Arts preview: Guggenheim exhibit adopts a regional view
NO COUNTRY: CONTEMPORARY ART FOR SOUTH AND SOUTHEAST ASIA
This touring exhibition, organised by New York's Guggenheim Museum, emphasises the relationship between cultural practices and religious beliefs in Asia. Identity issues are a popular theme of Asian artists, whose cultures are often in a state of flux due to modernisation, and national identity is often formed in relation to religious practice, says the show's Singaporean curator, June Yap.
Yap says the idea of "No Country: Contemporary Art for South and Southeast Asia" is to ignite talk about how this idea is represented in the arts of the region. The show has a different emphasis to that of the original New York exhibition, says Yap: "It's a bit of an assumption, but the artists and artwork were not as familiar to the audience in New York as they would be in Asia, so that show was a bit more introductory," she says.
The New York incarnation was larger, comprising works by 22 artists. The Hong Kong version features 18 paintings, sculptures, photographs, videos, and mixed-media works by 13 artists from countries including Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, and Indonesia. The exhibition is the first part of the Guggenheim's UBS MAP Global Art Initiative, which was announced in April 2012.
When Yap talks about the show, for which she spent three months travelling the region, she tends not to use the word "country".
"These spaces and communities are complex, and that is what I found interesting. I don't say 'country' because that tends to reference a very specific idea of what that area means and how it is usually represented," says Yap, who is an independent curator.
"If you look at a country, you know that the communities [and dialects] in different parts of that country are very different. To represent it as a singular, consistent place is just shorthand that we use. It's not the real picture; that is not the reality," she continues.
That's why, Yap says, the title of the show, "No Country", references an idea of borderlessness. It's about looking behind the usual ideas of nationhood to find out what nations really consist of, explains the curator.
"I hope that as the audience pass through the exhibition, they will discover a handful of works that intrigue them enough to want to find out a bit more. I want people to come and be a little surprised, in a good way," says Yap.
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