Ma’s repository of early memories
of living in Shijing hutong. One of the works from the series, Fog

Features 79
Much like a historian a room filled with simple necessities like worn-out cooking pots,
wooden furniture and family photographs, emphasizing stasis and
history. Although these interiors function differently, as depicted
and anthropologist, in these carefully constructed compositions, Ma reveals that each
space plays a significant role in making up the city.

Ma has a fascination For Ma, Beijing’s structures contain narratives about society
and its histories, which can be unpacked and examined for new
resonances and associations. Ma found this was the case with the
with looking at niche never-completed “Luxury Brand Outlet Mall and Eco-Resort,”
optimistically named Wonderland, which symbolizes the rapid

cultures in China with consumer transformation and rising middle class of the late
1980s and 1990s. These same driving factors, Ma believes,
were responsible for shifts in taste and demand for women’s
fresh eyes. apparel and products. This association between the two social
phenomena became the subject of Ma’s installation series
“Wonderland” (2016–18), in which she explores different kinds
of nylon tights, from the 1980s to the present day, while evoking
the period’s unpredictable economic fluctuations. For her solo
show at Beijing Commune in 2016, Ma took a ten-by-six-meter
slab of concrete, smashed it into chunks, and then wrapped these
shards in sheer, nude tights of varying shades, before piecing the
concrete back into its original rectangular shape. As Ma explained
(This page) to me, “Shattering and reassembling the concrete reflects those
Installation view of WONDERLAND, same powerful forces that both brought to life and halted the
2016, cement, nylon stocking, plywood,
iron and resin, 980 x 615 cm, at
‘Wonderland’ project, signaling unfulfilled dreams and the fractures
“Wonderland,” Beijing Commune, 2016. that occurred in society as a result of rapid change at this time.”
The series had also been prompted by the birth of Ma’s first
(Opposite page)
TWILIGHT ZONE, 2017–18, digital print, child, an event that led her to study her own mother’s generation,
240 x 420 cm. in an attempt to understand societal trends and habits of that time.

80 | NOV/DEC 2018 | ISSUE 111

In one particular memory, Ma was walking to school with her often as an act of grandiose self-presentation. Ma subsequently
mother when, while waiting at a crossroad, she was struck by became hooked on the website’s forum, following threads and
the women’s tights that surrounded her. She realized later that reading posts. Along the way, she spotted many common visual
the simple act of wearing different colored tights might be read tropes, and probed the forum’s distinctive slang, unwritten rules
as evidence of wider societal changes and began collecting and underlying meanings of this internet subculture. She explained
vintage stockings for use in her works, in the process initiating that she noticed how users interwove introductions to their vehicles
conversations with wearers in order to contextualize the various with biographical information and personal stories, highlighting a
hues and textures. She surmised that the bland, tan-colored deep-seated association between car and owner as a commercialized
tights, prevalent in the 1980s, represented a sense of conservative vessel for signaling prosperity—a phenomenon that has occurred
collectivism. In the 1990s, bronze shades were more popular, a during Beijing’s recent transformation, in the first decade of the 21st
result, Ma suggested, of “imported American pop culture arriving century, from the city of the bicycle to a city clogged with cars. She
after the ‘reform and opening-up,’” and a reflection of American was especially fascinated by how additional elements, such as young
society’s belief that tanned skin represents good health and wealth. women posing in the car or backdrops of beautiful green landscapes
By the 2000s, black tights had become dominant on the market, and big houses in expensive gated compounds, helped users to
giving figures a slickness and supporting feminine beauty ideals at receive the most comments and positive affirmations online.
the time. After 2007, Ma noticed that “tights became more colorful The material of these model cars is also symbolic. In traditional
and had a thinner texture, signaling more freedom and autonomy.” Chinese culture, paper often implies sacrifice, acting as a kind
Much like a historian and anthropologist, Ma has a fascination of conduit between life and death: on special holidays dedicated
with looking at niche cultures in China with fresh eyes. This has led to these acts, paper money and objects are burned as an offering
to projects that search for patterns within a sea of information. One to ancestors, and at funerals it is common to see a burning pyre
of her recent projects, Twilight Zone (2017–18), conveys the same of paper money as part of a ritual to secure a full afterlife for
fastidious approach to research as in “Wonderland,” but instead of the deceased. The uniform rows of paper cars already occupy a
assessing society through the metaphor of variegated stockings, she threshold between virtual and real, since the images are gleaned
looked at car models. On one of my visits to her studio, the subjects from the internet. Due to their likeness to paper offerings, the cars
of the series—usually shown as panoramic photographs—were are additionally infused with a sense of liminality between life and
unmissable: roughly 100 model cars, fashioned out of stiff paper, death, referring to a traditional cultural act that is now inflected with
covered the floor in long rows. Each measuring about ten by 20 a modern, perhaps excessive, form of consumerism.
centimeters, the individual models were created from photographs Ma’s work is often explicitly biographical and hyper-specific
of cars—all brand-new and mostly luxury models—that Ma had in its context. For example, From No. 4 Pingyuanli to No. 4
printed flat and then folded into the vehicle’s shape. The inspiration Tianqiaobeili (2007) is a seven-plus-minute-long video showing
for this project came about when Ma noticed a family member Ma calmly and purposefully speaking, in Mandarin, to the
scrolling through a forum on the website, where camera. In one stark and simple take, she talks about her own
people submit photographs of their cars for others to comment on, childhood. She recalls her parent’s desire for a boy and their belief

Features 81
These anecdotes
convey a strong,
collective desire for
social advancement
and how families and
individuals will go to
great lengths to realize
these dreams.

that if she specialized in one particular field she would not starve,
and describes her regimented upbringing, from the intense focus
on mastering a musical instrument to learning how to draw (the
multidisciplinary artist Song Dong was her first art teacher). As the
video progresses, Ma has difficulty speaking, occasionally stopping,
seemingly with pain written across her face. Near the video’s end, it
seems as if there is something darkening between her lips, and in the
last half minute Ma opens her mouth and extracts a razor blade, her
bloodied tongue and palate now visible.
These anecdotes convey a strong, collective desire for social
advancement and how families and individuals will go to great
lengths to realize these dreams. The photographic work Gift (2009)
approaches this theme from the perspective of a slightly older Ma.
In the image, we see Ma’s mouth, chin and upper chest area, as well
as the necklace she wears that was crafted from her grandmother’s
false teeth. Functioning as a kind of visceral heirloom, the artificial
teeth-necklace is an enduring reminder of pressurizing familial
expectations, which, like a piece of jewelry, can shape one’s identity.
The video Embrace (2011) similarly focuses on the control that
authority figures, whether parents, instructors or governmental
forces, maintain over the lives and bodies of Chinese youths. The
work is a two-minute-long clip of dozens of young female divers
performing pikes, tucks and somersaults in the air, captured
in the split-seconds of free fall. Ma slowed the frame rate in
postproduction, elongating each half turn or partial twist by several
seconds so as to highlight this pivotal moment in which the athletes
appear to have maximum autonomy over their own bodies. It’s
telling that Ma captured these brief moments of youthful freedom
in falling, perhaps revealing her own personal search for such
experiences. In fact, the footage was taken at a China national team
training facility, where athletes as young as eight years old train in a
high-pressure environment, much like the artist’s own upbringing.
Perhaps not surprisingly for an artist whose practice deals with
the idea of control or a lack of it—over one’s own agenda, over the
female body, over the larger societal shifts occurring in Beijing
and China—Ma likes to collect objects, as if to temporarily possess
the narratives that they carry or for the purpose of allowing
her to process conjectured histories. Her collection includes
calendars from the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s, as well as idiosyncratic
Chinese magazines from the 1980s and ’90s of nude photography.
The photograph books are curious relics; not least because of
how their contents are at odds with current, conservative Chinese

82 | NOV/DEC 2018 | ISSUE 111

government regulations on nudity. Ma told me how these kinds (Opposite page)
EMBRACE, 2011, stills from single-channel
of photobooks came about with the emergence of the socialist video: 2 min.
market economy in the 1980s, which was accompanied by an
(This page, left)
awakening of increasingly liberal consciousness of individuality
PAGE 23, 2017–18, cyanotype print, 76 x 56 cm.
and internationalism—all topics that were generally elided in
the previous era of Mao suits for all. As Ma told me, those born in (This page, right)
PAGE 39, 2017–18, cyanotype print, 76 x 56 cm.
the 1980s grew up in a post-socialist period, where partially nude
female bodies in magazines were acceptable, contrary to
the environment of earlier generations where such images
were contraband.
Ma makes use of her magazine collection in one of her latest
series, “Page” (2017–18), wherein she takes a photograph from a
magazine and exposes it using the cyanotype process, producing
a scratchy blue-and-white image that resembles a ballpoint
drawing. Ma emphasized that the color blue was closely associated
with the clothes worn by the working class in China, and that
she wanted to illustrate the contrast between this conservative
association and the connection to the more liberal time of the
magazines of nude bodies. The cyanotype process itself involves
exposing objects or images to a mixture of chemicals to create
silhouettes on paper, allowing Ma to raise questions of appearance
and disappearance, and of the truth or mistruth of history,
especially regarding perceptions and understandings of different
generations across time.
In Ma’s studio, there was a pile of drawings made by her daughter
on her worktable. I saw these on my last visit and imagined Ma
collecting these as materials for use in her work, in which she brings
together relationships, objects, structures and stories as a way to
subvert dominant readings of their histories. With China taking
up a greater international presence and as Beijing’s ring roads
continue to swell outward, Ma’s works stand out as increasingly
crucial documents of the country’s tensions and its political and
social shifts—worthy of the same careful study that brought them
into existence.
*Visit our Digital Library at for more articles on Ma Qiusha.

Features 83

By Jyoti Dhar
I. Love and Politics connections point to the contemporary relevance of Dube’s work,
her own suggestion in the film that “the values I stand on are
Noor Mohammed, a lower-class Muslim businessman—the old” reminds us that her concerns are not reactionary but are
alter-ego of Anita Dube, who could be identified as a middle- rooted in deep preoccupations with syncretism and pluralism,
class Hindu woman artist, but whose life and practice seeks to the fluidity of gender and sexuality, pathos and eros. The latter of
blur such boundaries—tells us that it’s his lucky day; he’s been these, particularly eros and politics, or “love as a way of thinking
given 15 minutes of fame. “What can I say about myself?” he asks, through politics” (as activist Ponni Arasu spoke about in a recent
looking quizzically at the camera, deciding how best to introduce discussion on “Histories of Queer Feminisms in South Asia: Love
himself. “Noor is a loving human being, who places a great onus on and Resistance,” in Sri Lanka), or the radical potential of love,
friendship,” he begins. “Love is the highest form of worship. This is forms a central thread through Dube’s work.
my religion.” Over the next 15 minutes, Dube-as-Noor addresses a
mix of personal, political and philosophical thoughts to two of her/
his closest friends, artists Anita Dube and CK Rajan. Confessing
II. Culture in Currency
to these unseen figures in flowing Urdu enriched with Sufi poetry, Dube’s own path to art, love and politics was prefaced, originally,
Dube’s alter-ego weaves the fictional with the factual, telling them by a desire to escape what she called “the provincial, middle-class
about his love of literature, his childhood in Lucknow, and his male way of life” that she experienced in the relatively conservative
and female lovers in Delhi. In these dark times, he laments, power social landscape in Lucknow. “I knew that the only way to get
has become a religion, politics is practiced like an art form, and love out of this place was to do well,” she said. Her parents, who
transformed into a commodity. were both doctors, suggested that she prepare for the Indian
The impromptu script contains profound and candid lines, Administrative Service exams. Rather than follow that path, she
such as, “If you had understood me, if your desire was not double, surprised everyone when she achieved the highest results in the
it may not have come to this.” Throughout her performance on state in the field of arts. This, she said, paved the way for her to
camera, Dube appears amused, heartfelt and forlorn, in what is a move to the capital, where she first enrolled in a history degree at
rare insertion of herself in her work. Shot over the course of one the University of Delhi (1975–79). Within a year she found herself
evening, Kissa-e-Noor Mohammed (Garam Hawa) (2004) is the immersed in a rich cultural scene, where she was part of a poetry
only film-work Dube has ever made, and reveals much about her circle with artist Jatin Das and writer Aman Nath, and this led her
instinctual and intellectual approach. The queering of subjectivities to decide to apply for further studies in art history.
we see on screen confronts nationalist and patriarchal rhetoric, Dube still remembers her interview with the eminent
simultaneously rupturing traditional notions of gender, class, painter and professor Gulam Mohammed Sheikh—who was
religion and sexuality. This is particularly significant given the film’s impressed with her reading of what were considered to be “poets
fraught context, coming in the aftermath of the 2002 communal in currency” at the time, such as Anna Akhmatova and Aimé
riots in Gujarat and amid the temporarily successful campaign in the Césaire—and offered her a place on the art criticism Master’s
2000s to amend the law (Section 377) to decriminalize homosexual course at the Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda. Here, from
activity in India. 1979 to 1982, she was part of an intimate and inspiring class of just
Dube’s film also connects to other seminal cultural works in five students taught by Sheikh. Ever the keen thinker, Dube chose
important ways. Its title echoes Garam Hawa (1973), a critically to extend her Master’s by a year, so that she could attend every
acclaimed film about Hindu-Muslim relations after Partition, lost theory course available, on subjects ranging from the European
loves and being split by two worlds, and its subtext of forbidden Renaissance to the Indian miniaturists. Tellingly, outside of class
desire and heartbreak resonates with Fire (1996), a film that became she was happiest among artists, observing them making work.
a key moment in galvanizing the LGBTQ movement in India On one of her trips back to Baroda after she had graduated, she
after protests by right-wing Hindu groups. Though these cross- encountered artist Alex Mathew, whom she would go on to briefly
Her concerns are not
reactionary but are rooted
in deep preoccupations with
syncretism and pluralism,
the fluidity of gender and
sexuality, pathos and eros.

(Previous spread)
bones covered in red velvet, dimensions variable.
Courtesy the artist and Devi Art Foundation,

(This page)
HAWA), 2004, stills from video with color
and sound: 15 min. Courtesy Nature Morte,
New Delhi.
marry. “I saw some of his wood carvings and I liked him because of
his sculpture,” she said.
Unbeknownst to her, this meeting with Mathew and several other
artists originally from Trivandrum studying at Baroda, including KP
Krishnakumar, NN Rimzon and KM Madhusudhanan, would spark
a pivotal moment in her own critical trajectory as well as within
Indian contemporary art. “We were reading Kafka and Dostoevsky,
discussing Marxism and egalitarianism, all in a very bohemian
milieu,” she said. “It was a wonderful world that had not been
opened up to me before.” By the time the group graduated in 1984,
Dube, who was lecturing at an architecture college in the nearby city
of Ahmedabad at the time, suggested that they apply to the newly
opened postgraduate studio Kanoria Centre for Arts there. This,
she explained, was to be one of the origins of the Indian Radical
Painters and Sculptors Association (IRPSA, or better known as the
Radicals). Yet their residency didn’t last long. There was a dispute
with management at the center, with Dube tasked as the group’s
spokesperson, and they collectively resigned.

III. A Radical Medium

The edginess of the Radicals captured the attention of artists such
as Nalini Malani and Vivan Sundaram. “Coming from Kerala, they
were leftists of a certain kind,” Malani told me. “As they were the
next generation, I admired their ideology, energy and dynamism.”
Sundaram invited them to take part in an artists’ camp at Kasauli
Art Centre, led by German sculptor Siegfried Neuenhausen, in
North India. Dube was invited as a critic and recalls how the
work produced there by the group broke away from traditions of
Indian sculpture, which was then dominated by totemic forms in
bronze, stone and wood. The Radicals saw German Expressionism
as closer to the “language of the underclass” than, say, miniature
painting from the subcontinent, which they felt did not carry the
same emotionality, contemporaneity or charge. Dube recalled her
impressions when she encountered the Radicals’ works: “They
were using wire, cloth, plaster, aluminum tubes and constructing
an installation-like language. It had a spatiality, rawness and
spontaneity that was forward-looking.”
These innovative works were shown at the exhibition titled
“Seven Young Sculptors” (1985) in New Delhi, curated by Sundaram,
who subsequently offered Krishnakumar a studio workspace in
Kasauli. “But Krishnakumar was a rebel,” Dube recounted. “And
he never felt equal.” This feeling of inequality, stemming from
ideological and class differences between artists notionally divided
along a north/south axis within India, was to manifest in potent
ways. Sundaram, along with his critic-partner Geeta Kapur and
artists such as Sheikh and Malani, were part of the so-called Baroda
School, a narrative movement of painting that sought to address
more localized and grounded concerns than their predecessors, the
Progressives. “The narrative group were speaking for people, but
they were not the people,” Dube said. “The Radicals felt that this was
top-down; that they were from the working classes, and that people
should speak for themselves.” Krishnakumar and his peers decided
to band together and “fight the hegemony.” (This page, top)
Archival image of Anita Dube and Ranjana
On March 25, 1987, a group of 13 artists—KP Krishnakumar, Thapleyal working at the Kasauli Art Centre
Alex Mathew, CK Rajan, VN Jyothi Basu, K. Prabhakaran, Sculpture Workshop, 1984. Photo by Vivan
K. Madhusudhanan, Pushkin EH, TK Hareendran, C. Pradeep, Sundaram. Courtesy Vivan Sundaram
and Asia Art Archive, Hong Kong.
K. Raghunandan, Anoop B., D. Alexander, KR Karunakaran and
Dube herself—staged an exhibition at the Faculty of Fine Arts, (Opposite page, bottom)
Archival image of Anita Dube (front, center)
Baroda, called “Questions and Dialogue.” Dube’s sharp and incisive
at an evening gathering with the participating
catalog text channeled the Radical’s critique of the Baroda narrative artists of Kasauli Art Centre Sculpture
movement, calling out their “pseudo historical depth,” “false- Workshop, 1984. The artists included K.
Madhusudhan, KP Krishnakumar, Alex Mathew,
humanism,” “colonized consciousness,” “bourgeois aesthetic” and Khushbash Shehrawat, Ashokan Poduval,
all kinds of kitsch perceived in their works. “This critical act turns NN Rimzon, Prithpal Singh Sehdev Ladi,
the compound questioning eye onto everything, seizes the present Seigfried Neuenhausen, Vivan Sundaram,
N. Pushpamala and Ranjana Thapleyal.
moment, stands crude, naked and knife-sharp and will not allow Photo by Vivan Sundaram. Courtesy Vivan
anyone to pass,” she wrote. While immediate responses to this Sundaram and Asia Art Archive, Hong Kong.

88 | NOV/DEC 2018 | ISSUE 111

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(This page)
human bones covered in red velvet,
dimensions variable. Courtesy the artist
and Devi Art Foundation, Gurugram.

90 | NOV/DEC 2018 | ISSUE 111

“anarchist bomb”—as Kapur referred to the exhibition then—were “There was a softness in the cultural scene [at the time], where they
personal and passionate, this moment of “ideological unrest,” as never examined economies or class positions,” Dube remarked. Her
Kapur refers to it now, arguably generated important debates among review of Raja Ravi Varma’s retrospective, at the National Museum
artists in Baroda. in 1993, not only sought to address such blind spots but also boldly
positioned Varma’s upper-caste, male, Hindu construction of
IV. Porous Architecture nationhood and women within a dangerous lineage of right-wing
cultural propaganda.
“I think it certainly had an impact on my practice,” Malani recalled. The impetus for such writing is revealed in her column “A Show
“Around this time I looked for new tools and materials, like wall of Closed Gestures,” from 1994, where she reviewed an exhibition
drawings and theater, to extend my work to a larger public . . . But curated by her long-standing interlocutor Kapur and questioned
sadly the movement had a very short breath.” While the “Questions the conceptual and dialectical pairing of works, inconsistencies
and Dialogue” moment fueled certain shifts, whether in artists’ and tokenism of certain inclusions, as well as the premise and
practices (namely Malani’s and Sundaram’s) or in “creating a expectations of the entire endeavor. This rigorous reading was
hegemonic dent” as Dube puts it, it also lost its support structure, bookended by a call to “shed off our intellectual sloth” toward
and many of the Radicals had to retreat back to Kerala in the years a healthier culture of critique. “It is with this hope, that many
after the show. Alluding to why the group were unable to sustain such questions and counter questions, from multiple directions
their position of challenge, Dube said: “Hegemonic battles can will dance, on all our forums, to internally enliven and deepen
only be fought on firm and equal ground.” Though some of the our ‘making’ and ‘thinking,’ and toward more fearless and open
Radicals went on to exhibit artworks, and run village art camps, practices, that I write.” However, it was in her passionate piece for
Krishnakumar in particular found that he could no longer identify the Economic Times on Francis Bacon, in 1995, that her flair for the
with the values or positions of the bourgeoisie or proletariat. During literary met her deep interest in the body—and in this evocation of
this moment, complicated by several other personal and health flesh, desire, blood, violence, beauty and banality we see a glimpse
factors, Krishnakumar’s existential crisis began to intensify, and in of what is yet to come. She wrote, “Nothing could be abandoned
December 1989, he committed suicide. here and this was the anxiety, the struggle, among others, this was
The group dispersed. Dube went home to Lucknow. Here, still in the violence and horror, and not any other as seen in the most ‘real’
shock, she went back to wood carving, which she had experimented eyes, and the most tender lips, almost living, and perhaps the best
with previously, this time more intensely, making sculptures as a flesh, painted in this century, even as the desire was too much to
way of working through the trauma of what had taken place. “Art is remain on the surface, and so then broke through to lie amongst
amazingly therapeutic, and after this episode, I gave it that value,” the ruins, in the gore, as was possible only in painting.”
she said. “Coming from a family of doctors, I think that’s what the Despite her facility as a critic, Dube thought a lot about the
role of the artist is—to heal yourself and heal the wounds of the constraints of writing as a medium, and felt that art may have
social system.” As Dube was emerging from this period of grief and a better way of reaching people and cutting across social strata.
vulnerability, she set herself a test. In 1991, she made a set of 20 “One of the reasons I started to make art was to get away from the
single-line, anatomical drawings in pencil depicting women—to see limitations of language,” she explained. In 1995, after a hiatus of
if she was indeed an artist. “I felt I had a sense of form and anatomy productivity, and feeling that wood carving was reaching its limits,
despite having no training. That gave me confidence, and there was she went on a residency to Namibia. It was her first trip abroad,
no looking back.” and she carried with her some blue velvet and silver thread. “I fell
Art-making turned out to be a restorative, gratifying and in love with the material. Velvet has a body to it, it has little hairs,
liberating experience for Dube. A year later, she decided to stage it’s human-skin-like, the way it absorbs light. It’s lush and has
a solo show called “Desire Garden” (1992) of her drawings and this exaggerated beauty that counters the terrible things we see
sculptures. “Her earliest sculptural works started with a carved every day.” Made on her trip, Desert Queen (1996) combines the
wooden element, then usually added more elements in other sumptuous and the cadaverous, with its headless, female, animal
materials,” said Peter Nagy, founder of Nature Morte gallery who hide stitched in silver and blue. It was strung up with black rope for
has worked with Dube for two decades. “[They] were continuing Nature Morte gallery’s first exhibition in Delhi, “Nirguna/Saguna,”
a language she had inherited from the Kerala Radicals and trying held in 1997. “People thought it was quite macabre,” Nagy said.
to bring the found object to that.” As the show was not in a formal “But Desert Queen was the beginning of something new for her—
gallery, but in a semi-outdoor space within a Charles Correa certainly a condensation of multiple elements into a single, unified
apartment building, it is said to have captivated the audience, whole that clicked.”
including art-world peers Sundaram and Kapur. An exhibition she
later curated in the lobby and forecourt of the Kamani Auditorium in VI. Embodied Performance
1996—which Nagy attended and said he found “very impressive”—
also disrupted conventional curatorial architectures, this time Feminist scholar Peggy Phelan, in her essay in the anthology Art
foregrounding the processual, visceral and material. “I juxtaposed and Feminism (2001), reminds us that “rationality gives us ways
contemporary art with objects from the street, like a pyramid of to make categories, while art gives us ways to resist them.” For
oranges or a large broom,” Dube said of the show. Dube, Desert Queen not only allowed for a breakthrough in formal
language, but it also unraveled a new set of creative and conceptual
V. Between Language and Art possibilities. During another traumatic period, when her father was
terminally ill with cancer, she happened upon a sack of bones that
Whether in writing, curating or art, there is an edge of criticality her brother was using to study anatomy in their Lucknow family
that has stayed with Dube from her experience with the Radicals, home. Disturbed and in despair, Dube was also contemplating “the
which she has since expanded upon in multiple ways. Along with collapse of romantic idealism toward relationships as an ideal.” In
an interest in contemporaneous critics like John Berger, Dube was this frame of mind, Dube began to soak the bones in formaldehyde
similarly interested in the ideas of postmodern scholars such as and cover them in velvet. The theatrical installation Silence (Blood
Jacques Derrida, Slavoj Žižek and Noam Chomsky, all of whom came Wedding) (1997)—consisting of a bright-red velvet-covered, stone-
to speak in Delhi in the 1990s. While making art, she began writing studded and lace-dripping pelvic bone, rib cage and spinal cord set
a series of robust critiques in the relatively progressive newspaper, of “wedding jewelry”—conjures up fantastical realities, and battles
the Economic Times, then under the editorship of Sadanand Menon. against the impossibility of permanence, in her love and life.

Features 91
Beyond eros and death, this work also employs motifs of the medico-
erótico to reflect upon ills within the social corpus.
Dube’s pull toward the body and its politics might seem
inevitable in retrospect, as a feminist engagement with ideas of
embodiment allows for many social categories to be played with
and simultaneously destabilized. “Women have always been asking
whether something feels real or not, and this often comes to them
through the body,” she said. One of Dube’s most critically celebrated
works, Keywords (2005), acts as a triangulation of her core concepts,
connecting up language and art; art and the body; and the body
and language. Performed in front of a small audience at Khoj
International Artists’ Association in Delhi (and with her alter-ego
being that of a Muslim man) the artist took huge slabs of bloody beef
and painstakingly carved out phrases using her father’s scalpel. With
each letter taking up to 15 minutes to carve, she surgically sculpted
the words “Permanent Revolution,” “Avant-Garde,” “Sexual Love”
and “About Ethics,” over a few hours, in a bid to reveal their inherent
instability and mutability.
From initially writing about objects and ideas, she physically
turned words into objects and doubted their fixity of meaning.
(She would explore this abstraction of language further in
subsequent works such as Three Texts, 2009, in which she takes
white velvet and uses black ink to write three texts over one another,
leaving us to seek alternative and new meanings from them.) In
addition to this, Dube assumed multiple roles in Keywords, as an
agent of criticality, the daughter of a surgeon and her performative
alter-ego. In the book South Asian Feminisms (2012), scholar Ratna
Kapur talks about the agency of such mixed subjectivities as being
located “in the relationship of these identities and performances
with the subject’s interior disposition.” Aptly, Kapur cites the idea
of “revolution” as ultimately being “within the subject.” Dube
continued her exploration of performing many parts in A Touch of
Moon (2012), this time more overtly as a blind mendicant, dapper
dandy and social medium. Wearing silver contact lenses and a gray
suit, and holding out a silver begging bowl, she walked the streets—
stopping to connect with individuals who held her hands and saw
their reflections in her eyes. With these gestures, she sought
to privilege intimacy, embody ethical questions and overcome
cultural boundaries.

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“With curating, working,
(Opposite page)
KEYWORDS, 2005, documentation of
performance at Khoj Studios, New Delhi, 2005.
Courtesy Khoj International Artists’ Association.

(This page)
everything, I hate being
THREE TEXTS, 2009, Ink on velvet, 401.32 x
518.16 cm. Courtesy Nature Morte, New Delhi.
trapped or fixed . . . I’m very
comfortable in my body but
I like exploring diferent modes.
It’s all about attitude, and
identification in terms
of eros.”

Features 93
VII. The Artist-Critic-Curator
This idea of remaining fluid, between genders and roles,
is extremely important to Dube. “With curating, working,
everything, I hate being trapped or fixed,” she told me. “I’m
very comfortable in my body but I like exploring different
modes. It’s all about attitude and identification in terms of
eros.” In many conversations and artworks, Dube circles back
to the notion of eros and the erotic as a source of revelation
and knowledge. For example, she cites the installation,
Erotics/Politics (2014) in which we see the word “politics”
written in elongated black capitals on the wall underneath the
word “erotics,” slanting as if it were its shadow, as one of her
most important works. “I’ve always thought that both these
things are motors or engines that drive this world. Eroticism
drives us as human beings, our individual subjectivity, while
politics drives us collectively. Both fascinate me as a duo in
which either erotics is dominant and politics is its shadow or
vice versa. Like wrestlers or conjoined twins.” The twinning of
these concepts also reminds us that pleasure, love and desire
are often left out of the discourse of feminist politics. Dube’s
foregrounding of feminism was rather organic, however, and
developed over time, as oddly enough the otherwise liberal
Radicals viewed feminism as an import. “How can you be
truly radical without feminism?” she asks now.
In her recent critique of the group, and the ideas that they
tried to live by, she said that some of them still ring true,
but not all of it stands the test of time. “As you get older you
realize these ideas are all great, but revolution is far away—
that’s the slow, painful part of growing up,” she explained.
“Now I see it as a moment, like when you light a firecracker;
an action or radical burst. It shakes up a few things . . .
‘Questions and Dialogue’ was essentially a set of propositions.
Some of these questions can still be addressed and are still
alive.” As Dube approaches her next critical challenge, as
curator of the fourth edition of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale,
she said that she will employ many of these concepts, from
the initial questions set by the Radicals in the 1980s, to her
early curatorial endeavors in the 1990s, within the exhibition.
For example, she told me there will be an open pavilion
at the Biennale where she hopes for “people and ideas to
float through, like wind flows through space,” in a very similar
way to her “Desire Garden” exhibition. Another aspect
where she returns to the notion of letting people, or the
subaltern, speak for themselves comes with the Biennale’s
focus on inclusivity—particularly Dalit, tribal, queer and
older woman artists. She reiterated her hope for “those
pushed to the margins of dominant narratives” to speak, “not
as victims, but as futurisms’ cunning and sentient sentinels”
in her curatorial note for the exhibition, incidentally
published a day after the historical judgment in which the
Supreme Court finally overturned Section 377 decriminalizing
homosexual activity.
Given India’s current political positions, the evocation
of Dube’s continuous and prescient themes, including the
politics of friendship, love, dialogue, social action and even
the ideas of solidarity and equality that Krishnakumar tried to
promote, remind us of what makes her work “ahistorical,” or
always relevant, as curator and long-standing friend Arshiya
Lokhandwala said when we spoke. Whether a focus on the
sensory, sociological or sensual, what we can expect is that
Dube will construct narratives via objects and allow forms
to communicate freely for themselves. “The Biennale will
be a reflection of her and the way she looks at the world,”
explained Lokhandwala. “She’s really committed to what art
means, reproduces and says. It will be intense, like her.”
*Visit our Digital Library at for more articles on Anita Dube.

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(This page)
EROTICS/POLITICS, 2014, Steel wire
covered in black velvet, 167.64 x 233.68 cm.
Courtesy Nature Morte, New Delhi.

Features 95
By Ysabelle Cheung, Julee Woo Jin Chung, Chloe Chu, Ophelia Lai and HG Masters

THE BIRD LADY, 2017, still of HD

video with color: 6 min 47 sec. Courtesy
the artist and Galerie Sator, Paris.

How deep into the unknowable can art take us? Using digital animation and virtual reality, Seoul-born artist Hayoun Kwon leads
viewers into physical locales that we cannot otherwise access. Her early works explored a site central to the collective imagination
of South Korean society that is nonetheless forbidden: the demilitarized zone (DMZ) between the two warring halves of Korea. Her
interest in portraying this bufer area started with the project Panmunjom (2013), when she was refused permission to record the Joint
Security Area where soldiers from the two sides face each other. Instead, she created an animation that initially simulates filming with
a thermal-imaging camera, appearing to show soldiers on their patrols, before becoming an absurdist choreography of marching that
blurs real and imagined, and one side and the other. Her interest in the DMZ carried over into 489 Years (2015–16), which was based
on the testimony of a South Korean soldier known only as Mr. Kim, who had conducted covert nighttime patrols inside the DMZ.
Rendering Kim’s descriptions in a CGI animation viewable on virtual-reality headsets, Kwon opens the barbed-wire gates of the DMZ
and guides viewers inside this forbidden zone that is paradoxically a wondrous nature preserve, and deadly military hunting ground
littered with mines.
In her latest work, Kwon uses virtual reality to access the visually rich but inaccessible space of memory. The animation The Bird
Lady (2017) is based on a story told to Kwon by her drawing professor (Daniel Nadaud) who recalled visiting an incredible-looking
Parisian apartment that was akin to stepping into another world, filled with antique cages and exotic birds in flight. The work unlocks
the doors of an interior that has surely disappeared in reality, but has survived, not only in Nadaud’s memory but also now for those
who experience Kwon’s work. HGM

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2015, screenshot of GIF animation from series
“LAN Love Poem.gif,” dimensions variable.
Courtesy the artist and MadeIn Gallery, Shanghai.

“Do we live in the real world, or is it all in our minds?” booms actor Morgan
Freeman in his low-pitched Southern drawl, a trademark baritone voice
stereotypically cast, in Hollywood productions, as the voice of god. His
existential monologue, from the popular science television show Through
the Wormhole, is asynchronously remixed with clips featuring hosts from the
Chinese live-streaming video platform Douyu, who perform acts ranging
from the mundane to the absurd, such as eating hotpot, singing karaoke,
roasting a rat, and selling Viagra on Taobao. In Post Commentary, Monetary
Likes and Morgan Freeman’s Advice on Reality (2016), and other new-media
works, Miao Ying reveals glimpses into Chinternet (Chinese Internet)
culture and aesthetics developing within the Great Firewall of China
(GFW)—an internet-censorship apparatus enforced by the government
to block foreign websites and regulate domestic internet content. For
example, “LAN Love Poem.gif” (2014–15) is a series of visual poems that
combines phrases found online with screenshots of banned websites,
as a way to visualize the desire and nostalgia for access. For example, in
Flowers All Fallen, Birds Far Gone (2015), the “birds” reference the social-
media platform Twitter, which was scrubbed from the Chinternet in 2009.
Mining expressions written by Chinese netizens, who employ the tactic of
homophones to circumvent the country’s censorship algorithms, the artist
documents a parallel reality where public opinion and social criticism exists
in the form of obscure, viral memes, images, GIFs and videos.
Miao’s ongoing online project Chinternet Plus (2016), which parodies
the Chinese prime minister Li Keqiang’s 2015 “Internet Plus” initiative
promoting technological progress, questions the party’s vigilant politispeak
that, at times, talks big and says little. The work humorously promotes
a “shanzhai (counterfeit) ideology” through a campaign that comprises
outlandish homemade GIFs and grandiose statements that mimic political
rhetoric. Through satire and wit, Miao dissects the social, cultural and
linguistic aspects of the Chinternet, and uncovers an underground public
sphere that is quick to find the holes in the ever-rising firewall. WJC

Features 99

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IXIAN GATE, 2015, VR animation created with
Simon Ward and soundtrack by Andrew Clarke:
5 min 35 sec. Courtesy the artists.

Psychonauts will tell you that the most potent hallucinogenic experiences are typically driven by an explosive,
fuzzy spiraling of visual efects. In Jess Johnson’s virtual reality (VR) animations and installations, these apparitions
are isolated, stripped from their kinship with drug use and recontextualized in a white-cube gallery setting.
Tessellating, grid-like patterns of squares, zigzags and rotating columns are backdrops for abstract, science-fiction
scenes, which are inspired by varied, era-spanning interests including traditional Pacific quilt-making, horror films,
video games and medieval architecture. In one work, a salmon-hued human form cleaves in two and then reforms
itself; in another, monstrous scaly worms fly through a pitch-black sky.
Johnson initially began exploring the alternate, speculative universe through two-dimensional drawing before
meeting animator Simon Ward, who, since 2014, has been a close collaborator. For their five-part VR installation
Terminus (2018), Johnson painstakingly hand-drew hundreds of cosmic-mythological scenes, which were then
animated by Ward—the act of digitization itself a commentary on warped translations across media—and
transposed into Oculus Rift headsets. When viewers put on the headsets, they activate winged creatures, a giant
ouroboros, wriggling tube-like figures winding out from pools of red liquid, and reveal New Age temples and
architecture that lie beneath the floor and above the ceiling of a space in which the work is installed. The time-
and space-traveling experience is presented as narrative-free, positioning viewers as protagonists of their own
journey, while at the same time forcing them to surrender their bodies and minds to a terrifying imagined past,
present and future. YC

Features 101

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the series “Melting Memories,” LED media wall,
custom software by Kyle McLean and sound
by Kerim Karaoglu, 5.1 x 6 x 0.1 m. Courtesy
the artist and Pilevneli Gallery, Istanbul.

A memory is often seen as an intangible, ephemeral thing that can be manipulated, invented or simply lost over time in the mysterious annals
of the mind. But what if we see human memories as data? And how would such data be given material form? These questions are at the heart of
new-media artist Refik Anadol’s “Melting Memories” (2018) series of “data paintings and sculptures” that explore the materiality of the human mind.
For this series, Anadol gathered data from electroencephalograms on the neural activity of people instructed to focus on long-term memories, and
then applied various algorithms to visualize the data as elevation models. The resulting CNC-machined sculptures transpose the brain’s electrical
activity into a physical terrain of cavernous hollows and winding ridges. These forms are animated on monumental screens, with the seething swirls
rising and receding to reveal the topography of the mind.
Anadol takes his investigations into human consciousness further with the installation Pladis: Data Universe (2018), using open-source NASA data
to create an immersive virtual environment aimed at altering viewers’ perceptions of self and physical space. Clustered constellations, beams of light
and incandescent numerals create kaleidoscopic moving patterns when projected into a darkened room with strategically placed mirrors, creating the
illusion of an unbounded space.
Whether through translating mental processes into objects or experimenting with the architectonics of virtual environments, Anadol illustrates the
endless versatility of the digital realm, and its ability to expand the frontiers of reality. OL

Features 103

During the 2010–11 Arab Spring protests that spread across North Africa and the Middle East, social media played a critical role, with
protesters using online platforms to coordinate and record gatherings. Governments realized that in addition to physical suppression,
they needed to infiltrate and censor these virtual networks in order to quash the unrest, enlisting the help of groups such as the Syrian
Electronic Army (SEA), which targeted opposition groups to President Bashar al-Assad’s regime with malware and spam.
Exploring these online spaces of conflict, Foundland Collective—comprised of Damascus-born Ghalia Elsrakbi and Cape Town native
Lauren Alexander—created the publication Simba, The Last Prince of Ba’ath Country (2012). The work compares and contrasts the digital
materials—including photoshopped propaganda images and staged videos—produced by SEA and opposition camps, examining the
internet as a pivotal archive of Syria’s political history. Since then, Foundland have attempted to reclaim virtual territories to situate
the accounts of displaced peoples. The video The New World, Episode One (2017), revolves around the travels of Lebanese musicians
Amer and Sana Khaddaj, who left Palestine for the United States in 1947 and subsequently toured the country performing Arabic songs.
Three-dimensional renderings re-creating the places that the couple passed through are juxtaposed with archival photographs as well
as re-staged performances of their songs. As political turmoil rages on, Foundland navigate the spillages of the real world into the digital
and vice versa, piecing together firsthand narratives that are under fire in both domains. CC


stills of HD video with color and sound: 11 min.
Courtesy the artists and Centre Pompidou, Paris.

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Features 105
A look back through our archives, from 1993 to 2017
By Ysabelle Cheung, Chloe Chu, Ophelia Lai, HG Masters, Elaine W. Ng

106 | NOV/DEC 2018 | ISSUE 111

(Opposite page)

AAP 37: “Shilpa Gupta,” by Johan Pijnappel
Oil stick on crate, dimensions variable. Cassette recordings of people expressing joy, paintings made from clothes stained by menstrual blood, canvases
Courtesy the artist. blessed by holy men—these are some of the projects that Shilpa Gupta created in the 1990s and early 2000s. In
(This page)
an Essay on the Mumbai-based artist’s practice, curator Johan Pijnappel contextualized Gupta’s works as critical
takes on India’s new consumerist society, one in the throes of globalization and in thrall to the new fast lanes of
the worldwide web. Gupta’s technological savvy and humorous satire coalesce in the love-letter ordering service
2001 with deliveries by mermaids or hostesses, (2001), typically shown in the exhibition context
Installation and website, dimensions variable.
on a single desktop computer. Pijnappel also explored Gupta’s perspectives around the place of women in society,
Courtesy the artist.
noting that the sectarian violence of 1992–93 in Mumbai took place during the artist’s student days at the Sir JJ
School of Art, and cited Rummana Hussain and Nalini Malani as established artists whose works of the time made
powerful feminist statements. In one untitled installation work from 2001, Gupta fashioned together clothing that
women had used, at the artist’s request, to absorb menstrual blood. Wrestling with the flux of Indian society and
art-making itself, at the time Gupta embodied a post-conceptual, post-studio and post-national position as an
artist—even if those terms hadn’t come into being just yet. HGM



AAP 16: “Peter Robinson’s Strategic Plan,”

by Robert Leonard
In the mid-1990s, Peter Robinson caught the attention of curators and collectors alike in New Zealand. One
of the reasons, curator Robert Leonard explained, was Robinson’s explorations of his Māori heritage, which
coincided with the country’s debates on the return of lands and economic rights that had been forcibly taken from
indigenous peoples under British colonial rule. In an Essay published in 1997, Leonard explored the idea of Māoris
existing in a “double bind”—disempowered yet idealized—and observed how, in that context, Robinson’s creative
approach difered radically from more commercialized forms of Māori art. For example, in an untitled oilstick-
on-wooden-crate work from 1996, Robinson made a naively painted checkerboard composition of black and
white squares that resemble bargain sale signs, with scrawled declarations such as, “Blacks Ltd. We Pay For Your
Interest,” “Buy Now, Pay Later” and “Quiet Island Retreat. Friendly Atmosphere.” Leonard posited, “These works
seem to comment at once on the economic, political and cultural plight of Māori through history and the current
market success enjoyed by contemporary Māori artists, for whom cultural values are stock-in-trade.” EWN

Features 107

AAP 55: “The Case of the Readymade Mountain,”
by Chin-Chin Yap
20 One day in 1995, a group of artists stripped naked and stacked their bodies horizontally on a mountaintop, in an

07 experiment that aimed to, metaphorically, alter the topography of a fixed landscape. The resulting photograph
To Add One Meter to an Anonymous Mountain (1995), is by now an iconic work in Chinese contemporary art
history. However, the legal authority of the ten artists—which include Zhang Huan and Cang Xin—over ensuing
sales of the photograph, as contributor Chin-Chin Yap argues in her Essay, presents a conundrum. The image
cannot be logically divided into ten equal parts and thus, under the Copyright Law of the People’s Republic of
China, the rights are jointly held. Using hypothetical scenarios, she illustrates real-life tensions in ownership and
intellectual property that form the mercurial terrain of Chinese contemporary art: “Duchamp might have relished
the unresolved case of the Mountain copyright as a true artistic coup: a conceptual gambit that, unwittingly but
brilliantly, subverted the very legal structures that society enacted for the autonomy of artists.” YC

AAP 78: “Kim Beom: Open the Most with the
Least,” by Han Keum Hyun
From the late 1980s to the early ’90s, South Korean multimedia artist Kim Beom was studying and living in New York.
His early paintings, produced during this period, were playful pokes at the artifices of the two-dimensional plane;
later, investigating how images are understood through their contexts, he began to deconstruct videos, such as in the
well-known Untitled (News) (2002), where he pieced together fictional 100-second stories from actual news clips. In
a Feature on Kim, independent curator and critic Han Keum Hyun traced the many ways in which the mischievous
artist toys with visual and textual semiotics. The installation Objects Being Taught They Are Nothing But Tools (2010)
features dozens of household items “watching” a video lecture by a male figure about how they need not aspire to
be more than simple devices. Here, Kim highlights how we have been taught to aix certain meanings and values to
objects through traditional education systems, prompting viewers to question—in Han’s words—“What is involved in
what we see? And after all is said and done: what is it that we actually see?” CC

108 | NOV/DEC 2018 | ISSUE 111

(Opposite page, top)

At the Anonymous Mountain
Oil on canvas, 179 x 359 cm.
Courtesy Beijing East-8 Strategic
Consulting Company.

(Opposite page, bottom)

Objects Being Taught They Are Nothing But Tools
Installation with daily objects, miniature
wooden chairs, chalkboard, television
monitor and video: 21 min 8 sec.
Courtesy the artist.

(This page)

I Love You
Photo documentation of performance at
eBent 07 Festival, Barcelona, 2007.
Photo by Angel Vilà.
Courtesy the artist.

20 AAP 106: “Melati Suryodarmo: The

17 World Within,” by Eva McGovern-Basa
Melati Suryodarmo’s often wordless performances gradually reveal their emotional power
through the absurdity of futile actions repeated over long durations. As independent curator
Eva McGovern-Basa explains in her Feature, the artist’s body is a focal point in her practice, a
vessel expressing notions of struggle, powerlessness, resistance and loss. In I Love You (2007),
Suryodarmo, dressed in a black suit and high heels, carries a large pane of glass around a
red-painted room, intermittently repeating “I love you” to no one in particular. When first
performed, I Love You conveyed the emotional fragility of a woman in love, and the limits of
language in human relationships. A decade later, AAP selected an image of this performance
for the cover of the November/December issue to illustrate the accomplishments of women
in the arts, just as the #MeToo movement was coalescing, with the public disclosure of the
burdens that women carry bringing new and darker interpretations to the work. OL

See our website for the Chinese version of this article.

Features 109


A Conversation between Christina Végh,
Alexander Birchler and Teresa Hubbard

2 7
Features 111
In late August 2017, Katharina Amman, head of the Swiss Institute for research, propelled by our interest in narrative structures—how to unpack
Art Research (SIK-ISEA) and Christina Végh, director of the Kestner a story, how a story is told and who is telling it. In our collaboration, we are
Gesellschaft, Hanover, gathered in Zurich for a public dialogue with artists searching for a third place—collective authorship—a third voice.
Teresa Hubbard and Alexander Birchler at Villa Bleuler, the headquarters of
SIK-ISEA. The event explored Hubbard and Birchler’s contribution to the Teresa Hubbard: It leads all the way back to when we were studying at
Swiss Pavilion at the 57th Venice Biennale, cited by audiences and critics as the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design (NSCAD) in Halifax, Canada.
one of the most meaningful, outstanding works in the Biennale. Continuing It was very early on in our collaboration—we were the first artists in North
the initial dialogue, the artists and Végh further explored ideas about America to be accepted into an MFA program as a collaborative team.
feminism, storytelling and re-framing history in the following conversation. Artistic collaboration is significantly more accepted now, but at the time, the
school took a bold stance to make an experiment with us. We were fortunate
Christina Végh: I would like to start with Flora (2017), the film that our attempts in finding a language and ground to work together were
installation you developed for the Swiss Pavilion at the 57th Venice nurtured in an environment that embraced trial and error as a defining
Biennale, in which you provide a multilayered, kaleidoscopic view of artist responsibility for an artistic practice. The discourse at NSCAD, well known
Flora Mayo, previously only mentioned in passing in studies on her lover for their legacy in conceptual art and early video art, provided a generative,
Alberto Giacometti. Various narrative lines emanate from the work: the critical challenge to our interests in storytelling.
story of an American woman living in Paris, passionate about becoming
an artist; a romance between two young people; an exploration of the The dichotomy between absence and presence is crucial to Flora (and
relationship between a mother and son; a discussion on storytelling itself, other of your works) and also happened to be the point of departure for
and how our identities, experiences and opportunities in life are affected Philipp Kaiser’s curatorial approach to the Swiss Pavilion, in reference to
by the narratives that we tell or are told to us; and finally a critique on the fact that Giacometti had repeatedly rejected invitations to represent
art history and historiography in general, making it visible how women Switzerland at the Venice Biennale.
are often neglected in research. After all, you “simply” detected some
mistakes of former art historians and corrected them! AB: I think it really started when we began talking about ideas of absence.
Your work is providing new critical insights into the art historical Philipp [Kaiser] had closely followed our Sound Speed Marker trilogy (2009–
domain, but obviously you work from the standpoint of artists rather than 14), which is focused on ideas of absence and obsolescence and where we
art historians. How does your “artistic research” differ, and how do you experimented with hybrid forms of storytelling, combining documentary
view this term within your own practice? Can you elaborate on the issues and narrative forms. For the Venice Biennale, Philipp asked us to consider
connected to definitions of “research,” and describe the working modes the 1952 and Giacometti’s refusal to show in the Swiss Pavilion as a way to
you are interested in? think about absence. We spent a lot of time finding a point of departure,
researching the history of the Swiss Pavilion and Giacometti’s life. Eventually
Alexander Birchler: Rather than thinking of “correcting,” we think about we came across Mayo through a biography of Giacometti by James Lord.
“re-framing.” We start from a place of questions and these questions lead Mayo is but a brief mention in this biography, but she stuck with us.
us to other questions as part of the journey that’s fueled by our interest
in storytelling and strategic digression. We allow ourselves to get lost and TH: Lord’s entries about Mayo are sexist. His biography about Giacometti
we allow for a place of unknowing. We think of our work as action-based was very popular yet fiercely criticized by art historians and Giacometti

112 | NOV/DEC 2018 | ISSUE 111

scholars but, curiously, it has never been specifically criticized for how Lord (Opening page)
Exhibition view, detail of TERESA HUBBARD /
writes about women. Reproduced in Lord’s book is a photograph of Mayo ALEXANDER BIRCHLER’s Bust, 2017
and Giacometti, and this image has since been circulated and reprinted in Flora Mayo and Alberto Giacometti, with the bust
she made of him, circa 1927. Photographer
other books about Giacometti. In the image, the two young lovers sit on unknown. Original photograph belonging to Flora
either side of a clay bust that she has made of Giacometti. Mayo, kept under her mattress, lost. Film
negative missing. Reproduction from only known
duplicate print, archive of Fotostiftung
Schweiz, Winterthur. Original clay bust portrait
AB: That was a very exciting point of departure for us. There is a lot of of Alberto Giacometti by Flora Mayo, lost.
existing scholarship about Giacometti’s models (indeed, Lord also wrote Reconstructed and cast in brass.
Framed silver gelatin print, 89 x 72 cm;
about this); however, very little consideration has been made of Giacometti brass sculpture with concrete base, 154 x 47.9 x
sitting as a model for another artist. In the moment that this photograph 53.3 cm. Photo by Ugo Carmeni. Courtesy the
artists and Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York/
was taken, Mayo is the artist and Giacometti is the model. This image was Los Angeles and Lora Reynolds Gallery, Austin.
the initial trigger that started our journey: Who was Flora? What happened
(Opposite page)
to her? Exhibition view of TERESA HUBBARD
synchronized double-sided film installation
TH: The photograph of Mayo and Giacometti, like all photographs, with shared soundtrack, 30 min, loop, at
ofers a surface, a complicated terrain that is ripe for use, misuse and “Women of Venice,” Swiss Pavilion, 57th
Venice Biennale, 2017. Photo by Ugo Carmeni.
interpretation. It was our entryway into the consideration of absence—the Copyright Teresa Hubbard and Alexander
specific absence of Mayo, but more so absence in an extended sense in Birchler. Courtesy the artists and Tanya
Bonakdar Gallery, New York/Los Angeles; and
terms of the systemic, historical exclusion of women artists. Lora Reynolds Gallery, Austin.

I presume most people who saw Flora at the Swiss Pavilion must have (This page)
been struck by the double projection. The orchestration of image and Exhibition view of “Women of Venice,” Swiss
Pavilion, 57th Venice Biennale, 2017. Photo by
sound lures the viewer into the knot of stories instantly. However, the Ugo Carmeni. Copyright Teresa Hubbard and
Alexander Birchler. Courtesy the artists and
longer I reflect on the work, the more I think the bust—standing in for the
Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York/Los Angeles
lost original made by Mayo of Giacometti—which was included as part of and Lora Reynolds Gallery, Austin.
your Venice Biennale presentation, can almost be seen as the culmination
point of your project. You commissioned the bust to be made after a
found photograph. What seems to be a portrait of a famous artist turns
out to be much more about the materialized reconstitution of another
artist, namely Mayo, who in her time was underestimated, dismissed as
a woman artist in both her professional and private context. You have
given her form and weight, literally in a bronze cast, as an artist and as
a person. Understanding the backdrop of the bust, it receives a ghostly
quality. How do you see this? Can you tell us about the procedure?

AB: Bust (2017) is such a meta-object or meta-image. As an object,

you can touch it, it’s solid and heavy compared to the ephemerality of
projection and sound of Flora. However, Bust is equally ephemeral—it
has an expression of presence but actually it’s a hollow shell of presence;
everything about the piece exudes absence. Even today, we can’t fully grasp
what it is, and we like that uncomfortable quality about it. It makes a lot of
sense when you describe it as having or receiving a ghostly quality. This is
really a rich and provocative insight.

TH: When we first saw the reproduction of Mayo and Giacometti in Lord’s
book, all of our questions began to emerge. Who was the photographer?
Where was the negative? Where was the positive? Part of the trail of our
research eventually became embedded in the lengthy title of the work:

Bust 2017
Flora Mayo and Alberto Giacometti, with the bust she made of him, circa
1927. Photographer unknown. Original photograph belonging to Flora Mayo,
kept under her mattress, lost. Film negative missing. Reproduction from only
known duplicate print, archive of Fotostiftung Schweiz, Winterthur. Original
clay bust portrait of Alberto Giacometti by Flora Mayo, lost. Reconstructed
and cast in brass.

Trying to give form to experience of the image meant for us to rebuild,

reconstruct it, have it as a character in the film, and ultimately finish it
by casting it. We see a direct and generative relationship between the
reproduction process of casting a sculpture and the process of photography:
both employ casting on a negative and using the negative to create a positive.
From the very first moment, working on Bust was a physical process in which
a number of diferent hands, a collective voice, were working on it. As part of
the sculpting process, we were looking to other photographs of Giacometti,
who was photographed and filmed often. We were working around an
impossibility—rendering his “likeness” and finishing Mayo’s sculpture.

Features 113

How were you able to find more information about Mayo?

TH: What was known about Mayo before we started this work was
very little: she is only a side note in Lord’s book. She has survived in art
history until now only because at the same time Mayo was working on
her sculpture of Giacometti, he was also sculpting her. His work survived:
Tête de femme (Flora Mayo) (1926) is in the collection of the Giacometti
Foundation, Paris. Mayo’s portrait bust of him—indeed, we do not know if it
was ever finished, as all we have is a blurry, poor-quality reproduction—has
not survived.

AB: We scoured through hundreds of books about Giacometti trying to

find mentions of Mayo. She was hidden—extremely hard to find. Even
Giacometti, when he was writing to his mother about Mayo, didn’t ever
use her name; he only referred to her as “the American.” We also searched
for the source of the image that has been reproduced again and again
in many publications. We discovered that none of the publishers who
have reproduced this image have information on the copyright or are in
possession of a negative or print of the photograph. We went all the way
back to the 1980s, when the image was first published in Lord’s book by
Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
After a number of months working along these lines of research, we
came across an essay by Véronique Wiesinger, a renowned Giacometti
scholar and former director of the Giacometti Foundation. In an exhibition
catalog, The Women of Giacometti, published by Pace Wildenstein in 2005,
which accompanied a Giacometti exhibition at Pace New York in 2005
and the Nasher Sculpture Center in 2006, Wiesinger contributed an essay
titled, “On Women in Giacometti’s Work (and Some Women in Particular).”

TH: Wiesinger presents the reproduction of Giacometti and Mayo and

asserts that there has been a misidentification—that the woman in the
photograph is not Flora Mayo, it is Marguerite Cossaceanu. We hit a wall
with our research when we came across this article and her findings.

AB: If the woman depicted in the image is not Mayo, then the artwork
depicted in the image is also not made by Mayo. With Wiesinger’s
published pronouncement, Flora Mayo as an artist becomes efectively
erased a second time. We set about making contact with Wiesinger to
ask her more about her research and how she came to her conclusion.
Wiesinger generously gave us her time and notes. By retracing the steps of
her research, we discovered that there were some leaps in her conclusions.
We realized that in order to fully verify the identity of the woman in the
photograph next to Giacometti, we needed to find other photographs, other
traces of Mayo. In order to find more photographs, we needed to find her
family. This took us on an incredible journey searching for possible family
members, ultimately leading us to find Flora’s only surviving child, David
Mayo, a son no one knew existed.

TH: With the help of David and the numerous photographs he has of his
mother, we were able to correctly identify that the woman in the image
(This page)
with Giacometti is indeed Flora Mayo.
BIRCHLER’s Bust, 2017
Flora Mayo and Alberto Giacometti, with the bust
she made of him, circa 1927. Photographer
AB: We discovered a most amazing error: that in another photograph
unknown. Original photograph belonging to Flora Wiesinger had used as part of her “proof” that Mayo was not the person in
Mayo, kept under her mattress, lost. Film
negative missing. Reproduction from only known the picture with Giacometti, Mayo is indeed present; however, she’s not the
duplicate print, archive of Fotostiftung woman in the foreground standing next to her mentor Antoine Bourdelle,
Schweiz, Winterthur. Original clay bust portrait of
Alberto Giacometti by Flora Mayo, lost. as Wiesinger asserted. Mayo is actually standing in the background, at the
Reconstructed and cast in brass.  edge of the frame. That position—the figure at edge of the frame—says so
Framed silver gelatin print, 89 x 72cm;
brass sculpture with concrete base, 154 x 47.9 much about our agency and how we approach storytelling. What eventually
x 53.3 cm. turned out to be an art historical error by Wiesinger forced us to dig
Photo by Ugo Carmeni. Courtesy the artists and
Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York/Los Angeles deeper. Wiesinger’s finding was an immensely disruptive stumbling block,
and Lora Reynolds Gallery, Austin. yet it became an extraordinarily generative moment for us.
(Opposite page)
TERESA HUBBARD / ALEXANDER It is such an amazing outcome! The discovery of Mayo’s still-living son
BIRCHLER, House with Pool, 2004, high
definition single-channel film installation, David enabled you to focus on existential questions manifest in a mother-
20 min 39 sec., loop. Copyright Teresa Hubbard
son relationship, and what it meant to be a single parent in those days.
and Alexander Birchler. Courtesy Burger
Collection, Hong Kong. More importantly, you gained an important voice for Mayo. David’s

114 | NOV/DEC 2018 | ISSUE 111

memories of his mother are antagonistic to what authoritative art history a visceral understanding that each story unfolds in a very different
had to say about her. How did you end up finding David and how did you way, depending on who speaks. We all know this, but we collectively
deal with the responsibility you gained for his personal insights? forget with a multitude of systems or structures that spread all sorts
of “claims of truth.” In fact, you gave David a seemingly more objective
AB: It wasn’t mentioned in any published material that Mayo had given voice with the documentary language. The viewer’s bodily experience
birth to children—only that she had been married and divorced. I began of flipping from one side to the other triggers the critical analysis of
a painstaking search using ancestry, travel and newspaper records. While powerful individual versus institutional perspectives on art history. What
Teresa was researching, she came across a brief mention of Mayo’s first were the challenges, conceptual and technical, that you ran into while
child, a daughter named Joan. Then I came across a strange notation developing this installation? How did the physical body of the viewer factor
entered by Mayo in a Los Angeles lodger’s ledger book, where she leaves into the process?
a record of being accompanied by a person named David, but does not
identify this person as her child. There are a number of very good possible AB: We consider Flora a film installation and we are interested in creating a
reasons why, as a single mother, she wouldn’t have made mention of her hybrid space that uses and subverts dominant cinematic language. We are
child, as she was trying to find a job and a decent place to live at the same dedicated to a process of forcing the conventions of mainstream cinematic
time. These two findings about Mayo’s children were the first threads. The language into a structure that is highly experimental. Flora consists of
way we were then able to find David in the end is an interview all in itself! two diferent sides, with each side unfolding a completely diferent story
using a diferent genre—one side is David’s space and the other side is
TH: When we found David, to our complete amazement, we realized he Flora’s. Both sides share the same soundtrack, with the source of sound
had never been contacted by any Giacometti researchers or art historians. emanating from the closed gap between the screens. We want our viewers
No one had ever asked him about his mother. In a trunk in David’s garage, to be active and physically engaged—it is not possible to experience both
we found never-before-publicly-seen photographs, notes and letters sides at once—so the idea of a complete experience is an impossibility;
detailing Mayo’s life with Giacometti. David didn’t realize what he had kept it must be pieced together by the viewer. The installation is structured as
in his garage. Giacometti meant nothing to him—he had simply kept the an impossible conversation between mother and son. We think about this
photographs of the “guy with the funny hair” because his mother was in the choreography as a collapsed cinema—two cinemas in one. We have been
images. obsessed with the idea of a collapsed cinema for a number of years.

Ultimately, you helped David to see his mother in a new light. I think this The majority of protagonists in your film installations and photography
is one of the reasons why a lot of people were so deeply touched by your are women. Even when you were invited to play off the curatorial line
work; every viewer can identify with those existential aspects that you of the persistent absence of Alberto Giacometti, you ended up with a
built in by focusing on the mother-son relationship. The construction of woman, Flora Mayo, at the forefront. May I ask somewhat provocatively:
the self is complex; it may also depend on our understanding of where what makes women so interesting? On a very general level, art enables
we come from, of our parents, for instance. In other works, such as Single us to see or learn about the previously unknown, and historically, it is
Wide (2002), House with Pool (2004) or Eight (2001) and Eighteen (2013), indisputable that women have always been less visible and heard in the
the formation of subjectivity and identity is traced too, though I wouldn’t public sphere, which is connected automatically to power and influence. Is
see you as contemporary portraitists at all, but quite the opposite—as it these blind spots and how they possibly manifest themselves in female
artists describing the fluidity and uncertainty of things that seem stable figures that interests you?
and firm, deconstructing histories in which people are enmeshed.
In Flora, the same story is simultaneously told in different ways, across TH: As a feminist working for many years primarily in a lens-based
two channels. Flora’s story focuses on cinematographic style, whereas practice, I have always questioned coded functions of spectatorship and
David’s takes a strictly documentary approach. For the viewer, this leads to the blind spot. I am drawn to examine it like a moth to the flame. Why?

Features 115

Because of my own personal, politically lived experience. On screen, women
have navigated, and continue to navigate, through such complicated and
biased power structures of being a prop, being background versus foreground,
being on display in a state of “being looked-at-ness,” to borrow the term
from Laura Mulvey’s essay, “Visual Pleasure in Narrative Cinema.” When we
first began developing Flora, it was triggered by an image of a woman—a
reproduction of a lost photograph from the 1920s depicting Mayo and her
lover, Giacometti. Written records only described Mayo by her physical
appearance, as a “pretty blonde.” It was striking but not surprising that in
most notes and letters referring to her, Mayo was described by how she
looked, rather than by her level of education, intelligence or ambitions. In
Lord’s book, he describes Mayo as “attractive, but not beautiful, and there is
something weak in her face.”

Your approach enables us to escape the double-bind situation that

occurs so often when trying to subvert systems of power relations. By
this I mean that at first glance, your piece in Venice could have seemed
highly problematic: here we are, once again talking about women only
because of men; after all, Giacometti is the reason we know of Mayo. By
revealing how Mayo, under the circumstances she lived in, never could
have obtained resonance as an acclaimed sculptor, you shed light on
the discussion about who speaks, how, and for whom. Following Flora’s
narrative, we increasingly forget about Giacometti; in fact, he becomes
the ghost, just like Flora was! Furthermore, the work poses questions
about how subjectivity or identity is constructed, how a story is lived or
experienced, and how art history (and history in general) is evolving as a
discipline and being written. So, in the end, your piece allows Giacometti to
be absent from the Swiss Pavilion once again and, more importantly, raises
questions about how power and value is passed on and is played out. Even
though the piece refers to the past, it reaches out to contemporary issues
surrounding the voices of the marginalized, which, in these days, are even
more apparent against a backdrop of conservative backlashes. How do you
view this situation? Were there particular issues of our times that were as
formative for the work as your historical findings?

TH: Yes! Flora and Bust refer to the past but are an indictment of the
present: of how women and the work women produce is framed and valued.

AB: We are not interested in the question of whether Mayo was a

good artist or not; rather, our work revolves around questions of social
convention and Mayo’s struggles and strength to defy prescribed roles of
motherhood. It asks questions about a mother and son, and Mayo’s ability
to survive in light of making some very diicult choices within a limited set
of choices available to her. We want to give voice to these questions, which
continue to resonate with urgency within the current social, economic and
political climate.

CHRISTINA VÉGH is the director of the Kestner Gesellschaft, Hanover,

since 2015. She studied art history, ethnology and philosophy in Zurich and
Santa Cruz. She was curator at the Kunsthalle Basel from 2000 to 2004
and director of the Bonner Kunstverein, Bonn, from 2004 to 2014. She has
worked with artists such as Monika Baer, John Baldessari, Rita McBride,
Haegue Yang, Charline von Heyl, James Richards, Franz Erhard Walther and
Christopher Williams, among others. Since 2000, she has written extensively
on art and is involved in numerous juries, such as for Art Biennials grants for
Pro Helvetia (2015-18) and for the Wolfgang Hahn Prize (2017/18).


duo who have been working collaboratively since 1992. They are both
professors in the Department of Art and Art History at the University of
Texas in Austin. In 2017, they were awarded honorary Doctorates in Fine
Arts in recognition of their outstanding achievements to art and culture by
the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design University, Halifax, Canada. They
divide their time between Austin and Berlin. BIRCHLER, Flora, 2017, stills from synchronized
double-sided film installation with shared
soundtrack, 30 min, loop. Courtesy the artists
Teresa Hubbard and Alexander Birchler’s upcoming exhibition “Flora” will open at the Los
and Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York/Los
Angeles County Museum of Art on January 20, 2019, and run through April 7, 2019. Angeles and Lora Reynolds Gallery, Austin.

116 | NOV/DEC 2018 | ISSUE 111

120 130
Gwangju Jakarta


GWANGJU SHOJI UEDA National Gallery of Indonesia
BIENNALE 2018 Three Shadows Photography Art Centre
Various locations

New York

ANTHROPOLOGY AND Asia Society Walker Art Center
Greengrassi Gallery and Corvi-Mora 119
Various locations



a one-to-one scale replica of a wing-like Oscar

Niemeyer column from the Alvorada Palace in
Brasilia propped up by a replica of a neoclassical,
colonial-era column. Postwar modernism was
also the style favored by postwar dictatorships.
Pio Abad’s installation Oh! Oh! Oh! (A Universal
History of Iniquity) (2013) combined kaleidoscopic
wallpaper depicting a chandelier at the Philippine
Plaza Hotel (part of Imelda Marcos’s “New Society”
vision) with gilded objects representing the
country’s exported labor to the Middle East. Ala
Younis’s ongoing project about Baghdad’s urban
transformation by modern architects focuses in
this iteration on female protagonists, while Tanya
Goel marked the demise of the modernist legacy
in her “Frescos” series (2018), minimal paintings
rendered on pieces of demolished Nehru-era
complexes in New Delhi.
The second chapter, “Facing Phantom Borders,”
curated by Gridthiya Gaweewong, illustrated
how Anderson’s paradigm of the “imagined
Political scientist Benedict Anderson proposed community” has been radically altered by both
in his 1983 book Imagined Communities that a new global cosmopolitanism and influxes of
nationalism was a modern, global phenomenon migrants, yet remains haunted by traumas of
created by standardization of printed information the past. Tom Nicholson’s project I Was Born
systems and liberal market economies (what he in Indonesia (2017) looked at the country that
termed “print capitalism”). What then is driving Anderson studied most closely in ten video
the resurgence of nationalism in this era of interviews with Hazara refugees seeking asylum
de-territorialization with digital technologies, in Australia but who are stuck in Indonesia,
neoliberal capitalism and great flows of migrants juxtaposed with 110 resin figurines (made in
and refugees? These questions propelled the 2018 collaboration with curator Grace Samboh) modeled
edition of the Gwangju Biennale, which was titled on the dioramas at Indonesia’s independence
“Imagined Borders” and sought to re-address memorial, the Monumen Nasional. Sawangwongse
what constitutes individual and collective identity Yawnghwe’s paintings explored the conflict
today, as well as to delve into the Biennale’s own between Shan State and Burma through his family
history with these topics. archives, echoing ongoing hostility to ethnic
The inaugural Gwangju Biennale was held in minorities such as the Rohingya.
1995 during South Korea’s “Year of Art” to celebrate Christine Y. Kim and Rita Gonzalez’s exhibition,
the country’s new globalization agenda. As GB “The Ends: The Politics of Participation in the
Foundation president Sunjung Kim explained Post-Internet Age,” addressed the era’s new,
in her essay introducing the 2018 show, that first chaotic and often disruptive, and disrupted, flows
edition was titled “Beyond the Borders” and of information. Kim Heecheon’s video Every
had seven sections, each examining a different Smooth Thing Through Mesher (2018) portrays
geographical region, as well as special exhibitions the psychic fragmentation of a digital existence
focusing on “info art,” 1990s Korean art and through banal conversations about topics such as
Gwangju’s May 18th Democratic Uprising in 1980. Pokémon Go. Shu Lea Cheang’s video installation
In a return to the institution’s original “distributed UKI Virus Rising (2018) is a captivating animated
curatorial structure,” there were seven sections at display with a sci-fi-surrealist plot. Crossing over to
Gwangju Biennale 2018, focusing not on regions the real world was Mark Lofty’s video revisiting the
but topics that define the world today. role of Facebook in Egypt’s 2011 revolution, Route
The Biennale began with a historical to Dangerous Profiles (2018), which told a dark tale
perspective in curator Clara Kim’s chapter, of thwarted idealism.
“Imagined Nations / Modern Utopias,” which The Biennale’s second primary venue was the
showcased how postwar architecture in the Asia Cultural Center (ACC), which housed two
global south was also “a powerful instrument to more chapters. In “Faultlines,” co-curators Yeon
create imaginations of modern societies.” The Shim Chung and Yeewan Koon focused on the
fraught role international modernism played in violent ruptures in individual and community
nation-building in non-European contexts was identity when shared values are threatened. Shilpa
established by Lais Myrrha’s sculpture comprising Gupta’s installation Altered Inheritances – 100

120 | NOV/DEC 2018 | ISSUE 111

in their technical prowess, and poignantly
shattered preconceptions of official regime
art with their underlying intensity of feeling.
Kim In Sok’s night scene, Rain Shower at the
Bus Stop (2018), for instance, was a romantic,
humanizing depiction of what could have been
any East Asian city mid-deluge.
Additionally, there were several newly
commissioned works located throughout the
Biennale. At the ACC, Adrián Villar Rojas’s
massive two-channel film installation, War of
the Stars (2018), featured a film-within-a-film
as part of his “eternal” engagement with
Yangji-ri, a village of elderly residents located in
the demilitarized zone. Kader Attia’s The Repair
(2018) in “Facing Phantom Borders” at the Gwangju
(Last Name) Stories (2012–14) was a room of dozens Biennale Hall looked at the healing of wounds and
of framed images cut horizontally and captioned trauma through interviews with mystics, shamans
with stories of individuals who changed their and other healers in North Africa and Southeast
names out of embarrassment, fear of persecution Asia. Other pieces were installed at the former
or for personal aspiration. Byron Kim’s series of Armed Forces Gwangju Hospital, where doctors
“Bruise” paintings (2016– ) are made by boiling had defied orders and treated wounded citizens
and dyeing linen or canvas, and reflect a new era during the 1980 Uprising. It is a haunted place, and
of intra-society antagonism, particularly in the Mike Nelson’s installation of hanging mirrors in a
United States. chapel and Kader Attia’s installation of totem-like
Situated within “Faultlines” were several works wooden boards attempted to capture that history.
shown at the first Gwangju Biennale, including (Apichatpong Weerasethakul had not been able to
John Pule’s distinctive paintings using Niuean realize his film installation by the opening.)
motifs, The Pulenoa Triptych and Prototype: Site As if seven exhibitions by 11 curators, with
of Old Myths, along with Kcho’s sculpture of a 165 artists from 43 countries, were not enough,
rowboat resting on 2,000 beer bottles, Para Olvidar new to this edition were three “collateral”
(all 1995), inspired by colonial and modern traumas pavilions organized by third parties: Palais de
in the Pacific and Caribbean, respectively. While Tokyo, Helsinki International Artist Program
they connected to the themes of “Faultlines,” the and Philippine Contemporary Art Network.
works were part of curator David Teh’s project Altogether, the 2018 Gwangju Biennale felt like an
“Returns,” which revisited the festival’s history anachronistic return to earlier forms of art-world
and the mid-1990s Asian art context with talks, festivals, prioritizing quantity and breadth of
performances and displays of archival material in representation. Yet as the Biennale’s revisiting of
the lower level of the Biennale Exhibition Hall. Anderson’s “imagined communities” revealed, the
Elsewhere in the ACC, Teh’s “Returns” old world order of architecture, borders, identity,
included Yeongyun Kang’s 1995 installation of media, and community is crumbling. So while it
painted funereal streamers, Between Heaven and is perhaps easier to convene many multitudes of
Land, made for an anti-Biennale event called people (even in the newly imagined community of
Opposite page, top
the Gwangju Unification Art Festival, staged by the “art world”), with so many competing digital
TOM NICHOLSON artists of the Minjung movement. That project was and economic demands on time and attention, it is
I Was Born in Indonesia
inserted into the Biennale’s weakest section, “The also harder to keep them together.
110 resin-cast diorama figurines on trestle Art of Survival: Assembly, Sustainability, Shift,” HG MASTERS
table with vinyl text and ten unsynchronized which had three male curators (Man Seok Kim,
HD videos, dimensions variable. *Visit our Digital Library at for more articles on the
Installation view at Gwangju Biennale, 2018. Sung woo Kim, Chong-Ok Paek), 32 South Korean Gwangju Biennale.
Photo by HG Masters for ArtAsiaPacific. artists and three more sub-themes (“Symmetrical
Imagination,” “Momentum Temporary” and
This page, top
“Assembly Place and Non-Place”) that were
Rain Shower at the Bus Stop
linked “through the lens of techne” and energy—
2018 concepts that would connect almost any kind
Ink on hanji rice paper, 217 x 433 cm. of artwork. “Momentum Temporary” featured
Courtesy the artist and Gwangju Biennale.
the most interesting projects, including Suki
This page, bottom Seokyeong Kang’s three-channel video Black Mat
KADER ATTIA Oriole (2016–17) of minimalist forms based on
Eternal Now Joseon-dynasty royal dance.
Wooden beams from traditional
In the final chapter at the ACC, “Paradoxical
Korean houses, metal staples and metal Realism,” scholar BG Muhn presented a selection
plinths, dimensions variable. of North Korean chosonhwa (ink wash) paintings.
Installation view at the Former Armed Forces
Military Hospital, Gwangju Biennale, 2018. Divided into four sections (ideological, landscape,
Courtesy Gwangju Biennale. literati and animals), the works were mesmerizing

Reviews 121

TarraWarra Museum of Art


Curated by Emily Cormack, the 2018 TarraWarra

Biennial was based on a curatorial premise free
from theoretical impositions to do with “the
global” (a persistent trope in biennial frameworks),
and offered artworks interconnected and enriched
by an expansive theme. By tracing the creative
determinations of 24 Australia-based artists
through the material and immaterial outcomes
of their diverse and sometimes collaborative
practices, “From Will to Form” overturned the role
of the artist as an egocentric creative genius and
positioned them rather as transmitters of will,
thus creating space for the works to be understood
in their own right. Following this notion, the
Biennial artists presented will as a fluid force,
their works loosely exploring will in relation to the
body, material world, the psyche, its ontology and
states of release.
The show opened at the TarraWarra Museum
of Art with Mike Parr’s Whistle White (all works
2018), a performance featuring six young
Melbourne artists who whistled together for three some of its components spilling onto the outer
consecutive days. Just as the exhibition began ledge of the northern window.
with this collective breath, one slowly understood Matter was transported into the space as well.
while journeying through the gallery spaces that Dale Harding—in collaboration with his cousin,
the force of these exhalations (a metaphor for will Jordan Upkett—brought red Garingbal earth
itself) expanded all the way up to and beyond the pigment from central Queensland, mixing it
architectural edges of the museum. In this way, with the pair’s saliva to create Wall Compositions
will revealed itself through conceptual gesture as from Memory. With this 30-meter wall drawing, a
much as material form. composition of painterly gestures and referential
Lindy Lee’s installation of abstract metal markings, the duo elevate the idea that the earth
shapes, Neither Choice, Nor Chance—made by is an art object in and of itself, in the same manner
flinging molten bronze—best encapsulated the that American Abstract Expressionists revered the
cross-elemental path of will as it materializes into materiality of paint. Their action intimates the
form. Lee’s process is one of risk, and the outcome Indigenous recognition of the land as having its
is elating; each hardened splash of bronze renders own inexorable direction, weight and will.
her gestures finite, retaining the dynamism of the A series of windows along the outer wall
pour. And yet, the arrangement of these forms— opposite to Harding’s work allowed sunlight from
spread across two large walls and arranged in a the west to shine in. As this occurred at certain
circular form on the ground—evoked infinity. moments in the day, Agatha Gothe-Snape’s
Positioned in the end space of the museum, facing window-based text piece The Five Unknowables
a large northern window, the work situated the materialized as a secondary shadow-form, cast
viewer within a spatially poetic continuum where in front and on top of Harding’s wall drawing.
will, understood in the work as a transmission Relying on contingent conditions of natural
of energy, could be imagined to flow into the sunlight, Gothe-Snape’s paragraphs of prose—
atmosphere beyond the museum itself. discussing formlessness and flux—were at times
Contrastively, Isadora Vaughan’s multipart difficult to read, thereby prompting meditations
sculpture Canker Sore saw physical matter on the unstable nature of form.
extend from the gallery. With an alchemical It was in the liminal spaces of the museum
mix of earthy ceramics, glass fragments, epoxy, that “From Will to Form” most aptly gifted
sand and crushed rock, Vaughan hand-molded a viewers with quietly metaphoric articulations of
group of textured and colorful slabs, which were “will”—a concept familiar to us all. In tenderly
precariously assembled onto scaffolds taking repositioning the artist as the nurturer of will, the
the partial form of a giant ulcer, referencing art was left to speak for itself. The overall effect of
her experiences with bodily discomfort and her this, to continue in the poetic spirit of the biennial,
antagonistic relationship with materials. Though was akin to a breath of fresh air.
the piece was originally conceived as a closed ELOISE BRESKVAR
structure, Vaughan allowed the assemblage to
break free from its constraints, which resulted in

122 | NOV/DEC 2018 | ISSUE 111

Tokyo Photographic Art Museum


Opposite page New York-based artist Kunié Sugiura’s first major she discovered the captivating effect of pairing
ISADORA VAUGHAN retrospective in her birth country, “Aspiring paintings with photographic images and pursued
Canker Sore Experiments / New York in 50 Years,” presented at making diptychs, as in Tree Trunk 2 (1971). The
Ceramic, epoxy, synthetic polymer
the Tokyo Photographic Art Museum, was a five- distorted tree bark, framed in a close-up shot,
sheet, steel, glass, silicon, crushed rock part, chronological showcase of her multimedia and the accompanying minimalist canvas,
and sand, dimensions variable. practice, beginning with her graduation work at interchangeably present reality and fiction,
Installation view at “From Will
to Form,” TarraWarra Biennial, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and abstraction and representation.
TarraWarra Museum of Art, 2018. ending with her latest digitally printed photo- Sugiura’s full return to photography came in
Photo by Andrew Curtis.
canvas series shot in Japan. the early 1980s in the form of photograms. Starting
Courtesy the artist and Station
Gallery, Melbourne. In 1963, cynical about what the future held for with flowers, she elaborated the photogram-
her as a woman in Japan, Sugiura decided to move making process—involving placing objects
This page
from Tokyo, where she was a physics student, over surfaces coated in photo emulsion, which
KUNIÉ SUGIURA to study photography in Chicago. There, taking are then exposed to light—to include living
Hoppings A Positive
1996 the advice of her tutor, Sugiura initially pursued creatures from her neighborhood. The Kitten
Gelatin silver print, 8 x 10 cm. photojournalism. Immediately realizing that was Papers (1992), for example, features a variety
Courtesy Taka Ishii Gallery, Tokyo/New York.
not for her, she retreated to her studio, where she of marks as a result. Ephemerality, playfulness
aimed to push the possibilities of the photographic and a lack of total control are important factors
medium. Her spirit of innovation was evident in in Sugiura’s photograms, and the instantaneous
her graduation series “Cko” (1966–67), displayed decision-making in her process freed her from the
in the first section of the retrospective. The heaviness of painting—a comparatively time-
voyeuristic, surreal images featuring nudes consuming mode of creation. Sugiura continued
distorted by strange perspectives, interiors of to work with the photogram format. One of the
rooms and abstract patterns, were manipulated latest examples included in the show was the
chemically via different photographic processing life-size “Artists and Scientists” (1999– ) portrait
and printing techniques, and evoke feelings series in the fourth section. From fellow New York
of suffocation and alienation, as reinforced by artists Ushio Shinohara and Jasper Johns to the
the series’ title, which means solitude. “Cko” Nobel Prize-winning scientist James D. Watson,
was a fitting point to begin the exhibition as it the works mark Sugiura’s foray into depicting
became clear that isolation as well as alchemical people in carefully crafted moments, as opposed
experimentation are palpable even in Sugiura’s to animals and aleatoric instances. Despite the
most recent works. collaborative process between Sugiura and her
The show’s second section was centered around sitters, however, the images from these one-on-
the decade after Sugiura’s relocation to New York one sessions emphasize individuality rather than
in 1967. During this time, Sugiura continued to unity; and a sense of isolation, too, is apparent.
work in a solitary environment. Playing with Sugiura’s photograms straddle the boundary
the application of photo emulsions on various between photography and painting. They are
materials, where monochrome images could created with photographic techniques, yet all the
then be exposed, Sugiura eventually settled with end products are unique. The three works drawn
canvas as the ground of her works. For a brief from her “DG Photocanvas” series (2009– ), which
period thereafter, she worked exclusively on concluded the exhibition, further complicated
abstract paintings. It was through an accident that notions of originality and reproducibility as
pertaining to photography and painting by
involving film, digital scanning and pigment
printing on canvas. The three abstract, close-up
images of rocky mountains in Japan were printed
back in her New York studio. In this way, Sugiura
probes the limitations of photography, as well as
her conflicting desires to be alone and connected,
in this case to her homeland, which she left
behind half a century ago.
As evidenced in the exhibition, the uniqueness
of Sugiura’s practice lies in the very coexistence of
seemingly opposing elements: boundary-breaking
explorations supported by the enclosure of a
space; science and everyday life; and treasuring
solitude while enjoying collaboration.
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Kunié Sugiura.

Reviews 123

Museum of Contemporary Art Busan and Bank of Korea Building


History is a recurring nightmare. Renewed absurdly dramatic, like the sculpture of a gigantic,
tensions between NATO allies and Russia and dead black crow by Laura Lima and Zé Carlos
China have plunged the world into a second Garcia, both at the Biennale’s second venue, the
Cold War. It was fitting then that the 2018 Busan former Bank of Korea building.
Biennale, hosted in the only corner of the Korean Elsewhere at the Bank of Korea, artists delved
peninsula not captured by the communist forces into the sinister, occult and weird—and possibly
during the Korean War (1950–53), examined queer—facets of Cold War-era culture. Im
the postwar legacy of divisions, from ill-fated Youngzoo’s essayistic video Guest Star (2018)
partitions made in the process of decolonization looked at historical misunderstandings, from the
to the enduring material and cultural borders message sent by the United States to the Soviet
cleaved between the first, second and third worlds. Union in 1963 to test a new joint emergency
Organized by artistic director Cristina Ricupero hotline that prompted the Kremlin to hire
and curator Jörg Heiser, with Gahee Park serving cryptographers to decipher its meaning, to a
as guest curator for projects by younger artists lip-reader trying to decode footage of leaders’
from Asia, “Divided We Stand” featured 66 artists conversations at the recent North-South Korean
and collectives from 34 countries still affected by summit in April 2018. Oscar Chan Yik Long’s
divisions and conflicts in the wake of the Second maximalist wall paintings in ink and hanging
World War. banners of crazed-looking animals and skeletons
The Biennale’s strength and weakness was grafted Chinese mythology into the Christian
its clarity. From the outset at the Museum of apocalypse narrative. Musician Minwhee Lee
Contemporary Art Busan, there was a well-defined and artist Yun Choi’s collaborative six-part
historical perspective. Chin Cheng-Te’s collection music-video series Viral Lingua (2018) delved
of historical documents and press clippings, into the recurrence of Cold War trauma in South
titled American Pie (2016), relays Taiwan’s Cold Korean society through imagery such as a crying
War experience of military dictatorship and woman with eyes painted like sunsets singing
the deleterious influence of American military about leaving her country behind. The curators
culture while Chantal Akerman’s film D’Est concluded the Biennale on a dystopic note with
(From the East) (1993) portrays life in Poland Phil Collins’s room-sized installation Delete
and Russia just after the Soviet Union’s collapse Beach (2016), comprising mounds of sand, oil
through long, sobering takes. In a similar vein, drums, tires, bubbling pits of black liquid and
Henrike Naumann’s immersive installation of a screen playing an anime about a schoolgirl
cheap 1980s postmodern furniture was dotted who joins an anti-capitalist resistance group
with videos detailing the disaffected youth in a carbon-less future society. The collective
culture, following the dissolution of the German indifference of the world’s superpowers to the
Democratic Republic (East Germany), which in planet’s impending ecological catastrophe
turn gave rise to the economically disadvantaged suggests that, on this point, “united we fall.”
region’s current budding neofascism. A forceful HG MASTERS
and dramatic memorial to the ghosts of history,
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Minouk Lim’s installation On Air (2017) resembles on the Busan Biennale.
a television studio populated by ghoulish
mannequins and taxidermy animals, with
camera cranes made from tree branches and old
car headlights. In an adjacent room, Lim’s new
video and blacked-out wall of signs, It’s a Name
I Gave Myself (2018), draws from the 1983 Korean
television show Finding Dispersed Families, in
which people wore signs around their necks with
question marks standing in for the biographical
information erased by the war.
Though the Biennale was thematically coherent
and geographically comprehensive, covering the
partitions of Ireland, Palestine and Punjab, as well
as the division of Sudan, at times the thematic
focus on the Cold War felt overelaborated.
There were a handful of works that were eye-roll
inducing in their overtness, such as Dora Longo
Bahia’s two paintings in reds and oranges of
abandoned-looking amusement parks scribbled
with the names “Fukushima” and “Chernobyl,” or

124 | NOV/DEC 2018 | ISSUE 111

Ota Fine Arts


was a single-channel 25-minute video, with the

same title as the show, in which the face and
tattooed body of a lean male figure, wearing
only a skimpy and ragged loin cloth, are painted
with abstract patterns and a translucent layer
of white. Standing against a stark-white backdrop
with an unflinching gaze aimed directly at the
viewer, as if in a trance, he begins making slow,
writhing movements to a droning, discordant
soundtrack composed by Cheng, guitarist Wang
Wen Wei and electronic musician Gao Jia Feng.
Images are then superimposed on the patches
of pattern on the figure’s body, as the markings
become an augmented digital surface revealing
multiple sequences featuring the guitarist and the
confines of his recording studio. Much like Qu’s
lament, Cheng’s ghostly, native figure seems to be
searching, sorrowful and disillusioned by his own
sense of entrapment—caged within the infinite
depths of a deep white nowhere he no longer fully
recognizes or understands, let alone negotiate.
The scene effectively encapsulates these lines
from Qu: Alas! all joy has vanished from my life /
Alone beside the hill / Never to follow fashion will I
As one of China’s foremost new media and video stoop / Then must live lonely still.
artists, Cheng Ran has, since the beginning of The other works in the show didn’t quite
his career, made videos and films that address a measure up to the potent narrative of alienation
world of private feelings or hermetic thoughts, but presented in The Lament: Mountain Ghost (all
that skirt any direct or obvious autobiographical works 2018). It was clear that Cheng hasn’t yet
references. In recent years, however, a curious developed a compelling knack for generating
kind of gravitas, one that speaks to the ethos and three-dimensional objects. For example, the
ennui of his generation—born in the 1980s—has slender, tree-like light sculpture Ascending Image,
emerged in his works. measuring more than three meters in height and
With numerous accolades, including a inspired directly by Warring State bronzes, felt
Best Director Award, which he received at the more like something designed for a stage set or
Madrid International Film Festival in 2017, and theater. The same applies to Leopard’s Dream
a growing roster of international exhibitions at Image, a light box with multicolored crystal resins
such distinguished venues as New York’s New that form random, self-generating compositions,
Museum, Cheng’s ambitions have been high which dry and set within 24 hours. These objects,
from the outset. His exhibition at Ota Fine Arts though cleverly experimental, felt extraneous
Opposite page
in Shanghai, “The Lament: Mountain Ghost,” and unnecessary.
MINOUK LIM marked the debut of the artist’s latest series of To his credit, Cheng has never shied away from
On Air
2017 works, inspired by a classical poem called The taking risks—Qu encapsulates this attitude in his
Various objects including gourd, feather, Lament (or, Encountering Sorrow) by poet Qu poem: “Never to follow fashion will I stoop”—but
infrared lamp, fake hair, incense, car headlight,
Yuan. Considered one of the oldest if not longest his strengths and weaknesses remain distinct.
speaker and camera, dimensions variable.
Installation view of “Busan Biennale: epic poems in the history of Chinese literature, it Cheng is most adept at telling stories via moving
Divided We Stand,” Museum of was composed during the Warring States period images, at once poetic and oblique. Allowing
Contemporary Art Busan, 2018.
Courtesy Busan Biennale Organizing Committee.
(475–221 BCE), which marked the transition from for agile narratives and images to guide viewers
ancient to imperial China, and the establishment toward meaning, whether real or imagined, he is
This page of the Qin dynasty. The verses embody Confucian more than capable of making every frame count.
CHENG RAN political ideals, recount brutal warfare and exile, ARTHUR SOLWAY
Ascending Image (front)
and make a case for bureaucratic and military
The Lament: Mountain Ghost (back)
Both 2018 reform—and though Qu was considered a patriotic
LED tube, lamp, hot glue and metal, writer, the poem was also heavily influenced by
388 x 95 x 9 cm; single-channel video
with color and sound: 25 min.
shamanism and otherworldly, spiritual journeys.
Installation view of “The Lament: Mountain It was this heady blend of the metaphysical
Ghost” at Ota Fine Arts, Shanghai, 2018. with social commentary that Cheng aimed to
Photo by Zhang Hong.
Courtesy the artist and Ota Fine Arts, extract from the classical poem and extrapolate in
Tokyo/Singapore/Shanghai. his own works. The centerpiece of his exhibition

Reviews 125

Three Shadows Photography Art Centre


Spread across the Three Shadows Photography Art

Centre in Beijing’s Caochangdi art district, the first
exhibition in China of the Japanese photographer
Shoji Ueda (1913–2000) was an understated
showcase of the joy that the artist found in
his photography. For Ueda’s retrospective,
Three Shadows—founded by well-known
photographers Rong Rong and Inri—collaborated
with the recently opened Shoji Ueda Museum of
Photography in the artist’s hometown of Tottori,
borrowing 141 original photographs selected by
curator Masako Sato.
From the show’s outset, there was an emphasis
on the immutable presence of Ueda’s family and
Tottori in his images, with the majority of the
early works from the 1940s and ’50s portraying
his family and close friends in the local sand
dunes, his trademark setting. The black-and-white
Papa, Mama and Children (1949) shows Ueda and
his wife flanking their four children, the whole
family perched atop an almost perfectly straight
shelf of sand against a plain gray background,
while each individual is caught in what appears
to be a free moment of expression, whether walk through. Functioning in a similar way was
shooting a toy gun, sitting on a bicycle, or strolling the simple curatorial gesture of projecting three
forward, umbrella in hand. The image is filled subtly illuminating Ueda quotes—one example:
with a sense of play, and it was easy to imagine “Awake or asleep, I always found myself thinking
Ueda and his family spending the day at the of photography”—at different points on the walls.
dunes frolicking among the mounds of sand, as Following Ueda’s early works and a set of three
much as posing for Ueda. Formally, the dunes videos, including footage recorded by Ueda of
offered Ueda a vast blank canvas on which he daily life in Tottori, the exhibition shifted to more
could direct his subjects, with expanses of sky surreal photographs. Gitanes (1992) shows a troupe
creating a weighty formlessness that he utilized of figures scattered across the sand, each a small
for pictorial balance. Ueda’s careful approach to silhouette dwarfed by the orange moon and dark
his compositions was further demonstrated in ocher sky with Ueda’s processing giving the image
the thoughtfully included, figureless photograph painterly, mysterious and abstruse qualities.
The Sea and the Dune (1950), which illustrated a In 1983, Ueda’s wife died and the photographer
measured balancing of the forms and planes of didn’t work again until the end of that year, when
the sky, ocean and sand. The indistinct plainness the fashion designer Takeo Kikuchi invited him
of the backdrops also felt otherworldly, producing to do some commercial fashion photography.
a sense of the subjects being momentarily Presented in the show’s last section, these
dislocated from earth, perhaps a hint at a more commercial advertisements were initially
abstract, existential reason for Ueda’s interest in surprising because of Ueda’s return to the dunes-
the dunes. —a place that the exhibition had earlier strongly
Ueda was less prolific in and less known for related to his family and friends. Yet images like
his color photographs, but the few presented at a 1983 work from the series “Dune,” portraying an
the exhibition showed an innovative approach to immaculately suited man—common in fashion
photographic techniques. The pictures from the photography, but with the addition of a perturbing
series “White Wind” (1981), mostly of his children mask of exaggerated features and a levitating top
in locations around Tottori, are marked by an hat—served to emphasize this exhibition’s view
indistinct haziness, and despite being away from that Ueda delighted in the surreal potentials of the
the sand dunes, proliferate a similar dreamy, medium but also in the constant interrelation of
ethereal space. his photography and his life.
The sea and sand around Ueda’s hometown, a TOM MOUNA
place he rarely left and constantly captured, were
referenced in the show by exhibition designer See our website for the Chinese version of this article.
Osamu Ouchi’s placement of blue and yellow
partitions throughout the space. These interrupted
what could have been an uneventful chronological

126 | NOV/DEC 2018 | ISSUE 111

Tai Kwun Contemporary


Opposite page In a dank, moss-covered concrete room, a Guan and weeps while watching Kwan-the-artist’s own
SHOJI UEDA Yu statue sat in webs of dust in a shrine. Moody video piece.) Another reading of the film, with its
Papa, Mama and Children twangs of 1980s Cantopop played; mangoes spilled profuse footage of Tai Kwun’s grounds, is as an
Gelatin silver print, 20 x 28 cm.
out of a basket onto the floor; and a portrait of advertisement, thinly veiled as a documentary, on
Courtesy Shoji Ueda Oice and Three Queen Elizabeth II hung crookedly over a desk the complex’s history as a colonial police station,
Shadows Photography Art Centre, Beijing. littered with papers detailing the case of an court and jail.
This page imprisoned poet. This scene, like many others Curated by Ullens Center for Contemporary
in the works Cao Fei has produced since the Art director Philip Tinari in association with Tai
Rumba mid-1990s, was wholly constructed: the mold Kwun’s Xue Tan, the three-floor exhibition framed
2015–18 was artificial, the mangoes a hard plastic and older installations and videos that demonstrated
Wooden stage and cleaning
robots, dimensions variable.
the prisoner a fictional character in a new film, Cao Fei’s practice of orchestrating mini universes,
Installation view of “A Hollow in a World Too Full” Prison Architect (2018), commissioned for “A with film stills and installations of props related
at Tai Kwun Contemporary, Hong Kong, 2018–19. Hollow in a World Too Full,” the artist’s first solo to Prison Architect (2018), as a way to investigate
Courtesy Tai Kwun.
institutional exhibition in Asia, housed at Tai themes of captivity and freedom. On the first floor
Kwun Contemporary. was the installation Rumba (2015–18), comprising
Shown on the exhibition’s top floor, the new several robotic, autonomous cleaning devices that
film is an hour-long, magical-realist tale that circulate endlessly on several platform “islands,”
follows two characters: a modern-day architect, evoking the conditions of a city such as Hong
played by actress Valerie Chow, of Chungking Kong, or a jail. This obvious metaphor was further
Express (1994) fame—tasked with converting pronounced through a large color photograph
an art center into a correctional facility—and pinned up nearby showing an actual prison cell
an incarcerated poet in the 1960s, sensitively from Tai Kwun. Similarly, La Town (2014), a tale
brought to life on screen by the Hong Kong artist of ex-lovers fixating on their domestic trials in a
Kwan Sheung Chi. The two characters converse now-decimated country (portrayed with miniature
across time and eventually meet after Chow, figurines), investigates elements of liberation in
tortured by conflicting thoughts on the criminal- the purging of memory and the past. The second
justice system, releases Kwan and fellow inmates floor featured installations of Cao Fei’s lauded
from confinement. Although the premise of the machinima works, i.Mirror and RMB City: A
film—ultimately an inverse of Tai Kwun’s own Second Life City Planning (both 2007), representing
history—is intriguing, its plot is mostly powered her interests in entrapment or radical escapism via
by saccharine, pseudo-philosophical ruminating virtual, digital worlds.
(“So what kind of prison do you want to live in?” Despite this considered curation, the exhibition
“How [sic] does your ideal prison look like?”) didn’t offer visitors any orientation or guiding
with inclusions of quotes by Albert Camus, clips information, or the important disclaimer that
of past riots in Hong Kong and even sly in-jokes it was vital to view Prison Architect first, before
about contemporary art. (In one scene, Kwan-as- attempting to understand the new installations
poet visits “Dismantling the Scaffold,” a group and photographs. For example, the plastic green
show mounted at Tai Kwun earlier in the year, mangoes hanging in the building’s circular
staircase remained abstract unless one sat through
the entire film, which revealed that, for the artist,
the fruit symbolizes freedom.
Ultimately, the film and exhibition did little to
reveal a progression in Cao Fei’s practice. If the
themes of captivity and freedom were already
prevalent in older works such as i.Mirror and
La Town, what purpose was there to produce
this film, except to make rampant use of, and to
promote, Tai Kwun’s newly restored grounds? The
show’s final work, Coming Soon: Hong Kong (2018),
featured two swinging performers attempting
to beat their feet against vertically installed
drum sets, signaling, perhaps, the artist’s struggle,
and that there is something more substantial
still to come.

See our website for the Chinese version of this article.

Reviews 127

Sullivan + Strumpf


FX Harsono’s solo exhibition, “Reminiscence,” Behind the partition was another of Harsono’s
presented by Singapore’s Sullivan + Strumpf, was well-known installations, Memory of the
focused on the artist’s investigation of the genocide Survivor (2016), a living room featuring a
of ethnic Chinese-Indonesians in Java, Indonesia, wheelchair and period furniture with white,
from 1947 to ’49. Widely recognized for his prolific three-dimensional models of tombstones placed
practice, which addresses the plight of minorities in various vintage cabinets and tables, as well as
and the socially underprivileged, particularly in the found photographs hanging on the walls. An old
context of Indonesia’s history of political turmoil, Dutch radio sat below these photographs, playing
the show reaffirmed Harsono’s ability to powerfully broadcasts related to Indonesian political history.
convey narratives of pain and upheaval. The living room setting effectively humanized the
It may be hard to grasp the heart of violent period of troubling history—it is as if genocide
conflicts from the plethora of media that surrounds inhabits what could be a viewer’s home. Yet, there
us today, but it was nearly impossible to avoid the is no anger or bitterness in the work, just quiet
sense of personal loss expressed in Harsono’s acknowledgment of facts and faces.
iconic installation The Spirit of Light (2016). Harsono’s artist statement reinforces this
A single tombstone, bearing a handful of names, position: “I am not angry . . . It has never been
replicates a marked gravesite and commemorates my intention to place blame with anyone. Rather
the victims—the actual number of which remains this is a call to everyone to accept the truth of
uncertain—murdered during the two-year history, however wretched it is, for a stronger
genocide in Java. The concrete slab basks nation.” Genocide is far more relevant today
in a blood-red light, cast by a chandelier than we care to admit. There are quite a number
suspended above it, and is one example of of us, even among the millennial generation,
how Harsono draws attention to the presence who have had our connections to our lands
of people subsumed by the dark shadow of of origin—where our great-grandparents or
historical narratives. grandparents came from—suppressed or erased
Beside the arresting installation was Harsono’s because of political upheavals and displacement.
new charcoal drawing, titled Memorandum Harsono’s body of work in “Reminiscence” dares
of Inhumane Act No. 3 (2017), inspired by to acknowledge this.
documentary photographs taken by the artist’s In a time when global powers continue to
father in the 1950s that depict exhumations of commit or turn blind eyes to past and present
known mass-graves. Closer inspection reveals acts of violence against minorities in favor of
that the charcoal portrait of Chinese-Indonesian political control and economic growth, examining
people holding human skulls is superimposed on the pains of those who have been marginalized,
copies of an official memorandum outlining the without inciting retaliation, is all the more
acts of violence perpetrated by Indonesian forces relevant and necessary.
on the country’s Chinese population before and REENA DEVI
after Dutch Police intervention, which Harsono
uncovered during his research at the National
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Archives of the Netherlands. The overlaying of on FX Harsono.
text and image amplifies the horrors of lives lost,
while bringing together personal and authoritative
accounts of the events.
Nearby, and playing on a monitor, was the
new video Taking Nothing But Pictures (2018),
centered on a female genocide survivor praying
to the dead. On a partition wall across from the
screen, the same female figure appeared in The
Survivor Story (2016), a series of five paper works,
including a black-and-white still from the video
with “My name Tjoa Er Ries” and “The Survivor
Story” scrawled beneath the subject’s image.
Among the other components were archival
government documents, a black-and-white photo
of a ceremony with people holding flags, and
a list of people’s names possibly from a grave
marker, embossed in red. The artist unmistakably
communicates history and the weight of his past,
which he shares with his community, bound by
ties of blood and loss.

128 | NOV/DEC 2018 | ISSUE 111

Metropolitan Museum of Manila, Yuchengco Museum and Vargas Museum


could glean the hazy outlines of a tableau featuring

the elongated heads of European soldiers in a
tropical forest with clouds. While this could be a
textbook illustration of the Spanish colonial era,
the container, which obscures the scene, makes the
viewing of history uncanny—the formerly
colonized Asian is asked to unravel what is an
unreliably rendered narrative. Questioning views
of cultural identity was Amanda Heng’s Singirls
Objects (2009–11), displayed at the Metropolitan
Museum. The installation is composed of three sets
of clothing: a military uniform and two kebaya (a
blouse and skirt traditional to multiple countries
in Southeast Asia). On the military uniform,
Heng paints fragments of patterns drawn from
the kebaya. On one of the kebaya she renders
camouflage patches, while the other is made
entirely of camouflage cloth and is lined with a
batik trim. The effect is that it appears as if the
patterns have infected each other, giving way to
denotations of hybridity, mixing influences to
“Ties of History” took its name from the 1967 create new cloth, new identities.
founding declaration of the Association of Other works showed how our perceptions of
Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), which describes places intersect with politics. For example, Yasmin
the region as being “bound together by ties of Jaidin’s Field Series (2018), a grass, wood and soil
history and culture.” On the occasion of ASEAN’s sculpture placed on the porch of Vargas, remaps
50th anniversary, the exhibition, curated by Patrick the islands near Brunei Bay, two of which are left
D. Flores, brought together ten artists—one from undeveloped while the third, Pulau Muara Besar,
each of ASEAN’s member countries—to survey the is mined by a Chinese company for oil. Through
variegated artistic inquiries brewing in the region, her examination of the archipelago, Jaidin
while endeavoring to offer in-depth views of each of suggests that places are never neutral; they shape
the artist’s practices. and reflect politics and contain rules of social
To see the totality of “Ties of History,” visitors engagement. Adding another dimension to the
had to journey through Metro Manila. Each artist work was the fact that weeds were sprouting on
was represented by three works, distributed the living installation throughout the exhibition’s
between the Metropolitan Museum of Manila, the run, thus challenging notions of growth—what
Yuchengco Museum and the Vargas Museum. is included or pruned when progress is pursued?
The different locations allowed the artists to Also at Vargas was Jedsada Tangtrakulwong’s floor
show a range of projects that differed in material installation Border (2014), made of ribbed orange
Opposite page and size. Large-scale, sculptural pieces were carpets stacked at varying heights in a reimagined
FX HARSONO displayed at the capacious Metropolitan Museum, map of the provinces of Thailand, Myanmar
Memorandum of Inhumane Act No. 3 wall-mounted works were housed at the smaller and Cambodia. In the work, boundaries are
33 pigment-based digital print and Yuchengco Museum, while Vargas showed mostly obliterated, suggesting fluidity. This also brought
charcoal on paper, 137.5 x 355.5 cm. videos. There were no markers distinguishing to mind the seas that have both bridged and
Installation view of “Reminiscence” at
the artists in terms of their nationalities. Instead, been a source of dispute among Southeast Asian
Sullivan + Strumpf, Singapore, 2018.
Photo by Ng Wu Gang. viewers were encouraged to consider the works nations and their neighbors.
Courtesy the artist and Sullivan + and their meanings in terms of the region’s By highlighting works that explore metaphors
Strumpf, Singapore/Sydney.
shared history, broken down into themes of labor, of place and identity, “Ties of History” succeeded
This page memory, identity and migration, intermixed at all in articulating the ambiguities and tensions
AMANDA HENG three venues. felt in Southeast Asia, while suggesting nuanced
Singirls Objects Given Southeast Asia’s history of turmoil, the and complex ways to understand regional unity
topic that had the most weight was the examination and diversity.
Modified batik and military uniforms,
dimensions variable. of the past and its relation to national identity- JOSEPHINE V. ROQUE
Installation view of “Ties of History: Art formation. Among the most poignant artworks
in Southeast Asia” at the Metropolitan
Museum of Manila, 2018.
that tackled this issue was Roberto Feleo’s series of
Photo by AG De Mesa. sculptural relics, encased in glass domes or wooden
Courtesy Metropolitan Museum of Manila; boxes, that retell colonial and mythological stories.
University of the Philippines Vargas Museum,
Manila; and Yuchengco Museum, Manila. At Vargas, through the translucent glass exterior of
Urn of the First Coming (1988), for example, viewers

Reviews 129

National Gallery of Indonesia


Although “Indonesia, Spirit of the World,” curated in independence-era artwork, as well as from
by Amir Sidharta and Watie Moerany, coincided dominant depictions of exoticized bodies in
with the Jakarta Palembang 2018 Asian Games, modern and contemporary artworks about
it was far from a mere diplomatic exercise. In Indonesia—although such archetypal imagery
its selection of artworks from the collection of was still present in the collection. In one corner of
Indonesia’s first president, Sukarno, the show the room, independent women depicted by Djaya
offered a rare view of paintings and sculptures and Batara Lubis stand looking out, challenging a
created and collected from the 1930s to the 1960s. problematic 1961 Basoeki Abdullah painting hung
These works express a collective optimism in on the opposite wall, which illustrates the capture
Indonesia at the time and the forging of a new of the beautiful, mythological Sinta.
identity fueled by independence and rising As reflected in his collection of international
internationalism. Here, the theme of colonization artists, Sukarno had a worldview of non-aligned
was boldly explored through images of resistance, inclusivity and solidarity with the global south.
revealing a shared, global vision of unity aided by To illustrate the former president’s forward-
intercountry friendship and artistic exchange—a thinking vision, curators paired a 1964 painting
far cry from the tightening of borders and of a Balinese dancer dressed in Japanese-inspired
racialization that we are seeing today. block colors, by Shinsui Ito, with Abdullah’s
The cleverly curated exhibition showcased how portrait of Sukarno’s Japanese wife, Ratna Sari
Sukarno’s collection dovetailed with his vision for Dewi, in an Indian sari. While the exhibition
an independent Indonesia. The painting Shooting carried many excellent individual pieces, its
an Arrow (1944) by Hendrik Ngantung, a political true strength was in forming a portrait of an
affiliate of Sukarno and the former governor extraordinary statesman who combined a bold
of Jakarta, depicts an archer aiming an arrow, national vision with a strong cultural agenda.
with ghostly figures in the background alluding In the spirit of the Asian Games, it was a timely
to Javanese shadow puppetry. Next to this was reflection on how Indonesia progressed from
archival footage of the president Sukarno its colonial past, how it was primed as an
meeting with his cabinet in front of the painting, international world player, and most importantly,
revealing the artwork’s role as witness to the raised questions of the future: Where are we now?
proclamation of independence. Sukarno clearly Whose side are we on? Who do we want to win?
had a penchant for figures in motion, emphasizing VERA MEY
a celebration of the victorious body—perhaps as a
metaphor for the strength of the nation. Greeting
visitors at the entrance to the exhibition was
The Harpooner (1959) by Argentine artist Roberto
Juan Capurro, a bronze, not-quite-life-size
sculpture of a male figure poised to strike with
a spear, which the president had commissioned
after seeing the original while on an official visit
to Latin America. A small archival section also
revealed Sukarno’s favorite sculptor as Edhi
Sunarso, responsible for many of the public
and grand monuments around Jakarta, such as
the Tugu Pancoran and the Selamat Datang, or
“welcome” monument, which features two figures
with their arms thrown up to the sky in a gesture
of openness.
The section “A Nation’s Struggle United
in Diversity,” which focused on portraiture,
presented a nostalgic look at a time that cultivated
national heroes such as the 19th-century anti-
colonial leader Harijadi Sumadidjaja. Within this
selection was a smaller group of works dedicated to
local figures. These included portraits of modern
women, such as in Otto Djaya’s Rochani (1949),
where the figures, shrouded in decorative elements
of dress, stare directly at the viewer, rejecting
instrumentalization or objectification. Here, the
works presented an intelligent diversion from the
visual trope of male bodies in battle, common

130 | NOV/DEC 2018 | ISSUE 111

AM Qattan Foundation


now based in Tucson, Arizona. His video Boots

and Beret (2017) features objects that are familiar
to him: as one of Yasser Arafat’s bodyguards for
eight years until the Palestinian leader’s death
in 2004, Jarrar regularly cloaked himself in the
gear of militarization. In the footage, which
shows the artist wearing a maroon beret and
streaks of face paint, with boots laced together
and dangling from his neck, Jarrar criticizes the
use of security services. Governments around
the world are becoming increasingly militarized,
leaning on armed strength to maintain control.
The Palestinian Authority is no exception, at
times even collaborating with Israel to suppress its
own populace. The goal of attaining nationhood
has become secondary to powerplays, with
oppositional figures becoming targets of those
favored by the oppressor.
Bisan Abu-Eisheh invokes the failure to
develop a functional Palestinian economy in
the installation Neo-Value (2014), which consists
It’s more common than most of us would like of stacks of a banknote designed by the artist.
to admit for people to have a nation—a binding On one side of the (il)legal tender, we find an
identity based on culture, heritage and language— excerpt from the Declaration of Independence of
but no state of their own and no hold over their Palestine penned by Mahmoud Darwish, who is
destinies. That pain is felt daily in the Palestinian considered to be the national poet. On the other,
Territories. In the West Bank, much of the land is we see Yasser Arafat looking tired and confused,
under Israeli control, with jurisdiction of the rest his image lifted from a photograph taken on
shared by Israel and the Palestinian Authority. July 22, 2003, by photojournalist Jamal Aruri—a
Movement is restricted. Profiling and baseless depiction departing from the typical heroic
arrests are commonplace. The roads are rife with portrait of the political leader, revolutionary and
military checkpoints. Nobel Peace Prize winner. The Palestinian pound
When the AM Qattan Foundation and curator was in circulation until 1952; leaders such as
Yazid Anani organized the group exhibition Arafat, despite paying lip service to independent
“Subcontracted Nations” with 62 artists and statehood, have felt no urgency in supplanting the
collectives to inaugurate the Foundation’s Israeli shekel as their people’s de facto currency.
new headquarters in Ramallah, critique was In fact, military occupation benefits a small sliver
pointed even before the show opened: are new of the Palestinian population, which hinders the
comforts such as the Foundation’s building mere birth of a fair and sustainable economy.
distractions? How far off is the establishment of Other artworks addressed the prerequisites
a true Palestinian state, and what is stopping of nationhood or conditions on the ground by
its attainment? drawing upon collective memory, long-standing
There are no good answers to those questions, traditions, or further elaborating on physical and
but the artists participating in the exhibition institutional hindrances. Zooming out, the status
addressed the ills they witness or experience of AM Qattan Foundation’s headquarters itself
every day. Ramallah native Majdi Hadid’s was a testament to the obstacles that cultural
sculpture Notarised (2018), an oversized stamp institutions—and many others—must face when
Opposite page bearing the Palestinian Authority’s seal, primed operating within the wall that separates Israel and
HENDRIK NGANTUNG the exhibition’s commentary on nationhood. the West Bank. Even in September, months after
Shooting an Arrow Bureaucracies in the region are notorious for their “Subcontracted Nations” opened, construction
Oil on board, 152 x 152 cm. inefficiency, and the path to approval for even the remained incomplete. But at the moment, the
Courtesy National Gallery of Indonesia, Jakarta. most mundane requests can be arduous. Before Foundation’s facility is Ramallah’s newest cultural
continuing on in the exhibition, one couldn’t help center, offering a rare platform for local artists,
This page
but think of the many hoops that the Foundation curators and other cultural figures to practice
jumped through to erect the gallery that housed their craft, or look at their own history and
2018 “Subcontracted Nations.” sociopolitical structures in a critical light.
Oversized rubber stamp, 150 x 230 cm. The amplitude of the dysfunction so prevalent BRADY NG
Installation view of “Subcontracted Nations”
at AM Qattan Foundation, Ramallah, 2018. in the Palestinian Territories is also referenced
Courtesy AM Qattan Foundation. by Khaled Jarrar, a one-time Ramallah resident

Reviews 131

Greengrassi Gallery and Corvi-Mora


“Five Heads (Tavan Tolgoi) – Art, Anthropology
and Mongol Futurism” at London’s Greengrassi
Gallery and Corvi-Mora was, as the title suggests,
concerned with the future, but what made it such
a solid, compelling show was how firmly rooted
it was in the immediate present. Curated by
Hermione Spriggs, the exhibition featured works
by ten artists, collectives and researchers deeply
concerned with the land and exploitation of its
resources (“Tavan Tolgoi” refers to one of the
world’s largest untapped thermal coal deposits in
southern Mongolia). The idea of roots, minerals—
things that rest beneath the soil—predominated,
and the promise of future deracinations, whether
for positive or negative ends, loomed throughout
the show.
In Yuri Pattison’s Pick, Press, Fang Feng (The
New Economy) (2018), a manual pill-press sits atop
an LCD monitor, laid flat on the floor. Playing on
the screen was footage of Mongolians picking the
medicinal fang feng root. Brown, powdered fang
feng was in the funnel of the press, and scattered Elsewhere, Tuguldur Yondonjamts’s 78-291,
on the monitor was its product in pill form. 875-953, 3006-3106 (Mirror Princess) (2018), of coal
The piece draws from anthropologist Hedwig pigment and digital printing on strips of mylar,
Waters’s research on salvage economies along bears crisp images that reference the artist’s
the Mongolian-Chinese border, and has at its core white, mattress-like fabric sculptures planted
a double meaning that highlights a number of nearby in the gallery. On the same mylar surface
issues. “Fang feng,” in Chinese, can are arresting geometric etchings, such that the
be translated as “guard against wind,” and work displays a shiny, futuristic aesthetic while
one of its uses in Chinese medicine is to treat simultaneously evoking more traditional crafts
flatulence and stomach disorders. On the other and materials, and natural resources. Dolgor
side of the border in Mongolia, however, the Ser Od and Marc Schmitz presented a selection
root serves another purpose, holding soil in of objets trouvés dedicated to the Danish-
place and preventing wind erosion. One of the Greenlandic “father of Eskimology” Knud Johan
consequences of the informal harvesting of fang Victor Rasmussen in North of the North Pole (in
feng in Mongolia—which cannot be processed Memory of Rasmussen) (2018): small pictures, a
into medicine locally due to lack of the requisite pair of boots, gold rocks and more are placed so
technology and infrastructure—is that the land as to evoke a realm “north of the North Pole”—
itself changes. Considering that fang feng’s value that is, an oblique reality with culturally specific
increases 20 fold once in China, the root’s name references to shamanism.
effectively suggests how something as simple As a kind of centerpiece for the show, Deborah
as a plant can have dual purposes, and Tchoudjinoff’s virtual-reality work Baigala (2018)
wide-reaching economic, geographical and allowed users to visit various Mongolian sites
human consequences. impacted by mineral extraction. Like Pattison’s
The pressing theme of exploited resources was Pick, Press, Fang Feng, Baigala gives visual and
broached again in Baatarzorig Batjargal’s diptych emotive presence to obscure economic and
MGL (2018), which borrows from a traditional geological processes. VR “experiences” like this
style of Mongolian painting to tell tales in a one are becoming increasingly commonplace
contemporary context. In the pictures, we see at exhibitions, and artists have a way to go
heroic, horse-bound figures in the style of Genghis with the medium before we can talk about
Khan, a ceremony to cleanse the spirit of a prime VR-based projects in terms of innovation and
minister who allowed international mining originality rather than novelty. However, in
conglomerates access to the country’s mineral the context of “Five Heads,” Tchoudjinoff’s
wealth, as well as marauding figures of the new piece effectively bound together a collection of
neoliberal economy. While the consequences sometimes inaccessible works, grounding them
of the events depicted are highly significant to in an awareness of the land with which each is
the immediate future, this painterly method of fundamentally concerned.
compacting a variety of moments into a single, NED CARTER MILES
psychedelic frame is, again, situated in the present.

132 | NOV/DEC 2018 | ISSUE 111

Asia Society


Opposite page “The Progressive Revolution: Modern Art for a class desperately seeking opportunities in the
DEBORAH TCHOUDJINOFF New India,” organized by guest curator Zehra city. In Souza’s Tycoon and the Tramp (1955), the
Baigala (front) Jumabhoy and Boon Hui Tan, director of New light-skinned, clean-shaven businessman and the
York’s Asia Society Museum, was centered around darker-skinned, bearded vagrant are presented as
VR, steel and plywood, dimensions variable.
the Progressive Artists’ Group, a collective of caricatures of class stratification.
BAATARZORIG BATJARGAL men that formed in Mumbai following India’s Many of the painters revisited the female
MGL (back)
independence from Britain in 1947. At the time, body as a site to simultaneously explore India’s
Acrylic on canvas, 150 x 200 cm. the young artists, mostly painters, saw themselves cultural essence and modernity. The woman
as rebels, passionate about their country’s in Ara’s Untitled (Large Nude) (1965), with her
Installation view of “Five Heads (Tavan
Tolgoi) – Art, Anthropology and Mongol potential. They envisioned an egalitarian society luminous skin and hand placed suggestively on her
Futurism” at Greengrassi Gallery and attuned to the avant-garde and broad-minded hip, resembles a pin-up girl, while the geometric
Corvi-Mora, London, 2018.
values. Their works reflect this burgeoning sense shapes in Mohan Samant’s Untitled (Woman) (1946)
Photos by Brett Dee.
Courtesy Hermione Spriggs. of hope while critiquing the nation’s postcolonial recall a cubist style. Displayed alongside the female
reality, revealing a forward-looking yet unsettled nudes, a 10th-century sandstone sculpture of a
This page
country seeking to establish its place in the world. voluptuous Celestial Entertainer emphasized the
KRISHEN KHANNA Comprising 80 exhibits divided into three motif’s provenance. Souza’s Temple Dancer (1957)
The Anatomy Lesson
1972 sections and occupying the two upper floors and Pregnant Nude (1954) appear as secular
Oil on canvas, 91.4 x 175.3 cm. of the Asia Society Museum, the show began reinterpretations of divine beings associated with
Courtesy Kavita Singh and Asia
with “The Progressives in Their Time: People femininity and fertility.
Society, New York.
of the New India.” Goa-born FN Souza gestures After local authorities labeled his work
to the nostalgic through pastoral watercolors of “obscene,” Souza departed for London in 1949,
his home state. In the idyllic Village Scene from with contemporaries such as SH Raza following
Goa, India (1946), water buffalo soak in the river suit to Paris shortly after. The exhibition’s second
against a backdrop of oversized palm trees and section, “National/International,” sought to
a pink mountain peak, while Woman Carrying extrapolate the confluence of Indian and Western
Soil (1944) and Picking Raw Mangoes, Salting references within the Progressives’ conception of
and Drying (1944) highlight female subjects modernism. This portion of the show included
gathering and working together to evoke a sense Catholic-raised Souza’s Untitled (Flagellation of
of communal harmony. These works, completed Christ) (1965), which he painted while abroad,
before the group’s establishment, lay the alongside Raza’s cubist and expressionistic
groundwork for the project of nation-building. landscapes. Later in his life, Raza returned to his
Vibrant images of the countryside contrasted spiritual roots, exemplified by the meditative
sharply with grim representations of urban life, Bindu (c. 1980s), in which a large, black circle
where economic inequality and poverty came representative of a “primal,” unifying force engulfs
into focus. An emaciated child lies helplessly the canvas.
on the ground surrounded by naked figures Upstairs, the final section, “Masters of the
in Souza’s Beggars (1944). The disabled and Game,” showcased the most iconic works from
dispossessed crowd the frame in Untitled members of the group. MF Husain’s Peasant
(Beggars) (1940s) by KH Ara, while the gloomy Couple (1950), featuring a bare-chested, muscular
expressions of the gaunt, suited young men in man accompanied by a colorfully adorned
Unemployed Graduates (1956) by Ram Kumar woman, champions the rural masses as the future
aptly convey the anxieties of the lower-middle of India. Though “Masters” clearly refers to the
artists themselves who continued to have careers
after the group disbanded in 1956, the “Game”
can dually refer to a darker aspect of history.
Depicting military generals conferring around
a table, Krishen Khanna’s The Game 1 (c. 1978)
alludes to the geopolitical maneuverings that
resulted in the partition of India and Pakistan in
1947 and Bangladesh’s subsequent independence
in 1971. His painting The Anatomy Lesson (1972)
figuratively illustrates this cutting and dividing
up of the Indian subcontinent via generals
overlooking a cadaver obscured by a white sheet.
These last two works serve as heavy reminders of
British colonialism’s far-reaching legacy and the
unfulfilled promises that continue to haunt India
long after the Progressives’ heyday.

Reviews 133

Albertz Benda


Best known for his psychedelic collages The other “Mystery Woman” paintings
channeling 1960s pop culture, Japanese artist resemble film-noir posters, pairing femmes fatales
and graphic designer Tadanori Yokoo has with men who don’t appear quite human. In
dedicated himself to a new medium since Cavern of Love (2018), the male lover has a sickly,
renouncing commercial work in the 1980s. green complexion. Meanwhile, a gaping black
The pieces the octogenarian produces in his hole, evoking the damage left by an object that had
now preferred medium of painting present been thrown through a glass window, mars the
a noticeable departure from his signature, woman’s head. The villain in Looted Lady (2018)
iconoclastic posters. At the same time, he is even more ghoulish in form. Faceless with two
continues to play with highly stylized, vintage craters where eyes should be, he wraps one arm
imagery. Yokoo’s solo exhibition “Death and around a smiling, blonde woman, as the other
Dreams” at Albertz Benda gallery in New York points a gun at her disembodied torso. Indeed,
focused on his portraits of women drawn from Yokoo’s latest series gives off the feeling of a
three different series, beginning with more morbid reverie from which one struggles to
impressionistic works and concluding with the awake. A skull hovering over a woman’s face in
surreal. The female subject loosely tied together the exhibition’s titular work Death and Dreams
the otherwise disparate paintings in oil, acrylic (Part I) (2017) invokes an art historical trope that
and watercolor, the majority of which were shown depicts women with the skeletal figure of death.
for the first time outside of Japan. By not only deploying the male gaze but
A lone, untitled oil painting (c. 1980) of also casting death as something nostalgic,
a woman with her naked back turned to the “Mystery Woman” revels in the seductive nature
viewer—displaying a head of glossy chestnut hair of contemplating mortality. The presence of a
cascading around her shoulders—introduced grim reaper indirectly lingers in Black, Red,
Yokoo’s “Back of Head” series (1980), which was Blue (2017), which shows a book with the word
hanging in uniform rows on a nearby wall. The “Faust” on the cover imposed over the woman’s
tidy arrangement of the 21 watercolors served face. The artist frequently referenced the afterlife
to emphasize the interchangeability of the in his early graphic design, such as in a 1970
subjects. Though their hair color and texture may photo project inspired by Dante Alighieri’s The
vary, and the palette ranges from sunny yellow Divine Comedy and later through painting ravaged
to rosy pinks to moody blues, the women’s pose landscapes, reminiscent of the underworld, in
never alters. The series can be regarded as a his “Red” series, begun in 1996. “Death and
study of sorts, offering a glimpse of Yokoo’s then Dreams” suggested that Yokoo is not yet done
budding practice on paper and eventually canvas. with this ever-present theme, or with his devotion
Yokoo further explored the feminine figure to painting.
in his three-portrait series “The Falling Woman” MIMI WONG
(2010). Again, the subjects’ visage remains hidden
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here under either a blue veil or a short, wavy on Tadanori Yokoo.
blonde bob. Contrasting with their protectively
covered faces, the women unabashedly pull open
the top of their blouse, baring their breasts. An
enigmatic quality pervades the resulting images.
A disquieting atmosphere similarly comes
through in the “Mystery Woman” series (2017–18),
in which Yokoo layers surreal elements onto his
portraiture. Here, he partially obscures glamorous
women’s faces, except for their painted red lips,
with quotidian objects, as in Women with Toilet
Paper (2017) and Woman with Cabbage (2017).
The perturbing yet sensual depictions recall
the notorious nudes of French painter Francis
Picabia, who drew from 1930s erotic magazines.
Predominantly Western-styled and white, the
models featured in Yokoo’s compositions are
reminiscent of vintage advertisements from the
1930s and ’40s. He has attributed his penchant
for kitsch to growing up with an adoptive father
who worked as a kimono-fabric wholesaler and
admiring the fabric labels that blended Western
and Japanese motifs.

134 | NOV/DEC 2018 | ISSUE 111

Walker Art Center


would draw on decades later in the pen-on-mylar

scrolls Written Minneapolis (The Last Tomb) (2014)
and Written Iran (2015–16)—his new surroundings
would drastically alter his artistic career.
The late 1960s was one of Armajani’s most
experimental periods. Works like Effaced
Dictionary (1968)—in which the definitions are
all blacked out—and the stenciled television
installation Moon Landing (1969), as well as the
vinyl record A Fairly Large Number (1969), are
instances of forays into readymade art, and, in
the case of the latter, sound recordings. The works
that brought Armajani acclaim in the 1970s were
his architectural sculptures. “Follow This Line”
featured many models for bridges and houses he
imagined (and in some cases realized), including
more than 150 small maquettes for the “Dictionary
for Building” series (1974–75). It’s not so much the
models themselves that are interesting, but rather
their underlying ideas. His House to Work; Work
to House Bridge (1969) is endearing in its idealism
The last few years have been a time of reflection in the face of practical impossibility—an effect
on past and present glories for Iranian modern echoed in later models such as House Under the
artists. In 2018, New York’s MoMA PS1 staged Bridge (1974).
a posthumous retrospective for director and Above all, the show’s focal point was Armajani’s
playwright Reza Abdoh, and London’s Mosaic “Seven Rooms of Hospitality” series (2017),
Rooms surveyed the career of abstract painter especially in light of the current sociopolitical
Behjat Sadr. In Minneapolis, the Walker Art Center climate in the US. With its conspicuous reference
cast the spotlight on septuagenarian artist and to poet Nizami Ganjavi’s epic Seven Beauties
architect Siah Armajani, who has been living and (in which the Iranian monarch Bahram V visits
working in the city since 1960. seven women in seven pavilions), “Seven Rooms”
The sprawling retrospective of more than follows up on Armajani’s installation critical of
100 works traced Armajani’s six-decade-long the Iraq War, Fallujah (2004–05), which Armajani
career. Considering its scale, as well as Armajani’s initially struggled to exhibit in the US. Just as
ravenous appetite for experimenting with, politically charged, if not more so, the group
and blending, different forms and disciplines, of works provide palpable commentary on the
the show’s title, “Follow This Line,” could be Trump administration’s immigration policies as
interpreted as ironic. Far from being linear, the well as the global refugee crisis. The 3D-printed
path the retrospective took viewers down was food truck Room for Asylum Seekers aside, the
circuitous and at times endless. In this sense, six other installations—reflecting the spirit of
the exhibition could be seen as an Armajani Russian Constructivism—present audiences with
piece in its own right: a macrocosm of disorder various episodes in the experience of a modern-
within order. day refugee in the US. There’s a life-size Room for
Opposite page
If there was anything that could be followed, Deportees, complete with barbed wire; austere
it was the artist on his journey from Tehran to looking rooms for detainees and migrant workers;
“Back of Head” series
1980 the United States. A number of works produced a room for refugees; and downright draconian-
21 watercolor works on paper, 69 x 54.5 cm each. in the 1950s, while Armajani was still in Tehran, looking rooms for exiles and the displaced. The
Installation view of “Death and Dreams”
at Albertz Benda, New York, 2018.
stood out on account of their themes, medium inclusion of these critical works elevated “Follow
Photo by Casey Kelbaugh. and aesthetic. Works on paper such as Book, This Line” from being purely a celebration of
Courtesy the artist and Albertz Benda. Taranee and Dictionary of Numbers (both 1957) former triumphs. Where does this line lead?
This page employ visual elements from medieval Persian Toward some deserved approbation, surely—but
manuscripts, as well as talismans. Produced hopefully also toward an earnest discussion about
Room for Deportees during the same period, Shirt #1 (1958) features the ills plaguing the US and the world at large.
2017 calligraphy inscribed on a traditional Iranian JOOBIN BEKHRAD
From the series “Seven Rooms of Hospitality,”
2017. Metal, wood, barbed wire, mailbox,
tunic belonging to Armajani’s father. Although he
hat and purse, 243.8 x 305.4 x 111.1 cm. would create similar Iran-centric pieces during
Installation view of “Follow This Line” at his first year away from home—most notably
Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, 2018.
Courtesy the artist, Rossi & Rossi, London/ Letters Home (1960) and Letter #6 (1961), poignant
Hong Kong, and Walker Art Center. documentations of exile and longing that he

Reviews 135

Blum & Poe


If the face is the mirror of the mind and the eyes is the astute sensibility of Gokita—though the TOMOO GOKITA
Replicant J.B.
the window to the soul, what happens when visual information is incomplete, off-kilter or
visages are obscured? Displayed at Blum & Poe in discomfiting, the viewing experience is deeply Acrylic gouache on canvas, 130.2 x 130.2 x 2.5 cm.
Los Angeles, Tokyo-based artist Tomoo Gokita’s satisfying due to the richness and fluidity of his Courtesy the artist and Blum & Poe,
Los Angeles/New York/Tokyo.
latest body of work comprises single, double and painted surface.
group portraits. However, the information central Often, Gokita’s compositions appear as if they
to a typical portrait—the subject’s likeness—is are family snapshots that have been burned in a
made to be bizarre, jarring or missing completely. fire or otherwise compromised. House of Terror
As such, meanings in the black-and-white features a standing man and a seated couple in
paintings are diffuse and dependent on the formal wear against a backdrop that suggests a
viewer—the blobs and smears covering the faces domestic space. Their stoic stance and the interior
appear like Rorschach inkblots. Replicant J.B. (all details of the floor and chairs are reminiscent of
works 2018), for example, takes a jovial image of David Hockney’s double portraits of the late
deceased African-American musical icon James 1960s and early ’70s, except that no faces are
Brown and turns it into something ghastly. Where depicted and one of the woman’s hands is
his face should be is a cavity, as if someone ripped monstrously disfigured. Living Together pictures
off his skin, revealing his nasal skeleton and teeth. a possibly vacationing couple posing for a photo
Is the death mask in Replicant J.B. perhaps a in their swimwear. We see the woman’s smile but
comment on the flamboyant performer’s brushes the rest of her face is smeared away. In place of the
with the law, including charges for drugs, domestic man’s face is an outline of a horseshoe, the center
violence and two police chases? Pop-culture of which looks as if it leads to a deep black hole
references are also found in Minor Apprehension, of nothingness.
a painting of Marilyn Monroe and Muhammad Gokita has been quoted as saying that he
Ali in an embrace. Instead of the bombshell’s doesn’t intend for his paintings to mean anything.
beauty, however, we see a caricatured, exaggerated However, it was apparent in this exhibition that,
expression as she glances sideways at her male purposefully or not, his canvases require us to
companion, who has tiny close-set cartoon eyes. interrogate the images and stories we surround
It is pertinent to consider not only the meanings ourselves with, from photographs to paintings,
of these images to the individual psyche, but magazines and social-media posts. Without
also their cultural significance depending on the faces, we are forced to attempt to look beyond
country in which they are viewed. Considering the surface.
current racial tensions in the United States, these JENNIFER S. LI
images were layered with contention in the Los
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Angeles gallery. on Tomoo Gokita.
Music has always been a big influence on
Gokita, and several of the pieces are named after
song titles, though the phrases do less to explicate
than to confuse. Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams,
the title of a whimsically melancholic Bing
Crosby tune, shows a group of men and women
drinking and socializing. The central woman is
the only person whose face is fully visible, and
yet her expression is inscrutable. A couple of the
images appear to stem from Gokita’s fondness for
1960s and ’70s soft-core pornography magazines
(his father did advertising for Playboy and as a
young boy Gokita frequently flipped through the
magazine’s pages in the family’s living room).
Among them is a painting of a seated woman
draped in a towel, named Bongo Nyah, Jamaican
Creole slang for “gangster Rastafarian” and the
title of a song covered by several reggae artists.
Her face and part of the backdrop are melting
away, as if burned or waterlogged. Bemsha Swing,
also a jazz standard by Thelonious Monk and
Denzil Best, shows a fleshy woman reclining
seductively. Where her right hand should be
is a fluid swath of white paint, contrasting
with the deep black of the background. This

136 | NOV/DEC 2018 | ISSUE 111

Book Reviews

The Art of Place, the Place of Art

Witty wordplay and expressions of
diaspora identities resist the status quo

The two provocateurs who populate Slavs and Their installations, lectures and performances,
Tatars keep a low profile. Their real names don’t divided into “cycles,” are documented in excellent
appear in their works or their writings, and as proper publications, whose digital versions are free to
philosopher-nomads they don’t advertise where they’re download. The writing is clear, elegant and often
based in. They describe themselves as a “faction of humorous; didactic, yet academic-lite and scintillating,
polemics and intimacies devoted to an area east of transporting the reader to the faraway worlds they
the former Berlin Wall and west of the Great Wall of inhabit. In fact, the key to understanding their practice
China known as Eurasia.” This vast canvas gives them lies in these texts, which contain the essence of their
ample space to roam; but rather than flailing with all- works. Reading the cogent texts alone is also a rare
encompassing brushstrokes—they confess that they pleasure in a world of mega-syllabic art writing. It’s
“are not painters, but polemicists”—they build complex, refreshing to see language, linguistics and especially
even absurd, structures from the minutiae of puns, both verbal and visual, raised to the realm of art.
history, language, geography, ethnicity and the everyday. By comparison, many of the ready-mades, plaques,
In so doing, they ride the rails of two major worlds of banners and maps they display seem almost like banal
thought and action that have galvanized conflict in the afterthoughts, requiring little to no craftsmanship.
past and present centuries: Islam and communism. The book Slavs and Tatars: Mouth to Mouth is a
Perhaps not coincidentally, they emerged on the art retrospective compilation of highlights, in the form of
scene in 2006, around the time of Gary Shteyngart’s texts and on-site photographs, from the duo’s eight
post-Soviet satirical novel Absurdistan and Sacha Baron multimedia cycles completed between 2006 and
Cohen’s mockumentary film on Kazakhstan, Borat. 2017. (A subsequent cycle, “Wripped Scripped,” was

138 | NOV/DEC 2018 | ISSUE 111

actualized in 2018, too late for inclusion in this book.) geographical and biographical information in this book
A biblical adage could well serve as a preface: In the rivals the art in terms of interest and variety. Walton
beginning was the word. The bright orange-red cover Look Lai’s “A Historical Context for Chinese Migration,”
bears the group’s logo, the collective’s name in gold, Julia Herzberg’s “Past-Present: Conversations with Maria
with an elongated cartoonish tongue snaking its way P. Lau and Katarina Wong,” Sean Metzger’s “Caribbean
in and out of the letters. In this Genesis setting, the Art and Chinese Imaginaries” and Lok Siu’s “Diasporic
clownish tongue is a stark reminder that language Afect: Circulating Art, Producing Relationality” provide
distinguishes human from beast, and ipso facto, that it theoretical and personal background for this heretofore
is through the medium of linguistics that we are often unexplored subject.
bestial. Slavs and Tatars thrives on alphabets and builds Beginning in the mid-19th century, as editor and
monuments from individual letters: besides English, we co-curator of the exhibition Alexandra Chang writes
find Arabic, Greek, Turkish (in Arabic and Latin/Roman in her introduction, Chinese men, mostly from Fujian
script), French, German, Polish (in Cyrillic and Roman and Guangdong, traveled to the Caribbean as contract
script), Hebrew, Chinese, Georgian, Boxori (Persian laborers or merchants. By the end of the century,
dialect, Hebrew script) and, of course, Russian, in this almost 7.5 million Chinese had arrived in Cuba, the
book. When these scripts converge in their works, they British West Indies and Panama. Their escape from
illuminate historical acts of imperialism, colonialism, war, political unrest and poverty coincided neatly with
racism and nationalism attached to the people who use the abolition of African slavery, which led to Chinese
and abuse them. employment in the sugar and tobacco industries. From
Photographs of the group’s installations capture their there, the Chinese population dispersed further into
restlessly evolving antics, and essays by four European Chinese mestizo (the term “creole” for the artists is
critics tease out the messages in the works. The book inappropriate here, but may be applied to the art) or
is fact and imagination at its best. For example, in the Chinese-hyphenated communities in North and Central
cycle “Pickle Politics,” politically charged wordplay America and Europe.
(“Give peace a chance: bomb ayran”) and incongruous In the book and exhibition, we see how the Chinese
imagery (such as a pickle paired with a torpedo with a identities of these artists wane with intermarriage,
nipple) is woven into rugs, which are placed on basic migration and time. For example, Wifredo Lam (1902–
US Army cots. The central theme of this particular 82), born in Cuba to a Chinese father and Afro-Cuban
installation cycle, part of the final multimedia project mother, and raised in a family that practiced Catholicism
presented in this book, is fermentation, and the and Santeria, identified as Afro-Cuban. He studied art
protagonist is the microbe: “The original foreigner or in Spain, and was influenced by Cubism, Surrealism and
Other.” Another element of this cycle is illustrated in Picasso, and collaborated with André Breton.
an ofset print titled Ogórek Trocki (2016), a sly play on Somewhat confusingly, and possibly due to a
the phallic nature of the cucumber (“ogórek” in Polish) dearth of talent or inventory, at least ten of the artists
and post-Solidarity politics. “Trocki” is evidently a pun mentioned have no Chinese blood, but were born
on the Trakai cucumber, a gourd ideal for pickling that or lived in the Caribbean. As there was also a strong
is indigenous to the city of that name in Lithuania. As Indian (South Asian) influence in the arts and literature
the accompanying text explains, the plant was brought in the region, the scholar Patricia Mohammed, in her
north in the 14th century by Crimean Karaites, an anti- essay, “Intersecting Trajectories,” wisely uses “Asian” to
rabbinical Jewish sect that historically enjoyed a close describe both Chinese and Indian immigrants and their
relationship to Islam, and, through their unorthodox descendants, an approach that disconnects notions of
approach to their faith, managed to avoid a Tsarist art and national origin.
tax on the Jews and survive both pogroms and the An overemphasis on history, genealogy and ethnicity
Holocaust. (Incidentally, “Trocki” is Trotsky in Polish—a should not deter the reader from appreciating the works
factoid I stumbled across on Google Translator, in the illustrated here. Dated from the early 20th century
Slav-Tatar manner.) to the present decade, the genres run from works on
In the cycle “Not Moscow Not Mecca” (2011–17), paper and canvas to photography, sculpture, video
the combine delves into the syncretism of Central and installation. Sybil Atteck (1911–1975), who studied
Asia, seeking to illustrate the confrontation between with German Expressionist Max Beckmann, is well
Islam and communism, embodied, for example, in represented; her salutary influence is seen in the works
Han-Uighur friction in Xinjiang, China; first, through an of several other Trinidadian artists, including Carlisle
installation of plastic reproductions of fruits native to Chang—who helped design the coat of arms and flag
the region, and second, via contradictory viewpoints, set of Trinidad and Tobago when it became independent in
out in a text regarding the Qianlong emperor’s (reigned 1962—and Willi Chen. Cuban artist Flora Fong takes the
1735–96) pursuit of a Uighur princess. In the Han triviality out of the palm tree trope, rendering them in
CHINESE CARIBBEAN ART Chinese version, a modern creation, the emperor won Chinese-calligraphy-style strokes, in her paintings.
By Alexandra Chang, Evelyn Hu-DeHart, her over in a triumph of ethnic unity; in the Uighur, she Circles and Circuits and Slavs and Tatars are entirely
Julia P. Herzberg, Mar Hollingsworth,
Walton Look Lai, Sean Metzger, Patricia refused his blandishments, “never giving up the fruit,” diferent kinds of books, which deal with the art of
Mohammed, Lok Siu and Steven Y. Wong thus becoming a symbol of Uighur resistance. seemingly autochthonous parts of the world. But
Published by the Chinese
A smaller, maritime but equally diverse part of the if they convey a single message, it might be that
American Museum, 2018
Softcover, 230 pages. world, the Caribbean, is the field of play for Circles compared to human lives and nationalities that morph
and Circuits: Chinese Caribbean Art, the catalog for an over time and space, art, even in its most inscrutably
By Sussan Babaie, Jörg Heiser,
exhibition held jointly at the California African American squirming performances, remains static: a vital mirror to
David Joselit and Pablo Larios Museum and the Chinese American Museum, both in destructive and creative acts of dispersion.
Published by Koenig Books, London, 2017. Los Angeles. The anthology contains the work of 39 DON J. COHN
Hardcover, 231 pages.
artists with connections to China and the Caribbean, *Visit our Digital Library at for more articles
Photos by Esther Chan for ArtAsiaPacific. ranging from the direct to the tenuous. The historical, on Slavs and Tatars.

Reviews 139


BEIJING-LUCERNE 798 Art District, No. 2 Jiuxianqiao Road, Chaoyang
District, Beijing 100015
104 Caochangdi Cun, Cui Gezhuang Xiang, »
Chaoyang District, Beijing 100015 »
» » (tel)+86.10.5978.9781
» » (fax)+86.10.5978.9781 - 818
» (tel)+86.10.6433.3393 » 10am–6pm (Tues–Sat)
» (fax)+86.10.6433.0203 Pace Beijing was founded in 2008, becoming the first
» 11am–6.30pm (Tues–Sun) major Manhattan art gallery to open in Beijing.
Ai Weiwei, Chen Hui, Cheng Ran, Wim Delvoye, Andreas
Golder, Hu Qingyan, L/B, Li Dafang, Li Gang, Li Zhanyang,
Liu Ding, Meng Huang, Qiu Shihua, Christian Schoeler,
Shan Fan, Shao Fan, Anatoly Shuravlev, Julia Steiner, Not
Vital, Wang Xingwei, Xia Xiaowan, Xie Nanxing, Yan Xing.

ASIAN ART 1F, No. 2879 Longteng Avenue, Xuhui District, Dashanzi, 798 Art District No. 8503, 2 Jiuxianqiao
No. 241 Cao Changdi Village, Cui Gezhuang Xiang,
Chaoyang District, Beijing 100015
181–187 Hay Street, Haymarket, NSW 2000 Shanghai Road, Chaoyang District, Beijing 100015 »
» » » »
» » (tel)+86.21.5424.9220 » » (tel)+86.10.5127.3220
» (tel)+61.02.9212.0380 » 10am–7pm (Tues–Sun) » (tel)+86.10.5978.9505 » (fax)+86.10.5127.3223
» (fax)+61.02.9281.0873 » (fax)+86.10.6436.4464 » 10am–6pm (Tues–Fri), 11am–6pm (Sat)
» 11am–6pm (Tues–Sat) » 11am–6pm (Tues–Sun) » Sun and Mon by appointment only
» Closed on Public Holidays Pékin Fine Arts is a Beijing-based contemporary art gallery
We are a non-profit organisation. Our program of exhibitions, representing international artists, focusing primarily on
talks and lectures is dedicated to the contemporary art of the artists from China, Japan, Korea, Indonesia, Hong Kong
Asia-Pacific and Australian and Asian cultural dialogue. and Taiwan.


No. 200, Huayuangang Road, Huangpu District,
245 Wilson Street, Darlington, NSW 2008 Shanghai
» »
» »
» (tel)+61.2.8580.7002 » (tel)+86.21.3110.8550
» 10am–6pm (Tues–Fri) » 11am–7pm (Tues–Sun. Last entry at 6pm)
» 11am–5pm (Sat) » Open on all national holidays
185 Flinders Lane, Melbourne 3000 Established on Oct. 1st, 2012, the Power Station of
» (tel)+61.3.9654.6131 Art (PSA) is the first state-run museum dedicated to
» 12pm–6pm (Tues–Fri)

contemporary art in mainland China and home to the
» 1pm–5pm (Sat) Shanghai Biennale.


420 Brunswick Street, Brisbane, QLD 4006
797 Street, 798 Art District, No. 2 Jiuxiangqiao Road,
Chaoyang District, Beijing 100015 [Opposite car park]
» »

» (tel)+61.732.525.750 »
» (fax)+61.732.525.072 » (tel)+86.10.5762.6373
» 12pm–6pm (Tues, Wed, Fri and Sat) » (fax)+86.10.5762.6372
» 12pm–8pm (Thurs) » 10am–6pm (Tues–Sun)
Since its establishment in 1975, the Institute of Modern Art Springs Center of Art is located inside Factory 798, Beijing’s
has been a leading venue for the production, presentation, most vibrant art district. The Center has a spectacular
and circulation of art in Australia. Bauhaus-style showroom measuring 2,300 square meters.

A comprehensive guide to the

ART FOUNDATION contemporary arts in Asia, the Middle East, 798 Art District, 2 Jiuxianqiao Road, Chaoyang
16–20 Goodhope Street, Paddington, NSW 2021
the Pacific and around the world. District, Beijing 100015
» »
» (tel)+61.2.9331.1112 » (tel)+86.10.5978.9610
» 11am–5pm (Wed–Sat) » (fax)+86.10.5978.9379
» 11am–6.30pm (Tues–Sun)
A not-for-profit organization providing a platform
» Closed on Mondays & Public Holidays
for visual artists, research, education and exhibitions of
significant and innovative contemporary art primarily
from Asia, Australia and the Pacific Rim.


261 Caochangdi Airport Service Road, Red No. 1-B1, Caochangdi, Chaoyang District,
Chaoyang District, Beijing 100015 Beijing 100015
» »
» »
» (tel)+86.8457.4550 » (tel)+86.10.5127.3143
» (fax)+86.8457.3782 » (fax)+86.10.5127.3143
» 9.30am to 6pm (Tues-Sun) » 10am–6pm (Tues–Sun)
» Closed on Mondays and Public Holidays Ink Studio is a Beijing-based gallery and experimental art
space devoted to documenting and responding to new and
exciting developments in the media of ink painting currently
emanating from China.

Vlaeykensgang – Oude Koornmarkt 16 Art Zone, No.4 Jiuxianqiao Road, Chaoyang District, 798 East Road, 798 Art Zone, 2 Jiuxianqiao Road, 76 Rue de Turenne, 75003 Paris
2000 Antwerp Beijing 100015 Chaoyang District, Beijing 100015 10 Impasse Saint Claude, 75003 Paris
» » » »
» » » »
» (tel)+32.477.88.80.60 » (tel)+86.10.8456.2862 » (tel)+86.10.5840.5117 » (tel)+33.1.4216.7979
» 2pm–6pm (Wed–Sat) or by appointment » 10am–6pm (Tues–Sat) » (fax)+86.10.5978.9635 » (fax)+33.1.4216.7974
From its inception in 2011 the gallery has been a strong Founded in 2004, where the most influential figures » 10.30am–6.30pm (Tues–Sun) » 11am–7pm (Tues–Sat)
supporter of Zero and Gutai art. Our vision has gradually in the Chinese art scene launched their watershed solo Founded in 2008, Magician Space seeks to challenge,
evolved into contemporary art with a special interest in exhibitions, and simultaneously serving as the incubator stimulate, and address the blind spots in the development
the concept of the void, space, and time. for emerging artists. of contemporary art in China.

140 | NOV/DEC 2018 | ISSUE 111

13, Avenue du President Wilson, 75116 Paris 21/F Lyndhurst Tower, 1 Lyndhurst Terrace, Central 18 & 19/F Grand Marine Centre, 3 Yue Fung Street, 16F, Union Industrial Building, 48 Wong Chuk Hang
» » (tel)+825.2526.1091 Tin Wan Road, Aberdeen
» » 10am–6pm (Mon–Sat) » »
» (tel)+ » » »
» 12pm–12am (Wed–Mon) » » (tel)+852.2563.3396 » (tel)+852.2177.6190
» Jan 1 / May 1 and Dec 25 (Closed annually) » 11am–7pm (Tue–Sat) » 10am–6pm (Tues–Fri), 11am–6pm (Sat)
Founded in 1981, it is the first professionally run gallery
» Dec 24 and 31 (Special closing) Empty Gallery showcases art with a special commitment » Sun and Mon by appointment only
in Hong Kong to promote contemporary Chinese artists
Founded in 2002, Palais de Tokyo is dedicated to bringing including: Chao Chung-hsiang, Chu Teh-chun, Gao to ephemeral time-based, and non-object-orientated Pékin Fine Arts is a Beijing-based contemporary art gallery
the public close to the best French and international Xingjian, Zao Wou-ki. practices, alongside a program of pioneering multimedia representing international artists, focusing primarily on
contemporary creative work within a 4000-square-meter commissions, performances and music. artists from China, Japan, Korea, Indonesia, Hong Kong
space. With more than 300,000 visitors a year, it is one of and Taiwan.
the most widely visited art centers in Europe.


11/F, Hollywood Centre, 401 Pedder Building, 12 Pedder Street, Central Suites 701-708, 7/F, One Pacific Place 88 Queensway,
233 Hollywood Road, Sheung Wan » Admiralty
» » »
» » (tel)+852.2526.9019 »
» (tel)+852.2815.1112 » (fax)+852.2521.2001 » (tel)+852.2303.9857
» (fax)+852.2815.0032 » 10am–6.30pm (Mon–Fri) » (fax)+852.2303.9888
» 10am–6pm (Sat) » 9am–6pm (Mon–Fri)
Hanart TZ Gallery represents contemporary artists from Established in 2012, a young but remarkable auction house
Mainland China, Taiwan and Hong Kong. in Hong Kong and the Asia Pacific region.

Fasanenstraße 28, 10719 Berlin Unit 15D, Entertainment Building, 30 Queen’s Road, 2/F, Mai On Industrial Building, 19 Kung Yip Street,
» Central Kwai Chung Room 1307A, 13/F, Kodak House II, 39 Healthy Street
» » » East, North Point
» (tel)+ » » »
» 10am–6pm (Mon–Fri) » (tel)+852.5937.8098 » (tel)+852.2526.9019 »
A3 Arndt Art Agency presents curated exhibitions in » 11am–7pm (Tues–Sat) » (fax)+852.2521.2001 » (tel)+852.2889.0859
collaboration with international artists, museums, and As the first overseas exhibition venue of the Axel » 10am–6.30pm (Mon–Fri) » (fax)+852.2889.0850
private collections while staging temporary projects in Vervoordt Gallery in Antwerp, the gallery continues to » 10am–6pm (Sat)
Asia and Australia. bridge artistic expressions between the east and the west Hanart Square represents contemporary artists from
presenting modern and contemporary artists, some of Mainland China, Taiwan and Hong Kong.
them lesser known to the Hong Kong audience.

Glogauer str. 17 – 10999 - Berlin 15/F, Po Chai Industrial Building, 28 Wong Chuk 2 Harbour Road, Wan Chai Yally Industrial Building, Unit 3C,
» Hang Road, Wong Chuk Hang » 6 Yip Fat Street, Wong Chuk Hang
» » » »
» (tel)+030 92283788 » » (tel)+852.2582.0200 »
» 3 pm - 7 pm (Tuesday - Saturday) » (tel)+852.2517.6238 » (fax)+852.2802.0798 » (tel)+852.3575.9417
Founded in 2015, NOME presents a curated program » 10am–6pm (Tues–Sat) » 8am–11pm (Mon–Sun) » 11am–6pm (Tues–Sat) or by appointment
developed with international artists whose practices » (Sun and Mon) by appointment only A self-financed and non-profit organisation. For the past Rossi & Rossi stands at the forefront of the global Asian art
engage diverse disciplines and involve a broad range of » Closed on Public Holidays 37 years, HKAC has been promoting contemporary art and market, pioneering its development in the West. The new
media. culture through a wide range of programmes. Its education industrial space in Hong Kong gives the perfect opportunity
arm, the Hong Kong Art School, is an accredited institute to develop ambitious contemporary projects while
established in 2000. HKAC is also the Main Operator of continuing to showcase classical Himalayan masterpieces.
“Comix Home Base”.


KONG 22nd Floor, Alexandra House
18 Chater Road, Central
3F Pedder Building, 12 Pedder Street, Central
52 & 54 Sai Street, Central
» » »
» » (tel)+852.2613.8062 » (tel)+852.2858.5072
» (tel)+852.2760.1766 » 10.30am–7pm (Mon–Sat) » 9.30am–6.30pm (Tues–Sat)
» (fax)+852.2760.1767 Massimo De Carlo (MDC) gallery was founded in Milan in Sin Sin Fine Art is the first and main force in Hong Kong
» 9.30am–6pm (Mon–Fri) 1987 with galleries in Milan, London and Hong Kong. to bring Indonesian artworks to Hong Kong and open new
Christie’s, the world’s leading art business, a name that windows for them to the international art scene. Sin Sin
speaks of extraordinary art, unparalleled service and Fine Art focuses on contemporary art from all over the
expertise, a showcase for the unique and the beautiful. world that is spiritual and inspiring, cultivating a collection
of works by selected international artists.


G/F, 10 Chancery Lane, Central 20/F, Global Trade Square, No. 21 Wong Chuk Hang 15C Entertainment Building, 30 Queens Road Central Suites 3101–3106, 31/F, 1 Pacific Place,
» Road » 88 Queensway, Admiralty
» » » »
» (tel)+852.2810.0065 » » (tel)+852.2608.5065 » (tel)+852.2524.8121
» 10am–6pm (Tues–Sat) » (tel)+852.2167.8896 » (fax)+852.2608.5064 » (fax)+852.2810.6238
Since 2001, 10 Chancery Lane Gallery has been a driving » (fax)+852.2167.8893 » 11am–7pm (Tues–Sat)
force in visual arts in Hong Kong and is one of Asia’s leading » 11am–7pm (Mon–Fri), 1pm–6pm (Sat) » Closed on public holidays.
contemporary art galleries. Covering a broad range of 19th- and 20th-century masters’ paintings and sculptures: Pace is a leading contemporary art gallery representing
Pan-Asia Pacific artists of culturally diverse backgrounds, Degas, Monet, Rodin, Calder, Giacometti, Miro, Picasso, many of the most significant international artists and
the gallery focuses on emerging movements as well as Chu Teh Chun, de Kooning, Mitchell, Warhol, Zao Wou-Ki, estates of the 20th and 21st centuries.
historically important established artists. Kruger, Chen Zhen, Hirst, Kapoor, LaChapelle, Mori, Venet.

1/F, 1 Queen’s Road West, Sheung Wan 1/F, 8 Queen’s Road, Central » 5/F, One Pacific Place, 88 Queensway, Admiralty
» » » »
» » » (tel)+852.2517.4620 »
» (tel)+825.3173.8626 » (tel)+852.2810.0317 » (fax)+852.2517.6850 » (tel)+852.2822.5566
» 12pm–6pm (Tues–Sat) or by appointment » (fax)+852.2810.0311 » 12pm–7pm (Wed–Sun)
Affinity for ART represents emerging and established » 10am–7pm (Mon–Sat)
contemporary artists in Asia - primarily from Southeast Edouard Malingue Gallery presents emerging and
Asia, Taiwan and China. established contemporary artists with a multicultural
perspective. Occasionally, the gallery shows modern art
in collaboration with Galerie Malingue, Paris.

Art Directory 141

7-8/F, H Queen’s, 80 Queen’s Road, Central 7-3-5 Toyo, Koto-ku, Tokyo 135-0016 (Located in MOT
» Temporary Office) Art Tower 640-6 Sinsa-dong, Gangnam-gu,
» » Seoul 135-896
» (tel)+852.2523.8001 » (tel)+81.3.5633.6373 »
» (fax)+852.2623.8005 » (fax)+81.3.5633.6374 »
» 11am–7pm (Tues–Sun) With venues at Hongo, Shibuya and a residency, Tokyo » (tel)+82.2.519.0800
Whitestone Gallery specializes in Japanese Post-War Wonder Site is an art center dedicated to the generation » (fax)+82.2.519.0880
and Contemporary Art. We have spaces in Tokyo and and promotion of new art and culture from the heart of » 10am–6pm (Tues–Sun)
Hong Kong. Tokyo. The center supports and nurtures young talent
in all fields, as well as taking a role as a hub in a global
cultural network of affiliated cultural facilities in Japan
and abroad.


Via del Castello 11, San Gimignano (SI) 53037 3-10-11 Sendagaya, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo 151-0051 122 Sagan-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul 110-190
» » »
» » »
» (tel)+39.057.794.3134 » (tel)+81.3.6434.7225 » (tel)+82.2.2287.3591
» (fax)+39.057.794.0484 » (fax)+81.3.6434.7226 » (fax)+82.2.2287.3590
» 2pm–7pm (Tues–Sat) » 11am–7pm (Tues–Sat) » 10am–6pm (Tues–Sun)
» Closed on Sundays, Mondays and National Holidays

A-1 Neeti Bagh, New Delhi 110049 » (fax)+39.02.7492.135 Piramide Bldg. 3F, 6-6-9 Roppongi, Minato-ku, 80 Sagan-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul 110-190
» Tokyo 106-0032 »
» Piazza Belgioioso 2, 20121 Milano » »
» (tel)+91.11.4174.0215 » » » (tel)+82.2.2287.3500
» (fax)+91.11.4176.4608 » (tel)+39.02.366.36.990 » (tel)+81.3.6447.1123 » (fax)+82.2.2287.3580
» 11am–7pm (Mon–Sat) » 11.30am–7pm (Tue–Sat) » (fax)+81.3.6447.1124 » 10am–6pm (Tues–Sun)
Exhibiting a wide range of contemporary art by Indian » 11am–7pm (Tues–Sat)
Via Giovanni Ventura 5, 20134 Milano » Closed on Sundays, Mondays and Public Holidays
artists including Anita Dube, Subodh Gupta, Jitish Kallat,
Bharti Kher, Pushpamala N., and Dayanita Singh, with
» (tel)+39.02.7000.3987
special appearances by international artists.
» 10am–6pm (Tue–Sat)
Massimo De Carlo (MDC) gallery was founded in Milan in
1987 with galleries in Milan, London and Hong Kong.


C-84 Neeti Bagh, New Delhi 110049 Viale Stelvio 66 (cross via Valtellina), Milano 20159 171, Dalmaji-gil 65beon-gil, Haeundae-gu,
» » Busan 48117
» » »
» (tel)+91.11.4605.0307 » (tel)+39.02.8738.4885 » (tel)+82.51.747.8853
» 11am–7pm (Mon–Sat) » (fax)+39.02.8738.4892 » (fax)+82.51.742.8852
Primo Marella Gallery Represented Artists: » 11am–7pm (Tues–Sun)
From China: Liu Ding Chen Ke, Shi Jinsong, Shi Xinning,
Li Wei
From Southeast Asia: Ronald Ventura, Jigger Cruz, Jon
Jaylo, Entang Wiharso, Donna Ong
From Africa: Abdoulaye Konaté, Joel Andrianomearisoa,
Cameron Platter, Vitshois Mwilambwe Bondo



43, Mannam-ro, Dongnam-gu, Cheonan-si, 54 Samchong-ro, Jongno-gu, Seoul 110-200
Chungcheongnam-do 330-160 »
» » (tel)+82.2.735.8449
» (tel)+82.41.551.5100 » (fax)+82.2.733.4879
» (fax)+82.41.551.5102 » 10am–6pm (Mon–Sat)
» 11am–7pm (Mon–Sun) » 10am–5pm (Sun)

Jl. D.I. Panjaitan No. 41, Yogyakarta 55143 2F Kagura Bldg., 3-13 Ichigayatamachi Shinjuku-ku, 84 Bukchon-ro 5-gil, Jongno-gu, Seoul 110-200 130-1 Gahoe Dong, Jongro-gu, Seoul 110-260
» Tokyo 162-0843 » »
» » » (tel)+82.541.5701 » (tel)+82.2.745.1644
» (tel)+62.274.371015 » » (fax)+82.541.5704 » (fax)+82.2.745.1642
Since 1988, Cemeti Art House has been actively » (tel) +81.3.3268.2500 » 10am–7pm (Tues–Sun) » Exhibition Hours 11am–6pm (Tues–Sun)
promoting and stimulating practices in the » (fax)+81.3.3268.8844 » Non-Exhibition Hours 10am–6pm (Mon–Fri)
contemporary Indonesian art scene and art practices » 11am - 7pm (Tues-Sat)
on a wider international platform. » Closed on Sundays, Mondays, and Public Holidays
Executive Director Sueo Mizuma opened Mizuma
Art Gallery in Tokyo in 1994. Since then the gallery
has continuously presented artists from Japan and,
increasingly, the surrounding region, whose works
possess distinctive sensibilities unaffected by fleeting
stylistic trends.

Lot 2–3 The Promenade, Jalan Warung Buncit Raya 98, Roppongi Hills Mori Tower, 6-10-1 Roppongi, 83 Yulgok-ro, Jongnon-gu, Seoul 110-280 B2 Galleria Foret, 85 Wangsimni-ro, Seongdong-gu,
Pejaten Barat, Jakarta Selatan 12510 Minato-ku, Tokyo 106-6150 » Seoul
» » » (tel)+82.2.736.5700 »
» » » (fax)+82.2.747.6039 »
» (tel)+62.21.790.0480 » (tel)+81.3.5777.8600 » 10am–7pm (Tues–Sun) » (tel)+82.2.3447.0049
» 12pm–7pm (Mon–Sun) except public holidays » (fax)+81.3.6406.9351 » (fax)+82.2.3447.0050
We try to probe the art world and its various elements, » 10am–10pm (Wed–Mon) » 10.30am–6pm (Tues–Sun)
taking them as they are, to go with the flow with honesty » 10am–5pm (Tues)
and openness. To exist, just as it is without dwelling too Providing programs to stimulate the public’s intellectual
much upon defining our position. We simply want to “be curiosity, the Mori Art Museum promotes its vision of “art
present and glide.” and life in the 21st century.”

142 | NOV/DEC 2018 | ISSUE 111


2263 Don Chino Roces Avenue Ext., Makati City 1231 St. Andrew’s Road, # 01-01 Singapore 178957 61 Dharmapala Mawatha, Colombo 7a
» » »
» » »
» (tel/fax)+63.2.816.0044, (mobile)+63917.587.4011 » (tel)+65.6271.7000 » (tel)+94.11.742.9010
» 10am–7pm (Tues–Fri) » 10am–7pm (Mon–Thurs) » 10am–7pm (Mon–Fri)
» 10pm–6pm (Sat) » 10am–10pm (Fri–Sun) Established in early 2009, the gallery organizes and
Through artist representation, institutional collaborations, Opening 24 November 2015, the National Gallery Singapore curates exhibitions for contemporary artists working
and exhibition programming, SILVERLENS places its is a brand new visual arts museum that engages, excites in multiple mediums including painting, sculpture,
artists within the broader framework of contemporary art. and inspires with the art of Singapore, Southeast Asia and photography, video and new media. It is inspired and
Its continuing efforts to transcend borders across art the world. The Gallery will contribute to Singapore’s ambition motivated by the creativity and determination of a new
communities in Asia have earned it a reputation as a leading to become a global city for the arts. wave of artists wishing to be exposed to, and accepted
contemporary art gallery in Southeast Asia. SILVERLENS by, the world.
was founded by Isa Lorenzo and Rachel Rillo in 2004.


Jisr el Wati, Street 90, Building 110, 1st Floor,
Beirut 2066 8421 Block 43 Malan Road, Gillman Barracks,
» Singapore 109443
» »
» (tel/fax)+961.1.423.879 »
» By appointment only » (tel)+65.6339.6503
Ashkal Alwan, the Lebanese association for plastic arts, » 12am–7pm (Tues–Sun), 12am-9pm (Fri)
is a platform for the creation and exchange of artistic » Open on Public Holidays
practices. As a non-profit, the association is committed to » Free admission to exhibitions and public programmes
education, production, support and circulation of creative The NTU CCA Singapore positions itself as a space for
and intellectual endeavors rooted in an engagement with critical discourse and encourages new ways of thinking
civil society. about Spaces of the Curatorial in Southeast Asia
and beyond.



MODERN ART 7 Lock Road, #02-13 Gillman Barracks,
Education City, off Al-Luqta Street, Doha Singapore 108935 Rosenberghöhe 4, Lucerne 6004, Lucerne
» » »
» (tel)+974.4487.6662 » »
» 11am–6pm (Sat–Thurs) » (tel)+65.8611.7556 » (tel)+41.4.1420.3318
» 3pm–9pm (Fri) » 11am–8pm (Tues–Sat) » (fax)+41.4.1420.2169
» 10am–6pm (Sun) » 10am–6pm (Tues–Fri), upon request (Sat)
Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art invites you to look
at the thriving art production of the Arab world, Iran Founded in 1994 in Tokyo, Ota Fine Arts opened a new Ai Weiwei, Chen Hui, Cheng Ran, Wim Delvoye, Andreas
and Turkey. space in Gillman Barracks in September 2012. Golder, Hu Qingyan, L/B, Li Dafang, Li Gang, Li Zhanyang,
Liu Ding, Meng Huang, Qiu Shihua, Christian Schoeler,
Shan Fan, Shao Fan, Anatoly Shuravlev, Julia Steiner, Not
Vital, Wang Xingwei, Xia Xiaowan, Xie Nanxing, Yan Xing


6A Jalan Cempaka, 16 Taman Cempaka, Ampang, Gillman Barracks, Block 47, Malan Road, #01-25,
Selangor 68000 Singapore 109444
» »
» »,
» (tel)+6.012.373.6004 » (tel/fax)+65.6694.4077
» (fax)+6.03.9285.6004 » 12pm–7pm (Tues–Sat)
» 11am–6pm (Mon–Fri), 1pm–6pm (Sat) » 12pm–6pm (Sun)
» By appointment (Sun) Through artist representation, art fairs, exhibitions and
» Closed on Public Holidays museum collaborations, SILVERLENS artists participate
House of Matahati (HOM) is an independent art space in the global contemporary art dialogue. In Manila and
comprising a gallery and studio facilities. A core objective Singapore, it is the only Philippine gallery accepted
being to promote and nuture emerging artists through the into Art Basel.
Matahati Art Residency programme.

229 Jalan Maarof, Bukit Bandaraya, Bangsar, 22 Lock Road #01-35, Gillman Barracks, 71 Bras Basah Road, Singapore 189555 1/F, No. 32, Lane 2, Zhongshan North Road Sec 6,
59100 Kuala Lumpur Singapore 108939 » Shilin District, Taipei 11155
» » » (tel)+65.6332.3222 »
» » » (fax)+65.6334.7919 »
» (tel)+60.03.2095.3300 » (tel)+65.6694.2827 » 10am–7pm (Mon–Sat), 10am–9pm (Fri) » (tel)+886.2.2837.0237
» 10am–7pm (Tues-Sat) » 11am–7pm (Tue–Sat), 1pm–6pm (Sun) Opened in January 1996, the mission of the Singapore » (fax)+886.2.8771.3421
» By appointment only » Closed on Mondays and Public Holidays Art Museum (SAM) is to preserve and present the art » 1pm–6pm (Tues–Sat)
histories and contemporary art practices of Singapore and Founded in 2004 by Chi-Wen Huang, Chi-Wen Gallery
the Southeast Asian region. To date, SAM has amassed is one of Taiwan’s leading galleries, showing the best
one of the world’s largest public collections of modern and of contemporary Taiwanese art with a focus on video
contemporary Southeast Asian artworks, with a growing and photography.
component in international contemporary art.


39 Keppel Road, Tanjong Pagar Distripark,
PRINT INSTITUTE No.28, Lane 770, Beian Road, Zhongshan District,
#03-04, Singapore 089065 41 Robertson Quay, Singapore 238236 Taipei 104
» » »
» » (tel)+65.6336.3663 »
» (tel)+65.6737.4202 » (fax)+65.3663.3553 » (tel)+886.2.8501.2138
» 11am–7pm (Mon–Fri) » 10am–6pm (Tues–Sat) » (fax)+886.2.8501.2338
» 12pm–6pm (Sat, Sun and Public Holidays) » By appointment (Mon) » 10.30am–6.30pm (Tues–Sun)
Founded in 2015. Emphasis on the promotion of
Taiwanese contemporary artists, curatorial practice,
publishing, research and art collection services as its
core values.


1007 Metropolitan Avenue, Metrostar Building, 22 Lock Road # 01-34, Gillman Barracks, No.366, Ruiguang Rd., Neihu District, Taipei 11492
Makati City, 1205 Singapore 108939 »
» » »
» » » (tel)+886.2.2797.1100
» (tel)+63.2.897.7877, +63.2.897.6990 » (tel)+65.6570.2505 » (fax)+886.2.2656.0033
» (fax)+63.2.890.7455 » (fax)+65.6570.2506 » 11am–6pm (Tues–Sat)
» 11am–7pm (Tues–Sat) Founded in 1993, based in a space of 2,000 square meters,
» 11am–6pm (Sun) Liang Gallery engages in promoting Taiwanese modern
Mizuma Gallery was established in Tokyo by Sueo Muzuma in masters and emerging contemporary artists and academic
1994. Its mission is promoting Asian and Japanese artists both research.
on the local and international contemporary art scenes.

Art Directory 143


4F-2, No. 21, Sec. 1, Dunhua South Road
ARAB OF AMERICA 235 Bowery, New York, NY 10002
» (tel)+886.2.2577.5601 » (tel)+
» (fax)+886.2.2577.5601 » 11am–6pm (Wed)
Michael Ku Gallery was founded in 2008 in Taipei as one » 11am–9pm (Thurs)
of a few galleries with solid art history background. Mr. » 11am–6pm (Fri–Sun)
Ku curates the exhibitions and also composes related texts. » Closed on Mon and Tues

7F, No. 180, Sec. 1, Heping E. Road, Da’an District, Maraya Art Centre, Al Qasba, Sharjah 36 Great Jones Street, New York, NY 10012 32 East 57th Street, 2nd Floor, New York, NY 10022
Taipei City 106 » » »
» » » » (tel)+1.212.421.3292
» » (tel)+971.65.566.555 » (tel)+1.212.725.6092 » (fax)+1.212.421.0835
» (tel)+886.2.2365.6008 » 10am–8pm (Sat–Thurs), 4pm–10pm (Fri) » 10am–6pm (Tues–Sat) » 9.30am–6pm (Tues–Fri), 10am–6pm (Sat)
» (fax)+886.2.2365.6028 The Barjeel Art Foundation manages the collection With critical exhibitions of work by emerging and
» 11pm–6pm (Tues–Sat, or by appointment) contemporary South Asian artists, one of Aicon Gallery’s 534 West 25th Street, New York, NY 10001
of Sultan Sooud al-Qassemi and features artworks of
primary goals is to create a space for dialog and cross- » (tel)+1.212.929.7000
Mind Set Art Center is a trustworthy contemporary contemporary Arab artists living in the region and
collaboration between the arts of India, Pakistan and » (fax)+1.212.929.7001
art platform with strong background of art abroad. Each work represents an intercultural story of
consulting, dedicating to innovative programming and Arab identity and underpins how this identity is shaped the west.
545 West 22nd Street, New York, NY 10011
collaborative projects of cultural exchange. within changing social, political and cultural contexts. » (tel)+1.212.989.4258
The foundation seeks to circulate its pieces regionally » (fax)+1.212.989.4263
and globally. » 10am–6pm (Tues–Sat)

1/F, No. 2, Alley 45, Lane 147, Sec. 3, Sinyi Road, 522 West 19th Street, New York, NY 10011 1334 York Avenue at 72nd Street,
Taipei 10658 » New York, NY 10021
» » »
» » (tel)+1.212.414.1169 » (tel)+1.212.606.7000
» (tel)+886.2.2707.6942 » (fax)+1.212.414.1192 » (fax)+1.212.606.7107
» (fax)+886.2.2755.7679 » 10am–6pm (Tues–Sat)
» 1pm–7pm (Tues–Sun)

181 Zhongshan North Road, Section 3, Taipei 104 35 Riding House St., London W1W 7EA 518 West 19th Street, New York, NY 10011 108 East 16th Street, New York, NY 10003
» » » »
» » » »
» (tel)+886.2.259.57656 » (tel)+44.20.7930.9865 » (tel)+1.212.967.8040 » (tel)+1.212.673.3096
» (fax)+886.2.259.44104 » 11am–6pm (Tues–Sat and by appointment) » (fax)+1.212.967.0669 » 10am–6pm (Tues–Sat)
Aiming to build a fresh and dynamic platform for
contemporary art, the Gallery encourages cross-cultural
exchange with its audience, in addition to being a commercial
space that artists can use as a canvas to realise their projects
and present new works to the public.


No. 489, Huiwen Road, Nantun District., Taichung 55 South Audley Street, London W1K 2QH 20 Rockefeller Plaza, New York, NY 10020 545 West 25th Street, 3rd Floor, New York, NY 10001
City 40867 » » »
» » » (tel)+1.212.636.2000 »
» » (tel)+ » (fax)+1.212.636.2399 » (tel)+1.212.716.1100
» (tel)+886.4.2382.3786 » 10am–6pm (Tues–Sat) » (fax)+1.212.716.1250
» (fax)+886.4.2382.3783 Massimo De Carlo (MDC) gallery was founded in Milan in
» 12am-8pm (Tues-Sun) 1987 with galleries in Milan, London and Hong Kong.
Rich Art has long paid attention to creative artistic life in
the world and transformed them into the presentation and
display of art creations here as an international platform
for rising artists.

21 Georgian House, 10 Bury Street, London SW1Y 6AA 525 West 19th Street, New York, NY 10001 529 West 20th Street, 10W, New York, NY 10011
» » »
» » (tel)+212.727.2070 »
» (tel)+44.20.7629.6888 » (fax)+212.727.7072 » (tel)+
» 10am–6pm (Mon–Fri) » (fax)+
» 11am–4pm (Sat) 519 West 19th Street, New York, NY 10001 » 10am–6pm (Tues–Sat)
» (tel)+212.517.8677
Rossi & Rossi stands at the forefront of the global Asian art Specializing in cutting-edge contemporary art from
» (fax)+212.517.8959
market, with 40 years of experience in classical Himalayan Southeast Asia.
» 10am–6pm (Tues–Sat, Mon by appointment)
masterpieces. The only internationally renowned gallery
specializing in both classical and contemporary Asian art,
it has pioneered the development of Asian art in the West,
representing significant artists from Asia and the Middle
East and attracting major museums and private collectors.


100 Soi Tonson, Ploenchit Road, Lumpini, 1071 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10128
Pathumwan, Bangkok 10330 »
» »
» » (tel)+1.212.423.3500
» (tel)+ » 10am–5.45pm (Sun–Fri, Closed on Thurs)
Exhibits cutting-edge contemporary art by Thai and » 10am–7.45pm (Sat)
international artists and makes successful debuts in
GPO Box 10084
Thailand. The gallery launches the development of visual
Hong Kong
culture with no media boundaries (video, photography,
installation, paintings and sculpture). » DUWDVLDSDFLÀFFRP
» WHO 
» ID[ 

144 | NOV/DEC 2018 | ISSUE 111

Where I Work

Izumi Kato

In the artist’s Hong Kong studio, wide-eyed extraterrestrial beings

and primordial deities stare back

undulating hills of Lamma Island lay

where the sky and sea met. It was
a scene that could lend itself well
to introspection, and to feeling at
peace with oneself.
I imagined that the landscape
also ofered a sense of familiarity
to Kato, who was born and grew up
in the quiet prefecture of Shimane
on the western coast of Japan,
surrounded similarly by vast waters
and hills. Though, upon graduating
from Tokyo’s Musashino Art
University in 1992, Kato decided
to settle down permanently in the
Japanese capital, where he still
spends roughly three quarters of
the year. Through an interpreter,
the artist confirmed that the view
was largely what convinced him
to choose this particular industrial
building in Ap Lei Chau—yet I was
curious as to what made him want
to work from Hong Kong in the first
place. He explained that three years
ago, after more than two decades
of creating both two- and three-
Izumi Kato in his Hong Kong studio. On the To find Japanese multimedia artist of house slippers—as is Japanese dimensional works of enigmatic
right is an untitled painting, which he had just
completed on the day of ArtAsiaPacific’s visit.
Izumi Kato’s Hong Kong studio, custom—which I stepped into figures who have been likened to
I had to walk along a circuitous before proceeding farther beyond extraterrestrial beings, primordial
white corridor past a seemingly the threshold. gods and goddesses, and totems,
endless stretch of identical At first I was baled that an he started to realize that he had
metal doors. This disorienting artist such as Kato, who often grown too comfortable in his home
passageway, coiled inside an asserts the importance of one’s country, and that his creative drive
industrial building on the isolated individuality—whether in reference had become stagnant. Hong Kong,
southern tip of Hong Kong Island, to the way he creates his art, by contrast, spoke of boundless
could have easily been the movie or how he hopes audiences will energy and dynamism to him; and
set for a psychological thriller, and, interpret his images in their own so, with the help of friends and
admittedly, I began to feel the way—chose to situate himself his gallery, Perrotin, he made the
onset of panic as I attempted to in what appeared to me an eerie leap, renting his current quarters
locate the number two, supposedly visual metaphor for the endless in 2015.
marked above one of these simulacra that we navigate in our Just as Kato had suspected,
otherwise indistinguishable entries. lives. But the studio’s arresting view Hong Kong rekindled his playful
Thankfully, I found the correct door immediately dispelled that thought. experimentations with materials.
and rang the bell. Kato greeted The only windows are directly Downstairs from his studio is a
me, dressed casually in a T-shirt opposite the entrance—beyond seawall and rocky beach, where
and loose shorts—his standard Kato’s modest, white-cube-like Kato, a keen fisherman, likes to
attire that he wears even to his work area and the couple’s living spend his downtime. There, in
exhibition openings and on stage room—and a soft light poured 2016, he noticed stones of various
with his rock band Tetorapotz. in. Outside were the glimmering shapes and sizes, which sparked a
His wife Tomoko Aratani, who is waters of Luk Chau Bay, ruled new series of works. Kato arranged
much more put together, appeared occasionally by the wake of a group of the rocks, roughly the
behind him and presented a pair crisscrossing boats. The green, size of newborn babies, in an

Where I Work 147

over-one-meter line on his studio tall. When I visited his studio, one
floor, such that the overall contour of the walls was lined with pebbles,
evoked a body curled in a fetal which Kato had just gathered from
position. He then detailed this the seawall, in preparation for
character—with widespread, gaping another composition.
eyes and a nose that bleeds into Besides his collection of
the mouth—by painting over parts geological samples, his work space
of the rocks with acrylic. was nearly empty. Kato explained
The untitled sculpture that most of his projects had been
demonstrates Kato’s relationship to transported to Beijing for his Red
Shinto animist beliefs, according Brick retrospective. The exhibition,
to which spirits live in mountains, featuring a host of his strangely
lakes, waterfalls and rocks. endearing figures rendered in
Working intuitively and without vibrant acrylics, camphor wood,
prior sketches, Kato channels vinyl, stitched pieces of fabric, prints
and unearths the deities in the and sketches, made tangible the
stones. He has since been adding evolution of the artist’s practice over
spontaneously to the series in the past decade as he zigzagged
diferent cities, each time using between various materials.
local materials, taking care to When I asked if seeing his works
keep the unique qualities of the gathered in such an extensive
rocks apparent, as they reflect showcase impacted his artistic
their places of origin. In 2018, for goals for the future, Kato answered
instance, he was commissioned to without hesitation: no. He clarified
create two of these pieces for Hong that his aim is simple and steadfast.
Kong’s Tai Kwun contemporary art Painting has always been the
center, where he used old stone most captivating medium for him,
bricks from the former prison. At as it involves a two-dimensional
his debut solo show in China, which surface that is artificial in our
opened in August at Beijing’s Red three-dimensional world. What he
Brick Art Museum, he made his wants is to push the possibilities of
first vertical iteration, stacking an this interface, and in the process,
egg-shaped boulder, the size of a leave his own distinctive mark in
medicine ball, on a granite block for the history of painting. All of the
what became the head and body of other components of his practice
a multicolored humanoid creature feed back into his innovations with
that stands at almost three meters painting. In his three-dimensional

148 | NOV/DEC 2018 | ISSUE 111

(Opposite page, top)
The only windows in the studio
are directly opposite the door,
past Kato’s pristine, white work
area and the living space that he
shares with his wife. Outside is Luk
Chau Bay and Lamma Island.

(Opposite page, bottom)

Kato likes to fish near the seawall
downstairs from his studio. This
was also where he came up with the
idea for his rock sculptures in 2016.

(This page, top)

Hanging on the studio wall was
another recently completed painting
by Kato. He will use the rocks lined
up on the floor for a sculpture.

(This page, bottom)

A 2016 drawing by Kato, picked
out by his wife, hangs in their
living space. Leaving no doubt for
where the studio is, the key tag
on the left reads: Ap Lei Chau.

Where I Work 149

works, for example, he takes note spread out, precisely because these of four flat and oddly staggered (Bottom)
Kato had brought out a 2014 work to
of details that make the forms actions are meaningless without alien-looking babies against a touch up, as well as a canvas from
more intricate and aesthetically context, which Kato also omits, gradient background. His ainity 2004 to show me the evolution
of his style. The two trolleys are
intriguing, such as the miniature always filling in flat fields of colors for childlike paintings with no where he keeps his tools.
figurines in his latest series of as backdrops. Kato emphasized immediately detectable storylines
sculptures, which he attached to that there is no correct or incorrect was apparent.
the ears of, or placed on top of, a way to understand his images— He has also developed his
larger, central statue. This imagery viewers should relate to them own painting techniques. Below
is then transposed to his canvases, however they want. the 2004 work were two packed
which depict similar creatures In an age where we prize trolleys with, among more
with heads sprouting from various logic over intuition, and traditional painting tools, plastic
parts of their bodies. In the same predictability over spontaneity, gloves—crucial for Kato, who
way, while creating his 2017 vinyl there is an obvious sense of prefers to apply pigments with
sculptures, which saw him joining rebellion behind Kato’s refusal his fingers—and rubber spatulas,
together disparate components to to aix meaning to his images. which create contrasting textures.
form a final Frankenstein-esque So much about the artist is On the day of our meeting, he
figure, Kato took inspiration from rule-breaking. His iconic, surreal had just completed two portraits,
the clearly visible seams of the painting style grew out one for his solo exhibition opening
mutant, and incorporated this into of his disdain for the lessons at Perrotin Seoul in October,
his paintings, depicting a single taught at art school, which and one that will be presented
body across multiple panels, with prioritized students learning at the Shanghai art fair Art021
contrasting background colors. to accurately depict a subject. in November. Kato had also
When it comes to who the Freeing himself from that pressure, hung a 2014 work that he was
subjects are, exactly, and the Kato turned to the raw styles of touching up. Looking back at
meanings of their actions or untrained or “outsider” artists, the painting, he said, he felt that
expressions, Kato is deliberately unencumbered by logic or it needed something more. It
elusive. His characters typically narrative. Kato showed me one of happens, he added nonchalantly.
assume poses such as lying on the his early canvases from 2004 that For Kato, it’s all an ongoing process
floor, sitting, or with their arms he had in the Hong Kong studio, toward making his own rules.

150 | NOV/DEC 2018 | ISSUE 111

The Sketch

Keiichi Tanaami
In our next regular issue, we look at how the visual acuity of
Japanese pop-art icon Keiichi Tanaami fuses personal history
with riotous visions and still influences artists today

For over five decades, Keiichi Tanaami has blended references to pop culture, Hollywood films, imagery from
traditional Japanese ink paintings and myths from various civilizations. His creations—paintings, sculptures,
prints and experimental films—unpack a traumatic childhood spent in Tokyo during the Second World War,
with distorted contours of bodily horror and looming, vacant eyes articulating the overwhelming mental shock
that the artist felt as a young boy witnessing incendiary air raids. Simultaneously, Tanaami’s works express his
anti-war convictions and allude to his philosophy of humanity’s interconnectedness, through forms and symbols
taken from Edo-period scroll paintings, ancient Greek lore and Christianity. Guangzhou desk editor Brady Ng
looks at how Tanaami constantly revisits moments of terror and agony in his work, finding flashes of beauty in
blinding flames that were ignited 74 years ago.

152 | NOV/DEC 2018 | ISSUE 111