Japanese and Southeast Asian artists explore issues of identity, belongingness and history through the politics of borders in the region and beyond.
The group exhibition “ESCAPE from the SEA” closes on 23 April 2017 and is an extension of “Condition Report”, a curatorial development programme initiated by the Japan Foundation Asia Centre presenting four major collaborative exhibitions and 14 local art shows around Asia.
“ESCAPE from the SEA” was launched in February 2017 by The Japan Foundation, Kuala Lumpur, in collaboration with the National Art Gallery (NAG) and Art Printing Works Sdn. Bhd. (APW), as part of its collaborative art project “Condition Report” involving curators from Japan and Southeast Asia. “Condition Report” takes place in two parts, the first with four major collaborative exhibitions in Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur, Manila and Bangkok, and the second with 14 local exhibitions, each curated by 14 shortlisted curatorial participants from the programme.
“ESCAPE from the SEA” is the second major exhibition, and presents the work of 14 artists from Japan, Malaysia, the Philippines, Indonesia and Singapore, whose work considers issues of identity, belongingness and history through the politics of borders in this region and beyond. The show is held at NAG and APW in Kuala Lumpur until 23 April 2017, and is curated by Malaysian Yap Sau Bin and Japan’s Hiroyuki Hattori, with co-curators Alice Sarmiento (Philippines), Kurnia Yunita Rahayu (Indonesia), Souliya Phoumivong (Laos) and Goh Sze Ying (Malaysia).
The participating artists work in a range of media including film and video, installation, performance and research-based projects. The artists are:
- Adam David (Philippines)
- Aoyama Satoru (Japan)
- Au Sow-Yee (Malaysia)
- Catalina Africa Espinosa (Philippines)
- Han Ishu (Japan)
- Ismal Muntaha (Indonesia)
- Jeffrey Lim (Malaysia)
- Mark Teh, Ali Alasri, Faiq Syazwan Kuhiri and Wong Tay Sy (Malaysia)
- Pangrok Sulap Collective (Malaysia)
- Roslisham Ismail aka ISE (Malaysia)
- Shitamichi Motoyuki (Japan)
- Tita Salina (Indonesia)
- Yang02 + Kenta Ishige (Japan)
- Zai Kuning (Singapore)
The sea as a (non)boundary
As the curatorial statement writes, the exhibition frames the sea as “both physical and metaphorical, defining maritime and geopolitical boundaries as well as representing a fluid state of boundlessness”. The title therefore “invokes an escape” from both a political and a poetic perspective. The curators enquire:
If escape implies a line of flight from, a way of slipping past, an act of eluding a limit or a border, where do we escape to? Here, the borders between home and neighbour, self and other, historic and contemporary, factual and fictive, real and imagined are negotiated, and while escape is requisite, arrival is never resolute.
While some of the works on show respond directly to the notion of political borders and boundaries between sovereign lands and of bodies of water, others navigate the idea of private borders, inspired by personal life and experience to question public affairs. Others also explore the possibilities of the dissolution of borders, presenting a blurred view of the boundaries between what we know and what we can imagine, and thus a new vision of history, time and space.
Au Sow-Yee (b. 1978, Kuala Lumpur) questions, explores as well as expands the relation between images, image making, history, politics and power through video installation and other media. Au’s recent work focuses on a re-imagined history of Malaysia and Southeast Asia from perceptions and ideologies bounded by the Cold War.
Multidisciplinary artist Roslisham Ismail aka ISE (b. 1972, Kota Bharu, Malaysia) works with installation, video art and participatory projects, largely informed by expressions of popular culture, such as comics. He aims to represent alternative histories of place and culture. In ChronoLOGICal, ISE traces the history of his hometown in Kelantan, from as far back as 15,000 years ago to the present day. ISE juxtaposes Kelantan’s rich history with folklore, conjuring an image of it as a mythical and epic place.
Han Ishu (b. 1987, Shanghai, China) has lived most of his life in Japan, where he is currently based. With his duplicitous origins, Han has always been interested in issues of identity, belonging and migration, which form the core of his performance and visual art. Recently, he has also been focusing on relationships and distances with others. In Great Round Table – The weight between you and me, he uses kitchen scales, chopsticks and silverware to measure and comment on such relationship struggles, where differences and commonalities are always ‘weighed’ in order to keep some sort of balance.
Indonesia’s Tita Salina (b. 1973, Palembang) sees art as “a collection of memories that have stories”, each one capable of binding many things, from history, trends and technology, to personal experiences. Salina tests the limits of ‘elasticity’ by linking art to life and social patterns, creating new emotional bonds between ideas and events. In this way, art is used as an archaeological tool, through which the artist unearths and studies life. In her work 1001st Island Salina combines video, performance and social practice to explore issues of land reclamation and use, and the uncertainty of a future of displacement faced by traditional fishermen.
Zai Kuning, who will be representing Singapore at the 57th Venice Biennale opening in May 2017, presents Riau, a 30-minute film which also featured at the recently closed Singapore Biennale 2016. Since 2001, Zai has been focusing his work on drawings, music and research on Melayu history and the Orang Laut (sea gypsies) who are indigenous to the Riau Archipelago, a province of Indonesia located south of Singapore. In 2005, Riau was screened at the International Film Festival Rotterdam, Busan International Film Festival and 3rd Fukuoka Asian Art Triennial. The film documents Zai’s period of stay with the Orang Laut in a nomadic fishing village around the Riau islands. The work records impressions of the Orang Laut’s daily life, weaving them with the artist’s anecdotes, and presents a view of the dislocated histories embodied by the Orang Laut.
C. A. Xuan Mai Ardia
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- Zai Kuning on the Singapore Pavilion project at Venice Biennale 2017 – interview – March 2017 – Art Radar talks to Singapore artist Zai Kuning about “Dapunta Hyang”, the work being prepared for the Singapore Pavilion
- Photo Gallery: “An Atlas of Mirrors”, Singapore Biennale 2016 – February 2017 – Art Radar features an exclusive photo gallery from the Singapore Biennale 2016, closing on 26 February 2017
- Art can change the mindset of society: Indonesian curator Alia Swastika – interview – January 2017 – Indonesian curator Alia Swastika was recently celebrated by Apollo International Art Magazine as a young arts professional to watch
- Mapping the Multidisciplinary: the inaugural Gallery Weekend Kuala Lumpur – round-up – December 2016 – the inaugural Gallery Weekend Kuala Lumpur provided audiences with a unique insight into the Malaysian art scene
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