“Asian Art Show 2016”: NON Berlin as a hub for contemporary Asian art in Europe – interview

Berlin gallery features contemporary artists from 7 countries over 14 weeks.

Art Radar interviews Ido Shin and Nayeon Kim from NON Berlin to learn more about their marathon-like series “Asian Art Show 2016”.

“Asian Art Show 2016” installation view of Ce Jian, ‘Elephant’, Grand opening of AASHOW 2016. Image courtesy NON Berlin.

“Asian Art Show 2016” installation view of Ce Jian, ‘Elephant’, Grand opening of AASHOW 2016. Image courtesy NON Berlin.

Asian Art Show 2016” brings together contemporary Asian artists from 7 countries over 14 weeks from 17 March to 20 June 2016 at gallery NON Berlin. Emerging and established artists from Asia show works ranging from paintings to photography and from installations to drawings.

The participating artists are:

"Asian Art Show 2016” installation view of Satoshi Fujiwara, ‘#R’. Image courtesy NON Berlin.

“Asian Art Show 2016” installation view of Satoshi Fujiwara, ‘#R’. Image courtesy NON Berlin.

NON Berlin is a project space that opened in 2014 with the aim to become a hub for Asian-European culture and arts exchange. They cooperate with various artists, curators and art organisations in both continents to generate discourse, organise projects and to promote arts exchange.

Art Radar caught up with NON Berlin Director Ido Shin and NON Berlin Project Director Nayeon Kim about the “Asian Art Show 2016”.

Portrait of Director Ido Shin. Image courtesy NON Berlin.

Portrait of Director Ido Shin. Image courtesy NON Berlin.

“Asian Art Show 2016” is a fantastic and ambitious idea. Can you tell our 
readers how this series of exhibitions came about?

The idea of “Asian Art Show” first came out last year from Ido Shin, our director and founder of NON Berlin. Since the opening of NON Berlin, we have carried out various projects-exhibitions, talks, symposia and performances encouraging collaboration between contemporary Asian and European artists. The response was great and we definitely will continue organising such projects. However, since last year, we started to talk about organising projects that can give exclusive spotlight to Asian contemporary artists. That is how “Asian Art Show” started. We all agreed that having a marathon-like project with different contemporary Asian art would be a great way to draw attention towards our platform and the artists.

Could you explain a bit about the aims of the project? The programme explains that it wants to “raise attention towards contemporary Asian artists”. Why is this particularly important at this moment?

In the end, it goes down to NON Berlin’s mission to generate discourse about contemporary Asian art in Europe. We seek harmony between the “Western” and “Eastern” philosophy and culture. We live in the time where people, ideas or culture in different countries/continents move fast and (almost) borderless but yet it is dominated by the “Western” point of view. NON Berlin aims to be an art platform where there is no one-sided but harmonious existence and perspectives of the West and East. The European culture and art scene has a strong and profound structure of its own and so little is known about contemporary Asia. As we are an art platform, we speak through art and for us it was natural to start with introducing contemporary Asian artists and their works through projects. The more people here get exposed, the more information will spread and that would be one of the beginning steps to generate discourse.

“Asian Art Show” is one of our attempts to become an art platform and a hub between Asia and Europe. The bigger picture we have is that through “Asian Art Show”, we structure a strong network with the participating artists and further develop talks, fora and exhibitions with deeper context in the future. Further expected effects through this project are to engage not only artists but independent curators, other art spaces and organisations in and out of Berlin. Not just for the “Asian Art Show”, but to look further and see possibilities to collaborate in other potential projects. Through this project we also want to establish connections with people who are engaged in the art business such as gallerists, art dealers or collectors as this can give opportunities to enter the art market.

In a nutshell, “Asian Art Show” is important because it is our first attempt to focus on promoting contemporary Asian artists in such long duration. Through this marathon-like exhibition format, we are already being talked about in and out of Berlin, which is great that we are creating a buzz. Using this opportunity, we aim to introduce more of NON Berlin’s vision and future projects. We also expect more partnerships or support from external organisations and individuals who relate to our mission. As a non-commercial project space, these supports mean a lot and are critical to develop into a sustainable platform.

Lastly we hope the participating artists use this chance at NON Berlin to network with fellow artists and also show their work to more people as possible. Providing opportunities to introduce their works is one of the many things NON Berlin think is important.

“Asian Art Show 2016” installation view of Satoshi Fujiwara, ‘#R’. Image courtesy NON Berlin.

“Asian Art Show 2016” installation view of Satoshi Fujiwara, ‘#R’. Image courtesy NON Berlin.

I am interested in the structure of the series, could you explain the reason why each exhibition is only one week long?

Normally the duration of an exhibition at NON Berlin is at least two to four weeks long. We wanted “Asian Art Show” to be a fast-tempo exhibition without any breaks in between. We went for a simple concept, thus decided to use only the front space of NON Berlin where the big glass window is. After completing the concept, a moving wall to divide the front space for “Asian Art Show” from the whole room was built which we now use to display more information of the artists and their work. The space seems too limited but it is wonderful to see creative ideas coming up from the artists and from our team about how to maximise the use of space. It is also great because the rest of the space behind the moving wall can be used for different purposes such as talks, lectures or workshops.

How did you select the artists? What was the curatorial drive behind the selection?

We researched both internationally recognised and rising artists and visited their studios to introduce more details of the concept and purpose of “Asian Art Show”. Since the concept was more focused to the artists themselves, the works did not have to be a newly produced kind. It was more to show the character of the artists through their works. Of course, during each meeting with the artists, we made suggestions of how to use the space and which type of work could be suitable for the exhibitions. Since we had a limited space to display the works, it was more important to use the space to show the artists’ statements and to be creative with the space itself. Many artists agreed to the purpose of “Asian Art Show” and willingly decided to join. “Asian Art Show” (and all other projects we organise) is a collaboration between NON Berlin and each artist who is participating. The concept or medium of each exhibition was open for the artist to decide or to discuss with NON Berlin.

“Asian Art Show 2016” installation view of Yukihiro Ikutani, ‘Pregnant Man (2 months.)’. Image courtesy NON Berlin.

“Asian Art Show 2016” installation view of Yukihiro Ikutani, ‘Pregnant Man (2 months.)’. Image courtesy NON Berlin.

What has been the response so far to the exhibitions?

The grand opening, which took place on 17 March 2016, gathered around 140 people at NON Berlin. We are now preparing for the sixth week’s show and on every Vernissage evening, which happen on Thursdays until 20 June, we welcome 50 people in average. One of the rewarding scenes we witness during “Asian Art Show” is the vibrant networking between the artists who come to the openings every Thursday.

Overall, the responses we receive are very positive and encouraging. It seems many people, especially who have their backgrounds in Asia, are happy to witness a platform like NON Berlin and that our projects sort of scratches their itchy spots. We also see many people who come from different countries in Europe visiting NON Berlin and showing great interest in collaboration.

Also, other galleries or art spaces in Berlin have reached out to us and picked up some of the participating artists for their exhibitions to take place outside NON Berlin. For example, artists Satoshi Fujiwara and Daecheon Lee have been picked up by Egbert Baque Contemporary. Now the two artists are showing their works in a group exhibition “Facing the Future” until 21 May. In addition, the Korean Cultural Centre in Berlin has partly supported the “Asian Art Show”. Organisations from outside Berlin started to reach us too.

“Asian Art Show 2016” installation view of Yukihiro Ikutani, ‘Pregnant Man (2 months.)’ performance view. Image courtesy NON Berlin.

“Asian Art Show 2016” installation view of Yukihiro Ikutani, ‘Pregnant Man (2 months.)’ performance view. Image courtesy NON Berlin.

You are also holding NON 論 DA 多{PLAY} lectures alongside the exhibitions. What types of themes or topics will these events address?

NON 論 DA 多{PLAY} is an inter-media lecture programme and can be presented in many different formats. It has a stronger focus on performance art and collaboration between inter-media artists. It is organised for one day and it is a day artists have the freedom to share their work with the audience in a much more playful way. Until now we have had five NON 論 DA 多{PLAY} projects, each with different artists, topics and themes. It is a playground for the artists who wish to interact with the audience, experiment with their works and most importantly enjoy the whole process. ‘NON DA’ in Korean pronunciation means ‘to play’. However, at the end of the programme, we always encourage a talk, mostly moderated by NON Berlin. It gives the audience the opportunity to understand the artists’ intention, their stories behind the work and such.

“Asian Art Show” includes two NON 論 DA 多{PLAY} projects alongside with the 14 exhibitions. Electro Kagura was introduced in March on the grand opening. The team that consist of a Japanese dancer, painter and a French composer showed an amazing improvisation project with their works. The next NON 論 DA 多{PLAY} will happen on 20 June. This time, a performance group named RedMonky formed by seven female artists will present their work mixed with sound, objects, movements and instruments.

What do you think the perceptions of Asian art in Berlin or Germany are? Is there much awareness of contemporary Asian art?

Berlin has now become the centre of the contemporary art scene in Europe. Those who have been in Berlin say the city is different from others in Germany and we agree. You will find artists coming from all over the world with English being the common language of communication. However, even here, perceptions of Asian art are quite narrow and most of the focus is on China or Japan. We find Germany generally more conservative than the UK or the USA when it comes to perceiving contemporary Asian Art. NON Berlin aims to broaden these perspectives by introducing contemporary Asian Art with a wider range.

What we think is also very important to do is to stimulate exchange between the European and Asian art scenes. Which is why in addition to introducing contemporary Asian art and artists, we have been organising collaborative projects curated professionally with diverse artists and partners. Exchange programmes can be the start of a long-term communication or cooperation, which can lead to breaking the stereotypes of Asia’s contemporary art. With Berlin being an international city with people showing great interest and passion towards art, we see the potential for change in people’s awareness of contemporary Asian Art.

What are some of the challenges facing Asian artists who want to break into European creative networks?

I am not sure if the phrase ‘break through’ is appropriate. For NON Berlin, our intention is to make people understand how the international world is now: glocalised. The territorial borders between countries cannot block the flow of ideologies, social, political ideas people have, and every event that occurs somewhere can affect somewhere totally opposite located in this world. One can say that we are trying to break through the Western-centred point of view but in the end we strive for harmony where there is no superior idea or philosophy but co-existence.

To answer the question though, the biggest challenge Asian artists face when they come to Europe or plan to, is that there are not many opportunities for artists to show their work. To make things harder, it is rare to find organised networks where the artists can turn to gain information or support. Most artists have to struggle on their own to find ways to get to know people or spaces, which takes much time and energy.

NON Berlin is a project space that was established to support these artists and furthermore, to become a hub for Asian-European art exchange. Rather than waiting for Europe to show more interest towards contemporary Asia, we chose to be the ones to provide information through art. However, we strongly think more support is definitely needed from various levels such as the governments or larger foundations.

Electro Kagura at NON DA {PLAY}, 17 March 2016 at NON Berlin. Image courtesy NON Berlin.

Electro Kagura at NON DA {PLAY}, 17 March 2016 at NON Berlin. Image courtesy NON Berlin.

What projects can we look out for in the future from NON Berlin?

“Asian Art Show” will end on 20 June 2016, the last day of the 14-week relay exhibition. On 24 June we start a new exhibition with rising artist Hyelim Cha from Korea until 15 July.

In early August, we host a collaborative event with a Paris-based young Chinese artist group. After a short summer break we come back in September with an exhibition entitled “Translateral Landscapes” with artists Hong Soun and Anne Quirynen. Our last project for this year will take place in November with one of our partner spaces Meinblau projektraum. Every November we realise a project with an ongoing theme: borders. This November we continue with a project entitled “Global Gaps”. Projects for 2017 are still being discussed and NON Berlin is open to project proposals.

Claire Wilson

1118

Related topics: Japanese artists, Korean artists, Hong Kong artists, Filipino artists, Indonesian artists, Taiwanese artists, gallery show, painting, photography, mixed media, drawing, interview

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