Al Sawaber: Kuwaiti artist Tarek Al-Ghoussein at The Third Line, Dubai

Tarek Al-Ghoussein elides dystopian narratives in favour of modest memorials to the past occupants of Al Sawaber in Kuwait.

The Kuwaiti-Palestinian artist’s latest exhibition examines the traces of lives left behind in the doomed Al Sawaber housing estate in Kuwait.

Tarek Al-Ghoussein 'Al Sawaber', 2017, Installation and photography. Installation view at The Third Line Dubai, 2017.

Tarek Al-Ghoussein, “Al Sawaber”, 2017, installation and photography. Installation view at Third Line Gallery Dubai, 2017. Image courtesy The Third Line.

In his latest body of work presented in the exhibition “Al Sawaber”, on display at the Third Line Gallery, Kuwaiti artist and photographer Tarek Al-Ghoussein focuses on the Al Sawaber area in Kuwait City. The area is known for a series of stepped housing blocks built in 1977 as a response to the increasing scarcity of housing in Kuwait due to the displacement of peoples from areas where oil had been discovered in the early part of the twentieth century.

The Al Sawaber development was intended to be a landmark in the progressive housing programme for Kuwait, and while its Canadian architect, Arthur Erickson – who is also the designer of Abu Dhabi’s Etisalat headquarters and the revolving Le Meridien Hotel – stands by his design, the estate has received many critiques for its shortcomings. Only around three-fourths of the buildings planned were actually built and when standing the allotment quickly ran into disuse due to a series of inadequacies, including the lack of a functioning diwaniya space – the traditional gathering and social spaces for Kuwaiti men.

Tarek Al-Ghoussein 'Al Sawaber', 2017, Installation and photography. Installation view at The Third Line Dubai, 2017.

Tarek Al-Ghoussein, “Al Sawaber”, 2017, installation and photography. Installation view at Third Line Gallery Dubai, 2017. Image courtesy The Third Line.

In Tarek’s photographic study of the housing blocks, the viewer witnesses the dereliction of what was once a promising social housing project, characterised by the emphasis on shared garden and green space between the buildings.

Tarek Al-Ghoussain’s images of the block take a documentary stance to the architecture. The mute colours and bleak composition suggest a latent critique of the high-rise utopias that populate socialist and functionalist architecture of the 1950s and 1960s. The Al Sawaber estate of Tarek Al-Ghoussain’s photographs may at first glance appear like the Barbican of J.G Ballard’s dystopian novel High Rise, or the curious fall from grace of Barcelona’s Walden 7 building, critiqued by locals and international architects as a famous failure for communal living.

Tarek Al-Ghoussein 'Al Sawaber', 2017, Installation and photography. Installation view at The Third Line Dubai, 2017.

Tarek Al-Ghoussein, “Al Sawaber”, 2017, installation and photography. Installation view at Third Line Gallery Dubai, 2017. Image courtesy The Third Line.

Tarek Al-Ghoussein 'Al Sawaber', 2017, Installation and photography. Installation view at The Third Line Dubai, 2017.

Tarek Al-Ghoussein, “Al Sawaber”, 2017, installation and photography. Installation view at Third Line Gallery Dubai, 2017. Image courtesy The Third Line.

Yet far from affirming the dominant narratives of the failure of the building, Tarek Al-Ghoussain’s project Al Sawaber rather recuperates the invisibilised history of one of the unintended consequences of the complex. The 1990-91 Gulf War marked a shift in the use Al Sawaber, as Kuwaiti nationals gradually left the apartments and moved into other residential areas. The housing steadily changed from being a residence for Kuwaitis to being a home for a wide variety of expatriates, refugees and migrant workers of different nationalities and faiths. Tarek Al-Ghoussein believes Al Sawaber should be considered a partial success, stating in an article:

You had Christians here, Hindus and people from both sects of Islam and there were no issues even though they were living only 15 feet from one another.

Tarek Al-Ghoussein 'Al Sawaber', 2017, Installation and photography. Installation view at The Third Line Dubai, 2017.

Tarek Al-Ghoussein, “Al Sawaber”, 2017, installation and photography. Installation view at Third Line Gallery Dubai, 2017. Image courtesy The Third Line.

Tarek Al-Ghoussein was born in Kuwait in 1962 but his parents are Palestinian exiles. The artist lived in the United States, Morocco and Japan during his childhood, no doubt informing his perspective which is both internationalist and localist. As a trained photojournalist, his professional and personal background play a prominent role in his artistic output, which deals with his Palestinian identity through photography that often appears to be documentary in nature, but is in fact fictional.

Tarek Al-Ghoussein 'Al Sawaber', 2017, Installation and photography. Installation view at The Third Line Dubai, 2017.

Tarek Al-Ghoussein, “Al Sawaber”, 2017, installation and photography. Installation view at Third Line Gallery Dubai, 2017. Image courtesy The Third Line.

Tarek Al-Ghoussein 'Al Sawaber', 2017, Installation and photography. Installation view at The Third Line Dubai, 2017.

Tarek Al-Ghoussein, “Al Sawaber”, 2017, installation and photography. Installation view at Third Line Gallery Dubai, 2017. Image courtesy The Third Line.

This tension between the indexical and the imaginary, between the image and the caption, and between fact and fiction, has been a primary organising force for his practice since he began making aritistic work in the early 2000s. More recently, Al-Ghoussein has started photographing walls or barriers in a desert landscape. These images refer to the literal barriers that prevent Palestinians from moving freely in the world (Al-Ghoussein has never been to Palestine) as well as the artist’s own difficulty in overcoming prejudices against the Arab world.

Tarek Al-Ghoussein 'Al Sawaber', 2017, Installation and photography. Installation view at The Third Line Dubai, 2017.

Tarek Al-Ghoussein, “Al Sawaber”, 2017, installation and photography. Installation view at Third Line Gallery Dubai, 2017. Image courtesy The Third Line.

The photographs and installations presented at The Third Line are less of a post-modern critique of faltering utopian architecture than a modest memorial to the undocumented and often invisibilised inhabitants of Al Sawaber.

Rebecca Close

2006

“Al Sawaber” by Tarek Al-Ghoussein is on view from 5 November 2017 to 14 February 2018 at The Third Line, Warehouse 78 & 80, Street 8, Al Quoz 1, Alserkal Avenue, Dubai, UAE, PO Box 72036.

Related Topics: Kuwaiti artists, painting, installation, censorship, art and politics, events in Kuwait

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“Art, Ritual and the Everyday” at M+ REORIENT: Conversations on South and Southeast Asia – Part II – Talk summary of Artist Sheela Gowda

REORIENT brought together art professionals in a three-day event to explore views across various locales in South and Southeast Asia.

The symposium comprised one-on-one conversations, short presentations and panel discussions. Art Radar summarises the presentation given by acclaimed Indian artist Sheela Gowda.

Sheela Gowda. Visual Artist, based in Bangalore, India. Image courtesy the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority.

Sheela Gowda. Visual Artist, based in Bangalore, India. Image courtesy the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority.

From 30 November to 2 December 2017, M+ organised a public event, REORIENT, to gather art professionals from the fields of visual art, design and architecture, and moving image, to inform the audience in Hong Kong about the artistic practices in the region of South and Southeast Asia.

In the previous article of this two-part series, Art Radar interviewed M+ Deputy Director and Chief Curator Doryun Chong about his views on curatorial practices in the region. On the occasion of the second day of the three-day event, namely “Art, Ritual and the Everyday”, Art Radar summarises the presentation of acclaimed Indian artist Sheela Gowda.

"Art, Ritual and the Everyday", Sheela Gowda in conversation with Doryun Chong. M+ Matters – REORIENT: Conversations on South and Southeast Asia, 30 November – 2 December 2017. Image courtesy the WKCDA.

“Art, Ritual and the Everyday”, Sheela Gowda in conversation with Doryun Chong. M+ Matters – REORIENT: Conversations on South and Southeast Asia, 30 November – 2 December 2017. Image courtesy the WKCDA.

Bangalore-based Indian artist Sheela Gowda is known for her site-oriented large scale installations, which are comprised of found materials, such as cow dung, metal barrels, wood, car bumpers, incense and human hair. Originally trained as a painter, she has explored the materiality of everyday objects and the meditative working process throughout her oeuvre. Through her monumental works, the artist examines notions of gender, labour and economic disparities. Her works have been shown at Tate Modern, UK; Kochi-Muziris Biennale, India; Para Site, Hong Kong; Centre Pompidou, France; Perez Museum, USA; 53rd Venice Biennale, Italy; Sharjah Biennale, UAE; and Documenta 12, Germany, among others.

Quotidian materials and objects

Sheela Gowda was trained as a painter, but in the 1990s, due to the political turmoil in India as a result of the rise of right-wing Hindu ideologies, she started creating installations. She thought that oil on canvas could not capture her reaction towards the communal violence that was happening in the country, so she began using quotidian materials instead. She remarks during her talk:

The material already says half of what I wanted to say. We need to let the material speak.

The artist started incorporating cow dung as a medium in her art in 1993, and showed the works in Bangalore and Mumbai. In her presentation, she noted the irony of the symbol of the cow – it is meant to symbolise non-violence, yet is also the cause of violence in India.

Sheela Gowda, 'Untitled', 1992-2012, cow dung. Image courtesy the artist and Para Site, Hong Kong.

Sheela Gowda, ‘Untitled’, 1992-2012, cow dung. Image courtesy the artist and Para Site, Hong Kong.

A decade later, Gowda’s work Behold (2009) explored the tension between the industrial and the organic. In the large scale installation, steel bumpers from cars are suspended on the walls by ropes made of human hair. It references the common practice of protection used by people in Bangalore who try to ward off accidents by tying human hair to car bumpers. The artist comments on the work:

You are in control of the car, the vehicle you are driving, but you are so vulnerable.

Sheela Gowda has also made artwork out of wood. In vernacular colours, traditional sculptures of a man and a woman are crafted using red sandalwood doorframes. The doorframes symbolise passage from one space to another, as well as connection. She mentions that these sculptures of human figures have no religious significance, and are only referencing the notion of ritual. Though the figures are mass produced, they are done by hand. Unique markings on the sculptures signify individual identity.

Space and performance

Drip Field (2009) shown at Sharjah Biennial 9 was an outdoor site-specific installation at the parking lot right outside the museum. Sheela Gowda filled the space with water about three inches deep. She is fascinated by the dripping irrigation system. In the presentation, she mentions that there are underwater microphones, so that the work becomes a concert of the dripping of water.

Sheela Gowda, 'Either Way', 2015, wool, human hair and wood, dimensions variable. Image courtesy the artist and Para Site, Hong Kong.

Sheela Gowda, ‘Either Way’, 2015, wool, human hair and wood, dimensions variable. Image courtesy the artist and Para Site, Hong Kong.

In And Tell Him of My Pain (1998/2001/2007), the artist uses the room and the space as the canvas, where the lines are a form of expression. In a labour intensive manner, Gowda uses threads to create columns of red coils. As if it were a private performance, every thread of the rope has been through the eye of the needle. She mentions that the work was done after she had a baby, so she did not want to work with messy materials such as cowdung. She laughs, saying:

What you sometimes think is the right idea, sometimes leads you to the real right idea.

Another installation that uses the colour red is And that is no lie (2015). Red cloth cut in zig-zag patterns was suspended across the gallery space, while the middle collapses onto the floor. The colour red symbolises rupture, violence, aggression, and ironically, celebration.

At Para Site, Hong Kong, she has shown an installation called If you saw desire (2015). Reacting to the sights and sounds of the city, the artist used textiles gathered from the fabric markets in Hong Kong to put them on flagpoles across the space. The excess of variety was what the artist wanted to express in this piece.

Intensity of history and politicals of materials

In Darkroom (2006), Gowda is inspired by the temporary road shelters by migrant road workers in India made out of flattened sheets of metal from tar drums. The experience is unusual because of the tar drums, the sticky resin, the curvature of the materials and the sheer weight above the head. Ironically, she observes that there are some Malevich-like black squares that are placed under the feet, which shows that the object is not seen as precious at all. The exterior of the work looks as humble as any rusty container; however, upon stepping inside the small space, the viewer will be surprised to find that the numerous punctures and holes in the ceiling make it seem like they are looking at a vast and infinite night sky.

Sheela Gowda, 'If you saw desire', 2015. Image courtesy the artist and Para Site, Hong Kong.

Sheela Gowda, ‘If you saw desire’, 2015. Image courtesy the artist and Para Site, Hong Kong.

This experience translates to the interpretation of “oppression”, which is a close-minded view of what “confinement” means. The artist reiterates that this work is not about poverty, as many western viewers might interpret. She says that in the non-western context, if everyday materials are used, it is common to misread it as a work about poverty. She noted in her earlier convesations with Hans Ulrich Obrist, they agreed that this narrow view was known as the notion of “consumption of difference”, which was not the main presumption of the artist. She thinks that as an artist looking from an outsider’s position, especially a privileged one, there is no legitimacy to talk about poverty. She summarises this work by saying that “The material determines the dwelling.”

Meanwhile, in the 31st São Paulo Biennial, Gowda showed a work entitled Those of Whom (2014). In the installation, she drew upon the history of Brazil and incorporated the material of rubber. The work also contains rigid and old metal frames gathered from recycling areas. In preparation of the work, the artist ventured into the Amazon forest for a research visit. It was an eye-opener to world history for her. There she saw the rubber trees and the rubber seeds, which sparked her interest in the history of the trade of rubber, the exploitation of the environment and human labour in Brazil to serve the economy. In the presentation, Sheela Gowda explained the dark history of rubber. British explorer Henry Wickham stole the rubber seeds in Brazil back to Britain to figure out how the plant could be used for industrial purposes. As a result, rubber plantations in Asia, such as in Malaysia, started operating.

During World War II, however, the Japanese army took over the plantations, and the Europeans and the United States lost access to rubber. Out of desperation, they seduced the people of Northern Brazil (who are not forest dwellers) to steal rubber in the Amazon forest for them. Tragically, tens of thousands of Brazilian “Rubber Soldiers” lost their lives during their quest. Eventually, the United Sates won the war, yet the promise they made was forgotten after D-Day. To this day, descendants of the so-called “Rubber Soldiers” still live in that area in Brazil. In her work at the Biennal, Sheela Gowda also incorporated black squares that resemble the iconic work by Malevich, to comment on the dark side of modernity and its effect in Brazil.

Valencia Tong

2028

Click here to read “Art, Ritual and the Everyday” at M+ REORIENT: Conversations on South and Southeast Asia – Part I – Interview with Doryun Chong

Related Topics: Indian, installation, mixed media, lectures and talks, Mumbai

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“Extrastellar Evaluations III”: Yin-Ju Chen and Cosmographical Mythology at TKG+, Taipei

Taiwanese artist Yin-Ju Chen exhibits the third and final instalment of her “Extrastellar Evaluations” series, investigating humanity’s future through the lens of space physics, cosmography and alien mythologies.

The multimedia installation takes over Taipei’s TKG+ Project’s space, immersing audiences in a comprehensive other-worldliness.

TKG+ Projects Announcement for Yin-Ju Chen's solo exhibition, "Extrastellar Evaluations III: Entropy: 25800". Image courtesy TKG+ Projects.

TKG+ Projects announces Yin-Ju Chen’s solo exhibition, “Extrastellar Evaluations III: Entropy: 25800”. Image courtesy TKG+ Projects.

The central lesson of quantum physics is that humans are part of the nature that they seek to understand. In “Extrastellar Evaluations III: Entropy: 25800”, Taiwanese artist Yin-Ju Chen peers into astronomical, biological, cosmographical and physical practices to prove this intimate connection. Her use of video, installation, sound and drawing must be understood as intra-actions among component parts of nature. She seeks to narrate – or, perhaps, excavate the narrations of – the universe so that viewers understand the geological, computational and technological realities synonymously.

Yin-Ju Chen, "Extrastellar Evaluations III: Entropy: 25800", 2018, Single-channel video, 16’47”. (Video still). Image courtesy the artist and Chi-Wen Gallery.

Yin-Ju Chen, ‘Extrastellar Evaluations III: Entropy: 25800’ (video still), 2018, single channel video, 16m:47s. Image courtesy the artist and Chi-Wen Gallery.

This kind of imbroglio cannot be articulated through a theoretical or fictional exhibition alone; as the late cultural theorist Mark Fisher writes, “sometimes the threshold into another world may only be a matter of re-scaling… the notion of the in-between is crucial.” The primary concerns of Yin-Ju Chen’s ongoing solo exhibition is to exhume or delineate the entanglements between reality and speculation, to articulate this world or another by re-scaling one’s understanding of fiction, theory, science and fact.

Chen uses the ‘in-between’ as an allegory, encouraging the gallery visitors to question the standard perceptions of history and to consider alternative interpretations of scientific phenomena. For the artist, mysticism and astrology are given the same weighty consideration as physics and astronomy, both regarded as conduits for contemplating the “consequences of quantum entanglement” and the destructive tendencies of human activities.

Yin-Ju Chen, "Extrastellar Evaluations III: Entropy: 25800", 2018, Single-channel video, 16’47”. (Video still). Image courtesy the artist and Chi-Wen Gallery.

Yin-Ju Chen, ‘Extrastellar Evaluations III: Entropy: 25800’ (video still), 2018, singlechannel video, 16m:47s. Image courtesy the artist and Chi-Wen Gallery.

The artist plays with these ideas by looking at doomsday prophecies, from the Book of Revelations, the Millennium Crisis and the accounts of the 2012 Mayan Apocalypse. Here, she says, “the end of the end of days seems imminent, yet it never comes”. Through an occultist perspective, Chen’s installation asks the following questions:

What is the purpose of the doomsday prophecy — to serve as a warning to the world or as a means of manipulation? And what awaits us in the future — another cycle or an infinite wasteland?

Yin-Ju Chen, "Extrastellar Evaluations III: Entropy: 25800", 2018, Single-channel video, 16’47”. (Video still). Image courtesy the artist and Chi-Wen Gallery.

Yin-Ju Chen, ‘Extrastellar Evaluations III: Entropy: 25800’ (video still), 2018, singlechannel video, 16m:47s. Image courtesy the artist and Chi-Wen Gallery.

As a continuation of the “Extrastellar Evaluations” series that began in 2016, the artist questions the future of the human race and its inevitable demise through a playful and interactive exploration of history, legend and mass-produced culture. More specifically, “Extrastellar Evaluations III: Entropy: 25800” is Chen’s attempt to reveal when exactly Doomsday will take place and both the scientific and mythological, or fictional, methods by which it can be predicted. She claims that both NASA and “several ancient mythologies” agree that the cycle of the “Great Year” is 25,800 years, meaning the “Spring Equinox has made a complete cycle around the ecliptic.” Whether this research is based on fact, fiction or somewhere in-between is intentionally obscured, allowing for distorted readings of both the exhibition and the fate of the universe itself.

Yin-Ju Chen, "Extrastellar Evaluations III: Entropy: 25800", 2018, Single-channel video, 16’47”. (Video still). Image courtesy the artist and Chi-Wen Gallery.

Yin-Ju Chen, ‘Extrastellar Evaluations III: Entropy: 25800’ (video still), 2018, single channel video, 16m:47s. Image courtesy the artist and Chi-Wen Gallery.

Further, the installation – complete with video, sound and drawings – toys with the notion of entropy from the second law of thermodynamics. Also known as the ‘measure of disorder’, the artist connects entropy to what she calls the “belligerence of human nature” (PDF download), tying physics and psychoanalysis into one interconnected study. The video component of “Extrastellar Evaluations III” is narrated by a voice who illustrates this point. As such, the crux of the entire piece, and perhaps the series as a whole, is that everything – the universe and the origin of all beings within it – are the products of extraterrestrial work, made manifest in the artist’s understanding of mysticism, history, ethics, cosmology and supernatural phenomena.

In conversation with Art Radar about her longstanding interest in mysticism and (pseudo)science, Chen quotes Evelyn Hill’s Mysticism (PDF download):

So remote, however, are these matters from our ordinary habits of thought, that their investigation entails, in those who would attempt to understand them, a definite preparation: a purging of the intellect. As with those who came of old to the Mysteries, purification is here the gate of knowledge. We must come to this encounter with minds cleared of prejudice and convention, must deliberately break with our inveterate habit of taking the “visible world” for granted; our lazy assumption that somehow science is “real” and metaphysics is not.

Yin-Ju Chen & Chia-Sheng Lin, 'Sundial Dance', 2018, Single-channel video, 30”, (Video still). Image courtesy the artist and Chi-Wen Gallery.

Yin-Ju Chen & Chia-Sheng Lin, ‘Sundial Dance’ (video still), 2018, single channel video, 30m:00s. Image courtesy the artist and Chi-Wen Gallery.

Chen’s narrative unfolds in this exhibition through a seemingly logical scientific evaluation, urging the viewer to see parallels in fiction and speculative science, the artist’s forays into “space physics” being only one example. This investigation goes beyond the TKG+ exhibition and is found throughout the artist’s experimental career.

Yin-Ju Chen, Flower of Life, 2017, charcoal and pencil on paper, 152 x 104 cm. Image courtesy the artist and Chi-Wen Gallery.

Yin-Ju Chen, Flower of Life, 2017, charcoal and pencil on paper, 152 x 104 cm. Image courtesy the artist and Chi-Wen Gallery.

For example, the second instalment of “Extrastellar Evaluations”, subtitled, “A Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems” refers to the infinitude and homogeneity of science practices. In the piece, Galileo Galilei’s astronomical text is approached as a theoretical dialogue of sorts, detailing a conversation between three individuals and their understood models of the universe: the Ptolemaic system and the Copernican system. Prominent within the project is a double-screen animation illustrating the contrasting views between the Geocentric and Heliocentric cosmos, respectively. The digitally-rendered film is partnered with an immersive sound piece, narrating Galileo’s text and selected excerpts of the I-Ching, a Chinese cosmological text of the 9th century BC used to answer moral and universal questions. The installation is completed by two drawings inspired by the Bible and the 13th century Persian poet Rumi. Each of these elements, the artist claims, allows for an alternative reading of the universe – or, perhaps, an extra-terrestrial reading.

Yin-Ju Chen, "Extrastellar Evaluations II: A Dialogue Concerning Two Chief World Systems", 2016, Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art, Manchester. Image courtesy the artist.

Yin-Ju Chen, “Extrastellar Evaluations II: A Dialogue Concerning Two Chief World Systems”, 2016, Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art, Manchester. Image courtesy the artist.

The various methods used to narrate, or translate, universal messages and connections to human consciousness make Yin-Ju Chen’s work multi-faceted on several levels: she not only addresses relations between the cosmos and human behaviour, but also the function of power in manmade ‘isms’, namely, nationalism, totalitarianism and destructivism. By looking into these human constructs as theoretical elements, the artist is able to summarise, or at least illustrate, what she calls “collective thinking” or a “collective (un)conscious”. Chen’s inclusion of ‘ancient’ mythologies and contemporary sciences – be they factual, speculative or rooted in fiction – gives her work an expressive and critical position. Her recent ventures into space science and occultism in “Extrastellar Evaluations III” is only the next step of many into her examination of the relationship between the universe and humanity.

Yin-Ju Chen. Image courtesy the artist.

Yin-Ju Chen. Image courtesy the artist.

Amongst an impressive array of solo exhibitions, Yin-Ju Chen has participated in numerous international exhibitions and film festivals including the Liverpool Biennale (2016), Forum Expanded at the 66th Berlin Film Festival (2016), the 20th Biennale of Sydney (2016), Shanghai Biennale (2014), the Taipei Biennale (2012) and the International Film Festival Rotterdam (2011). “Extrastellar Evaluations” is, according to the artist, a stepping-off point:

[It is] a defining era from an extrastellar point of view, encouraging a different interpretation of our existence… [allowing] us to acknowledge the severe long-term risks that humans undertake in the name of progress.

Megan Miller

2036

“Extraterrestrial Evaluations: Entropy: 25800” by Yin-Ju Chen is on view from 1 January to 14 February 2018 at TKG+ Projects, B1, No. 15, Ln. 548, Ruiguang Rd., Neihu Dist., Taipei 114, Taiwan.

Related Topics: Taiwanese artists, gallery shows, video art, events in Taipei

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‘Come Back Alive Baby’: multimedia artist Song Sanghee wins Korea Artist Prize 2017

Amsterdam-based artist Song Sanghee receives the Korea Artist Prize 2017 for her new video Come Back Alive Baby, on view at the National Museum for Contemporary Art (MMCA), Korea.

In collaboration with the SBS Cultural Foundation, the conveners of the prize’s sixth edition nominated four contemporary artists who explore budding technologies, lost futures and alienation. Art Radar looks at the 2017 nominees and their contributions to the Seoul art scene.

Portrait of Korea Artist Prize 2017 winner, Song Sanghee. Image courtesy the artist and the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Seoul.

Portrait of Korea Artist Prize 2017 winner Song Sanghee. Image courtesy the artist and the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea.

Following MMCA’s annual ‘artist of the year’ exhibition series (1995-2010), the museum has teamed up with the cultural unit of the Seoul Broadcasting System, SBS Foundation, to highlight the country’s most prolific contemporary artists – an alliance which has led to one of Korea’s most sought-after art awards. To discover and promote artists who have “ardently persisted in paving their own way to artistic success”, the Korea Artist Prize provides a prestigious avenue for the advancement of artwork that challenges societal norms, questions tradition and explores personal paths of innovation.

The 2017 prize’s judging panel included the director of MMCA, Bartomeu Marí, the director of the Dia Art Foundation in New York Jessica Morgan, art historian and curator Kim Hong-Hee, and Philippe Pirotte, Director of Staatliche Hochschule für Künste Stadelschule and Portikus in Frankfurt. The jury unanimously selected four artists to present their recent work for the Korea Artist Prize exhibition at MMCA. After first-round evaluations, each of the four received KRW40 million (USD37,200) from the SBS Foundation to fully realise their installations before the elimination process. The final winner, Song Sanghee, was announced after a second deliberation round, providing her with an additional KRW10 million (USD9,300).

The Winner

Come Back Alive Baby: Song Sanghee

Upon entering the MMCA exhibition, something alluring unfolds that is too enigmatic to speak of as a crisis, yet the crisis is clearly present. A lost space opens up in Song Sanghee’s latest three-channel video installation, Come back alive baby (2017), combining archival footage, text and surreal drawing.

Song Sanghee, ‘Come Back Alive Baby’, 2017, 3 Channel video installation, 16’ (installation view). Image courtesy National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (MMCA), Korea.

Song Sanghee, ‘Come Back Alive Baby’, 2017, three-channel video installation, 16m:00s (installation view). Image courtesy National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (MMCA), Korea.

Come back alive baby deals with the end of all things, with death, salvation, apocalyptic conditions and the return of the impending disaster. Through references to the Korean folktale, Agijangsu (‘Mighty Baby’), the artist illustrates the birth of a new life force that is born out of despair and extinction, whether conjured by natural or manmade sources. She comments directly on the price of individual sacrifice for political, economic and ecological stability – specifically regarding eugenics and the global rise of fascist movements.

Fragments of video footage from World War II and other manmade disasters connect different space-time images with a present in which they have not yet arrived, or may never arrive. As many theorists before her, Song suggests that there is no post-war, post-trauma or post-narrative; there are only pauses. Wrapped in a desire to illustrate this ‘eternal return’, the artist offers a transcription of a future that evolves form an image arriving from the past, an image that is not evident and not necessarily visible. It is not so much about reading or deciphering the video, but about discerning how its echoes may reach viewers. Present time comes into the image through direct sound, and while the image and sound are technically disconnected, they merge in the visitor’s perception.

On the other end of the exhibition gallery is the installation This is the way the world ends not with a bang but a whimper (2017), which is composed of wall-mounted, blue-and-white ceramic tiles with hand-drawn depictions of different explosions. The Delft tiles, she states, are reminiscent of a “torcher room”, their texture reminding her of human skin, “the skin of history”. Also embedded into the museum’s walls were speakers playing a recording of greetings in various languages. In a public statement, the jury said:

Song had delicately presented the tragic histories of modern societies with fables and careful arrangement of multi-layered research and interviews.

Song Sanghee, ‘This is the way the world ends not with a bang but a whimper’, 2017, Tile-wall installation 8 in-wall speakers, Dimension variable. Image courtesy National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (MMCA), Korea.

Song Sanghee, ‘This Is The Way The World Ends Not With a Bang But a Whimper’, 2017, tile-wall installation, 8 in-wall speakers, dimensions variable. Image courtesy National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea.

The shortlisted artists

The Korea Artist Prize 2017 exhibition also features the work of the three shortlisted candidates: Kelvin Kyung Kun Park, who works with video and large-scale installation; the musician and multimedia artist Bek Hyunjin; and painter Sunny Kim.

Kelvin Kyung Kun Park

Kelvin Kyung Kun Park’s contribution, Mirror Organs: Play of Metonymy (2017), transparently refers to his traumatic experiences in the army. The moving installation is comprised of robots holding guns, which are initiated by a signal coming from an analogue circuit in the middle of the gallery. By skillfully transforming the gallery space into a circuitous machine, Park comments on feelings of collectivity and comradery in the military, though not always in the best light. Dramatic flashes of colour and booming sound evoke some discomfort, alluding to the artist’s feelings of alienation and estrangement from within a collectivised system.

Kelvin Kyung Kun Park , 'Mirror Organs: Play of Metonymy', 2017, 2 channel interactive video, web cam, steel, motor, plastic, Dimensions variable. Image courtesy the artist.

Kelvin Kyung Kun Park, ‘Mirror Organs: Play of Metonymy’, 2017, two-channel interactive video, web cam, steel, motor, plastic, dimensions variable. Image courtesy the artist.

Kelvin Kyung Kun Park , 'Mirror Organs: Play of Metonymy', 2017, 2 channel interactive video, web cam, steel, motor, plastic, Dimensions variable. Image courtesy the artist.

Kelvin Kyung Kun Park, ‘Mirror Organs: Play of Metonymy’, 2017, two-channel interactive video, web cam, steel, motor, plastic, dimensions variable. Image courtesy the artist.

Bek Hyunjin

Bek Hyunjin, an artist who is active as a singer, composer, painter, poet, actor and director, presents his multimedia piece UnemploymentBankrupctDivorceDebtSuicide Rest Stop (2017) as a “multipurpose cultural space”. The arranged candles, restaurant tables and stools and plants create a place of refuge – a meditative rest area that is both a non-space and deeply personal. Viewers are confronted with a theatre-like experience where the artist’s motivations are made clear through spattered poetry detailing the trials and tribulations of a man’s life.

Bek Hyunjin, 'UnemploymentBankruptcyDivorceDebtSuicide Rest Stop', 2017, Graffiti with acrylic spray, ready-made wall-hanging cabinet, plywood, curtains, ready-made restaurant stools and customized restaurant tables, polyethylene foam, leather shoes, withered leaves and withered branches, stones and artificial stones, plastic pot, steel pipe, pieces of wood, wooden shelf, papers with a written poem (open edition) and blank papers, soil, sand, incenses and ashes, candle and candlestick, roll paper and apple, empty frames, LED light; Neon sign for 'UnemploymentBankruptcyDivorceDebtSuicide Rest Stop', 8 paintings for nemploymentBankruptcyDivorceDebtSuicide Rest Stop', analogue synthesizer and subwoofer speakers, Dimensions variable
. Image courtesy National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea.

Bek Hyunjin, ‘UnemploymentBankruptcyDivorceDebtSuicide Rest Stop’, 2017, graffiti with acrylic spray, ready-made wall-hanging cabinet, plywood, curtains, ready-made restaurant stools and customised restaurant tables, polyethylene foam, leather shoes, withered leaves and withered branches, stones and artificial stones, plastic pot, steel pipe, pieces of wood, wooden shelf, papers with a written poem (open edition) and blank papers, soil, sand, incenses and ashes, candle and candlestick, roll paper and apple, empty frames, LED light, dimensions variable. Image courtesy National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea.

Sunny Kim

The painted installations of Sunny Kim are also on display at the Korea Artist Prize exhibition. Expertly weaving together oil, found objects, videos and sound, Kim builds a platform for what she calls the “perfect image” – that which focuses on the “psychological territory of internal memory and lost things, summoning them into real-world spaces”. The artist’s two contributions to the show, Girls in Uniform and Landscape, both leap into the dark, as it were, approaching lost and unstable memories as part of a transitional journey to symbolic self-awareness.

Snny Kim, ‘Landscape’, 2014-2017, Painted wooden panels, wire, plaster gauze, mirror, Single-channel video loop, 43’41". Image courtesy National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea.

Sunny Kim, ‘Landscape’, 2014-2017, painted wooden panels, wire, plaster gauze, mirror, single channel video loop, 43m:41s. Image courtesy National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea.

In addition to the monetary grants awarded to each nominee, the SBS Foundation plans to produce a documentary featuring the careers of each participating artist. A particular focus will be held on Song’s ongoing practice, noting her profound research into history, storytelling and patterns of remembrance.

Along with announcement of Song’s award has come the shortlist for the 2018 Korea Artist Prize nominees. The upcoming year’s exhibition at MMCA in August 2018 will feature Koo Minja, the Okin Collective, Jeong Eun Young and Jeong Jaeho.

Megan Miller

2056

The Korea Artist Prize 2017 exhibition is on view from from 13 September 2017 to 18 February 2018 at the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea, 313 Gwangmyeong-ro, Gwancheon-si, Gyeonggi-do 13829, Seoul.

Related Topics: Korean artists, art prizes, museum shows, news, events in Seoul

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“Persevering Traditions”: Indian artists and traditional art practices – curator interview

Leading artists across generations present their world view while delving into traditional art practices.

Curated by Veer Munshi, the exhibition was on display at Sakshi Gallery, Mumbai until 19 January 2018 and will be on view at Art District XIII, New Delhi from 1 February to 15 April.

Madhvi Parekh, 'Man Curving a Bird', Undated, acrylic on acrylic (reverse painting), 35 x 47.5 in. Image courtesy the artist and Sakshi Gallery.

Madhvi Parekh, ‘Man Curving a Bird’, Undated, acrylic on acrylic (reverse painting), 35 x 47.5 in. Image courtesy the artist and Sakshi Gallery.

Weaving tradition into art

A close interaction with tradition as integral to the development of new artistic expression is embedded in the evolution of Indian art from the early 20th century, when artists like Abanindranath Tagore, Nandalal Bose and Jamini Roy of the Bengal School rejected the sterile, imitative style of western academic art and sought inspiration in folk-art and ancient Indian painting. In post-colonial India, while artists also looked westward in order to adopt European modernism, abstraction and other elements so as to make them more relevant on the International stage, several artists continued to revitalise India’s cultural heritage and spirituality, using indigenous elements in their paintings.

V. Ramesh, 'Untitled', 2012, oil on canvas, 60 x 84 in. Image courtesy the artist and Sakshi Gallery.

V. Ramesh, ‘Untitled’, 2012, oil on canvas, 60 x 84 in. Image courtesy the artist and Sakshi Gallery.

At the turn of the 21st century, with artists having explored every idiom and every medium, there is once again a need to infuse an originality and singularity into the world of Indian art and aesthetics. In most contemporary artistic endeavours, seeking inspiration in tradition has often been critiqued as a loss of creativity – with traditional and folk art being associated with derivative, imitative and repetitive iconography and imagery. Presevering Traditions – The Warp and the Weft” showcases the works of 14 Indian artists who, at some point of time in their practices, have fallen back on tradition to broaden their artistic expression and oeuvre, and have been successful in their attempts.

Manjunath Kamath, 'Untitled', 2017, painted terracotta, varying sizes. Image courtesy the artist and Sakshi Gallery.

Manjunath Kamath, ‘Untitled’, 2017, painted terracotta, varying sizes. Image courtesy the artist and Sakshi Gallery.

The exhibition explores the variety of ways in which these artists have borrowed from, or been inspired by, traditional forms, languages and iconographies while still remaining relevant in a contemporary context. The participating artists represent a broad gamut of art practices from stalwarts like K.G. Subramanyan, one of India’s pioneering modernists, and art educator Gulam Mohammed Sheikh, to younger artists like L.N. Tallur, Manjunath Kamath and B.R. Shailesh.

Anju Dodiya, 'Sufi’s Walk', 2010, acrylic and gouache on wallpaper, 16.5 x 16 in. Image courtesy the artist and Sakshi Gallery.

Anju Dodiya, ‘Sufi’s Walk’, 2010, acrylic and gouache on wallpaper, 16.5 x 16 in. Image courtesy the artist and Sakshi Gallery.

Conflating the old and the new

Upon entering Sakshi Gallery, on the first wall were a series of six works by Anju Dodiya with whimsical titles such as Sufi’s Walk (2010), Bed Under the Stars (2010) and Pillar Lullaby (2010). Dodiya uses her usual style of referencing various traditional sources in her work – from Renaissance paintings and Indian miniatures in the past, to Victorian-style wallpaper backgrounds in this series. The draughtsmanship skill and the meticulous detailing of Mughal and Pahari painting are recognisable in the work of both Gulam Mohammed Shaikh and Jagannath Panda – in the interspersed motifs of the former’s Portraits of Artists (2014) and the latter’s Trance Land (2017).

Jagannath Panda, 'Untitled', 2008, acrylic fibre glue, 102 x 56 in. Image courtesy the artist and Sakshi Gallery.

Jagannath Panda, ‘Untitled’, 2008, acrylic fibre glue, 102 x 56 in. Image courtesy the artist and Sakshi Gallery.

B.R. Shailesh’s motorised installation Kshira Dhara (2016-17) is a sardonic twist on the cleansing Ayurvedic treatment of the same name, while Manjunath Kamath’s untitled, half-broken, terracotta wall-art celebrates India’s storytelling culture with the artist’s characteristic satirical wit. It is this underlying sense of humour and an element of absurdity that adds an interesting twist to many of the exhibits, as they remain true to their traditional roots – in the multiplicity of motifs of Surendran Nair’s Alibis of the Cognates (2015); the conflation of Indian-miniature iconography and photography in Waswo X. Waswo’s The Observationist at Leisure in a Stolen Garden (2017); the simple folk-art style of K.G. Subramanyan and the fantastical surreal world of Madhvi Parekh’s Man Curving a Bird.

“Persevering Traditions – The Warp and the Weft”, 21 December 2017 - 19 January 2018, Installation view at Sakshi Gallery. Image courtesy the artists and Sakshi Gallery.

“Persevering Traditions – The Warp and the Weft”, 21 December 2017 – 19 January 2018, Installation view at Sakshi Gallery. Image courtesy the artists and Sakshi Gallery.

In another homage to the history of Indian art, N.S. Harsha’s large untitled watercolour works, Rekha Rodwittiya’s multimedia paintings Matters of the Heart (2013), L.N Tallur’s Sunken History – Two (2017), Ravinder Reddy’s wide-eyed woman’s bust and V. Ramesh’s oil painting of a mythical half human-half tiger divine creature – all draw on a spectrum of traditional Indian painting themes and techniques.

Art Radar spoke to the curator, Veer Munshi about howPersevering Traditions” was conceived and his curatorial experiences during the realisation of the project.

Waswo X. Waswo, from the series "The Observationist at Leisure in the Stolen Garden", 2017, black and white digital photograph hand painted by Rajesh Soni and R. Vijay, 12.5 x 15 in. Image courtesy the artist and Sakshi Gallery.

Waswo X. Waswo, from the series “The Observationist at Leisure in the Stolen Garden”, 2017, black and white digital photograph hand painted by Rajesh Soni and R. Vijay, 12.5 x 15 in. Image courtesy the artist and Sakshi Gallery.

In a country where tradition is the common thread in all aspects of creative enterprise, how did this exhibition come about? Could you share with Art Radar the genesis of this idea?

An art practitioner is self-critiqued about art and its dynamics. Curation on the other hand offers the chance to address some of the overhanging issues in the mind during the walkthrough of art history. In “Persevering Traditions”, roots are the central theme. Art practice in modern times is conditioned around either rootedness or up-rootedness .

N.S. Harsha, 'Untitled', 2008, watercolour on handmade paper, 26 x 50 in each. Image courtesy the artist and Sakshi Gallery.

N.S. Harsha, ‘Untitled’, 2008, watercolour on handmade paper, 26 x 50 in each. Image courtesy the artist and Sakshi Gallery.

What was the curatorial vision that you used while choosing the 14 artists represented in the show, and what was your own creative process in the final choices of the works on display?

The modern meaning of tradition can be seen as having evolved in the European discourse in the last two hundred years or so. Yet artists in “Persevering Traditions” are connected in one way or the other to rootedness and my research revolves across generations, to bring these 14 artists who have been carrying their roots along. I try not to choose artists who are influenced directly or indirectly by western practices – whose art has emerged out of agonising conditions of migration and displacement in post-independence India. There has been a shift from the practice of tradition, post the Bengal School and Kalighat periods. Maybe Jamini Roy was the last one to carry traditions holistically.

This exhibition attempts to delve into and explore ways in which various artists have borrowed from, been inspired by, negotiated with or plainly imitated traditional forms, the language of tradition and its different facets while still remaining relevant in a contemporary context.

B.R. Shailesh, 'Kshira Dhara', 2016-17, wax, sandalwood, copper and motor, 30 in diameter. Image courtesy the artist and Sakshi Gallery.

B.R. Shailesh, ‘Kshira Dhara’, 2016-17, wax, sandalwood, copper and motor, 30 in diameter. Image courtesy the artist and Sakshi Gallery.

In the exhibition, you have explored how artists have borrowed from the aesthetics of the past, in various ways, while still remaining relevant in a contemporary context. Was the underlying inspiration from traditional elements that you saw in each work different from the artists’?

Art is an extension of the Self, which emerges from belongingness, tradition, heritage and experience. Though it is generally agreed upon that interaction with tradition is integral to the development of new artistic expression, in most contemporary artistic endeavour, tradition has often been portrayed as a contrast to creativity – with traditional and folk art associated with unoriginal imitation or repetition in the context of modern art practices, which are valued for being ‘original’ and ‘unique.’ Language or medium are the paths one uses in different times.

Each of the artists have explored possibilities in their own language, balancing the modern and contemporary with equal strength, with traditional values intact. See K.G. Subramanyan, who explored material and imagery so well from tradition, yet remained contemporary. So simple yet aesthetically blessed.

Ravinder Reddy, 'Untitled,' 1998-99, copperleaf, fibreglass and resin, 22 x 13 x 17 in. Image courtesy the artist and Sakshi Gallery.

Ravinder Reddy, ‘Untitled,’ 1998-99, copperleaf, fibreglass and resin, 22 x 13 x 17 in. Image courtesy the artist and Sakshi Gallery.

As an artist yourself, how do you draw from Indian tradition in your own practice? Do you see the thousands of years of history and civilisation that we have inherited as a boon or is it a challenge that artists face in modern art practice?

Coming to my own practice, my experiences transformed my visual sensibility – the personal turns political. Presently, I am collaborating with traditional craftspeople to connect their art with contemporary imagery – to speak of the present turmoil in conflict areas, yet keep the richness of their craft and skill intact.

When I show “Pandit Houses” I raise concerns about vernacular architecture and heritage and related to that, preserving our history, which germinates from an ancient civilisation, Aryan culture and the Vedic way of life. Kashmir, the land of sages and sufis, that is the strength one looks to derive from.

Surendran Nair, 'Alibis of the Cognates', 2015, digital inkjet prints on archival paper, 30 x 22 in each. Image courtesy the artist and Sakshi Gallery.

Surendran Nair, ‘Alibis of the Cognates’, 2015, digital inkjet prints on archival paper, 30 x 22 in each. Image courtesy the artist and Sakshi Gallery.

How are contemporary artists today different from artists of the early 20th century in their interpretations of traditional art and aesthetics?

I believe contemporary artists question and explore their own roots more than those in the past, who more or less thrust personal emotionality on their art, side-stepping its effects on the social and political spectrum. The present generation draws their advantage from their roots, they are globally connected yet carry their roots along.

K. G. Subramanyan, 'Untitled', undated, watercolour on paper, 29 x 21 in. Image courtesy the artist and Sakshi Gallery.

K. G. Subramanyan, ‘Untitled’, undated, watercolour on paper, 29 x 21 in. Image courtesy the artist and Sakshi Gallery.

While on the topic of conflating the old and the new, what is your personal wish list for the direction you would like to see Indian contemporary art take in the new year?

I believe we need to take our legacy forward. The main thrust will be to delve deeper into our tradition and heritage – the strength as we know in our craft, textile or folk music flowing from our cultural moorings. That is our core competence in the world. It is more important to look in rural areas where there artists who are more connected to their roots and who need to be encouraged, rather than limit art to the elite in the cosmopolitan areas.

Amita Kini-Singh

2039

“Presevering Traditions – The Warp and the Weft” is on view from 1 February 2018 to 15 April 2018, at Art District XIII, F-213C, GF, Old M B Road, Lado Sarai, New Delhi 110030.

Related Topics: Indian, painting, oil, photography, gallery shows, New Delhi

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“Patani Semasa”: representing the tumultuous Patani Region at MAIIAM, Chiang Mai

MAIIAM features the work of artists who have engaged with the politics of representation of Southern Thailand’s tumultuous Patani Region.

Art Radar has a more in-depth look at some of the works presented in “Patani Semasa” at MAIIAM Contemporary Art Museum.

Suhaidee Sata Copia, 'Violence', 2016, Coloured Pencils on paper. Image courtesy the artist.

Suhaidee Sata Copia, ‘Violence’, 2016, coloured pencils on paper. Image courtesy the artist.

Patani is the geographical area known in modern-day Thailand as the provinces of Pattani, Yala, Narathiwat and parts of Songkhla. Patani is the subject of an exhibition at MAIIAM in Chiang Mai titled “Patani Semasa” that gathers 27 artists whose work has emerged from or is about the region. Through a wide variety of work that spans visual arts, photography, documentary, film, architecture and poetry, the region known variously as Thailand’s “deep-south” or the “Golden Peninsula” is rendered, contested and most of all visibilised not only as a region that contains the political tensions it has become famous for but also for the strength of its politicised creative art practices.

MumadSoray Deng, 'Di Masjid Kreesek', 2014/2017. Photograph C-print. Image courtesy the artist.

MumadSoray Deng, ‘Di Masjid Kreesek’, 2014/2017. Photograph C-print. Image courtesy the artist.

The political tension here refers to the emergence of a separatist insurgency movement in 2004, when resistance to Buddhist rule in the Muslim-majority region arose. More than 6500 people, most of them civilians, have died in separatist violence since. The artists, poets and filmmakers with ties to the region have responded in a variety of ways.

A large printed poem by Narathiwat poet Zakariya Amataya is the first work to greet the viewer. Zakariya Amataya is Thailand’s first Muslim recipient of the prestigious Southeast Asian Writers Award and has been making waves in the last five years with his politicised verses on anything from the oppressive economic policies across the world to the Muslim minority struggles in Palestine and the Patani region. Close by, photographs by Mumad Soray Deng captures Muslim daily life across the golden peninsula. His work Di Masjid Kreesek (2014/2017) hones in on the celebrations of a wedding ceremony.

Jakkai Siributr, '78', 2014, Steel scaffolding, bamboo, fabric and embroidery, 350 × 350 × 350 cm. Image courtesy the artist.

Jakkai Siributr, ’78’, 2014, steel scaffolding, bamboo, fabric and embroidery, 350 x 350 x 350 cm. Image courtesy the artist.

In another exhibition room is an installation by renowned Thai conceptual artist Jakkai Siributr, who works in tapestry, installation and, most recently, photography. Across his decades long practice he has mixed and blended irreverently Buddhist, animist and vernacular references with secular and consumerist imagery, activating debates around political will, desire and national modes of production of subjectivity. The work displayed is entitled 78 – a reference to one of the region’s pivotal (and well mediatised) acts of government violence against the muslim minority. On 25 October 2004, a group of demonstrators gathered in front of a police station in the southern Thai town of Tak Bai. They were protesting the arrest of a small group of men who had reportedly stolen weapons to support the Muslim separatist movmenet.

When the police arrived they killed seven at the protest. The death of these seven protestors sparked a subsequent protest whose handling by the government and police forces led to the death of 78 people: 1300 protestors, overpowered by military personnel, were ordered to strip and crawl to nearby trucks where they were stacked and driven for hours to a military camp. 78 died en route. Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra infamously claimed that the deaths occurred because their bodies were weak due to fasting for Ramadan and a number of revenge killings were carried out in the following months, including the beheading of a prominent Buddhist deputy police chief.

Jehabdulloh Jehsorhoh, 'Remember at Tak-Bai', 2004, installation, white stone and clay. Installation view at MAIIAM, Chang Mai, 2017. Image courtesy the artist and MAIIAM.

Jehabdulloh Jehsorhoh, ‘Remember at Tak-Bai’, 2004, installation, white stone and clay. Installation view at MAIIAM, Chang Mai, 2017. Image courtesy the artist and MAIIAM.

Jakkai Siributr’s 78 is an installation that is at both a memorial site for those who died at Tak Bai and a chilling evocation of the violence the 78 people were subjected to. The empty, cold and dark structure evokes the Nazi concentration camps, with visitors experiencing both claustrophobia and the absence of human bodies that were perhaps once there. Each of the bunks contains a Kurta – traditional Islamic clothing – which is numbered in Arabic script, from 1 to 78, while the names of the murdered are embroidered in Thai script in an Arabic style.

Jehabdulloh Jehsorhoh‘s work Remember at Tak-Bai (2004) also questions how to memorialise those murdered by the government in the TaK Bai incident. Jehsorhoh’s memorial is a circular installation comprising of white tombstones signifying the deaths at Tak Bai in 2004. The piece was made specially for a site-specific exhibition in the South. At MAIIAM it is displayed beside Siributr’s black cube installation.
Suhaidee sata, 'Violence', 2016, screen print and drawing. Image courtesy the artist.

Suhaidee sata, ‘Violence’, 2016, screenprint and drawing. Image courtesy the artist.

Pratchaya Phinthong, 'Namprik Zauguna', 2017 462 Namprik Zauguna and a letter, 165x165 cm. Image courtesy the artist.

Pratchaya Phinthong, ‘Namprik Zauguna’, 2017, 462 Namprik Zauguna and a letter, 165 x 165 cm. Image courtesy the artist.

Other works also attempt to offer a different or slower perspective on the mediatized violence. In Suhaidee Sata Copia’s Violence (2016) the sculptor and painter renders a grenade in a stark red and black, a critique of the language of urgency that often confuses more sustainable readings of the politics of the reigon. Conceptual artist Pratchaya Phinthong presents an installation of small containers of chilli paste and a letter addressed to the colletive of women who make the paste. The artist made the work after hearing a radio report about an association led by women which produces chilli paste from local ingredients with the aim of gaining financial independence. Pratchaya Phinthong visited the association and made a homage in their name.

Jehabdulloh Jehsorhoh, 'The Beauty in the Dark', 2011-2012, Acrylic on Handmade paper, 180x150cm. Image courtesy the artist.

Jehabdulloh Jehsorhoh, ‘The Beauty in the Dark’, 2011-2012, acrylic on handmade paper, 180 x 150 cm. Image courtesy the artist.

Nurulfirdaos Ding and Jehabdulloh Jehsorhoh are united in their desire to represent on canvas the women who make up the persecuted Muslim community of the region. In Jehsorhoh’s The Beauty in the Dark Pattani (2011-2012), the painter renders two veiled women staring at each other. The surface is rendered impenetrable, an almost digital-like smoothening achieved through a repetitive pattern rendered carefully in acrylics on handmade paper that runs accross the surface of the image.

Salwanee Hajisamae, 'Wait of window', 2012, Crayon and grated on white clay filler, 200x120cm. Image courtesy the artist.

Salwanee Hajisamae, ‘Wait of window’, 2012, crayon and grated on white clay filler, 200 x 120 cm. Image courtesy the artist.

In Salwanee Hajisamae’s (b.1986Pattani) Wait of window (2012) employs an original technique – wax crayon grated on white clay filler – to depict a small crowd of veiled women gathered together. As the spectator’s gaze shifts down towards the bottom of the clay tiles, the bodies of the women become increasingly fragmented and ghostlike, leaving only the blacks of their eyes. In a repetition and emphasis on the look-back, the work challenges the stereotyped “passivity” often attributed to South Asian and Southeast Asian Muslim women. Keeta Isran’s The memory of shape to physical from (2014) has a similar effect in charcoal’s black and white.

“Patani Semasa” visibilises the work of the artists who have not only engaged with the tumultuous politics of Southern Thailand’s Patani Region, but contested, resisted and critiqued the country’s mainstream and governmental policies of popular representation.

Rebecca Close

1840

“Patani Semasa” is on view from 19 July 2017 to 14 February 2018 at MAIIAM Contemporary Art Museum, 122, Moo 7 Tonpao Amphoe San Kamphaeng, Chang Wat Chiang Mai 50130, Thailand.

Related topics: religious art, selfspiritual, filmmultimediaglobalisationInstallation

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Art jobs and opportunities |Asian Art Museum, Sobey Art Awards, Art Noise Travel Residency… and more

Looking for new career options in the arts? Art Radar Opportunities is an archive of openings in the visual art world. 

Whether you are an artist or an aspiring curator, a market analyst or a scholar, Art Radar Opportunities has listings that will pique your interest. Every week we add new positions suitable for a variety of backgrounds and levels of experience. 

Reader offer! We’re offering free job listings to all of our readers. If you would like to advertise your opportunity to 25,000 visitors a month, fill out our Internships or Opportunities submission form.

New this week!

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JOB | San Francisco | Assistant Director | Asian Art Museum – ASAP

The Assistant Director of Development Information Systems provides a broad range of information services in support of the fundraising activities of the Development department. The incumbent oversees the management and administration of the museum’s fundraising database and other related software applications. S/he ensures the accuracy and integrity of information systems by directing, training and supervising the Development Information Systems team in all aspects of gift administration; develops and maintains processes to streamline development tracking and reporting procedures; ensures that all contributed income and earned membership revenue is reconciled with the Finance department on a daily, monthly and annual basis. MORE HERE

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OPEN CALL | Global | Call for Residency | Art Inside Out – 28 February 2018

Art Inside Out is offering a six-week residency for three artists in the fall of 2018, with all expenses paid. It is an opportunity to work with digital and textile narratives around an extensive archival material about the village of Aeskhult in Kungsbacka municipality (Sweden). The residency’s starting point is the history of Aeskhult, and the stories and facts associated with the site. Through the artistic activation of the site and the stories and artifacts connected to Aeskhult, the residency turns into a laboratory. There is an extensive archival material available for the artists to work from, both in the form of artefacts from the village, a variety of photographs, written stories and other material. Each artist will receive a grant of SEK60,000 (approx USD7641) for a six-week residency. Art Inside Out will cover all travel costs, and provide the chosen artist with accommodation and workspace. The residency’s production budget is SEK100,000 (approx USD12735) in total. MORE HERE

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OPEN CALL | Canada | Call for Nominations | Sobey Art Awards 2018 – 2 March 2018

Created in 2002 by the Sobey Art Foundation, the Sobey Art Award represents unprecedented opportunities for Canadian contemporary artists, bringing them national and global recognition. Nominations for the 2018 Sobey Art Award open on Tuesday 30 January 2018. The annual prize is presented to a Canadian artist age 40 or under who has exhibited in a public or commercial art gallery within 18 months of being nominated. The work of five finalists, representing five regions in Canada, selected from a long list of 25 nominees, is featured in a special exhibition that alternates between the National Gallery of Canada and other arts institutions across the country. MORE HERE

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OPEN CALL | Philippines | Call for Entries | Ateneo Art Awards 2018 – 31 March 2018

The Ateneo Art Gallery (AAG) and the Kalaw-Ledesma Foundation, Inc. (KLFI) are pleased to announce the exhibitions to be reviewed by writers interested in submitting entries for the Purita Kalaw-Ledesma Prizes in Art Criticism. Participants must write in the style of an art critique with no more than 1000 words and submit a Writer’s Profile. Two winners will be selected from the shortlisted writers, chosen by the partner publications from the top three entries. The announcement of winners will be at the Ateneo Art Awards ceremony on 14 September 2018. MORE HERE

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OPEN CALL | Africa | Call for Applications |  Art Noise Travel Residency 2018  – 11 May 2018

Art Noise Travel Residency Programme invites visual artists, applied artists, designers, art theorists/writers and cultural students to explore African arts and cultures through work-study relationships with contemporary African artists and traditional artisans as well as personal work across three African countries and their communities for a period of 3 months. The selected applicants will receive a monthly allowance of up to USD2,000 depending on the project, travel allowance, insurance, safety and insurance workspace and residential accommodation in the communities. MORE HERE

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Did you know that Art Radar runs its very own online art writing course? Click here to find out more about Art Radar‘s Diploma in Art Journalism & Writing.

Looking for more opportunities in the contemporary art world? For Art Radar’s complete list of jobs, internships, residencies, courses and open calls, click here.

Closing this week!

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JOB | Asia | Call for Facilitator | Mekong Cultural Hub and British Council – 4 February 2018

Mekong Cultural Hub and British Council are seeking applications for a Creative Facilitator from Asia, to help finalise the design and then co-facilitate a new leadership programme for cultural practitioners from Southeast Asia that will launch later in 2018. The facilitator should have experience of designing and facilitating similar programmes in the past, with extensive experience and understanding of the arts and culture sector in Southeast Asia, ideally the Mekong Region. The programme will explore and encourage connections with other sectors and look at how arts can engage with sustainable development in the region, so experience or interest with other sectors is an advantage. The job involves estimated 10 days work with specific dates for planning meetings. At least 7 years experience in creative facilitation is required. See job description for further requirements. MORE HERE

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OPEN CALL | Vietnam | Call for Applications | Materialize – 5 February 2018

Materialize’ is an ongoing exhibition programme, initiated by The Factory in 2017, in response to the great lack of space and opportunity for Vietnamese artists to experiment and display their art in Vietnam. This programme seeks artists willing to be challenged with their concepts and materials, who understand that to exhibit their work demands consideration of their audience and how their art is received and understood by a visiting general public. MORE HERE

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This is just a sample of art world opportunities we gather each week. If you’d like to see more, click here to sign up for more information on how to get full access and feed of opportunities.

A fine balance: ArtTactic’s South Asian Art Market Report 2017 – key findings

ArtTactic releases their annual South Asian art market report, noting an exciting upturn in the region’s sales of modern and contemporary art.

While much of South Asia’s market success has been driven by commercially-valuable work, the report suggests an increase in not-for-profit initiatives and socially-conscious collecting. Art Radar unpacks the report’s key findings.

Bharti Kher, 'Mother of Anything Possible, Anytime', 2006, Bindis on aluminum sheet; triptych, 243.2 x 365.8 cm overall (3). Price Realized: USD 209,000. "South Asian Modern + Contemporary Art" on 14 September 2016 at Christie’s in New York. Image courtesy Christie's.

Bharti Kher, ‘Mother of Anything Possible, Anytime’, 2006, bindis on aluminium sheet; triptych, 243.2 x 365.8 cm overall (3). Price Realised: USD209,000. “South Asian Modern + Contemporary Art” on 14 September 2016 at Christie’s in New York. Image courtesy Christie’s.

ArtTactic narrates market histories

The ArtTactic report has been a fundamental source on South Asian art for ten years, tracking the booms and busts of the region’s market as it became a global contender in the commercial art world. The research firm provides detailed accounts of this financial rollercoaster, highlighting its miraculous resilience and transformation from an economically-driven market championed by for-profit institutions to a series of culturally-driven initiatives with diversified success.

ArtTactic Founder Anders Petterson claims that the 2009 crisis and subsequent market downslide was a “blessing in disguise”, built on the fragile foundations of the 2004-2008 upturn. He states:

Without any supporting art infrastructure in the form of museums, non-commercial institutions, and artist-led initiatives supporting the emerging art scene, the art market and its economic value became the dominant context and the main arbiter of quality and cultural value. However, when the market collapsed, a number of new initiatives rose from the ashes, most of them not-for-profit and with a strong focus on the cultural rather than the economic value of art.

For this past year’s assessment, Petterson and his team have constructed a report that illustrates the recent structural changes in the market and the South Asian artists and art institutions that similarly value the edifying worth of visual culture. They stress that, while the South Asian market still lacks government support, private foundations, like the Samdani Art Foundation in Dhaka, are beginning to fill the gaps in funding.

54.6 x 45.7 cm, signed and dated ‘RAZA ‘65’ lower right. Countersigned, titled, and inscribed with the artist’s inventory reference ‘p604 65’ on the reverse. Image courtesy Vadehra Art Gallery.

S.H. Raza, ‘Contre Jour’, 1965, oil on canvas, 54.6 x 45.7 cm, signed and dated ‘RAZA ‘65’ lower right. Countersigned, titled and inscribed with the artist’s inventory reference ‘p604 65’ on the reverse. Image courtesy Vadehra Art Gallery. © Raza Foundation.

The goal of ArtTactic’s comprehensive, 18-page report is to feature those arts institutions, initiatives and professionals that recognise the importance of diversity in a well-functioning art ecosystem. The art scene in South Asia is persistently on the rise, both with regard to the number of exhibiting artists and growing appeal of their work on an international scale. For the first time since 2008, Petterson claims, there is an overarching sense of “optimism” regarding South Asian biennials and festivals, and a more enthusiastic desire to absorb the region’s art history.

2017 Report Key Highlights

The birth of a new art ecosystem

The first, and perhaps most significant, finding in the report is what ArtTactic refers to as “the birth of a new art ecosystem in South Asia”. In reference to the market downturn in 2009, the report suggests an ongoing and persistent enthusiasm around budding commercial and non-commercial art enterprises. The growth is most noticeable and news-worthy amongst the latter category, non-commercial institutions driving the region’s art quality and content to a more accessible and urgent subsistence. Such new platforms, the document reports, are opening the market to public conversations about contextualising and promoting artists’ work within the region.

Anish Kapoor, 'Untitled', 2005, Stainless steel, 140 x 109.9 x 30 cm. Photo: Dave Morgan. Image courtesy the artist. © Anish Kapoor. All rights reserved, 2018

Anish Kapoor, ‘Untitled’, 2005, stainless steel, 140 x 109.9 x 30 cm. Photo: Dave Morgan. Image courtesy the artist. © Anish Kapoor. All rights reserved, 2018.

Rapid rise in Indian antiquity

When the arts throughout Asia are paralleled in market terms, comparisons are usually made between a buoyant Chinese antiquity market, driven by an ever-expanding group of wealthy, domestically-based Chinese collectors, and a largely latent Indian antiquity market, driven by a “seemingly apathetic domestic Indian population”. ArtTactic, however, relays recent data suggesting that works of Indian antiquity, specifically paintings, suggest a situation that is slowly changing. Further, 2017 showed Indian galleries dominating the commercial South Asian primary art market with fast-growing cities like Chennai, Bengaluru, Ahmedabad, Kolkata and Hyderabad accounting for a large percentage of the country’s modern and contemporary work on display.

The artists F.N. Souza and Bharti Kher, for instance, have both made it to ArtTactic’s Top 5 Auction Results charts for modern and contemporary Indian art, respectively. Though the report notes a slight decline in public interest in Modern Indian art in the last 12 months, such artists maintain high “confidence rankings”, signalling a positive outlook for the coming year.

S.H. Raza, 'Untitled', Signed and dated 'RAZA 1982' (on the reverse), 1982, Acrylic on canvas, 80 x 80 cm. Image courtesy Saffronart.

S.H. Raza, ‘Untitled’, 1982, acrylic on canvas, 80 x 80 cm. Signed and dated ‘RAZA 1982’ on the reverse. Image courtesy Saffronart. © Raza Foundation.

South Asian biennial fever

Since the latest market crash, the South Asian art market has seen the emergence of eight new biennials and commercial festivals. From the Kochi-Muziris Biennale (scheduled for 12 December 2018) to the non-commercial research programme, the Dhaka Art Summit, artists have found new platforms to relay their projects to an international arena.

India has also seen the blossoming of the Pune Biennale and the Serendipity Arts Festival, their contributions to the field of contemporary art, architecture and educational programmes setting the stage for established and emerging artists. Petterson additionally notes two biennials in Lahore and Karachi that will return for a second run in 2019.

Boom in private patronage

The aforementioned lack of public funding has led to a surge in private patronage in the South Asian market. Private institutions like the Kiran Nadar Museum of Art (KNMA), the Swaraj Archive and the Inlaks Sivdasani Foundation are playing a central and increasingly active role in building a sturdy infrastructure for contemporary art and artists.

Nonetheless, the region’s top selling contemporary artists of the year have come as no surprise. Anish Kapoor, Ravinder Reddy and Bharti Kher have pulled in a collective USD1,225,012 in sales through the facilitation of Saffronart, Asta Guru Mumbai and Christie’s.

F N Souza, ‘Head’, 1953, Oil on board, 56.8 x 40.9 cm. Image courtesy the artist and Saffron art.

F. N. Souza, ‘Head’, 1953, oil on board, 56.8 x 40.9 cm. Image courtesy the artist and Saffronart.

On opposite ends of the market spectrum, Petterson claims, are different types of collectors: one being driven by emotion and the other by investment. In writing the report, ArtTactic has suggested a collision between the two, with most collectors constantly changing the priorities that emotion, passion, and social and financial returns play in their pursuit of collecting art. This fine balance cannot be achieved through commercial arts institutions alone, but is the result of a burgeoning market that values its not-for-profit and artist-led initiatives. Petterson and the ArtTactic research team thus foresee an increase in alternative spaces, which will foster collaborations between artists, galleries, buyers and connoisseurs in the coming year.

Megan Miller

2048

Related Topics: South Asian artists, Indian artists, auctions, market transparency, market watch, reports

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