Curated by Cosmin Costinas and Inti Guerrero, the travelling exhibition is based on intertwined lines of tension and narratives found today in Asia and beyond.
The group exhibition at Para Site explores issues brought by the forces that have transformed the world over the past decades, with Asia being at the forefront of these changes.
“Soil and Stones, Souls and Songs” is co-presented by Hong Kong’s non-profit art space Para Site and Paris- and San-Francisco-based non-profit KADIST Art Foundation. Co-curated by Cosmin Costinas and Inti Guerrero, it is a major travelling exhibition that explores the issues that are found in the realities, artistic and cultural production, and contemporary thought in the Asian sphere and beyond. The exhibition was first presented in a different configuration at the Museum of Contemporary Art and Design in Manila.
Following the crisis of Western modernity and the changing of geopolitical order in the postcolonial era, many countries are struggling to find their position in the nation building process. The unleashing of the forces of the global market in the region has modified the forms of production, labour, landscape and environments, as well as wider societal structures across the continent. Consequently, anxieties and complexities arise as the notion of nationalism and what it means to be indigenous across the colonised world marks the loss of certainties.
The show is based on a variety of art practices, new commissions and case studies curated by Yongwoo Lee, Qu Chang and Simon Soon. It traces the forces that have transformed the world over the past decades, with Asia being at the forefront of these changes. The group exhibition, which also coincided with Art Basel Hong Kong, is on view from 18 March to 11 June 2017.
Two performances were held as part of the exhibition. The first was “Sand Cone”, a performance by Hong Kong artist Ho Siu Kee on 17 March 2017.
A week later, “The Reverse Collection”, a performance by Lebanese sound artist Tarek Atoui blending folkloric elements and avant-garde experimental music was held on 24 March 2017. It was accompanied by Hong Kong-based multidisciplinary artist Shane Aspegren and musician Takuro Mizuta Lippit a.k.a. dj sniff.
The group show features over 40 international artists, including Pio Abad, Kawayan de Guia, Simryn Gill, James T. Hong, Map Office, Prabhakar Pachpute, Pratchaya Phinthong, Tang Kwok Hin, Trương Công Tùng, Haegue Yang and Trevor Yeung, among others. Art Radar takes a look at 5 artworks by artists around the world.
Colonialism, identity and capitalist exploitation
Sammy Baloji is a photographer from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Born in Lubumbashi in 1978, he currently lives and works between Brussels and his hometown. His installation work Sociétés Secrètes has been included in the exhibition “Personne et les autres” with Belgian artist Vincent Meesen at the Belgian Pavillion at the 56th Venice Biennale in 2015, led by its first African curator, Okwui Enwezor.
Congo was a colony of Belgium. In order to question the official version of Belgian colonial history, Baloji researches historical archives to explore the cultural, architectural and industrial heritage of Congo. Besides highlighting the marks of identity in the scarification ritual, the use of copper in the bas-relief plates also serves as a criticism for the Belgian exploitation of Congo’s copper mines. Former Congolese Situationist International member Joseph M’Belolo Ya M’Piku, whose protest song composed in 1968 was featured alongside Baloji’s work in the Pavillion in Venice, once commented:
Belgium had colonized Congo, but capitalism colonized Belgium.
Orientalism and the other
Meanwhile, in Beyond Geography, Beijing-based Chinese video and performance artist Li Ran parodies the typical Discovery Channel adventure-explorer. He mimics the expedition of a male explorer from the “West” who stumbles upon a jungle full of “exotic” natives. Set in front of a blue screen, he highlights the artificiality of popular television programmes, and the manufactured perceptions of the “other”, which are often biased. His pseudo-documentary work warns us of the dangers of misrepresentation and appropriation.
Born in Hubei in 1986, Li’s work has been exhibited internationally, including at the Centre Pompidou, Paris; Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA), London; The Museum of Moscow, Moscow; OCT Contemporary Art Terminal (OCAT), Shenzhen, Shanghai and Xi’an; Ullens Center for Contemporary Art (UCCA), Beijing; CAFA Art Museum (CAFAM), Beijing; Montreal Biennale (2014), Biennale Of Moving Images 2014; 4th Moscow International Biennale for Young Art; 9th Gwangju Biennial and 7th Shenzhen Sculpture Biennale, among others
Exploring materiality, labour and everyday life
Born in 1957, Bangalore-based artist Sheela Gowda is known for her use of found materials from everyday life to construct her sculptural installations, such as cow dung and incense. In this work, she uses hair, rope, shells and metal. Her work sheds light on the manual labour involved in the production process, especially that of workers in India.
Her works have been exhibited in Gallery Chemould, Mumbai; GALLERYSKE, Bangalore; Bose Pacia Gallery, New York; Serpentine Gallery, London; Centre Pompidou, Paris; Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven, Netherlands; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; Documenta 12; Venice Biennale (2009); Sharjah Biennial (2009) and Busan Biennale (2012), among others.
Body politics and monetary value
Chinese conceptual artist He Xiangyu references his own body in Wisdom Tower (A Pretty Girl). In this work, he creates a miniature Chinese pagoda with his own wisdom teeth. Gold symbolises the monetary value inherent in the construction of these monuments. Along with the rapid economic growth of China, the cost of labour in building new infrastructure is soaring. The artist uses gold and teeth to question the issues that are happening in Chinese society.
Born in Liaoning Province in 1986, the artist is based in Beijing. His works has been exhibited in The Bathhouse, Tokyo; White Space, Beijing; Kunstlerhaus Schloss Balmoral, Bad Ems, Germany; Wall Art Museum, Beijing; Groninger Museum, The Netherlands; Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing; and Kunstmuseum Luzern, Switzerland, among others.
History, documentation and the post-Cold War era
Ion Grigorescu is a Romanian multimedia artist. Born in 1945 in Bucharest, his conceptual and performance works are considered radical against the background of Eastern Europe under the communist regime of Ceaușescu. He started his work in the 1970s and explores the human body through the camera lens. His works documented both his own private life and that of the Romanians as the country transitioned to capitalism after 1989. In the post-Cold War era, a new world order is created, causing a new set of anxieties.
He represented Romania at the Vennice Biennale in 2011 and his work has been exhibited, among others, in the Venice Biennale in 1997; Neue Galerie Graz, Austria; Kunsthalle Fridericianum, Kassel, Germany; Documenta 12, Kassel; the Berlin Biennale; and Tate Modern, London.
- Farmers’ lives matter: Prabhakar Pachpute on “Shadows on Arrival” at Kolkata’s Experimenter – interview – April 2017 – Prabhakar Pachpute’s exhibition “Shadows on Arrival” sketches gloomy lunar landscapes at Kolkata-based gallery Experimenter
- “Howie Tsui: Retainers of Anarchy”: exploring notions of nationhood in Hong Kong at Vancouver Art Gallery – April 2017 – Howie Tsui explores the liminal space between self-governance and lawlessness
- “ESCAPE from the SEA”: Japanese and Southeast Asian artists in Kuala Lumpur – in pictures – April 2017 – Japanese and Southeast Asian artists explore issues of identity, belongingness and history through the politics of borders in the region and beyond
- “Political Acts: Pioneers of Performance Art in Southeast Asia” at the Arts Centre Melbourne – April 2017 – Art Radar takes a closer look at some of the participating performance artists and their practice in “Political Acts: Pioneers of Performance Art in Southeast Asia”
- Filipino artist Pio Abad explores political “Counternarratives” at Silverlens Gallery – April 2017 – Pio Abad brings up the archive of resistance to the Marcos dictatorship in the Phillipines following the recent burial of the dictator
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