Transcending borders: “No Country” at Asia Society Hong Kong – June Yap curator interview

Asia Society Hong Kong hosts an insightful exhibition of Southeast Asian art.

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“No Country: Contemporary Art for South and Southeast Asia” is on view from 30 October 2013 to 16 February 2014 at the Asia Society Hong Kong. Showing the work of thirteen artists from South and Southeast Asia, the exhibition explores the diversity of contemporary art from the region. Art Radar asks curator June Yap about the exhibition.

Khadim Ali, Untitled 3, "Rustam Series" 2011. Image courtesy Asia Society Hong Kong.

Khadim Ali, Untitled 3, “Rustam Series” 2011. Image courtesy Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York.

The inaugural touring exhibition of the Guggenheim UBS MAP Global Art Initiative, “No Country: Contemporary Art for South and Southeast Asia”, takes place at the Asia Society Hong Kong Center (ASHK) from 30 October 2013 to 16 February 2014. The exhibition includes eighteen paintings, sculptures, photographs, videos and mixed-media works by thirteen artists from Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Pakistan, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

Reza Afisina' What...', 2001, colour video, with sound, 11 min, edition 3/3. Image courtesy Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York.

Reza Afisina’ What…’, 2001, colour video, with sound, 11 min, edition 3/3. Image courtesy Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York.

The exhibition is curated by June Yap, Guggenheim UBS MAP Curator, South and Southeast Asia, with assistance from Helen Hsu, Assistant Curator, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. The Guggenheim UBS MAP Global Art Initiative, launched in April 2012, is an international programme that engages artists, curators and educators, and was created to foster relationships between museum audiences, scholars, the art community and institutions.

Araya Rasdjarmrearnsook, 'The Treachery of the Moon', 2012, color video, with sound, 12 min., 37 sec., edition 1/7. Image courtesy Tyler Rollins Fine Art.

Araya Rasdjarmrearnsook, ‘The Treachery of the Moon’, 2012, colour video with sound, 12 min., 37 sec., edition 1/7. Image courtesy Tyler Rollins Fine Art.

Art Radar spoke to June Yap to find out more about the exhibition.

Please describe the background of the exhibition.

The exhibition was first seen in New York at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (22 February – 22 May 2013) as part of the Guggenheim UBS MAP Global Art Initiative.

This is a multi-year collaboration charting contemporary art practice in three geographic regions — South and Southeast Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East and North Africa – and encompassing curatorial residencies, international touring exhibitions, audience driven educational programming and acquisitions for the Guggenheim’s permanent collection.

What does the exhibition’s title refer to?

The title was drawn from the opening line of W.B. Yeats’s Sailing to Byzantium (1928), which was also adopted by Cormac McCarthy for his novel No Country for Old Men (2005) and proposes an understanding of South and Southeast Asia that transcends physical and political borders.

The historical narrative of South and Southeast Asia stretches from the era of its ancient kingdoms and empires to that of today’s nation-states. The region is marked by traces of colonisation, division and intervention, events and processes that are inscribed in cultural memory.

South and Southeast Asia is also home to numerous influential faiths, religions and ethical codes, including Buddhism, Hinduism and Islam. Adapted in collaboration with the Asia Society Hong Kong Center and drawing on the central themes of cultural, historical and political representation within the New York exhibition, the presentation in Hong Kong places added emphasis on the impact of South and Southeast Asian spiritual and moral teachings on the shaping of the region’s communities.

Can you explain the importance of Southeast Asian art in a global context?

There is a tremendous diversity of artistic practice in South and Southeast Asia, and certainly more artists and artworks than any single project can accommodate. In this exhibition, the intention is to present the range of aesthetic developments and subjects of interest to contemporary artists, and to challenge the privileging of nation and national narrative as a basis for understanding them. Accompanied by programmes for engagement with different local audiences, “No Country” is more than an exhibition; it is a platform for discussion and exchange.

Aung Myint, 'White Stupa Doesn’t Need Gold', 2010, acrylic on canvas, 150 x 100 cm. Image courtesy the artist.

Aung Myint, ‘White Stupa Doesn’t Need Gold’, 2010, acrylic on canvas, 150 x 100 cm. Image courtesy the artist.

The artists in the Hong Kong presentation are:

Truong Tan, 'We Do We Want', 1993–94, oil on canvas with rope, 94.6 x 200 x 25.4 cm. Photo: Kristopher McKay. Image courtesy the artist.

Truong Tan, ‘We Do We Want’, 1993–94, oil on canvas with rope, 94.6 x 200 x 25.4 cm. Photo: Kristopher McKay. Image courtesy the artist.

Susan Kendzulak

Related Topics: Southeast Asian artists, South Asian artists, events in Hong Kong, museum shows, touring exhibitions, interviews

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