Posts Tagged ‘NUSM’
It’s yesterday once more.
Ahmad Mashadi, director of the NUS Museum, has a piece out in the latest issue of Third Text, which embeds certain emergent art practices of the 1970s in their historical moment. The ’60s and ’70 were turbulent times for SE Asia in general, the anti-colonialist movement sweeping the region irresistibly towards angry, uneasy independence for many of its fledgling nation-states, and Mashadi seeks to realign art historical and socio-political narratives. While this piece is essentially something of a rehash of his earlier essay for the Telah Terbit catalogue, it’s still nonetheless a fascinating read — if only because there isn’t very much like it out there.
Shoobie doo lang lang …
A shoutout to JW for the link !
FRAMING THE 1970s
This article attempts to shed light on the critical artistic practices taking place in Southeast Asia during the 1970s. The ﬁrst part outlines the contexts of social and political transformation in the region within which developments in prevailing artistic practices and conventions took place. The tenor or intensity of such conditions varied across locations, yet they broadly informed the emergence of artistic discourses marked by newer attitudes towards the role of artists and art, as well as the constitution, the materiality of art, and the considered references made to society and notions of publicness.
Towards this end, we may consider two historical premises, both of which are critical in understanding ‘why Southeast Asia in the 1970s?’. First, Southeast Asia might be perceived as a set of emerging nations whose domestic social, economic and political concerns often appear vexing and tumultuous, yet nevertheless intersect with prevailing discourses of international politics, in particular with Cold War ideologies. The project of decolonisation also brought into play rhetoric intended to exemplify the independent nation-state and its destiny. Such rhetoric has greatly, if not fundamentally, affected the formation and reception of culture, history and self-perception in the region. Second, artistic developments in Southeast Asia from the 1950s on were affected by an increased access to Euro-American artistic models and an eventual shift towards ‘internationalism’, expressed through the pervasiveness and institutionalisation of abstraction and formalism as dominant modes of expression. The institutionalisation of these modes of depiction was both an indication of the extent to which they were celebrated as universal languages enabling cross-border interactions and an expression of progress that could be shaped according to the will of a given state.
As a practice marked by criticality and reﬂexivity, the contemporary locates itself within these horizontal-synchronic references to the present and social contexts, and the vertical-diachronic autonomy of artistic discourse as it unfolds over time. In order to explore the potential of such readings, the second part of this article will provide a chronological description of key developments during the 1970s in Southeast Asia, a time when the synchronic and the diachronic came together in a highly explosive way.
The Malaysian artist Redza Piyadasa stencilled these words onto an otherwise empty plinth in 1976: ‘This is a statement about form.’ In doing so, he attempted to bring into focus the need to rethink ways of perceiving art and its mediatory element, the object. The latter, rendered absent, no longer functioned as a carrier of intrinsic meanings or value, therefore undermining the absoluteness of aesthetic and critical judgements. Pablo Baen Santos paints an image of the New Christ (1980), a blue-collar common man cruciﬁed on a dollar sign, with an American ﬂag waving in the background. It is ﬁgurative, conceived to communicate effectively and to connect emotively to the ongoing economic and political struggles in the Philippines. Decidedly leftist in its politics, the work is informed by anti-capitalistic and anti-American sentiments. If these works are to provide a cursory snapshot of contemporary practices in Southeast Asia during the 1970s, then such practices characterised two broad approaches – conceptualism and statement-making – as well as realism and forms of activism. However, these approaches should not be seen as mutually exclusive, but instead as trajectories founded upon shared contextual currents.
The outcome may be described in relation to the emergence of the ‘aesthetics of rejection’ and ‘aesthetics of empathy’. It is not a bifurcation of artistic trajectories, but rather an intertwined proposition of the contemporary. Criticality, conceptualisms and activism describe these interests, best expressed by David C Medalla in 1975. When asked by interviewer Cid Reyes what he wanted Philippine artists to ‘rebel against’, Medalla stated:
Well, against authority. One should not just accept authority in anything, least of all in art. I don’t mean one should rebel merely for the sake of rebellion: that will be absurd. That is to say, only after having examined reality can one accept certain fundamental concepts. Our young artists should immerse themselves in the lives of the people. They must be thoroughly critical, not only of what is currently fashionable but also of all those artistic forms they are adapting from abroad. They should learn to integrate themselves with the needs of the masses of the people. I think it can be done. 1
These interests are signiﬁcant and broad ranging, not only in their relevance to art from the Philippines, but also to our discussion on contemporary art in Southeast Asia. They may be explored along several fronts: as critical responses to conventions and modes of ‘internationalism’; through questions pertaining to institutions and institutionalisation of art; and through regional and national political developments. As a cultural projection of nation, earlier modern developments as expressed through abstraction in the 1950s and 1960s attempted to reﬂect notions of national ‘progressiveness’ by displacing the conservatism of earlier styles. In turn, such developments sought to capitalise on the language of abstraction in order to facilitate international engagements. The idea of international fraternity often played itself out through biennales and other large-scale, recurring international arts events. Relentlessly, according to Purita Kalaw-Ledesma, founder of the Art Association of the Philippines in 1948, the drive towards internationalism and international recognition:
. . . took the form of a desire to compete. . . to crash the international scene, it was believed that one had to paint in the international style. The feeling grew that the Filipino artist was as good as anyone.2
Some of the many artists who participated in international events included Vicente Manansala and Nena Saguil (Spanish-American Biennale, Cuba, 1958), Napoleo´ n Abueva and Jose´ Joya (Venice Biennale, 1962) and Arturo Luz, Lee Aguinaldo (Sa˜o Paulo Biennale, 1971). These participations were undertaken at considerable cost and effort, yet as Kalaw-Ledesma recalled, ‘our entries were lost in the sea of similar works, each working in the same school of abstract thought’.3
Disappointed by the outcome of the Sa˜o Paulo participation, Arturo Luz lamented:
. . . in my opinion the Bienal de Sa˜o Paulo is a showplace for the big nations determined to gain prestige and rather expensive exercise for the small participating nations. . . My own guess is that international recognition will come if we win an award or send an exhibition which is truly original and outstanding by international standards.4
Nevertheless, the trend towards abstraction and formalism continued. Mediated by the various searches for national and cultural identities, this trend was inﬂected by the local through references to indigenous motifs and philosophical frames. Declared a universalist language, abstraction became subject to institutional appropriation and reiﬁcation and thus to critique. In locating abstraction as part of the project of nation, Syed Ahmad Jamal claimed:
The Merdeka [Post-Independence Malaysian] artists of the ﬁfties and sixties subscribed mainly to the aesthetics of Abstract Expressionism. The immediacy and mystical quality of the mainstream art of the 1960s appealed particularly to the Malaysian temperament, sensitivity and cultural heritage.5
The statement projects an attempt to locate Malaysian art within the fraternity of the international. But the reference made to the ‘Malaysian temperament, sensitivity and cultural heritage’ makes clear the anxiety underwriting the problems of situating the abstract in Malaysia and resituating the same back into the global discourse, a process characterised by its inherent unevenness where Asian abstraction art was often regarded as ‘derivative’ by the hegemonic West. For contemporary artists during the 1970s, these contexts and contingencies provided points of introspection, opening new grounds for critique and generating new points of departure. On the one hand, considered references to ‘universalist Western’ perspectives that privileged notions of progression provided ground upon which to form discourses leading to a range of aesthetic investigations and developments, concomitant with the emerging regard for the sense of the self within the broadening sphere of the modern experience. On the other hand, the perceived uneven relationships underlying internationalist engagements coupled with speciﬁc and localised communitarian needs posed considerable challenges in catalysing theoretical and artistic developments. In Indonesia, the relatively open developments during the 1970s had been made possible by the fall of President Sukarno in 1966 and the subsequent removal of the Communists from the cultural landscape. A cultural manifesto known as Manikebu (Manifesto Kebudayaan), which was introduced in 1963 by a group of cultural activists arguing on behalf of freedom of artistic expression in contradistinction to the directed approaches of cultural productions of the past decade, was rejected by Sukarno and attacked by LEKRA (Lembaga Kebudayaan Rakyat), the Communist Party’s cultural arm, then closely tied to the Sukarno government. The inﬂuence of LEKRA diminished along with the displacement of the Sukarno government. A failed coup known as Gestapu took place on 30 September 1965 with the military targeting suspected Communists and leftists, often through the involvement of Islamic militias. Left-wing artists including writer Pramoedya Ananta Toer and painter Hendra Gunawan were imprisoned.
Tainted by his links to the Communists and implicated in several events associated with the attempted coup, President Sukarno eventually ceded his powers to Suharto who established a New Order government in 1966. The new president oversaw a series of policy changes including a more hospitable attitude towards the US. With the left-wing rhetoric of LEKRA removed from the cultural discourse of Indonesian art, and Sukarno’s spectacular fall from grace, the entire ediﬁce of Communist aesthetics imploded as well. The effects were immediately felt with the dissipation of the discourse between the Yogyakarta and Bandung schools. In its place arose a less polemical articulation of the introspective self and culture as mediated by formalism. Those harassed by the left during the late 1950s and early 1960s welcomed the opportunity to explore concerns relating to individual expression associated with high modernism. Indeed, the government-run Taman Ismail Marzuki (TIM) Art Center opened in 1968 with little incident. Although state-controlled, the Center provided a place for artistic practice relatively free from the undue inﬂuence of any one ideology. Aesthetic experimentation and formal references to indigenous cultures consequently ﬂourished in the Indonesian artworld. These kinds of sites and the gradual erosion of politics as a key concern for artists later gave rise to another group of practitioners eager to redeﬁne the trajectory of Indonesian art so that it more closely related to the country’s history and society.
In 1969, a year after the opening of TIM, the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) opened in Manila. Its construction, supported in part by the US, resulted in a building that initially hosted groups and shows from abroad. The visual arts initiatives offered an internationalist orientation focusing on high modernism and new experimental forms, including conceptual and performance art which were seen as extensions of an emerging Filipino modernity that seamlessly embraced a dynamic spirit inherent within regional and indigenous cultures. The early history of the CCP coincided with the increasing political tensions within the Philippines; in 1972, President Ferdinand Marcos declared martial law and the establishment of a Bagong Lipunan (New Society), ostensibly in order to safeguard democracy and introduce ‘law and order’. The CCP positioned itself as an institution intended to promote criticality in artistic and curatorial practices connected to the practices of Roberto Chabet and Raymundo Albano as well as with their associates. Yet the Center’s links to the Marcos regime and the apparent exclusion of artists identiﬁed with the political opposition compelled many to view the CCP as merely a cultural extension of Marcos’s rule. The political opposition dubbed the CCP a monument to a morally bankrupt elite and throughout the 1970s the Center was approached by some artists as afoil against which to express resistance to the Marcos government. 6 A case in point is Kaisahan (Solidarity), led by Pablo Baen Santos, which initiated protests against the Marcos government and American patronage by incorporating strategies taken from realism and street art. The group issued a Declaration of Principles, which stressed the creation of nationalist art intended for the people and reﬂective of their aspirations.
Such art was to function as a means of communication, an imperative that extended to the production of banners and posters used in demonstrations and marches, as well as to political cartoons published in various popular media venues. Realism was deployed in order to critique the state’s patronage of the arts through such institutions as the CCP, which tended to favour abstraction and conceptual practices that for many appeared artiﬁcial, mannerist and overly indexical of international movements.
Across Southeast Asia, the end of the Second World War also meant the beginning of decolonisation, which proved to be a period of intense change and turmoil. Although the transfer of power from colonial rulers to emerging indigenous elites was relatively peaceful in the Philippines, Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos, Malaya and Singapore, in Vietnam and Indonesia it was not. The 1960s and 1970s, when numerous transformative and tumultuous social and political shifts took place, complicated the picture further. This period of transformation coincided with the Cold War, a struggle that involved global politics of patronage as the US and USSR lent their support to particular political factions in those countries they hoped to inﬂuence. Instruments of diplomacy and foreign policy became tools for imposing a narrow binary perspective on political doctrines, many of which resulted in violence, death and untold trauma. The US extended both direct and indirect forms of support to regimes considered critical in stopping the advance or inﬂuence of Communism, particularly after the fall of South Vietnam in 1975. In practice, these interventions also involved aiding or assisting regional governments in order to neutralise the inﬂuence of the political left, even if it meant disregarding the will of the popular electorate. 7
Key political events were often read in relation to these patterns of support. The imposition of martial law in the Philippines, and the military actions against students at Thammasat University in Thailand in 1973 and 1976, as well as actions undertaken in Indonesia in 1978, galvanized a range of popular struggles that included the formation or consolidation of artists’ groups afﬁliated with the political left. Inspired by leftist politics and anti-Americanism, student protest groups were widespread, especially in the Philippines and Thailand. In the latter, these protests emerged through a form of criticism articulated through Surrealism and at times powerfully combined with images of religious signiﬁcance. The works of Somchai Hatthakitkoson and Thammasak Booncherd directly refer to what they regarded as the imperialist presence of the United States in Thailand. Somchai’s The Goddess Kali of the 20th Century (1972) was conceived as a metaphor of public indignation directed towards the prostitution of Thai women to US soldiers.
Attempts to deﬁne art according to broader ethical and religious constructs often involved incorporating a range of iconographic signs, then repurposing them in order to allude to contemporary concerns. Buddhism, for example, was denoted through images of the Buddha or through decorative motifs associated with the practice of Buddhism. Such tactics were put into practice by groups such as the Dharma Group, led by Pratuang Emjaroen. Pratuang undertook a series of paintings addressing the violent suppression of pro-democracy student protests in 1973 and 1976. 8
In Red Morning Glories and Rotten Riﬂes (1976), the head of the Buddha has been pierced, stained with blood and placed amidst alandscape of riﬂe butts and muzzles. Pratuang describes his intent thus: [they] symbolise the feelings of confusion and disbelief at the sight of such horriﬁc scenes. There are crying faces and a sky with heavy black storm clouds. Tears stream endlessly down the face of the Buddha, a symbol of the Thai people under threat. 9
Red Morning Glories and Rotten Riﬂes was shown in the third exhibition of the Dharma Group at the Bhirasri Institute of Modern Art, which opened on 5 October 1976. Coincidentally enough, a student protest against Thai military rule was violently quashed by the state the day after the show’s opening, a grisly echo of a similar confrontation that took place in 1973. The exhibition was closed soon after.
The recourse to religion and tradition may also be seen in Malaysia following the race riots of 13 May 1969. In the aftermath of the political and cultural anxieties arising from the riots, the National Cultural Congress convened in Kuala Lumpur from 16 to 20 August 1971. There, the proposal that art be mobilised to serve economic and social objectives rather than the individual was made. It was a controversial proposal, provoking numerous responses that recalled the 1969 riots, including Redza Piyadasa’s May 13th, 1969, which in his words harboured an intimation of a certain sense of nation. 10
A more direct response to the emerging cultural policy aimed at healing the rifts of a multi-ethnic Malaysia appeared some years later. In the years immediately following 1969, Piyadasa worked on various projects that may be described in relation to their afﬁnities to conceptualism and situational practices. In 1974, he, with Sulaiman Esa, authored Towards a Mystical Reality. Although it need not be seen as a direct attempt to critique state views of culture, the manifesto proposes an alternative aesthetic that enables new ways of producing and apprehending art outside Western-centric rationalist positions. The manifesto is noteworthy for proposing an artistic ideology based on cultural and philosophical traditions in Asia; in anticipation of realising this ideology, the authors aimed to ‘sow the seeds for a thinking process which might someday liberate Malaysian artists from their dependence on western inﬂuence’.11 For example, the artists reiterated their quest to redeﬁne parameters by realigning them to borrowings from Asian philosophical notions that enable Asian art production to converse with international concerns; not through a style or formal criteria but an attitude that is mystical and can be unpacked to support new art concepts and productions. By the late 1970s, a strong interest in the Malay culture and Islamic consciousness had emerged in Malaysia. As a Muslim convert of Sri Lankan descent, the 1970s was also a period of introspection for Piyadasa. He began to reﬂect on the vexing question of cultural and national identities in his works, one that had been conditioned by the complexities of colonisation, migration and ethno-nationalism. Piyadasa used archival portrait photography as a basis of his investigations, re-rendering them in ambiguous terms with motifs and colours to engage the viewers’ attention in rethinking the binarist bumiputra (indigenous)/nonbumiputra divide that surfaced in post-1969 Malaysia. 12
During the late 1970s, Sulaiman Esa was drawn to synthesising a conﬂation of ethno-nationalistic modernity with individual expression. He produced a seminal series of prints entitled Waiting for Godot, based on Samuel Beckett’s famous existential play. The series of photoetchings explored a deep personal dilemma regarding the question of artistic purpose and faith, with the prints juxtaposing two contrasting markers of aesthetic and philosophical values through images of the nude and the arabesque. The series foreshadowed the artist’s move towards a Malay-Islamic orientation which became a dominant trend in Malaysian art during the 1980s, coinciding with the rapid rise of pan-Islamism in Southeast Asia. The politicisation of artistic practices may also be located in artistic developments linked to nationalist and anti-colonial struggles of earlier decades. Although the Gerakan Seni Rupa Baru (New Art Movement) emerged in Indonesia under the relative calm of the early phases of Suharto’s New Order, the increasing social tensions and militarism of the late 1970s prompted artists like Dede Eri Supria and F X Harsono to address critical issues such as economic exploitation, global capitalism and social suppression. The group’s manifesto ‘Lines of Attack of the Indonesian New Art Movement’ proposed a rejection of ‘the concept of art that is universal’, insisting instead on a recognition of cultural and historical contexts and social concerns. 13
This critique against increasingly lyrical, mannerist and formal tendencies is paralleled elsewhere in Southeast Asia. Yet these aesthetic positions and notions of criticality in favour of communitarian perspectives may be located within a trajectory of critical positions deﬁned by earlier groups such as the nationalist Persagi (Persatuan Ahli Gambar Indonesia, founded by S Sudjojono in 1938) and LEKRA, the Communist party’s cultural arm, defunct by 1965, both of which were signiﬁcant for their articulations of the rakyat (the people) and its realities.
The artistic movements described above may be seen as a collective critique against the formality, un-reﬂexiveness and repetitiveness of what was called ‘international abstraction’ and ‘provincial lyricism’ which had dominated art-making. While theoretical positions concerning the function and independence of artistic practices tended to differ, they also shared an interest in addressing the conditions of art-making, such as the reception and development of Euro-American models from a postcolonial perspective, as well as the need to challenge the values upheld by institutions and the art market. This helped introduce new forms of practice, in terms of both medium (installation and performance) and content (the explicit invocation of political, gender, religious and environmental issues). Since the late 1970s, the performances and installations of Singaporean artist Tang Da Wu have consistently addressed the profound impact of urbanisation evidenced through the destruction of nature and the trafﬁcking and consumption of wildlife in Asia. Elsewhere, the political activism and protest art seen through seni rupa di kaki lima (street art) incorporated strategies of performance and happenings. As such, the re-emergence and preoccupation with the ‘ﬁgure’, associated with the radical left, need not be seen as mere counterpoints to more conceptual practices. This complexity was highlighted by Patrick Flores in 1998:
The agenda of Philippine art history and criticism through the years has been caught in the vise of antinomies: craft and art, indigenous and colonial, conservative and modern, social realist and conceptual, form and content. While these oppositions may attempt to dramatize discrepancies among competing modes of knowing art and putting it into practice, they cannot even begin to discuss the complexity of the conﬂict, the possibility of encounters, and the art world’s overlapping – because combined and uneven – modes of production. 14
The manifesto of the Gerakan Seni Rupa Baru ﬁts within the agenda of art history and criticism as deﬁned in relation to a broader postcolonial history and culture whereby the new can be made meaningful, detached as it is from the imperatives of Euro-American theories and histories:
To [inspire] the growth of ‘Indonesian’ art by privileging research into the new Indonesian art history, that has its roots in the art practices of Raden Saleh. To examine ways of periodising such history, to study critically its evolvement, to consider its future developments. To acknowledge that in the new Indonesian art history, there are contexts that are unique, so much so that these may not be referenced in ‘imported books’, useful in contextualising Indonesian art, making it conducive for further development.
To aspire to artistic growth that is referenced in the writings and theories of Indonesians art critics, historians and thinkers. To reject totally the perception that Indonesian art is an index to world art, a claim that art is universal, that places Indonesian art contingent to international discourse. 15
Here we may return to the impact of the race riots of 13 May 1969 (the ‘May 13 Incident’) in Malaysia as a foundational point in the development of Malaysian art in the 1970s and 1980s. For many, the incident was signiﬁcant in revealing the limitations of modernism vis-a` -vis the cultural articulation of nation and community. Some declared the need to emphasise communitarian interests that would express a national identity and its values, interests that might correspond with the Rukun Negara (National Principals), a set of national values introduced by the government in 1971 as a response to the May 13 Incident. For T K Sabapathy:
. . . overtly and covertly, events of May 1969 and the Cultural Congress (1971) began to shape thinking and practice among artists; they were far too shattering and fundamental to be ignored. Throughout the 1970s, artists began the difﬁcult, painful process of rethinking their positions, and recasting their perceptions of culture, language, race, state/nation and identity. . . the stakes were too important and consequential not to be involved. 16
Artists sought to engage with this search by oscillating between various dogmatic and critical perspectives. Those associated with Mystical Reality and conceptual approaches tried to explore the limitations of modernism within the local milieu while also engaging with what they perceived as the international. Their works in the early 1970s investigated the assumptions of nation and community, making direct and oblique references to the events of 1969 and the National Cultural Congress of 1971 that had shaped the cultural debates during the period, placing special emphasis on examining and reﬂecting tensions and contradictions between individualism and communitarian interests. The May 13 Incident shattered the positivist complacency of post-independence, bringing to light the problematic of cultural decolonisation and its role in positioning the contemporary. Kaisahan’s manifesto aptly preﬁgures these vexing questions:
For us, therefore, the question ‘for whom is art?’ is a crucial and signiﬁcant one. And our experiences lead us to the answer that art is for the masses. It must not exist simply for the pleasures of the few who can afford it. It must not degenerate into the pastime of a few cultists.
We are aware of the contradictions that confront us in committing ourselves to this task. At present, under the conditions of our times, the audience who will view our works will mostly be the intellectuals, students, professionals and others who go to the galleries. But we wish to gradually transform our art so that it has a form understandable to the masses and a content that is relevant to their life. At present, it is inevitable that our art is sometimes commercialized. But we should use this as a means and not as an end for our artistic expressions. 17
As sketched above, these events crucially deﬁne perspectives of nation, community and self, expressed in a range of feverish, even manic, struggles for identiﬁcation and resistance often complicated by the production of cultural identiﬁers in sync with the project of nation-building that so preoccupied governments throughout Southeast Asia. The economic and social transformations that took place in the 1970s, moreover, necessarily inﬂected cultural discourse by compelling artists to reﬂect on a broad spectrum of social conditions. Such transformations also demanded that artists turn inward to focus on the condition known as the self so as to open up the potential of art as practice.
1. Cid Reyes, Conversations on Philippine Art, Cultural Center of the Philippines, Manila, 1980, p 149
2. Purita Kalaw-Ledesma and Amadis Ma Guerrero, The Struggle for Philippine Art, Purita Kalaw-Ledesma, Manila, 1974, p 67
3. Ibid, p 68
4. Ibid, p 71
5. Syed Ahmad Jamal, Contemporary Malaysian Art, National Art Gallery, Kuala Lumpur, 1988, unpaginated
6. Benigno Aquino Jr, ‘A Pantheon for Imelda’, in A Garrison State in the Make and Other Speeches, Benigno S Aquino Jr Foundation, Manila, 1985, unpaginated
7. The Lon Nol government came to power in Cambodia through a coup d’e´ tat against Prince Sihanouk, bringing the country into an escalated civil war that ended in a victory for the Khmer Rouge in 1975. Suharto’s New Order, introduced in 1966 after the bloody purging of the Parti Komunis Indonesia (PKI), which led to an estimated one million deaths, was characterised by the dominance of the military across the economic and political spheres which only ended in the late 1990s. In Thailand, a brief experiment with democracy in 1969 gave way to the return of a military government in 1971, thus foreshadowing the violent suppression of student movements in 1973 and 1976. In the Philippines, President Marcos, sensing an electoral defeat, introduced martial law in 1972, hence precipitating a populist movement for the reconstitution of the democratic process which later culminated in the advent of People’s Power in 1986.
8. Pro-democracy student protests at Thammasat University in 1973 resulted in a bloody confrontation with the Thai military, an incident later commemorated as the ’14 November Uprising’. The ensuing events eventually led to a review of the Thai constitution for the reinstatement of civilian rule. However, the military reassumed power in 1976.
9. Sodchuen Chaiprasathna and Jean Marcel, The Inﬂuence of European Surrealism in Thailand, R Michael Crabtree, trans, Thailand Research Fund, Bangkok, 2005, p 36
10. See T K Sabapathy, Piyadasa: An Overview, 1962–2000, National Art Gallery, Kuala Lumpur, 2001
11. Redza Piyadasa and Sulaiman Esa, Towards a Mystical Reality, Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka, Kuala Lumpur, 1974, pp 4– 5
12. See Sabapathy, op cit
13. The full manifesto is published in Gerakan Seni Rupa Baru Indonesia, Jim Supangkat, ed, Penerbit PT Gramedia, Jakarta, 1979, p xix. Also see Telah Terbit (Out Now): Southeast Asian Contemporary Art Practices During the 1960s to 1980s, Singapore Art Museum, Singapore, 2007, pp 50–51.
14. Patrick Flores, ‘Missing Link, Burned Bridges: The Art of the 70s’, Pananaw 2, National Commission for Culture and the Arts, Manila, 1998, p 53
15. Telah Terbit (Out Now), op cit, pp 50–51
16. T K Sabapathy, ‘Vision and Idea Relooking Modern Malaysian Art’, Merdeka Makes Art, or Does It?, National Art Gallery, Kuala Lumpur, 1994, p 71
17. Alice Guillermo, Protest/Revolutionary Art in the Philippines 1970–1990, University of the Philippines, Manila, 2001, p 24
The longlist for the second APB prize is out.
A number of Singaporeans were nominated, including the ever awe-inspiring Jane Lee and the Puck-ish Heman Chong. The competition this year has been expanded to include almost all of Asia, and, accordingly, the prize money for the big winner has been upped to a cool forty-five grand SGD.
I wish they’d stop using the term ‘Asia-Pacific’ though; countries like Nepal and Bangladesh (which feature on this year’s list) don’t really fit in there. More importantly, doesn’t a pan-Asian prize in general just sound so much more … impressive, than simply one for the Asia-Pacific region ?
ST write-up below. Longlist of nominees and other pertinent information available over at the SAM’s website.
BREWERY’S ART PRIZE GOES REGIONAL
Prize funding also doubles with more than three times the entries from previous run. By Deepika Shetty.
The triennial Asia Pacific Breweries (APB) Foundation Signature Art Prize is getting bigger. The second edition this year will include nominations from the whole Asia-Pacific region.
The competition will see 130 works from 24 countries vying for the $45,000 grand prize, more than three times the number of entries for its inaugural run in 2008 which featured 34 works from 12 countries.
The APB Foundation has also doubled its prize funding from $2.25 million for five editions to $4.45 million.
As a media briefing held yesterday at SAM at 8Q, Ms Sarah Koh, APB’s general manager for corporate communications, said they were encouraged by the enthusiastic response to the inaugural edition.
She said the foundation decided to expand the focus from South-east Asia to the Asia-Pacific to create opportunities for a wider pool of talented artists from the region.
The prize is aimed at recognising artworks created in the preceding three years and encouraging the development of contemporary art across the region.
Apart from the grand prize, there will there will also be three Juror’s Choice Awards worth $10,000 each and a $10,000 People’s Choice Award.
All artworks have been nominated by art experts in each country and they are being judged by an international jury panel. The jury comprises Fumio Nanjo, director of the Mori Art Museum, Tokyo; Gregor Muir, executive director at the Institute of Contemporary Art, London; Hendro Wijanto, South-east Asian writer, critic and curator; Ranjit Hoskote, Indian critic and curator; and Tan Boon Hui, director of the Singapore Art Museum (SAM), which is organising the competition and will be exhibiting the winning artworks ranging from paintings and sculptures to new media and installation works.
The jury will shortlist 15 finalists, whose names will be announced by Oct 1, and an exhibition of their works will open at SAM on Nov 11. The winner will be announced on Nov 18.
Museum director Tan, 41, said: “The expanded reach of this year’s prize enables us to validate and profile even more artists and their practice.”
Seven local artists have been nominated by for the competition by Ms Joanna Lee, an art consultant and independent curator, and Ms Audrey Wong, programme director of the MA Arts and Cultural Programme at Lasalle College of the Arts.
These include several instantly recognisable names such as artist Jane Lee, who made a splash with her massive painting Raw Canvas at the Singapore Biennale in 2008, and award-winning photographer and film-maker Sherman Ong, who won the first Icon de Martell Cordon Bleu award for photography last year. (See side story.)
Also on the nominated list are several big contemporary art names such as leading Pakistani artist Rashid Rani. His work Desperately Seeking Paradise, a conglomeration of numerous miniscule details, was recently on show at the Musee Guimet, France’s national museum of Asian art.
Japanese artist Kohei Nawa’s PixCell-Deer#17, which explores how people interact with virtual reality, has also been nominated. The artist sources taxidermied objects from online auction sites and layers them with transparent glass beads. The veil of differently sized glass beads on the surface of the taxidermied animal magnifies it in some areas and distorts it in others. this piece was exhibited in Trans-Cool Tokyo, a show held at SAM at 8Q last November.
Adding to the range and the contest are artists such as Qiu Anxion from China, Sopheap Pich from Cambodia, Eko Nugroho from Indonesia and Tracey Moffatt from Australia.
Said Mr Tan: “The range as well as the quality of the art shows that we are at the heart of the most dynamic region and this award will help us uncover ground-breaking artworks of lasting significance.”
FROM SINGAPORE: SEVEN ARTWORKS
RECONSTRUCTING SENTOL, 2008 – 2010, Khairuddin Hori. Digital print on paper, 14 pieces. Appropriating ideas and images from Mat Sentol films of the 1960s, the artist creates new pictures, giving each one of them a contemporary and often idiosyncratic touch. He juxtaposes real and imagined landscapes with characters from the films.
THE GARDEN OF FORKING PATHS, 2010, by art collective Vertical Submarine. Installation. Inspired by Argentinian author Jorge Luis Borges’ 1941 short story of the same name about a maze, this tongue-in-cheek installation was shown by artist jason Wee’s art space, Grey Projects, in Zion Road. The constructed labyrinths led to rooms that alluded to central characters in Borges’ story.
SECOND-HAND CITY, 2010, by Michael Lee. Digital print on archival paper, set of 10. Melding science fiction with cultural studies, the series Second-Hand City (2010 – 2011) weaves several themes in contemporary life and art in the city. These range from the demolition or collapse of structures to their physical disappearance and destruction by war or natural processes, and statuses of being abandoned, not built and forgotten. this leads a refreshing exploration of the lifecycles of buildings and cities.
TOGETHER AGAIN (WOOD: CUT) PART I NATURAL HISTORY & TOGETHER AGAIN (WOOD: CUT) PART II MAGIC, 2009, by Lucy Davis. Woodcut, woodprint collage and woodprint. Breathing new life into the term “dead wood”, visual artist Davis collected discarded wooden objects from the streets around Little India. She then transferred their woodgrains onto rice paper. this was eventually used to form tree-shaped collages and the work beautifully blended ecology with everyday stories.
A SHORT STORY ABOUT GEOMETRY, 2009, by Heman Chong. Performance involving the oral transmission of a 499-word story written by the artist via physical face-to-face encounter between two people. Focusing on a more intimate and concentrated exchange, the work is a private memory class. A participant with the help of a teacher is required to memorise a 499=word short story. The short story will not be published or adapted into any other form.
BANJIR KEMARAU (FLOODING IN THE TIME OF DROUGHT), 2009, by Sherman Ong. Video in two separate rooms, 92 minutes each. Some time in the near future, when 40 per cent of Singapore’s population is made of foreigners, the tap runs dry. Ong’s actors speak in Mandarin, Tagalog, Thai, Indonesian, Hindi, Korean, Japanese, Italian and some German. Through their fears, he reveals what a water crisis can mean for ordinary people living here.
STATUS, 2009, by Jane Lee. Mixed media. Lee continues her artistic exploration through layers of paint. Like her earlier painting, Raw Canvas, which was featured at the Singapore Biennale in 2008, this work is also created with her trademark squiggles of paint and parts of it look like a loosely woven piece of fabric.