6 emerging South Korean artists to know now



Using everything from chocolate to Ultra Violet light, 6 young South Korean artists are making waves in the art scene.

The South Korean contemporary art scene is highly diverse, comprised of talented, fearless young artists bursting with new ideas and visions. Art Radar introduces 6 exciting emerging artists working across a dazzling array of mediums. 

Jin Joo Chae, 'Choco Pie with Marshmallow Cream', 2013, semi-sweet chocolate and chocolate syrup on North Korean newspaper, 60 x 48 in. Image courtesy the artist.

Jin Joo Chae, ‘Choco Pie with Marshmallow Cream’, 2013, semi-sweet chocolate and chocolate syrup on North Korean newspaper, 60 x 48 in. Image courtesy the artist.

Jin Joo Chae

Jin Joo Chae (b. 1981, Seoul, Korea) is known for her headline-grabbing, much celebrated “Choco Pie” works: unique and thought-provoking pieces in which the artist uses melted chocolate as a medium to shed light on political issues and human rights abuses in North Korea.

To create her signature works, Chae melts chocolate – either milk, dark or bittersweet – and then uses it as ink, screen printing chocolate words and images on newspaper pages of the North Korean Workers’ Newspaper. The luscious, delectable absurdity of the medium is juxtaposed against stark reality; as Chae explains, speaking to Art Radar about Choco Pie, a popular South Korean dessert:

Choco Pies are given out in lieu of forbidden cash bonuses to North Korean workers in the demilitarised Kaesong Industrial Complex, the only place where the two countries have any contact. The workers don’t eat the treats; they sell them on the black market for prices that can exceed USD10 each, despite an average monthly income of USD150.

Jin Joo Chae,  'The sweet taste of Capitalism with Communist cream', 2013, dark chocolate and chocolate syrup on North Korean newspaper, 16 x 21 ½ in. Image courtesy the artist.

Jin Joo Chae, ‘The sweet taste of Capitalism with Communist cream’, 2013, dark chocolate and chocolate syrup on North Korean newspaper, 16 x 21 ½ in. Image courtesy the artist.

Jin Joo Chae, 'Gold Choco Pie', 2013, plaster, gold leaf, plate, flatware, 15 x 15 x 2 in. Image courtesy the artist.

Jin Joo Chae, ‘Gold Choco Pie’, 2013, plaster, gold leaf, plate, flatware, 15 x 15 x 2 in. Image courtesy the artist.

In Chae’s recent pieces, the calligraphic design of the words “Choco Pie” mimics the Coca Cola logo, drawing a connection between the two commodities as symbols of capitalism. The artist said in an interview with DNAinfo New York that her work:

is about the power of the Choco Pie to change a society as [North Koreans] learn about the concept of capitalism [...] It is a kind of currency now in North Korea.

Born and raised in Seoul, the artist finished an MFA at Columbia University in 2013. Her prints are in the collection of the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum and Sakima Art Museum, and her first solo show “The Choco Pie-ization of North Korea” (2014) was held in New York in January 2014. Chae tells Art Radar that she hopes to reveal complex realities underlying dominant cultural narratives through her art practice, which is inspired by Korean politics, international media contradictions and cultural displacement.

Shin Kwang Ho, '[14p67] Untitled', 2014, oil on canvas, 160 x 112cm. Image courtesy the artist and Yavuz Gallery.

Shin Kwang Ho, ‘[14p67] Untitled’, 2014, oil on canvas, 160 x 112 cm. Image courtesy the artist and Yavuz Gallery.

Kwang Ho Shin

Kwang Ho Shin (b. 1983, Korea) has made a colourful yet ominous splash in the international art world. His powerfully arresting portraits are at once mesmerising and menacing, capturing complex human emotions and energies with startling vision.

The artist is influenced by the German Expressionist movement, creating larger-than-life, lush, tactile canvases that immediately draw viewers in. The press release of “Face Me” (PDF download), Shin’s current solo exhibition in Singapore, states:

Deliberately disregarding precise form and harmonious color, [Shin] uses distortion and exaggeration to express and extend the inner life of his subjects into external reality.

Shin Kwang Ho, '[14ps12] Untitled', 2014, oil on canvas, 194 x 144cm. Image courtesy the artist and Yavuz Gallery.

Shin Kwang Ho, ‘[14ps12] Untitled’, 2014, oil on canvas, 194 x 144 cm. Image courtesy the artist and Yavuz Gallery.

The artist in front of his works at Yavuz Gallery.

The artist in front of his works at Yavuz Gallery.

The young artist studied at Keimyung University and is currently based in Yeongdeok, South Korea. He is featured in Saatchi Art’s “One to Watch” list and his works have been exhibited in solo and group shows in Korea, Germany and the United States. “Face Me” (2014), hosted by Yavuz Gallery, is his first solo exhibition in Singapore and Southeast Asia. Shin reveals to Art Radar his excitement about the show:

This exhibition is going to be a very unique and memorable show in my career. I was always alone when I travelled to paint. It was lonely, but when you are alone and have no one to speak to, you start to focus more on painting. Recently, I have had experience in seeing myself through other people [sic], from their reaction to my works. Through this show, I want to remind myself of who I really am and the importance of my existence in my works.

JeeYoung Lee, 'Panic Room', 2010, pigment print, 57 x 71 inch, edition of 5. Image courtesy JeeYoung Lee and OPIOM Gallery.

JeeYoung Lee, ‘Panic Room’, 2010, pigment print, 57 x 71 in, edition of 5. Image courtesy JeeYoung Lee and OPIOM Gallery.

JeeYoung Lee

JeeYoung Lee (b. 1983, Korea) “shoots the invisible”, declares the website of OPIOM Gallery, which represents the up-and-coming artist. While traditional photography captures reality, Lee photographs new universes that she herself creates. What Lee offers is much more than photography: she is a painter, a sculptor, a set designer and a magician who turns memory and dreams into stunning windows opening into alternative worlds.

JeeYoung Lee, 'Neverending Race', pigment print, 38 x 47 inch, edition of 5. Image courtesy the artist and OPIOM Gallery.

JeeYoung Lee, ‘Neverending Race’, pigment print, 38 x 47 in, edition of 5. Image courtesy the artist and OPIOM Gallery.

The surreal dreamscapes look like high-res photoshopped images – only they are not. Shunning all sorts of digital manipulation, Lee spends weeks and sometimes months painstakingly creating highly elaborate scenes, designing the concept, handcrafting props and perfecting lighting requirements to the most minute detail.

Lee once said that surviving as an artist in Korea was difficult due to financial concerns, space and rent. It might be that these practical limitations gave birth to Lee’s enthralling works. This Is Colossal writes that, for Lee,

the question was how to utilise her small studio space in Seoul, measuring 11.8′ x 13.5′ x 7.8′ (3.6m x 4.1m x 2.4m), that was proportionally miniscule to the scale of her boundless imagination. Instead of finding a new location or reverting to digital trickery, Lee challenged herself to build some of the most elaborate sets imaginable for the sake of taking a single photograph.

JeeYoung Lee, 'Resurrection', pigment print, 38 x 47 inch, edition of 5. Image courtesy the artist and OPIOM Gallery.

JeeYoung Lee, ‘Resurrection’, pigment print, 38 x 47 in, edition of 5. Image courtesy the artist and OPIOM Gallery.

Lee was the recipient of the Sovereign Asian Art Prize in 2012 and had her first solo show outside of Korea in France in 2014. Following its success, her work was seen 500,000 times on Reddit in just two days, and has been featured in major worldwide media outlets. Her next upcoming show will be at the K11 Art Mall in Hong Kong in November-December 2014.

The young artist takes inspiration from her own life as well as various Korean fables and she appears in the sets herself. OPIOM Gallery’s website explains that the self-portraits are never frontal, since

it is never her visual aspect she shows, but rather her quest for an identity, her desires and her frame of mind. Her creations act as a catharsis which allows her to accept social repression and frustrations.

Xooang Choi, 'Noise' (detail), 2014. Commissioned work for the Gwangju Biennale 2014. Image courtesy the artist and Graywall.

Xooang Choi, ‘Noise’ (detail), 2014. Commissioned work for the Gwangju Biennale 2014. Image courtesy the artist and Graywall.

Xooang Choi

Xooang Choi (b. 1975, Seoul, Korea) was described as the “dark master of the imagination” by The Huffington Post. His painted polymer clay sculptures, which began as miniature figures in the early 2000s and grew in scale since 2007, are delicately beautiful yet nightmarish constructions.

Superbly moulded in a hyper-realistic technique, Choi’s human figures and body parts are also surrealistic, twisting and morphing according to the artist’s own formative language. Distorted and exaggerated, the estranged creatures act as dark metaphors for the twisted facets of human relations, social structures and the human psyche. Choi seems to think that there is something very wrong with contemporary society, and his disturbing and often macabre sculptures vividly portray the pathological state of our times.

Xooang Choi, 'Condition for Ordinary Colonization', 2013, oil on resin , steel, 45 x 52 x 103 cm. Edition of 5. Image courtesy Art Seasons.

Xooang Choi, ‘Condition for Ordinary Colonization’, 2013, oil on resin , steel, 45 x 52 x 103 cm, edition of 5. Image courtesy Art Seasons.

Xooang Choi, 'The Heroine', 2009, oil on resin, 55 x 52x 97cm. Image courtesy the artist and Graywall.

Xooang Choi, ‘The Heroine’, 2009, oil on resin, 55 x 52 x 97cm. Image courtesy the artist and Graywall.

Xooang Choi, 'The Heroine' (back detail), 2009, oil on resin, 55 x 52x 97cm. Image courtesy the artist and Graywall.

Xooang Choi, ‘The Heroine’ (back detail), 2009, oil on resin, 55 x 52 x 97cm. Image courtesy the artist and Graywall.

Choi received a BFA and MFA in Sculpture from the National University of Seoul. The artist has exhibited in solo and group exhibitions around the world, and his recent work Noise (2014) was a commissioned piece for the Gwangju Biennale 2014The Huffington Post writes that “many of the pieces give metaphorical shape to real issues in modern day Korea, including human rights and abuse.”

And yet, Choi is not completely pessimistic about the human condition. He says in an interview with Yatzer:

When something looks wrong or sick in everyone’s view, it can be healed by collective efforts. There will be a solution.

Ham Jin, 'Tale of City', 2013, polymer clay, glue, wire and fishing line, size variable. Image courtesy the artist and DOOSAN Gallery New York.

Ham Jin, ‘Tale of City’, 2013, polymer clay, glue, wire and fishing line, dimensions variable. Image courtesy the artist and DOOSAN Gallery New York.

Ham Jin

Ham Jin (b. 1978, Seoul, Korea) achieved nationwide attention for his comedic microscopic clay figures while still attending Kyungwon University in 1999. The size of a fingernail, these bright and delicate sculptures were obsessive, personal replications of ordinary and trivial objects. Fun and tinged with fantasy, the works carried a childlike imagination; quoted by the Guangzhou Triennial, he interpreted them as

spectacle[s] that [are] part of everyday life but invisible to the eye.

Ham Jin, 'Unseen' (installation view at DOOSAN Gallery New York, 2013. Image courtesy the artist and DOOSAN Gallery New York.

Ham Jin, ‘Unseen’, installation view at DOOSAN Gallery New York, 2013. Image courtesy the artist and DOOSAN Gallery New York.

Since then, the artist has kept to the themes of miniatures and invisibility, but has taken his art to darker places. Limiting his material to black polymer clay, the artist’s recent sculptures and installations are subdued, minimalist and abstract – sinisterly ethereal. But the extent of his technique is still visible, perhaps more than ever, upon close inspection: using a magnifying glass, audiences will be able to discern intricate human faces and New York City buildings emerging out of the unidentifiable black matter.

Ham Jin, 'Planet' (detail), 2012, polymer clay, styrofoam on wire armature, 130 x 140 diameter. Image courtesy the artist and PKM Gallery.

Ham Jin, ‘Planet’ (detail), 2012, polymer clay, styrofoam on wire armature, 130 x 140 cm diameter. Image courtesy the artist and PKM Gallery.

The astonishing level of surreptitious detail symbolises the presence of hidden truths in society. The artist invites viewers to peer through the gaps to register the invisible, the grotesque and the unseen sufferings of the world.

The artist received a BFA in Sculpture from Kyungwon University and has held solo and group exhibitions around the world. He is currently participating in the Busan Biennale 2014, and his biennale statement explains his artistic pathway:

[My] previous works were invisible in space so one [...] discover[s] them like a four-leaf clover. My [recent] works including the black series and other recent ones are visible in space but their implications are invisible. Nothing is clear, like dust or mist [...] but with a closer look, there are many shapes interlocking with different thoughts, like semi-abstraction.

Jeongmoon Choi, 'In.visible' (installation view), 2014, 400 sqm UV light installation at Forum Maximilian, Munich. Image courtesy the artist.

Jeongmoon Choi, ‘In.visible’ (installation view), 2014, 400 sqm UV light installation at Forum Maximilian, Munich. Image courtesy the artist.

Jeongmoon Choi 

Jeongmoon Choi (b. 1966, Seoul, Korea) creates hypnotising, other-worldly room installations using only coloured wool and Ultra Violet light. The criss-crossing fields of impeccably constructed three-dimensional lines play with perspective, light and illusion to interact dynamically with visitors. As a result, any room or environment is transformed into an immersive, intense, science-fiction-like environment.

Jeongmoon Choi, 'Passage', 2014. Installation view at Schloss Plüschow. Image courtesy the artist and Galerie Laurent Müller.

Jeongmoon Choi, ‘Passage’, 2014, installation view at Schloss Plüschow. Image courtesy the artist and Galerie Laurent Müller.

Threads, as opposed to ink or paint, are used as drawing material: it can aptly be said that the artist ‘draws’ or ‘paints’ in space. Choi tells Art Radar about the philosophy of her art:

With threads I trace the contours of rooms and furnishings, at times in a decisive, geometric manner, at other times in the form of animated handwriting. I use UV light to illuminate my vision.

Laurent Müller, a Paris-based gallerist representing the artist, tells Art Radar about the underlying theme of Choi’s work and artistic reflections:

About Jeongmoon’s work, it is really important to consider the underlying idea of ‘protecting’ – of our human nature being in the end quite fragile as opposed to nature in general and natural forces (storms, floods, catastrophes) [...] As a race, we tend to try and control nature but in the end this is an illusion. This illusion of a man-made architecture that protects us is what lies at the heart of Jeongmoon’s reflections.

Jeongmoon Choi, 'In.visible' (installation view), 2014, 400 sqm UV light installation at Forum Maximilian, Munich. Image courtesy the artist.

Jeongmoon Choi, ‘In.visible’ (installation view), 2014, 400 sqm UV light installation at Forum Maximilian, Munich. Image courtesy the artist.

Choi lives and works in Berlin and Seoul, and exhibits regularly around the world, especially in Europe and South Korea. Her most recent exhibition “In.visible” can be seen at Forum Maximilian, Munich until mid-November 2014.

Michele Chan

528

Related Topics: Korean artists, artist profiles, overviews, printmaking, painting, photography, sculpture, thread art, installation

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Nam June Paik: “Becoming Robot” in New York – in pictures



Asia Society holds the first retrospective of Nam June Paik in New York after more than a decade.

On 5 September 2014, New York’s Asia Society Museum launched Nam June Paik’s retrospective exhibition. Spanning the artist’s entire artistic career, the show explores his visionary approach to technology and the creation of innovative video and new media art.

Nam June Paik sitting in 'TV Chair', 1968/1976, in “Nam June Paik Werke, 1946–1976: Music, Fluxus, Video,” 1976. Photo credit: © Friedrich Rosenstiel, Cologne.

Nam June Paik sitting in ‘TV Chair’, 1968/1976, in “Nam June Paik Werke, 1946–1976: Music, Fluxus, Video,” 1976. Photo credit: © Friedrich Rosenstiel, Cologne.

Nam June Paik: Becoming Robot”, at Asia Society Museum until 4 January 2015, is the Korean artist’s first major New York City exhibition since his death in 2006.

The father of video art

Nam June Paik (b. 1932, Seoul), a pioneering figure in new media art, is widely considered the “father of video art”. Not only did he explore the use and application of technology in art, he also made it more approachable and closer to human experience. Since his early career days in Germany working with Fluxus to his permanent move to New York, Paik experimented with music, sound, moving image, television, transmissions and satellite communication, and robotics. His work combined performative elements with engineering and multimedia resources.

Nam June Paik, 'Reclining Buddha', 1994/2002, two-channel video installation with two 9-inch colour monitors, reclining stone Buddha, 41.9 x 52.1 x 30.5 cm. Nam June Paik Estate. Photo: Ben Blackwell.

Nam June Paik, ‘Reclining Buddha’, 1994/2002, two-channel video installation with two 9-inch colour monitors, reclining stone Buddha, 41.9 x 52.1 x 30.5 cm. Nam June Paik Estate. Photo: Ben Blackwell.

Installation view of 'TV Bra for Living Sculpture', 1975, in “Nam June Paik: Becoming Robot” at Asia Society Museum, New York, through January 2015. Photography is by Leise Hook/Asia Society Museum. Image courtesy Asia Society.

Installation view of ‘TV Bra for Living Sculpture’, 1975, in “Nam June Paik: Becoming Robot” at Asia Society Museum, New York, through January 2015. Photography is by Leise Hook/Asia Society Museum. Image courtesy Asia Society.

Humanising technology

Paik attempted to merge the spheres of technology and human life, ultimately aiming to “humanise” technological experience, while keeping in mind the risks of letting technology take over human life.

Paik wrote in a statement on TV Bra for a Living Scultpure (1969):

By using TV as a bra . . . the most intimate belonging of a human being, we will demonstrate the human use of technology, and also stimulate viewers . . . to look for the new, imaginative and humanistic ways of using our technology.

Nam June Paik, 'Transistor Television', 2005, permanent oil marker and acrylic paint on vintage transistor television, 31.8 x 24.1 x 40.6 cm. Nam June Paik Estate. Photo: Ben Blackwell.

Nam June Paik, ‘Transistor Television’, 2005, permanent oil marker and acrylic paint on vintage transistor television, 31.8 x 24.1 x 40.6 cm. Nam June Paik Estate. Photo: Ben Blackwell.

Michelle Yun, Asia Society’s curator of modern and contemporary art, told The Wall Street Journal:

A big point of the show and the works we selected is that he really did want to humanise technology and create a personal way to connect. [Some of the works on show] are about the risk of letting humanity be overridden by technology, and that you have to remember that humanity comes first, to build a bridge and ensure that technology doesn’t override the human instinct for the human condition.

Installation view of 'Golden Buddha', 2005, in “Nam June Paik: Becoming Robot” at Asia Society Museum, New York, through January 2015. Photography is by Leise Hook/Asia Society Museum. Image courtesy Asia Society.

Installation view of ‘Golden Buddha’, 2005, in “Nam June Paik: Becoming Robot” at Asia Society Museum, New York, through January 2015. Photography is by Leise Hook/Asia Society Museum. Image courtesy Asia Society.

Nam June Paik, Zürich, 1991. Photo credit: © Foto: Timm Rautert. Image courtesy Galerie Parrotta Contemporary Art Stuttgart/Berlin.

Nam June Paik, Zürich, 1991. Photo credit: © Foto: Timm Rautert. Image courtesy Galerie Parrotta Contemporary Art Stuttgart/Berlin.

TV as a medium

One of Paik’s longest collaborations was with avant-garde cello player Charlotte Moorman, until her death in 1991. In their performance and video artworks, Paik experimented with the potential of TV as medium.

Nam June Paik and Howard Weinberg, '“Topless Cellist” Charlotte Moorman', 1995, video, colour, sound, 29 min. Courtesy Electronic Arts Intermix (EAI), New York. Image courtesy Electronic Art Intermix (EAI), New York.

Nam June Paik and Howard Weinberg, ‘“Topless Cellist” Charlotte Moorman’, 1995, video, colour, sound, 29 min. Courtesy Electronic Arts Intermix (EAI), New York. Image courtesy Electronic Art Intermix (EAI), New York.

Their projects involved the use of TV monitors that projected images and videos while Moorman performed. Opera Sextronique (1967) became one of their most famed works, when a performing, topless Moorman was arrested for indecency. To honour her and celebrate their collaboration, Paik presented Room for Charlotte Moorman, a room installation in the German Pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 1993.

Installation view of 'Room for Charlotte Moorman', 1993, in “Nam June Paik: Becoming Robot” at Asia Society Museum, New York, through January 2015. Photography is by Leise Hook/Asia Society Museum. Image courtesy Asia Society.

Installation view of ‘Room for Charlotte Moorman’, 1993, in “Nam June Paik: Becoming Robot” at Asia Society Museum, New York, through January 2015. Photography is by Leise Hook/Asia Society Museum. Image courtesy Asia Society.

Nam June Paik, 'Robot K-456', 1964, twenty-channel radio-controlled robot, aluminium profiles, wire, wood, electrical divide, foam material and control-turn out, 183 x 103 x 72 cm. Friedrich Christian Flick Collection im Hamburger Bahnof, PAIKN1792.01. Photo credit: Roman März, Berlin.

Nam June Paik, ‘Robot K-456′, 1964, twenty-channel radio-controlled robot, aluminium profiles, wire, wood, electrical divide, foam material and control-turn out, 183 x 103 x 72 cm. Friedrich Christian Flick Collection im Hamburger Bahnof, PAIKN1792.01. Photo credit: Roman März, Berlin.

Robots as humans

Paik’s first robot, Robot AK-456 (1964), built with Japanese engineer Shuya Abe, had no useful function; rather, it was built to mimic humans by talking, walking and defecating beans.

Melissa Chiu commented to The Wall Street Journal:

Are robots really the future? Some of the robots he created had human functions but didn’t do much else, so they talked and walked and defecated but didn’t actually do anything as robots to help our lives. It was simply an idea to create robots to be one of us.

Installation view of 'Family of Robot', . in “Nam June Paik: Becoming Robot” at Asia Society Museum, New York, through January 2015. Photography is by Leise Hook/Asia Society Museum. Image courtesy Asia Society.

Installation view of ‘Family of Robot’, 1986, in “Nam June Paik: Becoming Robot” at Asia Society Museum, New York, through January 2015. Photography is by Leise Hook/Asia Society Museum. Image courtesy Asia Society.

Family of Robot (1986) epitomises Paik’s humanisation of robots: a traditional Korean family built with vintage TVs and radios on a human scale, with no ambulatory function, but with individual characters showing through uniquely selected moving images on their TV screens.

Nam June Paik, 'Li Tai Po', 1987, 10 antique wooden TV cabinets, 1 antique radio cabinet, antique Korean printing block, antique Korean book, 11 colour TVs, 243.8 x 157.5 x 61 cm. Asia Society, New York: Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Harold and Ruth Newman, 2008.2. Photo credit: © 2007 John Bigelow Taylor Photography. Image courtesy of Asia Society, New York.

Nam June Paik, ‘Li Tai Po’, 1987, 10 antique wooden TV cabinets, 1 antique radio cabinet, antique Korean printing block, antique Korean book, 11 colour TVs, 243.8 x 157.5 x 61 cm. Asia Society, New York: Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Harold and Ruth Newman, 2008.2. Photo credit: © 2007 John Bigelow Taylor Photography. Image courtesy of Asia Society, New York.

Presentation of 'Good Morning Mr. Orwell', at the Kitchen Gallery, New York, on December 8, 1983. Photograph © 1983 by Lorenzo Bianda (Tegna, CH)

Presentation of ‘Good Morning Mr. Orwell’, at the Kitchen Gallery, New York, on December 8, 1983. Photograph © 1983 by Lorenzo Bianda (Tegna, CH)

The electronic superhighway

In a proposal for the Rockefeller Foundation in 1974, Paik coined the term “electronic superhighway”, which is considered to be a precursor of Internet’s early moniker “information superhighway”. Paik also collaborated with TV networks, and some of his work pioneered satellite communication and video art, connecting simultaneously with other locations worldwide.

Nam June Paik, Still from 'Good Morning Mr. Orwell', 1984, video, colur, sound, 38 min. Image courtesy Electronic Arts Intermix (EAI), New York.

Nam June Paik, Still from ‘Good Morning Mr. Orwell’, 1984, video, colur, sound, 38m:00s. Image courtesy Electronic Arts Intermix (EAI), New York.

Goodmorning Mr. Orwell (1984), a televised event in collaboration with WNET/THIRTEEN in New York and F.R. 3 in Paris, was Paik’s first major international satellite broadcast. The programme was transmitted simultaneously in France, Germany, Korea, the Netherlands and the United States on 1 January 1984. It combined simultaneously broadcast footage of live programmes in New York and Paris with video interventions by the artist using his 1969 invention with Abe, the Paik-Abe Video Synthesizer.

Nam June Paik, Kessler TV/WDR, Cologne, 1977. © Friedrich Rosenstiel, Cologne

Nam June Paik, Kessler TV/WDR, Cologne, 1977. © Friedrich Rosenstiel, Cologne

C. A. Xuan Mai Ardia

527

Related Topics: Korean artists, new media art, video art, robots, art and technology, museum shows, events in New York, picture feasts

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Destination Singapore: Art fairs head to the Southeast



Many global art fairs are moving to Singapore for their Asian editions. 

Singapore is becoming the new art hub for the Asia-Pacific region, with a vibrant art scene that sees an increasing number of international players establishing a foothold in the city. Art Radar finds out why two new art fairs have chosen Singapore for their Asian editions.

Eiffel Chong, 'A promise that couldn't be fulfilled', 2007, digital C-type print, 32 x 40 in. Image courtesy the artist.

Eiffel Chong, ‘A promise that couldn’t be fulfilled’, 2007, digital C-type print, 32 x 40 in. At MIA&D 2014. Image courtesy the artist.

Singapore has, in recent years, witnessed a burgeoning of its art scene at an unprecedented pace. The city-state is quickly becoming one of Asia-Pacific’s top art hubs where major international art businesses are establishing their Asian footholds.

Singapore is already home to some events and institutions of global importance, such as:

Additionally, internationally renowned galleries from all over the globe have also opened at Gillman Barracks since its launch in 2012.

In autumn 2014, two new art fairs are launching their Asian editions in Singapore:

  • Milan Image Art and Design Fair (MIA&D), held for the first time outside of Milan, Italy and featuring video art, photography and design – 23 to 26 October 2014
  • Singapore Art Fair, the Asia-Pacific edition of the Beirut Art Fair, held for the first time outside of Beirut and featuring art from the Middle East North Africa South Asia (MENASA) region – 27 to 30 November 2014

Art Radar spoke to the directors of the fairs and the curator of Singapore Art Fair’s Lebanon Pavilion to find out why they chose Singapore as the best base for their Asian editions, what their expectations are, what differentiates their Asian edition from their home edition, and how they will respond to Singapore’s art scene through their fair.

Lorenza Castelli, Director of MIA&D. Photo: A. Lo Priore. Image courtesy MIA&D.

Lorenza Castelli, Director of MIA&D. Photo: A. Lo Priore. Image courtesy MIA&D.

Lorenza Castelli, Director of MIA&D

How did you come to choose Singapore as the Asian location for the fair, rather than, say, Hong Kong, which is the dominant art hub of the region at the moment? 

Hong Kong is a very good and dynamic platform but is already overwhelmed by many other contemporary art fairs. Singapore has a very lively art landscape and is the new art capital of the Asia Pacific area. The audiences in Singapore tend to be globetrotters, open-minded and keen on discovering art. Singapore seems to be the right place to showcase MIA&D Fair.

What are your expectations from this first Asian edition in Singapore?

Our expectation is to raise interest in Singapore, as well as the region, in photography and video art. Milan Image Art & Design Fair is the first fair of its kind in Singapore – showcasing photography, video art and design under one roof. We hope that art lovers, design enthusiasts and all art collectors will appreciate the wide range of contemporary art that MIA&D Fair will be offering.

Chan-Hyo Bae, 'Exhisting in Costume 13', 2006, C-print, 120 x 96 cm, Edition of 5/5. Image courtesy the artist and  MC2 Gallery, Milan.

Chan-Hyo Bae, ‘Exhisting in Costume 13′, 2006, C-print, 120 x 96 cm, Edition of 5/5. At MIA&D 2014. Image courtesy the artist and MC2 Gallery, Milan.

Are there any differences in the Singapore fair from the Milan edition? Any ‘adaptations’ to the Singapore and Asian market?

Yes, there are some differences between the Milan edition and MIA&D Fair in Singapore. For our first international edition in Singapore, we have incorporated a “Design” element, thus the addition of “D” in the name of the fair. The integration of Design will be shown through the presentation of the fair, where photography and video art will be in dialogue with design, which can be regarded as an important aspect of Italian creativity.

Another difference would be the number of artists that will showcase their works in a booth – we decided to enlarge the number from one to a maximum of three artists, in order to allow galleries and exhibitors, especially those who will be showcasing for the first time in Asia, to represent different artists and present a wider range of works to this new market.

Nge Lay, 'Observing of Self on Being Dead no. 1', 2011, photograph. Image courtesy the artist and Yone Arts Gallery.

Nge Lay, ‘Observing of Self on Being Dead no. 1′, 2011, photograph. At MIA&D 2014. Image courtesy the artist and Yone Arts Gallery.

Do you have any special focus or programmes that address the Asian and Singaporean public?

MIA&D Fair will offer its visitors a wide-ranging cultural programme including “Collecting Photography”, a talk which will be conducted by Gwen Lee, curator and director of Singapore International Photography Festival (SIPF). The SIPF festival will be held in concomitance with MIA&D Fair.

Another special project dedicated to the Asian public is the “Mekong Platform” entitled WATER/Life Line – showcasing photography and video art coming from artists from Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam. The project, which is based on the relationship of the artists with the Mekong River, is curated by Loredana Pazzini-Paracciani.

Have you identified particular trends in the arts in Singapore that your fair seeks to address?

Many galleries from Europe are now based in Singapore, and this underlines the importance of Singapore as not only an art hub but also as an emerging art market. Singapore seems to be the right place to explore and exhibit new contemporary art trends, and we hope that MIA&D Fair will be able to cater to this increasingly discerning audience keen on contemporary art, photography and design.

Wang Chienyang, 'The Emperor's New Clothes', 2013, photograph, 110 x 148 cm. Image courtesy Gallery Tsubaki.

Wang Chienyang, ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes’, 2013, photograph, 110 x 148 cm. At Singapore Art Fair 2014. Image courtesy Gallery Tsubaki.

Sue Ngo, Project Director, Singapore Art Fair

Why did you choose Singapore as the location for the fair in Asia, instead of Hong Kong, which has been a very popular destination for art organisations, institutions and businesses?

Singapore was chosen as the location for the Singapore Art Fair because its geographic location that puts the country in the centre where business, cultures and art intertwine. This, in particular, is of utmost importance to the Singapore Art Fair. Being the first contemporary and modern art fair focusing on MENASA art, the Fair needs a location that supports the confluence of art and culture.

Do you have any particular expectations from this first edition in Singapore?

We are very happy that for the inaugural edition of the Singapore Art Fair, we have gotten some 60 galleries from the MENASA region to participate. Even more impressive is the stellar line-up for the Honorary Board of Patrons, comprising distinguished individuals including collectors, art advisors, private museum owners and director of museums and institutions from across the world, who have come on board to promote MENASA art.

Due to political and social unrest, especially in the Middle East and North Africa, the Singapore Art Fair is the first opportunity for many of these artists to showcase their works on the international stage. The artists were selected to present to visitors broad and diverse views of the social and political situation across the region. This would provide visitors with insights into each artist’s vision of developments in his or her native country, encouraging visitors to be engaged in dialogue across borders when they view the works. We hope for art enthusiasts and art collectors from the region to come to the Singapore Art Fair with an open mind, engage with the artists and their art pieces.

Aung Myint, 'The Human Mind is Changing Every Moment', 2014, commission for the Singapore Art Fair 2014. Image courtesy Singapore Art Fair.

Aung Myint, ‘The Human Mind is Changing Every Moment’, 2014, commission for the Singapore Art Fair 2014. Image courtesy Singapore Art Fair.

Are there any particularities or differences in the Singapore edition? Is it in any way ‘adapted’ to the Singapore market, or does it present something specific for the audience and collectors there? What is different from the Beirut edition?

The Singapore Art Fair covers art from a broad region – from Middle East, to North Africa and South and Southeast Asia – giving visitors comprehensive insights into art in these countries.

The Singapore Art Fair has different galleries, artists and artworks being exhibited and more importantly, since this is the inaugural edition, we have augmented it with more public engagement components to get the community involved and more aware about MENASA art.

Talking about the Lebanon pavilion, was this choice dictated by any particular interest in Singapore for Middle Eastern art? Is Middle Eastern art particularly popular with Singaporean or Asian collectors? 

As the art market in Asia matures, there is a greater desire for art collectors and art enthusiasts to be open to new experiences. The market in Asia so far has focused primarily on modern and contemporary art from the region. Hence, the Singapore Art Fair is coming in timely to add a new and deeper dimension to the scene. When the Fair opens in November 2014, it will give both art collectors and art enthusiasts an opportunity to learn about art from the Middle East and North Africa.

In the inaugural edition of Singapore Art Fair, we have carefully selected a range of artists – established to young and emerging – as well as a spectrum of works. These will not only broaden visitors’ horizons but also help them see and understand the region’s culture, history and political struggles through the artists’ perspectives.

For example, the Lebanese Pavilion, curated by Janine Maamari, founder and curator at Libanart puts together young artists who live in Lebanon and around the world share their common concerns – the turmoil in the Middle East, its reverberations on their multicultural democracy and, concomitantly, the seeming loss of freedom and equilibrium in the country – through their art.

Hanibal Srouji, 'Small Clouds II', 2014, 45 x 13 cm. At Singapore Art Fair 2014. Image courtesy Galerie Janine Rubeiz.

Hanibal Srouji, ‘Small Clouds II’, 2014, 45 x 13 cm. At Singapore Art Fair 2014. Image courtesy Galerie Janine Rubeiz.

Janine Maamari, Curator of Lebanon Pavilion, Singapore Art Fair

Is there, according to you, a particular interest in Middle Eastern art in Singapore?

Singapore is organising the MENASA art fair for the first time and this important event shows a recognition and great interest in Middle Eastern Art. Each Middle Eastern country has its specificity, and its artistic development is certainly influenced by the cultural, economic and political factors prevailing at different periods. Today, other important factors have to be taken into account.

Globalisation and technology have a great impact on art works. Installations, videos, inkjet techniques and others seem to be prevailing, and conceptual works are being appreciated.

Along with their feelings of belonging, our young Lebanese artists have a strong exposure to international contemporary art and have adopted the new trends.

What do you hope to achieve through the presentation of the Lebanon pavilion in Singapore?

I chose to present mostly young Lebanese artists who have already exhibited at home and in western countries, aiming to give them a new platform of recognition in the Far East. Already a few Lebanese artists have exhibited in Singapore. The photographer Roger Moukarzel, who will actually be presenting a video at the Singapore Art Fair, has already exhibited last year.

SANA Gallery, which is established in Singapore, is very active. Last September, some galleries from Singapore participated in the Beirut Art Fair and had the chance to get in contact with Lebanese galleries and artists. Exposure and recognition are a challenge I greatly enjoy and hopefully it will be gratifying to both parties.

Laudi Abilama, 'A Study of Lee Kwan Yew', 2014. Lebanon Pavilion at Singapore Art Fair 2014. Image courtesy Singapore Art Fair.

Laudi Abilama, ‘A Study of Lee Kwan Yew’, 2014. Lebanon Pavilion at Singapore Art Fair 2014. Image courtesy Singapore Art Fair.

What do you think will be the main points of interest in Lebanese art for the Singapore and Asian public?

The Singaporean and Asian public and collectors are certainly familiar with international contemporary art. As they might have noticed in western biennales and fairs, the major trends actually appearing are rarely found in Modern Art. The Helly Nahmad Gallery at Frieze Masters 2014 created a Pavilion of “The Imaginary Collector”. The gallery reassembled the contents of a domestic environment of the sixties with mainly modern works by Picasso, Dubuffet, Fautrier and de Staël on the walls. Frieze Contemporary galleries mainly showed videos and installations. The selection of artworks displayed in the Pavilion gives a glimpse of the creativity of our young Lebanese artists and I hope it will attract collectors, as well as a wide public.

Are there other collaborations between the Lebanese and Singapore art scenes right now? Do you hope to establish more collaborative programmes and projects in the future?

As I already mentioned, there has been some collaboration in the past through Singaporean galleries participating in the Beirut Art Fair, as well as some Lebanese artists exhibiting in Singapore. Our contact with the young Singapore Art Fair is, I hope, a first step towards building up long-term future collaboration. Many threads can be strengthened for better communication. An exchange of information between Singapore and Beirut can be sustained by a mutual exchange of information. A website to be fed by both parties can be created.

Artists in-residence are an excellent way of apprehending the art of a country. Laudi Abilama, an exhibiting artist in the Pavilion (Study of Lee Kuan Yew) has been in-residence in Singapore and is giving her outlook on the city’s leader. In Beirut private institutions invite foreign artists-in-residence and it could be a start for an exchange of talents.

Curators and galleries on both sides could exchange on a regular basis ideas and information, and of course collectors can be a great motor of communication.

C. A. Xuan Mai Ardia

525

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The Umbrella Archives: Hong Kong artist collective fights to preserve protest art



In a race against time, an artist-led collective works tirelessly to document and preserve protest art from Occupy Central Hong Kong.

Art Radar spoke to Wen Yau, leading member of the Umbrella Movement Visual Archives & Research Collective, to learn more about their preservation and archiving efforts.

Logo of the Umbrella Movement Visual Archives & Research Collective.

Logo of the Umbrella Movement Visual Archives & Research Collective.

In a previous article, Art Radar reported on the plethora of artworks adorning Occupy protest sites in Hong Kong. Fearing the damage and destruction of such artefacts during police clearing operations, artists and academics teamed up to form an organised collective that aims to preserve, document and archive the now world-famous protest art.

The Umbrella Archives

The Umbrella Movement Visual Archives & Research Collective, also known as the Umbrella Archives, was initiated by a group of local artists, academics and art administrators. Their mission statement contains two objectives:

  • To systematically document and research into the creative spatial practices realised by protestors;
  • To protect the artefacts and items that are deemed relevant and important to the movement from being damaged and confiscated during police clearing operations.

Two key persons leading the project are Wen Yau, a multimedia artist, researcher, curator and writer, and Sampson Wong, an artist and creator of the heartwarming Stand By You: Add Oil Machine digital art project.

As of the date of publication, the Umbrella Archives has around twelve teams of researchers performing systematic photo documentation of the Admiralty and Mongkok protest sites. They hope to cover the Causeway Bay site as well and will develop an inventory mapping protest objects across various sites.

Fear of police crackdown 

It is a race against time: experience has taught protestors that a police crackdown could be followed by devastating damage and confiscation of protest art. Wen tells Art Radar that, apart from the mere photographic documentation of items, a ‘rescue plan’ has been devised to minimise the loss of important artefacts:

We will identify and contact the owners/producers of these works [...] and design [a] rescue plan in case of brutal crackdown. [...] We have been offered a space for temporary storage already.

A meeting between leaders and participants of the Umbrella Movement Visual Archives & Research Collective on 21 October 2014. Image courtesy Wen Yau and the Umbrella Movement Visual Archives & Research Collective.

A meeting between leaders and participants of the Umbrella Movement Visual Archives & Research Collective on 21 October 2014. Image courtesy Wen Yau and the Umbrella Movement Visual Archives & Research Collective.

Foreign support

Wen tells Art Radar that the Umbrella Archives has established connections with academics and collectives of civil resistance in Spain and the United States. The relationships will enrich local efforts and provide invaluable guidance.

Meanwhile, Occupy artworks are being displayed in London at the Victoria and Albert Museum‘s “Disobedient Objects” (2014) exhibition, as The South China Morning Post reports. Co-curator Gavin Grindon said that the exhibition will travel to Chile and Sydney, and hopefully to Asia as well. Grindon was quoted as saying that:

What has stood out in the Hong Kong protests is the speed and diversity of the creative approaches to the culture of protest.

An independent, professional effort

In spite of high-profile foreign support, the Umbrella Archives wishes to protect its independent and professional status. Wen clarifies that although they have been in touch with the curator of “Disobedient Objects” for advice, there is no present plan for collaboration or exhibition.

In addition, Wen states that the Collective has not approached any local public museums and hopes to keep the initiative independent at this stage.

They plan to establish an independent professional advisory board comprising archivists, curators and specialists in the field of art activism, cultural studies and urban studies, Wen tells Art Radar. The Collective focuses solely on preservation and research, remaining completely independent from political parties and movements. Its mission statement declares that:

While we communicate closely with [the Hong Kong Federation of Students], Scholarism and [Occupy Central with Love and Peace], we take up an independent and professional role of preserving and researching into the visual culture in social movement.

Public sculpture 'Umbrella Man' by artist Milk during Occupy protests in Hong Kong 2014. Image by Ben Hon Chung Hei.q

Public sculpture ‘Umbrella Man’ by artist Milk during Occupy protests in Hong Kong 2014. Image by Ben Hon Chung Hei.

The street art debate 

When asked whether the preservation of street art, which is by nature ephemeral, goes against its very essence, Wen responds to Art Radar:

The life of the protest object is indeed destined to be destroyed somehow, and our task is to document it as it is, and save it as much as we can [...] we try our best to identify the producers and communicate with them about their intentions of saving [their works]. Generally, I don’t even consider these objects as ‘art’ per se, but representations of the people’s voices and their creativity and imagination of the use of public space.

The Collective is also aware of the risk of de-contextualising protest objects from their original sites. According to their mission statement, they strive to establish a “civil-led, bottom-up archives and research collective in accordance with ethics and guidelines of [...] counterparts in other countries.” In doing so, they avoid reducing the rich material culture of the movement into mere collectable artefacts.

Instead, important artworks are preserved for the purposes of research, documentation and historical legacy. Wen told The South China Morning Post:

This is the largest social movement Hong Kong has seen and now the most urgent [matter] is to rescue these objects for future research.

According to The South China Morning Post, artist and academic Kacey Wong said that, although private collectors and galleries had offered storage space, museum officials rejected the works because they were created out of illegal assembly. M+ and the government declare that they had received no formal request to collect protest art.

Michele Chan

531

Related Topics: archives, researchstreet art, public art, art and the community, art and democracy, Hong Kong artists, events in Hong Kong

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Contemporary Dialogues: Art in Myanmar – interview



Art Radar learns more about the challenges and progress of contemporary art in Myanmar.

Contemporary Dialogues, an international festival of culture and arts in Yangon, opened on 25 September 2014 at PEN Myanmar, an organisation promoting literature and freedom of expression. Art Radar spoke to the event organisers, FluxKit, for a deeper insight.

Vasan Sitthiket creates a performance piece after the Artist-Curator talk at Pansodan Scene in Downtown Yangon. Image courtesy Contemporary Dialogues.

Vasan Sitthiket creates a performance piece after the Artist-Curator talk at Pansodan Scene in Downtown Yangon. Image courtesy Contemporary Dialogues.

Organised by FluxKit, an independent producer of cultural events, Contemporary Dialogues offered one of the most comprehensive and innovative approaches to art that Yangon has seen in years. The event sought to address an expanding contemporary art world in Myanmar.

Panel discussions, festivals, exhibitions and happenings occur frequently in Yangon, and they are invaluable to the development of Myanmar’s rich cultural environment. Not more than a year in Yangon, however, and FluxKit has brought a fresh perspective and new approach in order to demonstrate what is possible through dialogue, in Burmese and English, with artists and audiences.

Five days of events included:

  • a panel discussion at PEN Myanmar entitled “Translation and Manipulation”, featuring a discussion between Ma Thida (writer/activist), Zeyar Lynn (poet, translator), Aung Thura (Myanmar Knowledge Society) and Lucas Stewart (Hidden Words, Hidden Worlds)
  • an exhibition entitled “The Mirror” at TS1 Gallery, curated by Moe Satt and including artists Myat Kyat, Zun Ei Phyu, Thurein and Wahlone
  • Curator and artist talk between Iola Lenzi (Curator, Singapore), Vasan Sitthiket (artist, Thailand), and Htein Lin (artist, Myanmar), ending with a performance by Sitthiket
  • Artist talk at TS1 Gallery with artists from “The Mirror”
  • Roundtable entitled “What a Rising Art World Needs” with special guests Philip Tinari (UCCA, Beijing) and Mami Kataoka (Mori Art Museum, Tokyo) with a performance by Lwin Oo Maung on the Yangon River
  • a display of 101 books donated by Charta of Italy
  • a presentation by the Myanmar Art Resource Center and Archive (MARCA) and their upcoming Mobile Library project
  • an all-Burmese discussion on the role of Myanmar’s national cultural environment, led by Aung Min (screenwriter), San Minn (artist), Thu Thu Shein (Watthan Film Festival) and May Thet Zaw (New Yangon Theatre).
Panel discussion "On Curating", featuring panelists (from left) Moe Satt (Myanmar), Mami Kataoka (Japan), Iola Lenzi (Singapore), Phil Tinari (China), and Mrat Lunn Htwann (Myanmar). Image courtesy Contemporary Dialogues.

Panel discussion “On Curating”, featuring panelists (from left) Moe Satt (Myanmar), Mami Kataoka (Japan), Iola Lenzi (Singapore), Phil Tinari (China) and Mrat Lunn Htwann (Myanmar). Image courtesy Contemporary Dialogues.

After attending every event and being thoroughly impressed by the participants, conversation and process, Art Radar sat down with the organisers from FluxKit – Ilaria Benini and Thomas Nadal Poletto – to hear more about their assessment of the festival.

You two have been working on projects for a few years now with FluxKit. Could you talk a bit about what inspired you to begin FluxKit in the first place? And explain why you wanted to produce projects in Myanmar?

FluxKit was founded in 2009 in Italy, but not until 2013 did we start working on projects in Myanmar. We moved to Myanmar to work on sociological research about the impact of the internet (and information) on the shape of the cultural scene. While meeting with people from the art community, we realised that it could be important to create local and international cultural encounters – the basic reasons being curiosity and understanding. We believe in dialogue. The stages of change that Myanmar is currently experiencing offer the chance to create new exchanges for local and international actors.

The fact that in Myanmar there’s no structured art system offers a chance to deconstruct and discuss the internationally established system. This is an important process of awareness for Myanmar’s cultural actors to define what they want for their future, and it provides great input for international actors to rethink the system they consider standard.

There were participants from diverse corners of the art and cultural spheres at Contemporary Dialogues. How did you choose your participants? Or in some ways, did they choose you?

We developed the programme over one year. We chose people from different fields and disciplines in order to create an interdisciplinary dialogue which, by sharing experiences and strategies, could reinforce each single field. One of our priorities was to give space to a younger generation of art practitioners, and we combined their presence with experienced figures who are open to inter-generational collaboration.

In the Translation event, Zeyar Lynn and Ma Thida asked writers to “rise to the occasion” and begin translating on their own terms. Do you agree with this statement? What was your favourite part of this panel discussion?

Thomas: It is important to understand the complex role of a translator as a bridge between cultures and languages. One of the most interesting parts of the evening was the one in which Zeyar Lynn discussed his experience translating a poem by John Ashbery: he found that each word that Ashbery used in his poem had multiple meanings. For every single word, he wrote different translated words separated by slashes. So when the reader reads the translation of this poem, he is free to choose any word he likes. With this action, Zeyar Lynn focused on a different relationship between translator and reader.

Ilaria: I really appreciated the fact that Aung Thura from Myanmar Knowledge Society (MKS) considers translation a social practice and connects its impact to the society. I think MKS is challenging the status quo in a very intelligent way, by analysing the reality from different perspectives and mixing different intellectual tools to do so.

Opening of "The Mirror", an exhibition curated by Moe Satt at TS1 Gallery, featuring artists (from left) Wahlone, Zun Ei Phyi, Thurein, and Myat Kwayt. Image courtesy Contemporary Dialogues.

Opening of “The Mirror”, an exhibition curated by Moe Satt at TS1 Gallery, featuring artists (from left) Wahlone, Zun Ei Phyi, Thurein, and Myat Kwayt. Image courtesy Contemporary Dialogues.

How was “The Mirror” relevant to Contemporary Dialogues?

It was important for us to combine an exhibition with our programmes of roundtables and performances. We were very excited about the idea that Moe Satt curated an exhibition in Myanmar and that international curators could see his work and that of the selected artists on the field.

Three international guest speakers and curators were invited to Yangon to join a discussion on curating, with Moe Satt (artist/curator) and Mrat Lunn Htwann (artist/poet). What was achieved by this meeting of Myanmar artists and international curators? What kind of advice could the international curators offer the artists? And did the artists appreciate the visitors?

International galleries and institutions are extremely powerful when they intervene in a context where there is no knowledge about their rules and reasons. We do not believe that the international curators can offer advice; rather, we think that they can provide transparent insights by sharing information and experiences. Several artists appreciated the knowledge shared by the international curators: the historical facts, artists’ names, anecdotes, general and practical considerations gave variety to the art world. This stimulated a lot of positive curiosity.

It was also very important for the artists to present their work, their stories and see the reaction of the curators. I think this supports self-confidence in a country where unconventional and original practices are not at all appreciated or recognised.

You went through quite a lot trying to get the donation from CHARTA into Myanmar, from organising the donation itself to inspiring the Italian Embassy to sponsor the shipment. Why is it important to you that an organisation like MARCA have books like these in Yangon?

It is a question of quality and diversity. We believe it is important to bring books that were never allowed before to offer to the artists, so that they might see what is going on around the world and form an opinion. Books can tell stories, explain practices, show artworks, but they also embody the work of many people: the artist, the art space that supported him or her, collectors, curators, writers, editors, designers, typographers and distributors. We think it is positive to show that many people around the world believe that art can support ideas, create meanings and also promote professionalism.

Panel Discussion on Culture and Art in Myanmar, hosted by Lokanat Gallery in Downtown Yangon. Image courtesy Contemporary Dialogues.

Panel Discussion on Culture and Art in Myanmar, hosted by Lokanat Gallery in Downtown Yangon. Image courtesy Contemporary Dialogues.

The last event was almost exclusively conducted in Burmese. Why was it important to focus more on the Burmese-speaking audience? What do you think was achieved through this, not only with the audience, but the panel speakers themselves?

In your own language you are able to define the present and build the future. In your second language you struggle with vocabulary and grammar. In order to discuss about the state of contemporary culture in Myanmar, it was absolutely essential to use Burmese and of course the panelists had to be from Myanmar.

With this event especially, we feel that we achieved the basic goal of our project: to offer a free platform for open discussion among experts and non-experts. The energy of the speakers and the incredible participation of the audience confirmed the relevance of the topics discussed. I do not know if there were people from the censorship board present in the room, but regardless everyone felt safe and shared his/her opinion without fear. The main achievement is that many people after the event asked us to do it again. It means that discussing – and criticising – openly could finally become common practice in Myanmar.

We think that the credit for the positive and open atmosphere mainly belongs to Aung Min, who moderated the discussion with so much passion that the entire room understood the importance and value of the actual freedom present on this occasion.

These series of events seem to have been a great success, with varied audiences and locations, discussion topics and logistics. What was the most challenging aspect about putting something like this together? What was the greatest reward for all the hard work?

The longest process has been the building of trust between us and the local context. A challenging element in terms of time and energy is, for example, the need to respect some unspoken Myanmar rules, like preparing printed invitation cards, which have to be personally delivered to hundreds of people and organisations. Also the last minute cancellation from some participants and locations revealed the importance of being flexible and ready to accept unpredictable changes. We definitely experienced the consequences of a long dictatorship in many aspects of the organisation and personal relationships with people.

Nathalie Johnston

526

Related Topics: Burmese artists, conferences, interviews, art and the community

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30 contemporary artists from East Asia exhibit in Kent



Art Radar visits an interdisciplinary exhibition featuring 30 exemplary Asian artists in the United Kingdom.

OBS Gallery in Kent, United Kingdom, exhibits the work of thirty artists from China, Tibet, Japan and the diaspora. “East by South East” is curated by Emily Glass, running from 19 September to 2 November 2014.

Gallery view of "East by South East"

Gallery view of “East by South East”. Photo by Rachel Marsden.

The gallery

Established less than a year ago, the Old Big School (OBS) Gallery is located on the Tonbridge School campus, approximately 30 miles South East of London. Tonbridge is a school for boys aged 14 to 18, occupying a site of about 150 acres on the northern edge of the town. It is a nonprofit space providing a creative platform for school staff and students, exhibiting the work of emerging, as well as established local and international artists. Scheduling three main exhibitions a year, with smaller interim wall-based shows, the OBS Gallery aims to attract audiences from within the school and the wider community.

The gallery is also a functioning space for the school, used for exam facilitation and other events. The temporary nature of the space makes curating of exhibitions more testing, as shows have to be moveable and easily changeable. As such, the gallery is usually only open to the general public on weekends. Curator Emily Glass told Art Radar that

As a starting point, I think about what is going to be of interest to the students, what would be exciting to them. This is also why I choose works of many different media and digital medias to create diverse programming. However, it is tricky to programme in the gaps between the main exhibitions and in terms of hanging as you have to disrupt the space.

The OBS Gallery aims to develop a sustained engagement and education with the arts. At present, says Glass, “a QR trail is in development to lead students and the public around the exhibition and also videos are made to document the shows with interviews.”

Gallery view of "East by South East"

Gallery view of “East by South East”. Photo by Rachel Marsden.

Art from “the East”

East by South East” is the second exhibition at the gallery, showcasing thirty artists from China, Tibet, Japan, and their diasporas in Australia and the United Kingdom, spanning from the 1990s through to 2014. These countries are categorised as the global region of the ‘East’, so “the exhibition’s context could be easily understood by audiences”, said Glass, acknowledging that the term ‘East’ is “increasingly meaningless”. The works in the show speak of more global contexts and issues. In a time when boundaries between countries and locations have become diluted, it is hard to know what “East Asia” means today.

This exhibition provides a starting point to decode this problem of definition - the “push and pull of ideas” between different cultural contexts, to see what artists think of and their relationship to the ‘East’ and its wider global place. Furthermore, as the works span almost a generation, the twenty years of art practice on show visualises the distinct developments in socio-political, commercial, economic and cultural parameters of East Asia.

For this exhibition, Glass consulted Katie Hill from the Office of Contemporary Chinese Art (OCCA), Oxford, United Kingdom; Tony Scott from China Arts Projects, Australia; collector Wayne Warren, from whom many of the artworks were borrowed; and Chinese artist Zhang Huan.

Visitors at the "East by South East" exhibition.

Visitors at the “East by South East” exhibition. Photo by Rachel Marsden.

An interdisciplinary show

“East by South East” embraces a wealth of interdisciplinary media such as photography, print, painting, installation, found objects, ceramics, sculpture, fragments of site-specific installations, film, works on paper, design (books and book illustration), branding and more.

The show investigates themes of Buddhism, spiritualism, meditation, ritual, identity, divination, semiotics, symbolism, the power of a visual language and visual translation, the influence of the traditional process on contemporary practice, the influence of design, commercialism through advertising and branding such as Louis Vuitton – which is not only the subject of works but also a commissioner of new works.

Artists on show include Chiho Aoshima, Liu Bolin, Lao Dan, Dedron, Gade, Li Gang, Gonkar Gyatso, Beijing East Village Artists, Zhang Huan, Anthony Key, Yayoi Kusama, Kesang Lamdark, Luo Brothers, Takashi Murakami, Mad for Real, Nortse, Gao Ping, Sheng Qi, Hu Qinwu, Tony Scott, Ang Tsherin Sherpa, Tsewang Tashi, Penba Wangdu, Guan Wei, Ai Weiwei, Wang Wen Ming, Zhang Xiaogang, Huang YanHuang Yong Ping and Liu Zhuoquan.

Liu Bolin, 'Hiding in the City - Puffed Food', 2010

Liu Bolin, ‘Hiding in the City – Puffed Food’, 2010, digital colour print. Image courtesy the artist.

Notable works: Sunflower seeds and snuff bottles

Chinese artist Liu Bolin is represented by three works: Hiding in the City – (Intrepid) (2011), Hiding in the City No, 98 – Info port (2011) and Hiding in the City – Puffed Food (2011). Abstract, illusionary portraits, they show the artist painted and camouflaged – hidden in the landscape within which he stands. Bolin’s work makes reference to war and conflict, to Mandarin as a visual language set within the urban landscape and to the impact of branding, commercialism and globalism in the food manufacture industry. This series speaks of the relationship between the individual and the state, prompting questions about the safety of the individual, and whether it is wiser to blend in or stand out.

Chiho Aoshima, 'City Glow', 2005

Chiho Aoshima, ‘City Glow’, 2005, silkscreen print. Image courtesy OBS Gallery.

City Glow (2005) is a silkscreen print by Japanese artist Chiho Aoshima. Her interdisciplinary practice of graphic design, illustration, manga and architectural design show a merging of the organic and technological, creating fable-like visions of the imagination and urban utopias set in the future.

Zhang Xiaogang, 'My Dear Friend', 2005

Zhang Xiaogang, ‘My Dear Friend’, 2005, lithograph on paper. Image courtesy OBS Gallery.

My Dear Friend (2005), a lithograph on paper by Zhang Xiaogang, also features on the cover of the exhibition catalogue. The catalogue is available both in print and digitally as a free download. Taken from his series “Bloodlines”, the artwork represents a different experience of ‘family’ as an icon of the national, political, emotional or intellectual. This work speaks of memory, documentary, history, intimacy, lost emotion, a freeze-frame of a moment of time past, where the harsh lines and spatial interruptions on the portrait refer to a shift from a historic to a contemporary era.

Dedron, 'Pond Life', 2006

Dedron, ‘Pond Life’, 2006, acrylic on canvas. Image courtesy OBS Gallery.

Tibetan artist Dedron depicts her surrounding environment in Pond Life (2006) through the use of traditional motifs and materials inspired by Guge mural paintings of an ancient Buddhist civilisation. The works are to be seen as spiritual, with their own spirit. It is also clear that her practice shows a distant influence of aboriginal and outsider art from Australia.

Anthony Key, 'Home II', 2014

Anthony Key, ‘Home II’, 2014, mixed media. Image courtesy the artist.

Artist Anthony Key is of Chinese descent, born in South Africa, who then emigrated to the United Kingdom. His multimedia sculptures and installations are mainly concerned with the experience of Chinese identity in the United Kingdom, often subverting cultural stereotypes with a desire to get away from notions of “Chineseness” and Orientalism. This is clear in Home II (2014), a minimalist, cylindrical sculpture constructed from chopsticks, creating a plinth-like structure that reframes, re-orders, represents and re-interprets an everyday and well-known East Asian object.

Gade, 'Untitled', 2009

Gade, ‘Untitled’, 2009, acrylic on handmade Tibetan paper. Image courtesy OBS Gallery.

Untitled (2009) by Gade shows the artist’s confidence in, and openness to, embracing other cultures. His work is to inform the wider world of the changes that Tibetans have faced in recent years due to globalisation. Using icons of popular culture – in this case, Ronald McDonald and the China Mobile logo – he creates his own semiotic visual language by merging illustration and drawing, text and calligraphy. Through his practice, Gade attempts to highlight the possibility of losing depth, spiritual meaning and tradition.

Ai Weiwei, 'Sunflower Seeds'

Ai Weiwei, ‘Sunflower Seeds’, 2010, hand-painted porcelain. Image courtesy OBS Gallery.

Beijing-based Chinese artist Ai Weiwei is now globally renowned, having been put on a pedestal by the Western media, thereby becoming an icon of what stands for contemporary Chinese art. A selection of his mass-produced, hand-painted porcelain Sunflower Seeds (2010) has been collected by Tonbridge School, initially lent to the gallery by Tony Scott. The installation was originally exhibited in Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall and was seen “as a tool to set up new questions”, to question the West, manufacturing industries, the power of the individual and the making of everyday life.

Wang Wen Ming, 'Sunflower No. 2', 1995

Wang Wen Ming, ‘Sunflower No. 2′, 1995, woodcut. Photo by He Qi. Image courtesy the artist.

Presented alongside Sunflower Seeds (2010) is a series of woodcuts by Chinese artist Wang Wen Ming. These black-and-white images talk of a journey through the modern Chinese period, showing a contemporary take on a traditional printing process, referencing internalised feelings experienced during the Cultural Revolution and, at that time, the power of the print movement.

Liu Zhuoquan, 'Medicine Chest', 2010

Liu Zhuoquan, ‘Medicine Chest’, 2010, mixed media. Image courtesy OBS Gallery.

Medicine Chest (2010) by Chinese artist Liu Zhuoquan uses the ancient Chinese technique of “inside painting” to create motifs on the inside of snuff bottles. The technique was prevalent up until the Cultural Revolution, and Liu Zhuoquan revived this tradition. This work shows detailed images of a foetus, a wounded hand, a severed finger, insects, a diagram of a male torso and more, all placed within a first aid box that was used by his father during the Cultural Revolution. It is part of a larger installation of over 100,000 bottles.

Huang Yan, 'Bone China', 2004.

Huang Yan, ‘Bone China’, 2004, painted porcelain. Image courtesy OBS Gallery.

Finally, Huang Yan’s Bone China (2004), a piece of painted porcelain, is cast from a bone on which motifs and designs are painted. Made from what ultimately are seen as waste materials, it is creating a new object that references the Western art notion of the “multiple”, creating a contemporary version of traditional ceramics that made their way to Europe throughout the Opium War era, and which would eventually influence Western design.

Rachel Marsden

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Related Topics: nonprofits, Chinese artists, Japanese artists, Korean artists, Tibetan artists, exhibition reviews, Asia expands, events in the UK

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Art Radar Institute seeks 101 Course Tutor



101 Course Tutor (Part-time)

Art Radar Institute was founded in June 2011 and offers online and face-to-face courses to art professionals, academics, artists, scholars and collectors. To date, more than 80 students have undertaken the Institute’s flagship online course, the Art Radar Certificate in Art Journalism & Writing 101.

The Institute is seeking a part-time Course Tutor to teach and manage students undertaking this unique 101 certificate programme. Over 13 weeks, students on this programme learn to write and edit up to two articles that will be published on Art Radar, one of the leading online platforms covering contemporary art news and trends in Asia and beyond. Art Radar garners over 20,000 unique visitors a month, and has nearly 20,000 subscribers and followers.

Description

Day to day responsibilities include

  • interviewing prospective students
  • communicating with prospective and current students via email and Skype
  • finding and assigning articles to students
  • editing and providing feedback on coursework completed by students
  • uploading completed student articles to Art Radar for publication
  • grading students and writing reference letters
  • various administration tasks directly related to the management of prospective and current students

Art Radar Institute and Art Radar operate remotely, with staff members working from home across the world. As such, applicants for this position can be based anywhere in the world, although applicants living in the Asia region will be given preference.

Requirements

Successful candidates must

  • have a strong background in education (online or offline) and/or journalism, contemporary art, art history, online publishing – our ideal candidate will have previously published on visual culture media
  • have experience using WordPress, with knowledge of HTML and CSS beneficial
  • have native-level English language ability, written and spoken
  • have a tertiary-level education
  • have excellent communication skills, both written and spoken
  • have excellent attention to detail

The 101 Course Tutor’s salary will be commensurate with experience. The 101 Course Tutor is a part-time role: weekly work time requirements will be confirmed during the interview period. This role is ideal for freelancers, and is conducted online via Skype, email and messenger.

How to apply

To apply for this position, please email your CV, a cover letter and two relevant writing samples to artradarrecruitment@gmail.com. Please include “Art Radar Institute seeks 101 Course Tutor” in the subject line.

Application deadline: Sunday, 2 November 2014

Shortlisted applicants will be contacted by email and will be required to attend up to two interviews over Skype. Only shortlisted and successful applicants will be contacted.

Please direct questions about this position to artradarrecruitment@gmail.com. Please include “Art Radar Institute seeks 101 Course Tutor” in the subject line.

Previous applicants may re-apply.