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Interview with Khim Ong...
The Artling caught up with Khim Ong, Southeast Asia Platform Curator for Art Stage Singapore 2015, to learn more about the Platform and the upcoming fair.   What links, if any, do you see between contemporary art practices in the South East Asian countries you’ve highlighted in the platform? Many artists work with a wide range of mediums to communicate their ideas, going beyond conventional modes of artmaking; or are experimenting with and investigating a particular medium in an attempt to challenge the confines of the medium itself and our understanding of them. A number of works at the Platform examine knowledge production, and structures and systems, whether within the art world or at a broader national and socioeconomic level yet these come across in different ways through different approaches each artist adopts.   Chris Chong Chan Fui, video still from HEAVENHELL, 2009, 6-channel video installation. Image copyright & courtesy of the artist. Still by Y. Kasagi   Are the artists you have selected representative in some way of particular artistic movements occurring in these countries? I wasn’t consciously looking out for particular works or types of practice when researching and selecting works for the Platform. Artists are not confined to conventional, recognisable mediums and this is also a reflection of their wide-ranging interest (artists also play in bands, work as designers or fabricators, are activists, etc.). Rather than looking in terms of contemporary visual art, it is perhaps representative of a larger visual culture. Hoang Duong Cam, Prelude in D Minor Op 28 No 24, 2012, Digital C-print. Image courtesy of the Artist and Galerie Quynh   By focussing on the personal biographies of each artist, you seem to have neatly side-stepped the difficulty of ‘nationalising" each artist’s practice or seeking to label it as ‘Southeast Asian.’ Was this intentional? I see it as another way of approaching the region. I am not particularly interested in attempting a broad definition of what contemporary art from the region or of each country in the region is about, but to give a sense of what it is. In pulling together these individual artistic practices, we are providing a snapshot of the art scene, just not in neatly labelled boxes. Just as when we meet a new person, we first ask for a name then of their origin, I hope visitors experience the exhibition as a series of encounters with ‘individuals’ rather than through the lens of what can often be pre-conceived notions of a particular nation; and through these encounters, gain a better understanding of the region and form their own impressions. Are any of the artists producing new works for the Platform? If so, did you / Art Stage commission the works? Quite a number are producing new works. Other than the entrance artwork, Art Stage does not commission works. We do however work very closely with the galleries and artists to present the works in the best possible manner. Khim Ong. Image courtesy of Art Stage Singapore   Biography Khim Ong is an independent curator based in Singapore. She was previously curatorial assistant at Institute of Contemporary Arts Singapore, LASALLE, assistant curator at Osage Gallery, Hong Kong, and manager for Sector Development (Visual Arts) at the National Arts Council, Singapore. Some of her curatorial projects include Jane Lee: 100 Faces at Sundaram Tagore Gallery, Singapore (2014), Landscape Memories at Louis Vuitton Espace, Singapore (2013), Biographies (co-curated with Biljana Ciric) at Osage Gallery, Hong Kong (2010). She has also worked on solo exhibitions of Antony Gormley, Wolfgang Laib, On Kawara, Nipan Oranniewesna, and Sun Yuan & Peng Yu, among others. Art Stage Singapore will run from the 22nd to the 25th of January, 2015, at the Marina Bay Sands Expo & Convention Centre. For more information, go to: https://www.artstagesingapore.com/    ...

January 07, 2015

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Interview with Entang Wiharso ...
Entang Wiharso, born in 1967 in Tegal, Java, is one of Indonesia’s most important living artists. Entang, who holds his heritage very closely, is continuously experimenting and exploring the different aspects of his art. On several occasions this year, he spent time in residency at the Singapore Tyler Print Institute (STPI), where he worked with the facility’s primary medium: print. In the coming months, STPI will exhibit the works that were created during his residency. The Artling speaks with Entang about this experience, his work and his thoughts on Southeast Asian art, and reveals some of his plans on mentoring young artists.   How did this residency come about? I’ve actually had quite a lot of experience with residency programs, not only in Asia but in Europe and America. Every residency program has a different goal or their own vision. Artists use that vision and collaborate. I just did a residency in Watermill Center, a foundation owned by artist Robert Wilson. It is a very different residency program, artists don’t have to make artwork but you think and research while you’re there. The residency at STPI is very special. I’ve actually come here before with a friend and I saw the facility and thought “this is an artist’s dream, with all kinds of possibilities.” Working with Eitaro and the crew is so professional and everything is very easy, they make it easy for things to happen. If I have an idea, we discuss it. I am familiar with printmaking, but not with this kind of facility. I have a small printing press, my wife is also a printmaker. My practices crosses media, not just painting or sculpture, I’m willing to explore different media. For me, it is about the idea, not just the technique as a goal. You have worked quite extensively with metal relief throughout your oeuvre. What have some of the challenges been in incorporating printmaking into your vision this time around? I am familiar with the material, but I always try to discover or shift from different materials, as an artist. Even if it’s the same material, trying to make it something else. The project isn’t finished yet, but it’s more complicated now because I’m not only using metal, but also using glass – metal relief with glass melted into the metal, etc. When I come here I had an idea that I want to print something, to create something new. I didn’t come here empty-handed, I had an idea of what I wanted to do. If I create today, the idea can be from last year, it’s not instant. Of course I discovered some things here, it’s a very organic collaboration in a way. I’m familiar with the team as well, so I’m just continuing my practice. It’s very productive and I have a lot of ideas. The environment is so great, the ideas keep coming. An acrylic work created during Wiharso’s residency at STPI   Projects such as this one with STPI tend to be significantly collaborative between artist and local artisans, and make use of tools inherent or distinct to the city. How important is it to protect your “Indonesian-ness” in this project?  The Indonesian-ness is already inside me, so I’m not worried about going somewhere and losing my identity. My identity is wherever I go, I don’t want to hold on to history. Of course, my work is about history, present and future. But for me it’s not really a concern for me. There are no boundaries in regards to preserving anything. It’s also my personality, I feel like I’ve always lived in transition. When I was a kid, my parents always moved us around, which was not normal for an Indonesian at all. I lived in a village where everyone stayed in the same place, then we moved to different cities. I didn’t feel like a normal kid, but it was a good experience. The places were all in Java, but each city had its own character. I’m the kind of person to observe, to see and internalize the small details. Being in transition is good for my practice, actually. Can you tell us about this work (see image below)? You’re known for your symbolism, for putting a lot of layers into a work. What kind of symbolism should we as a viewer be looking for in this series? Is there something we should look out for to understand the meaning that you’re trying to convey to us? Well actually, when I create something, I don’t want to make something clear because I want the audience or the viewer to be involved in recognizing it themselves and putting meaning together with the artwork. Bottom line is I don’t want to make judgmental art. That’s why I like working with layers. This is called “Body Text”. I create the word through visuals, it’s very personal. But everyone can relate to it. The artist in the STPI studio with his work    You’ve incorporated words into your work, is this something recent?  This has been for more than ten years. In the beginning I was just scratching into my painting, but now it’s become very visible. The idea is that during the reformation it’s more intensive, because everyone comments on the social or political situation. I’ve been collecting from magazines, newspapers and from friends, and then I write it down. The words in this work: In Java, when people ask “are you hungry?” even if they don’t know you. It’s a custom, a common occurrence. The intention is to offer something, and sometimes it’s not polite. I think it’s dangerous, having to analyze the different layers and having to be polite. Culturally, we let the situation happen because no one stands up to it and always says ‘yes.’ It’s about the different layers of culture, and having to deal with this. I think in Asia it is really common.    Detail view of one of the works created during the STPI residency   In the last few years, cultures have been more aware of each other, by way of social media and the expanding reach of more traditional media. This has affected us in terms of what we know about our neighbors, especially in the region. I’d like to ask you what you think is the direction of Southeast Asian art – do you think we’re moving towards a more collective identity or that we continue to assert our cultural differences? Well there are so many things. Artists’ minds are not the same, their nature is like a scientist. You want to first see and make observation, and analyze and experiment and make a hypothesis. Every artist has a different platform or format in how to work. One artist wants to create their own identity or culture, like a conservator, to keep away from foreign things. Some artists are willing to engage with the global reality, with what’s happening in neighboring areas or further away. For me, it’s not good or bad, it’s more dynamic and there is more interaction. Thinking about issues in Indonesia and art itself. There’s a commonality or common ground in how to present their region to the global stage. The dangerous thing is that everyone will want to be uniform. Because contemporary art could become very narrow, because the stage has become one stage. Before, everybody wanted to add something, but now with the strong stage and the strong market, now everybody wants to take something from that stage. There’s less experimenting going on, there’s a rush to have success. I believe there are also a lot of artists who still think about how to add something. As an artist, it’s not to always agree. The nature of the artist is to disagree, also as humans in general. Are there any artists outside of Indonesia that you would like to collaborate with?  Yes, there are so many. In the moment, I don’t want to do any because I’m so busy with my life, not only with art. So in the beginning, I want to make plans like that, but in the end it doesn’t work out. I have Plan A and then I end up with Plan C or D. I just meet somebody and think that they’re interesting. Last month I went to a student exhibition, and I met an incredibly young man who works in animation and graphic art. I asked him to come to my studio to maybe do something together. I also have a full room dedicated to computers that I use to do my projects. So now, I’m working together with a young student, and they can learn and I can work together with them to make something. I want to continue mentoring young minds. My life is always in transition, so meeting new people is sometimes nice to keep different, it’s more dynamic.    The artist explaining his new works at the STPI studio   If your work is viewed 100 years from now, what influences will root your work in this present time?  What do you think? I can’t answer that! It’s very hard to say. It’s hard to place the intention of the imagination. You use a lot of Javanese objects in your works, especially recently, and your work is shown internationally. How do international audiences react to that?  That is an interesting question. Well, for example, relief doesn’t belong to Java. It belongs to everyone. You go to Europe or South America, there is relief. Everywhere in Asia. I want to play again. What has happened in contemporary art, is that people think that it is something new. It’s like going to the supermarket and seeing something new, and deciding that you want it. I want to play with that mindset. When you take something you should claim it, for me, nothing is art before you claim it. You have to prove it. There have been interesting responses to the current situation. Interestingly, the Belgian artist Wim Delvoye in the 90s came to Indonesia and learned about wood and carving. He took a cement truck and put it in New York. People were crazy wondering what it was. That is art. It already exists, but how do you present it as something that is important. It isn’t important to everyone, but it is important to the artist. When I see people react to my work, it’s very interesting. Indonesians claim it as Indonesian. We have to have long conversations about it. Through art, people can become more tolerant. But because we hold on to things as a personal identity, things become individual instead of shared. We want people to appreciate different things through art. But now it’s become a very narrow paradigm. It’s dangerous. That’s where globalization, which is when people deny it and are scared to change, that’s where terrorism comes about. How can we change? When people are scared to change, it becomes very dangerous. The nature of the art is always to bring people analyzing in a big crowd, people giving and taking. Like the Mona Lisa, everyone wants to see it even if they’ve already seen it in books. Everyone has been talking about Indonesian art in recent years, what do you think will move Indonesian art to an even bigger stage in about ten years’ time? Is there something that Indonesian art needs to possess or to do before that happens? Indonesians have a lot of work to do as a nation. Art aspect is part of that. For a couple of years, the realities of the art market on the Asian side, an artist needs to be out there in the dialogue, interested in the content and the idea of the art, that’s more important than the technique. The dialogue also from a technical perspective. There are two kinds of Indonesian art out there right now, one is about the market, the other is about the technique. I believe a lot of artists are keen to try to put their own words to a wider audience. Hopefully it moves in that kind of direction, otherwise nothing will happen and it won’t be meaningful. Detail view of one of the works created during Wiharso’s STPI residency   How do programs like the STPI residency help move Indonesian art forward?  This is a good collaboration. Not just with the institution and the artist, but it has a wider meaning. On a personal level, our nationality is already structured for that. Talking with other artists, many have the dream to work with STPI. When artists come here, it’s amazing. The printmaking, especially in Southeast Asia, the works on paper are not really appreciated for all kinds of reasons. STPI brings something else, and people forget about the material because you can see the amazing work being done. It destroys the border of the material, and all kinds of attitudes towards it and gets people excited. From the point of view of the collector, people are waiting to get a work from STPI because they know it’s very special. Do you think you will continue working with prints from this point onwards? From the beginning I always worked on paper, but I don’t really have a strong presentation in works on paper yet. But I will have a show showing works on paper in Brisbane, so I do have works on paper in storage. I think now I really have a strong desire to do something more, especially from this experience that has enriched me to do something different.  Any views or opinions in the interview are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the company or contributors ...

December 23, 2014

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Interview with Brian Curtin of H Gallery Bangkok...
Brian Curtin currently programs and curates for H Gallery Bangkok, including H Project Space and H Chiang Mai. You earned a PhD in Studio Art from the University of Bristol, presumably hoping to be an artist, what happened? Do you still have thoughts of becoming an artist instead of a curator? There are different ways to answer this. I studied at a number of Irish and British art schools through the 80s and 90s when the now commonplace professionalization of fine art practices was only burgeoning. The culture of art schools was still a magnet for creative types with no clear sense of a career-path. In fact, I knew many aspiring writers back then and people with a generic interest in what we now call the creative industries, rather than individuals with a dedicated interest in becoming a visual artist. I ended up studying for a PhD because I was part of the historical moment when independent art schools and colleges in the UK began amalgamating with universities and therefore came under research culture and interdisciplinary methodologies. The PhD was becoming the new MFA. My PhD was studio-based but I also wrote a thesis. My research was in queer masculinities and I became somewhat politicized about my own relationship to the world and decided that writing, rather than visual art, was the best way to address these interests. I could answer the question facetiously with “What do mean by ‘artist’?” And I have been [lightly] accused of curating as a frustrated artist. But any writer or curator who began life as an artist will say the same: they are interrelated practices and it just so happens that one won out over the other, at least professionally. I moved to Bangkok in 2000 and was still working as an artist. By 2005 I’d worked out that Thailand didn’t need foreign artists (back then) but the city did need foreign art critics. That was another incentive.   Installation view of H Gallery with works by Sopheap Pich, 2014. Image courtesy of Ernest H Lee   What does H Gallery set out to do, and how does it differ from H Project Space? H Gallery was founded, as an exhibition space that built on a private dealership, in 2002 by the US-born Ernest H. Lee. The gallery rode the wave of increased international interest in contemporary art from diverse regions and specialized in art from Thailand. H later worked with the curator Connelly La Mar who introduced foreign artists and quirky group shows into the mix. I approached H in 2011 to add to the work that Connelly established in terms of greater dialogue between Thai and foreign, including regional, artists. I also opened H Project Space because Bangkok had no experimental spaces at the time in spite of the precedents of Visual Dharma Gallery, Project 304 and About Café in the 80s and 90s. But H Project Space has a caveat: the artist would be challenged by the period details of the architecture and the fact the room has natural air-conditioning, so can be very hot. We’ve done site-specific shows with Jedsada Tangtrakulwong, whose minimal intervention was based on a cobweb; and Sheelah Murthy turned the space into a traditional massage parlor where the movement of participants’ bodies was linked to projected stock exchange reports. Many other artists have worked outside their established methods. H Project Space does not mount object-based shows, which the main program of the gallery typically does. However, because the local art scene is evolving with experimental spaces like Speedy Grandma and Soy Sauce Factory I am in the process of reinventing H Project Space. By 2016 I hope the space will function as a network point between the artists’ working space, publishing/education initiatives and spaces abroad which will give life to the work. The current model of experimental-variation-of-an-exhibition space is becoming exhausted. Besides curating for H Gallery, you are also a lecturer and art critic, how do you juggle everything? And is this a natural thing to do? Distinctions between these activities can blur. My situation in this regard is common because inter-disciplinarity and trans-disciplinarity have been in vogue for as long as I can remember. Further, there have been cultural shifts such as the death of the figure of the singular, dominant art critic who now can no longer be emulated; relationships between academia and the art world have evolved exponentially; and the expansion of the international art market has produced more and new employment opportunities. In the specific case of Southeast Asia, there is a pressured need to take on different roles because, simply, there aren’t enough people involved. My colleagues in Phnom Penh, for example, work constantly on diverse projects as a consequence of increased international interest. I sometimes think of an anecdote by the US writer Peter Schjedahl who reported that he refused writing commissions from galleries because this would conflict with his status as an art critic. This is unthinkable now. We all make work – artists, curators, writers – to be seen, read and discussed across different contexts and as relationships between these modes become tighter, if not segue, our individual practices run a spectrum of activities. Furthermore, the idea of ‘research’ increasingly underlines art-related practices and education programs in galleries have become very sophisticated so relationships to university culture are inevitable and secure. We can see this, for example, in the sponsorship of Singapore’s Center for Contemporary Art by Nanyang Technological University, and the programs the center has established.   Sheelah Murthy, Economies of Touch, January 2013, H Project Space. Image courtesy of H Gallery Bangkok What inspired you to move to Thailand in 2000? And how has the art landscape changed since then? My partner is the Thai artist Be Takerng Pattanopas. The Asian Economic Crisis in 1997, which began in Bangkok, turned the city into a time capsule for a few years: it was literally stalled. I still remember noting new building work beginning around 2002. However, while the art scene was small it was moving. Silom Art Space mounted the brilliant installation Yellow Simple by Sakarin Krue-On, 100 Tonson Gallery was showing Araya Rasdjarmrearnsook, and Apinan Poshyananda was then director of the Art Center of Chulalongkorn University where he showed videos by Marina Abramovic. Also, Thailand first took part in the Venice Biennale in 2004. The main difference between then and now is that there are more foreigners involved now and the scene is more variable in types of spaces and projects. When one talks about Thai Art, usually we think of decorative wall art, landscape scenes or Buddhist sculptures… what is Thai Art today? How would you define or describe it?  The reference to Buddhism is reasonable because Buddhist art did constitute an avant-garde in the 70s and 80s in Thailand as a reaction against accelerated foreign influences in art. And the Department of Thai Art at Silpakorn University has produced some great artists, including Maitree Siriboon whose early works were influenced by rural temple murals but with an unembarrassed homoerotic element.  But, in terms of ‘contemporary art’, the question of ‘Thai’ is vexed – like ‘Southeast Asia’ or ‘Asia’. While few would seriously take these terms as self-evident in their meaning, they are nevertheless often blithely used in curatorial and writing projects. There have been some appalling survey exhibitions that seek to integrate disparate practices to a nationalistic agenda; or market-minded exhibitions that merely throw a spotlight on the region; or curators who mount nation-based ‘showcases’ of artists at art fairs. Within Southeast Asia’s art contexts, it seems that there is much more work to be done on the discursive connections between history, culture, trans-nationalism and geo-politics; and, of course, the critical issue of what can be meant by ‘contemporary’. In recent years I’ve detected a new flavor of criticality in younger Thai artists, what we could term post-national. That is, there has been a shift ways from overarching national interests (such as Buddhism, and the problems of economic development) to a preoccupation with individual identities and the very fragmentation of identity itself. We can see this in the photographs of Tada Hengsapkul, the installations of Pisitakun Kuntalaeng and the remarkable fabric works of Jakkai Siributr, amongst others.  But art in Thailand from recent decades is marked by a diversity of forms and potentially multiple interests. Siributr’s practice, for example, can be linked to Thai animist beliefs but he is also relevant to histories of the relationships between craft, decoration and canonical visual art. Araya Rasdjarmrearnsook is comparably situated between divergent interests, between local ritual and universal considerations of meaning and interpretation. I believe this diversity has contributed to the relative invisibility of ‘Thai art’ on international circuits; it is less availability to fixity than, say, the postcolonial contexts of art from the Philippines or the political contexts of artists emerging from Cambodia.   Pinaree Sanpitak participatory event, Prahok / Plaa Raa, as part of “Rates of Exchange, Un-compared; Contemporary Art in Bangkok and Phnom Penh,” 2014. Image courtesy of H Gallery Bangkok   You are currently working on 2 new publications on contemporary art in Thailand and the history of Bangkok; can you share information about these projects? These are book projects with Reaktion Books in the UK. While they are officially very different both overlap for me because I am interested in the social and political conditions in which art and its meanings can emerge. The book on contemporary art in Thailand traces what I hope will be a straightforward narrative from national to post-national interests on behalf of local artists since the late 80s: the difference between, say, Manit Sriwanichpoom’s early works (such as his famed Pink Man series) and the works of younger artists such as Tada and Pisitakun. I am thinking speculatively about the cyclical nature of Thai politics as the country recently experienced its 13th military coup d’etat since 1930s, the absurd and violent policies to instill a coherent sense of national identity, and the suggestion that the protests by the rural poor in recent years have torn the national imaginary to a degree that can’t be healed. Perhaps this is the backdrop to younger artists stepping back from contributing to the ‘imagined community’ of Thailand. There are many great writers in Thai Studies and Southeast Studies, such as Scott Barme and Ara Wilson and emergent scholarship includes Clare Veal’s research on photography in Thailand, Simon Soon’s work on 70s leftwing artist groups in the region and Koompong Noobanjong’s studies in politics and architectural identity in the country. These are very important sources for a contemporary book on the city of Bangkok as they can help us move away from more typically elite narratives or what Rosalind C. Morris termed the ‘saccharine tropes’ through which Thailand is usually interpreted. Lastly, are there any major projects we can look forward to in the near future? I am currently editing an edition of the journal Intersections: Gender and Sexuality in Asia and the Pacific on the theme of ‘Queer Theory and Visual Cultures in Southeast Asia’. The essayists grapple with ideas of queer as they have been formed in academic contexts and provide rich, complex accounts of how visual imagery can be interpreted, and how it ‘acts’ on us in surprising ways. This is due to be published early next year. Also, in December, H Gallery will mount Rates of Exchange, Un-Compared: Contemporary Art in Bangkok and Phnom Penh, which is the culmination of a co-curated project with the great Roger Nelson, an academic and curator based in Phnom Penh. This was a 6-month project of residencies and symposia that was funded by the Australia Council of the Arts. The exhibition will travel to SA SA BASACC in Cambodia in January and includes Pinaree Sanpitak, Orawan Arunrak and Tith Kanitha.   Brian Curtin. Image courtesy of H Gallery Bangkok   Brian Curtin is an Irish-born lecturer, art critic and curator of contemporary art. He holds a Ph.D. in studio art from the University of Bristol - further to studying at the Crawford College of Art and Design, Cork, and the University of Ulster at Belfast - and has been based in Bangkok since 2000. Brian is currently a full-time lecturer at Bangkok University and previous teaching posts include the Faculty of Architecture of Chulalongkorn University and the School of Architecture and Design at King Mongkut’s University of Technology Thonburi. His teaching areas are in art history and contextual studies and his research areas include queer aesthetics, contemporary art in Southeast Asia and critical theories of photography. Brian is external examiner for the MFA in Communication Design at King Mongkut’s University of Technology Thonburi and has been a tutor for the MFA program at the Art Institute of Boston. As a curator Brian works with a variety of spaces and has mounted exhibitions in New York, China, Korea and the UK as well as regionally. Exhibition titles include The Ethics of Encounter: Contemporary Art from India and Thailand (2008); On the Threshold of the Senses: New Art from Southeast Asia (2012); Intimately: An Exhibition of Photography(2012); Economies of Touch: Sheelah Murthy (2013); Radiation: Art and Queer Ideas from Bangkok and Manila (2014); and Rates of Exchange, Un-Compared: Contemporary Art in Bangkok and Phnom Penh (2014). His curatorial work has been funded by Arts Council England and Australia Council for the Arts. Since 2011 Brian has managed H Project Space as part of H Gallery Bangkok. Brian has been a contributor/contributing editor to the magazines Art iT, Contemporary, Circa, Frieze, Flash Art, Artforum.com and Art Asia Pacific, as well as writing for a range of other contexts. His published profiles of artists include Alice Maher, Sopheap Pich, Collier Schorr, Paul Pfeiffer, Araya Rasdjarmrearnsook and Apichatpong Weerasethakul.    ...

November 07, 2014

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Interview with Stella Chang...
The Artling interviews Stella Chang, Director of Yavuz Gallery, Singapore....

November 06, 2014

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Interview with Photographer Tay Kay Chin...
The Artling interview's Singaporean photographer Tay Kay Chin....

October 31, 2014

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Ai Jing, Artist...
Our contributor series explores the ideas of gallerists, artists, directors, curators for an insight into the development of the international art scene......

October 24, 2014

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Interview with Annie Jael Kwan, Festival Producer and Curator of Visual Arts & Moving Image at SEA ArtsFest London...
In its second consecutive year, SEA ArtsFest London opened its series of events on September 25th. The ArtsFest takes place at various prominent venues throughout London and it continues until November 2nd.  The Artling speaks to one of the founders and organizers of the SEA ArtsFest, Annie Jael Kwan, to learn more about this promising initiative. How did the SEA ArtsFest come about?  SEA ArtsFest started, as many good ideas do, around a delicious meal and a chat. The food was of course, Southeast Asian, and typically, spicy and plentiful. The conversation was, as I remember, quite inspiring. It was a table of academics, artists and producers – all coming together with very different perspectives and foci of interests, which perhaps were exactly the right ingredients. What is your background and how did you end up as one of the originators and producers of SEA ArtsFest? I grew up in Singapore. My interests were always in the creative field, first in literature and then I started studying and working in the theatre in my teens. I then went to London to study Drama and Theatre Arts, and research in cultural theory and moving image at Goldsmiths, before doing a law conversion degree. I’ve lived and worked in London for over a decade now, working across various fields in visuals, filmmaking, installations and exhibitions. A few things came together over the last few years – first, reaching a point in my life where there was an urge to reconnect with Asia, with a sense of cultural identity, and subconsciously seeking out projects and opportunities that would allow me to do so, and this led to meeting more likeminded people with shared interests. I see the festival as a great platform, to do projects that specifically seek to connect both regions, and hence encourage dialogue and artistic exchange between the two regions.   Photo credit: Jai Rafferty   The festival focus is exclusively on SEA. Why this regional choice within the broader Asia?  There are several reasons for this. In the UK, there’s been a lot of work done to increase representation for South Asian communities but even as the numbers of Southeast Asians living in the UK increase, this group is still quite underrepresented. The region is also undergoing a lot of change, with a flow of economic investment into developing countries in the region, and in the last few years, there’s also been a surge of activity in terms of political and social development. At the same time, and maybe, typically, there’s been a lot of interesting, innovative work emerging from artists, writers and practitioners in the region, all responding or calling into question these trends.  Does this regional art have specific characteristics that distinguish it as typically SEA?   This is such an interesting and yet challenging question. Different curators and programmers might say so but yet posit the reasoning entirely differently. There are references to shared Hindu/Chinese heritage strands, an all-encompassing Buddhist sensibility, etc. but to a certain extent, it is such a culturally diverse region, where each place has its own particular socio-economic, cultural, political and religious context. It’s daunting and also dangerous to draw too broad strokes which might negate these finer points.   Photo credit: David Sentosa Within SEA art, is the ArtsFest drawn specifically to certain art practices? Was there something you tried to move away from while selecting / conceptualizing the ArtsFest? I think one of the exciting things about our team, is that we each have quite different passions and different foci in our work, which allows for development of different strands of work in visual arts and moving image, literature and music, heritage and performance. We each lead on different aspects, though usually, we all end up quite interested and involved in each other’s programmes. I lead the visual arts and moving image programme. I wouldn’t say we “tried to move away” from anything in the selection – personally, my approach is more about being interested in what is happening on the ground level in the UK and in Southeast Asia, the dialogues relevant to the relationship between the regions. Could art works shown away from the SEA region be misinterpreted as exotic? Yes, one could say so, and even so, geographically within the region, depending on who is looking. One could argue that the viewer projects his own fantasies or anxieties on the object, and that can happen anywhere.  There are also always situations where one can self-‘exoticise’ – by being aware how one is presented to the international eye and trying to cater to the demands of the global market. But the subjective eye/I is on the move as well, as artists and makers extend their practice abroad via residencies and collaborative projects, and there’s an increase in self-reflexivity in different directions.   Photo credit: Annie Jael Kwan 2014 is the second edition of the SEA ArtsFest. How was it received last year and what did you learn from last year’s experience?  SEA ArtsFest simply exploded last year from an initial idea of a weekend, into 6-week programme that spanned theatre and outdoor performance, film, literature, music, and visual art. We had terrific support from diaspora artist groups, researchers and local communities. What we did learn very quickly, was that we needed a bigger team – or try to do less, but as you can see, we didn’t succeed on that front this year. What do you hope audiences in London may take away from this festival?   I hope they take away a sense of the diversity and rich potential of the region – and also an insight into some of the issues currently in discussion over there and also very much relevant here. Also, I hope people just have a really good time and enjoy the work, and of course, the food! BIO  Annie Jael Kwan trained in theatre arts, film and cultural theory at Goldsmiths College and then obtained a postgraduate qualification in Law. She has worked as producer and curator on numerous arts projects, including with arts collective, The Light Surgeons from 2006 till the present. Works included producing immersive installation, Domestic Archaeology at the Geffrye Museum, funded by Arts Council England; Articulated London, a large-scale multidisciplinary exhibition at the four storey London Oxo Barge House, sponsored by Nokia Nseries; the Overture Film commissioned by the South Bank Centre and projected on the Royal Festival Hall during its re-opening weekend; the visuals for Vangelis: A New Hope; “TLS vs ELO”, a LED installation on the front façade of the Wembley Theatre; and touring The Light Surgeon’s live audio-visual performance, Super Everything, commissioned by the British Council Malaysia, to Singapore. Apart from being co-director and founder of Something Human, she is also Festival Producer for SEA ArtsFest, the UK’s only arts festival that champions Southeast Asian artists and works inspired by the region, and leading on curating its visual arts programme and SEA ArtsFilm, its screening programme of feature-length and short moving image works.   The SEA Arts Fest is a collaboration among: Mark Hobart - Director of SEA Arts Ni Made Pujawati - Artistic Director of SEA Arts Hi Ching - Artistic Director of River Cultures and Director of SEA ArtsFest 2013/2014 Annie Jael Kwan - Festival Producer and Curator of Visual Arts and Moving Image  Cui Yin Mok - Producer-at-Large, leading in Marketing and Digital programming Lin Mingyu - Associate Producer, Theatre and Performance Thong Kay Wee - Videographer and Production Jai Rafferty - Videographer, production and technical consultant Dr Tan Shzr Ee - Consultant for Academic Panel...

October 16, 2014

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Interview with Ivan Pun...
The Artling interviews Ivan Pun, Head of Pun+Projects and Founder of TS.1....

October 09, 2014

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Interview with Curator Iola Lenzi...
From 17 September 2014 onwards, ARTER will be hosting a group exhibition The Roving Eye curated by Singapore-based Iola Lenzi. The exhibition will feature works by Southeast Asian artists who attempt to look at culture from multiple points of view, from both inside and outside their respective localities. This split gaze will be at the centre of the exhibition's framework, the latter with its historical roots in diasporic patterns, ethnic hybridity, the region’s ancient trade ethos and colonial/post-colonial history.   An initiative of the Vehbi Koç Foundation based in Istanbul, ARTER opened in 2010 to offer a sustainable infrastructure for producing and exhibiting contemporary art. ARTER has been presenting solo and group exhibitions with the aim of providing a platform of visibility for artistic practices and encouraging production of contemporary artworks. What was your background and how did you end up as a curator? I originally trained in law in Canada but after qualifying, gravitated to art. I moved to London, did a post-graduate course in art history at Sotheby’s, worked for Sotheby’s and in Chinese art, and in 1994 moved to Singapore. Southeast Asian contemporary art was exploding onto the scene then, riveting with its combination of social ideas, formal brio, and conceptual sophistication. I started writing about regional art for SPH Business Times in 1995, and from there contributed longer critical essays to the Australian journal ARTAsiaPacific. Galleries and artists commissioned essays and I was invited to curate my first exhibition in 2000. It was a solo of new work by Sutee Kunavichayanont at an independent space called Atelier Frank & Lee in Emerald Hill. The Lee was Singapore artist Yvonne Lee. I curated four shows in that space, and then two large regional exhibitions at Sculpture Square in the early millennium. After that I called myself a curator. What kind of artists or practices are you drawn to? Was this something you kept in mind or tried to move away from in this show? From the start of my curating career I have been interested in regional art that combines conceptual play, a certain type of performativity unique to Southeast Asia, and social content. I believe the best art of the region owes its excellence to artists’ interest in using their practice to further social progress. These artists do not necessarily call themselves activists, but they care deeply about their nation and people, they look outward even when their practice is rooted in the most intimate places. The work is socially and politically thoughtful -not to be confused with earnest-, sometimes critical of the status quo, but never in a literal way. This sort of art is not critical for the sake of it, but rather addresses very real concerns as a means of taking part socially. In Indonesia of the 1990s, some artists used their production to champion democratic institutions and the rights of minorities before the end of the Suharto regime. Today, the region has changed politically and socially. Yet still to me the most challenging and exciting art has social bite. Expressive languages have evolved but the formal command, the allusiveness and conceptual play, and the interest in involving audiences remain in the practices of many. For “The Roving Eye” I selected art that whether recent or less so, I feel is significant because it combines these attributes. I argue the roving eye as a methodology typical of regional artists. So yes, i definitely aim to further some of the ideas I have been researching in the last decade with this show. To prove my point, I include a number of young, emerging artists whose approach can be compared to that of pioneers such as Lee Wen, Vasan Sitthiket, Heri Dono or FX Harsono. Ping Pong Go Round 2014, by Lee Wen (Singapore) What is this space ARTER about? Did it play a role with the selection of artists, and how did this collaboration come about? ARTER is one of the best-regarded independent contemporary art spaces in Turkey. It is a non-profit showcase for international and Turkish contemporary art that comes under the Vehbi Koc Foundation umbrella of cultural philanthropy. It is a young space, but since its inception has held some remarkable exhibitions invariably accompanied by an excellent publication. The space itself is both state of the art in terms of facilities, and broad public- accessible, positioned on one of Istanbul’s busiest pedestrian streets. It is highly considered internationally despite being so young, those running it among the most committed and visionary art people I have met anywhere. In May 2011 I met ARTER head Melih Fereli in Hong Kong through a friend; Melih was already familiar with some Southeast Asian art so our discussions about the field were quite natural. Some months later we met again in Singapore and Melih suggested I propose an exhibition concept for ARTER. I did this, and then travelled to Istanbul with a power point showing the sort of regional work I would put up at ARTER within a possible exhibition framework. My concept was accepted and from there i had absolute freedom to select whom and what I wanted, the only limitation being the size of the space. I seized the opportunity to present the very best Southeast Asian contemporary at ARTER, a very visible platform outside Asia; I also seized it as a way of putting up a large regional exhibition that I hope expands Southeast Asian art discourse. “The Roving Eye: contemporary art from Southeast Asia”, through its choice of works, aims to bring to light a certain way of looking that I see as a marker of the field. It should be noted here that not only did ARTER afford me liberty regarding works and artists, but also actively supported new productions. Roughly a third of the works in “The Roving Eye” are entirely new pieces, or expanded pre-existing works. ARTER and the Koc Foundation have been very open and generous in their support of Southeast Asian contemporary. Piano 2010, Alwin Reamillo (Philippines) With this show, what do you hope to convey to Turkish audiences about Southeast Asian artists? With “The Roving Eye” I hope to convert Turkish audiences to the idea that contemporary art can simultaneously be aesthetically triumphant, socio-politically engaged, and audience involving. In Turkey, as in Europe more generally, few seem to see art as able to have both form and critical function. I hope too with this show that through the art, Turkish viewers will become acquainted with some of Southeast Asia’s concerns, many of which are likely to resonate. Ultimately, what I hope Turkish audiences will take away is that art in Southeast Asia, before being a commodity, is very much part of and about life, has a role to play on the ground in shaping society. Lastly, do you have any major projects on the horizon? I am currently embarking on a major academic research project. In terms of exhibitions, I am curating a compact Mekong show in Yangon at the end of the year, taking “Concept Context Contestation” (the 2013 co-curated BACC Southeast Asian show about regional conceptualism) on the road, and curating the Singapore/Southeast Asian platform for ARTParis next March in Paris. And then there is the Southeast Asian digital art project ‘Masterpieces’ for Samsung which is on-going. A great deal of essay writing supports all these exhibitions. I also spend time teaching at LASALLE in Singapore, and running or joining symposia around the region. There is a great deal to do on the educational front. That’s it for the next few months! Insect series called Suitcase of a Pilgrim 2001-2006, by Vu Dan Tan (Hanoi, Vietnam)  The Roving Eye, Contemporary Art from Southeast Asia will be open from 18 Sept 2014 till 4 Jan 2015. For more information on ARTER, click here: https://www.arter.org.tr/W3/?sAction=Contact +++ Rapid Fire Quiz! What is your favourite place to see art? In artists’ studios or on their mac screens if it’s new Southeast Asian art; in one of the great Asian or European museums if it’s classical Asian art (Palace Museum in Taipei, Shanghai Museum, Musee Guimet in Paris). Do you have a museum or gallery-going routine? No special routine. I attend institutional and commercial openings if I am in town as a way of supporting the artist and institution. I try to go however busy I am. Otherwise, I may do a museum/gallery trawl if I have foreign artists friends in town staying with me. Outside of this, I don’t have time to do the rounds more frequently. What’s your favourite post-gallery watering hole or restaurant? At home in Singapore I usually attend openings late so there is not much ‘post’. Out with artists, anywhere will do, i’m not fussy. When on research trips in Jogjakarta, Hanoi or Bangkok i go out with artists, so either we go to local spots or peoples’ homes. Do you collect anything? I don’t really consider myself a collector though my husband and I live with Southeast Asian art of all types. Early regional ceramics are a pet interest, as well as regional contemporary art, much of which i would qualify as ‘research art’ since it is mainly non-painting and not commercially mainstream. Most of the contemporary comes directly from artists, numerous pieces not purchased but swapped for catalogue essays, or given to me as presents. Some pieces, sadly, are ephemeral and have quite literally disintegrated. That probably makes me a custodian rather than a collector. What’s the last artwork you purchased? Not purchased, given. A photograph. I would rather not reveal the artist! What work of art do you wish you owned? The house is stuffed already. I don’t covet anything except more space to put things! What’s your art world peeve? That Asian art is still perceived as validated essentially by interest outside Asia. What international art destination do you most want to visit? I’ve never been to Moscow, I am curious about what non-mainstream artists are doing there now, with the climate in Russia so feverishly nationalistic. What under-appreciated artist, gallery, or work do you think people should know about? There are too many poorly-known Southeast Asian artists deserving of wider public recognition to be listed here. As a whole, contemporary Southeast Asian art the field needs more visibility! What is the last great book you read? Two at once: ‘The Cat’s Table’ by Michael Ondaatje, recent, and ‘The Key’, a 1950s classic by Juchiro Tanizaki that examines old age and constructions of Japanese and European identity through an erotic lens. Last Drop, by Jason Lim (Singapore) Iola Lenzi is a Singapore curator, critic and researcher of Southeast Asian contemporary art. She has conceptualised numerous institutional exhibtions charting art historical themes predicated on the region’s cultural, social and political landscape. Selected major projects include Negotiating Home History and Nation: two decades of contemporary art in Southeast Asia 1991-2011, Singapore Art Museum (2011); Concept Context Contestation: art and the collective in Southeast Asia, Bangkok Art and Culture Centre (2013); The Roving Eye: contemporary art in Southeast Asia, ARTER, Istanbul (September 2014); Masterpieces- digital art in Southeast Asia, Samsung art projets (ongoing). Lenzi is a lecturer in the Asian Art Histories MA programme of Singapore’s LASALLE-Goldsmiths College of Art and publishes regularly in anthologies and periodicals on regional art. She is the editor of several multi-text catalogues and the author of ‘Museums of Southeast Asia’ (2004 & 2005).    ...

September 19, 2014

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Interview with Independent Curator, Artist and Writer Jason Wee...
Re/call/Re/form/Re/master, a group exhibition of Southeast Asian artists curated by Jason Wee taking place at Silverlens Gallery, Gillman Barracks from September 12 to October 12, 2014.  The exhibition explores the ways in which creative reuse and modes of material transfer produces a frisson of unexpected meaning and a tingle of strong emotion. The exhibition looks specifically at three processes: the syneasthetic recollection of one sensation (sound) that is provoked by an experience of a different sensation (sight); the transformation of found material into new physical form; and the transfer of ideas and information from one material substrate to another.  These dynamic material transformations are analogous to the fluid conturbations that we witness in contemporary art practices. The artists in this exhibition work in a variety of media such as sound, performance, moving image, photography and installation. They are Bani Haykal (Singapore, b. 1985), Nipan Oranniwesna (Thailand, b. 1962), Prilla Tania (Indonesia, b. 1979), Vanessa Ban (Singapore, b. 1989) and Vincent Leong (Malaysia, b. 1979). BANI HAYKAL The Americans have colonised our subconscious, 2014 What was your background and how did you end up as a curator? Oh, I still shy away from calling myself a curator, and still understand myself as an artist and a writer, and the latter is where I’d premise my work, where exhibitions becomes occasions for writing. And as proof of this, I remain one of those who are drawn to notions of independent curating, where ‘independence’ is compatible with ‘unschooled’. And that’s really how I begin, as an untrained, bad curator.  What kind of artists or practices are you drawn to? Was this something you kept in mind or tried to move away from in this show? There are some ideas about the ecology of things, and how things relate to one another quite apart from us, that I’ve been thinking about. And working with Lucy Davis on her show at the NUS Museum has given me another opportunity to think these through. I followed one strand of that idea without worrying immediately about the limits of national borders or place of birth, and Silverlens was game to be my partner in this. NIPAN ORANNIWESNA Monument in progress 2013 Did Silverlens Gallery play a role with the selection of artists, and how did this collaboration come about? Isa Lorenzo really left me to do my work, and I am sure there are many moments where the gallery must have wondered if it’s actually coming together! But I really appreciate the freedom to work this way. I am most keen on artists who I think can speak alongside what I will say in the exhibition essay, and have sufficiently dense connections to the works in the same space as them. The space also has its specificities, its size, no fully enclosed room, and so on, so that influenced my decisions too. I was also looking for a new home for my photo-based works after Valentine closed his gallery, and Silverlens will be showing some new photo works of mine in January. With this show, what do you hope to convey to audiences about Southeast Asian artists? Are there any similarities or dissimilarities amongst artists from different parts of the region? I don’t have a lot to say about Southeast Asia that does not repeat platitudes about it, and I am working with Kathleen Ditzig, a young curator, on developing writing about the development of this idea of a coherent ‘Southeast Asia’ that we seem to take for granted, looking at Cold War alignments for example between Africa and Asia.  So maybe I’ll just say that, that we think we know what we talk about when we talk about Southeast Asia. Maybe it’s time to locate Southeast Asia on something else other than geopolitical categories or national social histories. VINCENT LEONG Socketron 2008 Lastly, do you have any projects on the horizon? I am a Writer-in-Residence at NUS-Arts House for the rest of the year, and I will have a poetry manuscript to complete by January. Also preparing to show work next year in Berlin. But I am currently in New York for my opening with Sundaram Tagore, who is showing my new paintings. It’s a relief not to be responsible for the whole show, I can chill and drink my beer and talk to my friends! Re/call/Re/form/Re/master opens from 12 September to 12 October 2014.  Silverlens Gallery is at Gillman Barracks, 47 Malan Road, #01-25, Singapore. +++ Rapid Fire Quiz! What is your favourite place to see art? Wherever my friends are showing me their work Do you have a museum or gallery-going routine? Yes. I get dressed first. Otherwise I might shock people more than I need to. What’s your favourite post-gallery watering hole or restaurant? Wherever they have milk stout on tap or a floral cider. Do you collect anything? Notches on my bedpost. What’s the last artwork you purchased? A photograph by Jovian Lim. What work of art do you wish you owned? The yet-unseen classified materials on Operation Coldstore and Operation Spectrum. There’s an art work in there, I’m sure of it.   What would you do to get it? Ask like I do now? What’s your art world peeve? Where are the toilets? What under-appreciated artist, gallery, or work do you think people should know about? I think more people should read Yeow Kai Chai’s poetry. NIPAN ORANNIWESNA Vichitvathakan 2014 Jason Wee is an artist and a writer. His art practice is concerned with the hollowing out of singular authority in favour of conundrums and polyphony. He transforms these singular architectures, histories and spaces into various visual and written materials. He runs Grey Projects, an artists’ space and residency in Tiong Bahru. He is a graduate of The New School and Harvard GSD.  He is the author of Tongues (2012), a commission by the Singapore Fringe Festival. His latest poetry book The Monsters Between Us was named by TODAY newspaper as one of the top art picks of 2013.    ...

September 19, 2014

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