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A beast, a god, and a line

Curated by Cosmin Costinas

A beast, a god, and a line was woven by connections and circulations of ideas across a geography with Bengal at its core. This geography - arbitrary as any mapping - is commonly called the Asia-Pacific, but it could also be defined by several other definitions, which this exhibition explored and untangled.


The issues summoned aimed to mark the current historical moment. Perhaps the most visible among these is the development and spread of politicised religion and its structures: Salafi Islam across several countries, extremist Buddhism in Myanmar, Sri Lanka, and Thailand, Hindu ethno-fascism in India, and revivalist Christianity among many indigenous communities in the Philippines, to name just a few examples in the region. In close connection to politicised religion is the rising tide of populism and nationalism across continents. These are all intimately connected to a generalised loss of confidence in the ideals and certainties of Western liberal democracy, and to rising alternatives and challenges to the liberal consensus, often based on various attempts to create parallel narratives to Western modernity.


Western hegemony was also challenged from a fundamentally different premise, that of unfinished processes of decolonisation and resurgent Indigenous identities, which were reflected both in the subject matter and in the aesthetic choices of several exhibited artists. Throughout the exhibition, artists investigated traces of colonial domination, as well as the different ramifications of that hegemony today, when cultural and environmental genocides continue to unravel landscapes, communities, and worlds.


These broad stories circulate across South and Southeast Asia on routes going back several historical eras, the first being the early Austronesian world that has woven a maritime universe surpassed in scale only by European colonialism, from the Pacific to Madagascar, with Taiwan as its origin and Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines at its core – which was taken as the speculative and approximate geographical perimeter of this exhibition. These historical journeys also served as an introduction to a major political reality that defines many contexts today and is often manipulated by the rising nationalist discourses: the contemporary waves of migration and refugee crises. 


This exhibition questioned how we should negotiate common ground in the context of the overall political and ideological fragmentation discussed above. How can an aesthetic basis for the language of contemporary art be maintained if the ideological bases of contemporary art are questioned? How can positions that claim disparate and conflicting genealogies sit together in a shared exhibition space? One tenuous leading line across the different aspects of this exhibition were textiles. A material and language common to different cultural spaces, textiles also have a firmly routed history in art, being possible sites for parallel processes of historiography. Moreover, textiles hold a different position in negotiating relationships with places and contexts, in ways that the individual agency of artists escapes.


While this exhibition included artists and practices of various historical, cultural, and geographical contexts, it was not based on an ethos of discovering or introducing artists from presumably marginalised regions, but worked within the premise of an already fragmentary and decentralised art world.



Ampannee Satoh

(b. 1983 in Pattani; lives and works in Bangkok, Thailand)

Lost Motherland (2016)

Pigment print on paper

Courtesy of the artist


The work addresses the recent history of forced migrations of Muslims, from Myanmar and Syria to the artist’s native Pattani, a Muslim majority region in Southern Thailand, where an insurgency has been taken place for more than a decade. Satoh attempts to capture the sense of displacement and alienation that accompanies exile, imbuing her photographs with a feeling of loss. The figures in her photographs seem gathered to mourn a collective pain, standing as mute witnesses to tragedy.


Anand Patwardhan

(b.1950 in Mumbai, India; lives and works in Mumbai)

We Are Not Your Monkeys (1997)

Video

Courtesy of the artist


This music video was jointly composed by the filmmaker along with renowned poets Daya Pawar and poet-singer Sambhaji Bhagat, giving a Dalit/indigenous perspective to the Hindu epic Ramayana. After German indologists in the 19th century created the myth of an Aryan invasion of the Indian sub-continent by a superior race and hailed the Vedic (Brahminical) period as representing a Golden Era in Indian history, many upper caste Indians felt proud to be considered the racial equivalent of the white man. At the same time those who questioned both race and caste began looking at what may have existed in the region before the Aryans supposedly arrived. The Ramayana itself, composed in the ancient Brahminic period in praise of Lord Rama, depicts characters who reveal traces of a pre-Aryan culture that was subjugated. The song and the film We Are Not Your Monkeys is a subaltern reading of history that uses poetic license (like the Ramayana did) to turn the Ramayana epic on its head.





Anida Yoeu Ali

(b.1974 in Battambang, lives and works in Phnom Penh, Cambodia)

From right to left:

Secret Lagoon (2014)

Coconut Road (2012)

Campus Dining (2012)

Roll Call (2014)

Sun-dried Landing #1 (2014)

On the River (2013)


From the Buddhist Bug Series

Digital c-print

Courtesy of the artist


The work is an ongoing project encompassing performance and photography, mapping interfaith relations between the Muslim minority to which the artist belongs and the Buddhist majority in her native Cambodia, against the background of the rise of Buddhist fundamentalism in Southeast Asia. Ali devises a seemingly magical creature (alluding to the religious myths of Islam, Buddhism, as well as the traditional animistic beliefs of the region) that occupies spaces of community gatherings, such as canteens and sites of prayer, rendering these ordinary activities surreal. 





Apichatpong Weerasethakul

 (b. 1970 in Bangkok, lives and works in

Chiang Mai, Thailand)

Chai Siris 

(b. 1983 in Bangkok, lives and works in Chiang Mai, Thailand)


Dilbar (2013)

Single-Channel Video Installation, suspended glass pane

Courtesy of the artist and the Sharjah Art Foundation

Commissioned by the Sharjah Art Foundation


The work is an affectionate portrait of Dilbar, a Bangladeshi construction worker in the UAE, whose name means 'full of hearts’. Throughout the work he is seen to be asleep, while the viewer is mesmerised by the pace of the video and its light spilling over the edges of the screen. His sleeping is a gentle yet clear act of defiance to the logic of workers exploitation. There are over two million Bangladeshi workers currently living in the Gulf countries.





Apichatpong Weerasethakul

(b. 1970 in Bangkok, lives and works in Chiang Mai, Thailand)


Photophobia 1-4 (2013)

Photo etching and Chine-collé

Courtesy of the artist


The work is based on photographs documenting scenes of violence taken during the Takbai Incident in Thailand’s restive South in 2004. Around 1,500 demonstrators had gathered before the local police station to protest the detention of six men, only to be brutally repressed, resulting in 85 deaths. The photographs reveal the violence with which the Thai government has been handling insurgents and civilians alike in its Muslim-majority southern provinces. 


Art Labor Collective

Thao-Nguyen Phan 

(b. 1987 in Ho Chih Minh City, lives and works in Ho Chih Minh City, Vietnam)


Truong Cong Tung 

(b.1986 in Dak Lak, lives and works in Ho Chih Minh City, Vietnam)


Arlette Quynh-Anh Tran 

(b.1987 in Berlin, lives and works in Ho Chih Minh City)


In collaboration with Rocham Djeh, Rolan Loh, Siu Lon, Rahlan Aleo, Kpuih Gloh and Rocham Jeh 


Jrai Dew Sculpture Garden (2016-ongoing)

Wood sculptures, mural

Commissioned by the Samdani Art Foundation, Para Site and

Muzeum Sztuki Nowoczesnej w Warszawie.


Art Labor Collective works within different communities, bringing in practitioners from diverse disciplines such as medicine, film-making, education, to bring to questions ideas of labour and social practice. The Jrai Dew Sculpture Garden is part of an ongoing series of sculptural presentations realized in collaboration with the Jrai Dew community of the highlands of central Vietnam, where Art Labor collective member Cong Tung hails from. The project takes inspiration from Jrai spiritual beliefs of the transfiguration of the human after death. In the Jrai philosophy, humans go through many cycles of existence, where the final stage is to transform into dew (ia ngôm in Jrai language) evaporating into the environment – the state of non-being –signaling the beginning particles of new existence.





Charles Lim


(b. 1973 in Singapore, lives and works in Singapore)


Stealing the Trapeze (2016)

Video installation, books

Courtesy of the artist

With support of National Arts Council Singapore



Catamarans were seldom constructed in the temperate West before the 19th century, but they were in wide use as early as the 5th century CE in what is today Southern India. The word ‘catamaran’ is derived from the Tamil language (from kattu ‘to tie’ and maram ‘wood, tree’). In England, one of the earliest mentions of the ‘catamaran’ is made by the 17th century adventurer Willian Dampier who encountered this peculiar manner of relating to water when he reached south-eastern India during this first circumnavigation of the globe. The outrigger and catamaran was prevalent from equatorial South to Southeast Asia (including the artist’s native Singapore) and well into the Pacific as a design solution to stabilise and allow for narrow hull shapes which drew shall drafts. They were the primary vehicles that made the first migrations of Austronesian people to the islands of the Pacific possible. Today, the catamaran is raced in the America’s Cup. The artist, a former Olympic sailor, recounts how in his studies years he came across the autobiographical accounts by one Peter Scott about the circumstances surrounding the invention of the sailing trapeze. Scott claims that he and his fellow sailors invented the trapeze in 1938 along the Thames River in England. Peter Scott was the son of Robert Falcon Scott (the explorer who perished in the Antarctic) and sculpture Kathleen Scott. In his last letter to his wife, Robert Scott is said to have written, “make the boy interested in natural history if you can; it is better than the game”. 





Cian Dayrit

(b. 1989 in Manila, lives and works in Manila, Philippines)


Feudal Fields (2018)

Mixed media and embroidery on canvas

Courtesy of the artist


Mapa de la Isla de Buglas (2017)

Mixed media and embroidery on canvas

Courtesy of the artist and Tin-aw Art Gallery


Taking as the point of departure the 2004 Hacienda Luisita Massacre, when protesting farmers and workers of the sugar estate were killed by agents of the Cojuangco family, these tapestry maps look into the role of sugar production in the country’s colonial past up to the neocolonial and neoliberal present as well as the country’s part in the global market as producers of raw material and consumer of excess goods including culture and education. Addressing feudalism and landlessness by pointing out ownership via imperialist interests and bureaucrat capitalist landlords within the format of a fabric map which functioned historically as nomadic murals brought to one colonized state to another by warrior-kings.





Daniel Boyd

(b. 1982 in Cairns, Queensland, lives and works in Sydney, Australia)


WTEIA2 (2017)

Oil, archival glue on canvas

Courtesy of the artist and Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney


WTEIA2 (2017)

Oil, archival glue on canvas

Courtesy of the artist and Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney


WTEIA3 (2017)

Oil, oil pastel, archival glue on linen

Courtesy of the artist and Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney


These paintings reference the stick-charts of the Marshall Islands, which were used by indigenous communities to navigate the sea by mapping the positions of islands as well as patterns of swell and disturbance in the water. These charts were not taken aboard during voyages, but rather memorized in advance by the sailors. Boyd, who is of Australian indigenous heritage, as well as a descendant of a Vanuatu slave forcibly taken to Australia, alludes through these paintings to the many modes of navigating land and sea that existed in the Pacific region. These forms of navigational knowledge were erased by colonialism, and replaced with the unidirectional model of the map, used primarily as an instrument of control.





Dilara Begum Jolly

(b. 1960 in Chittagong, lives and works in Chittagong, Bangladesh)


The War that Never Went Away (2016-2017)

Pierced photographs

Courtesy of the artist


The work revisits traumatic histories of the Bangladesh War of Liberation in 1971. The artist pierces holes in photographs of the Physical Training College of Dhaka, which was used as a site of torture of Bangladeshi freedom fighters by the Pakistani army during the conflict. Through this work, she traces histories of trauma, examining what she terms the haunting of history in the present.





Garima Gupta

(b. 1985 in New Delhi, lives and works in Bengaluru, India)


Cabinets of Curiosity (2017)

Home 02 (2017)

Lesser Bird of Paradise in a Vitrine (2017)

Hunting Implements from Huon Peninsula, Papua New Guinea (2017)

Twelve-wired Bird of Paradise (2017)

Hunting Implements from Arfak Mountains, West Papua (2017)

Home 01 (2017)

Kombayorong Dance (2017)

Two Studies of a Broken Mountain (2017)

Magnificent Riflebird (2017)


Giclee print on cotton paper

Courtesy of the artist and Tarq, Mumbai


Jakarta Markets (2017)

Red Bird of Paradise (2017)

Lesser Bird of Paradise (2017)

Chinese Taro (2017)


Giclee print on cotton paper

Courtesy of the artist and Tarq, Mumbai


Hamas? (2017)

Charcoal on Manjar-Pat cotton cloth

Courtesy of the artist and Tarq, Mumbai


The work is an ongoing journalistic and archival research in the island of New Guinea,examining

the wildlife trade in Southeast Asia and its effects on the communities and ecology of the island. The core focus of this body of work is the Bird of Paradise, an avian species endemic to New Guinea with a long history as the embodiment of the exotic in European colonial imagination. The research casts light on the socio-economic history of the erstwhile trade which spanned from New Guinea to Europe and traces its effect on the contemporary state of wildlife trafficking in Southeast Asia.





Idas Losin

(b. 1976, in Taiwan; lives and works in Taipei, Taiwan)


Traveler (2014)

Rano Raraku (2014)

Moai (2014)

Island (2014)

Ku (2017)

Oil on canvas

Courtesy of the artist


The artist’s background, belonging to the Truku and Atayal aboriginal people of Taiwan is an an important aspect of her work. The Austronesian community originated among the Aboriginal people in Taiwan, from which this language family extended through sea migrations over the past millennia, reaching as far away places as Easter Island, Hawaii, New Zealand, Philippines, Indonesia, and Madagascar where related languages are still spoken, making this migration the most extensive expansion of a linguistic group outside Western colonialism. The artist’s work is part of an effort to reconnect with her roots and contribute to a shaping of contemporary Taiwanese indigenous identity, after several waves of colonialism and cultural oppression, when one of the most significant aspects of Taiwanese history, being the original homeland of hundreds of millions of people spread across a third of the world’s surface, was ignored. She decided to travel to the furthest points of the Austronesian speaking world and paint her impressions, in a subversion of the position of the European explorer. Presented here are paintings she did in Easter Island and Hawaii.





Ines Doujak

(b. 1959 in Austria, lives and works between London, UK and Vienna, Austria)


Loomshuttles, Warpaths (2010-2018)

Mixed media

Courtesy of the artist


This project was produced in cooperation with Phileas – A Fund for Contemporary Art. The work started life as a collection of 48 Andean textiles, tools, and accessories, and developed as an eccentric archive. Its world, in which textile culture reached exceptional levels of sophistication and significance, was battered and distorted by the European invasions of the early 16th century. It survived, but the impact of those invasions remain as dirty footprints in the production and trade of the ’globalized’ world. The archive traces workers' fights against exploitation through time and geographies, and looks at how types of cloth, dyes, and colour are tied up with the history of colonialisms, revealing both their beauty and their ugly. To stay grounded, the modern figure of the Investigator travelled the Andean region, and in the belief that items of the collection can talk, posters have been created in response to them, inviting people, both close and far away from the Andes, to communicate with them.


Fires: The War Against the Poor (2012-2013)

Mixed media

Courtesy of the artist


This project was produced in cooperation with Phileas – A Fund for Contemporary Art. The silkscreen printed cloth is a fresco from the global war against the poor, who are often locked in with overloaded electricity circuits, living under threat of death and horrible injury by fire while fulfilling skin-tight clothing contracts. It directly refers to several incidents of the past years, in Pakistan and Bangladesh, which have brought little improvement to working conditions.



Jakrawal Nilthamrong

(b. 1977 in Lopburi, lives and works in Bangkok, Thailand)


Zero Gravity (2013)

Single channel video

Courtesy of the artist


The film journeys in the borderland between Thailand and Burma, and the borderland between fiction and truth, past and present. Set in Ratchaburi, not far from Bangkok, it follows a man on a journey into the history of that place. Ratchaburi Hospital was the site of a 2000 incident, when the hospital was occupied and staff taken hostage by the Karen Christian militia "God's Army" from neighboring Burma, lead by two 12-year old twins, Johnny and Luther Htoo.



Jamdani


Jamdani is one of the fifinest textiles of Bengal, produced in the region of Dhaka for centuries, and was originally known as Dhakai (a name still common for the fabric in India). The historic production of Jamdani was patronized by imperial warrants of the Mughal emperors, under which the Persian term Jamdani came to be in popular use, since it was the court language. Under British colonialism, the Bengali jamdani, and the similar, albeit fifiner, muslin industries rapidly declined due to colonial import policies favoring industrially manufactured textiles from Britain. In more recent years, the production of jamdani has witnessed a revival in Bangladesh, using traditional techniques and often natural dyes. However, muslin, one of the most coveted fabrics in Europe in the 19th century, widely depicted in the academic portraiture of the time, was decimated by British economic policy to the point of biological extinction of the cotton subspecies used for making muslin. Jamdani is the closest version that remains of the famed muslin. The traditional art of weaving jamdani has been declared by UNESCO as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.





Jimmy Ong

(b. 1964 in Singapore; lives and works in Singapore and Vermont, USA)


Seamstress Rafflffleses #7 – Mr. Florent (2016)

Cotton and Dacron stuffiffing

Courtesy of the artist and FOST Gallery


Test Batik #1, Printed Test Batik #2, Test Batik #3 and Printed Batik #4

Textile

Courtesy of the artist and FOST Gallery


Sketches for Fallen Tiger Batik motifs

Watercolour on paper

Courtesy of the artist and FOST Gallery


The work refers to the figure of Thomas Stamford Raffles, one of the most infamous British colonial figures in South East Asia, who nevertheless remain largely revered in Singapore. His crimes are well remembered in Indonesia, which has suffered from Raffles' invasion of Java in 1812. He is also the author of "The History of Java", containing the chapter "Ethics of Javan", from which the artist quotes: "A caterpillar has its poison in its head, a scorpion in its tail and a snake in its teeth, but it is unknown in what part of the body the poison of man is concealed: a bad man is therefore considered poisonous in his whole-frame.” The textiles shown here replicate the batik technique of cloth painting, a technique which has become associated with Java and has reflected in its development the many layers of colonialism and occupation of the island in the last centuries.





Jiun-Yang Li

(b. 1967 in Taitung, lives and works in Taichung, Taiwan)


Get the Sword (2006)

The Magical Performance (2009)

Forcing Me to Leave (2000)

The Immortal Kid (2014)

The Golden Immortals (2014)

The Stinky-Headed Kid (1996)


Black and White Impermanence - The Deities of the Two Paths (2005)

Ink on paper

Courtesy of the artist


Fairy-Fairy-Fairy 35 (2011)

Acrylic on canvas

Courtesy of the artist


The Immortal White Ape of the Snow Mountain (2016)

The Yin and Yang Swordsmith God (1995-2017)

The Knight of Black Flowers (1998-2017)

Wood, fabric

Courtesy of the artist


The Playground of Childhood Dreams (2008)

Wood

Courtesy of the artist


The selection of works is representative for the artist’s distinct practice, engaging with traditional Taiwanese art forms, diverse religious representations and vernacular culture on the island. The son of a movie posters painter, Li has himself worked on movie posters, temple painting, calligraphy, Taiwanese glove puppets, as well as multimedia installations. Hailing from Southern Taiwan, where a distinctive cultural environment, influenced by Taiwanese indigenous people and Hoklo (descendants of the first Chinese migrants on the island, speaking the Minnan variety of Chinese languages), is the basis for promoting a Taiwanese identity distinct from the Chinese Nationalist idea that sees Taiwan as part of the Chinese cultural world.





Joël Andrianomearisoa

(b. 1977 in Antananarivo, Madagascar, lives and works between Antananarivo, Madagascar and Paris, France)


Duration: continuous loop (2016)

Remember Iarivo (2016)

Yesterday. Repeat (2016)

Your eyes tell me stories of Paris (2016)

Where have you been? (2016)

Do you remember? (2016)

Repeat. (2016)

Last Year in Antananarivo, 2016


Inkjet print on Hahnemühle paper

Courtesy of the artist and Sabrina Amrani Gallery, Madrid Last Year in Antananarivo takes as its point of departure a series of photographs of a ball held by the French colonials in 1900 in Antananarivo. In the images, Malagasy aristocrats are dressed in elaborate costumes reflecting the colonialists’ idea of a ‘civilised’ people. The work points to the ambivalent position of colonized elites in the process of imperialism, oscillating between complicity and resistance. The colonial ball was used by the imperialists to register their dominance over the bodies of the colonized elites, rendering the Empire as spectacle, another notable example being the infamous Delhi Durbar of 1911, staged while the Bengal Famine ravaged populations elsewhere in the country. 


When the day belongs to the night I, II and III (2016)

Textiles

Courtesy of the artist and Sabrina Amrani Gallery, Madrid


The triptych is part of the artist’s practice of reinterpreting and recomposing fabrics into abstract and seductive compositions, which nevertheless bare the traces of their making and the stories of their makers and traders. The works presented here combine remains of cloth purchased in a market in the artist’s native Madagascar and of saris from Jodhpur in India's Rajasthan. The artist is interested in connections between people, places, and objects, in flows that often avoid the normative paths. While his native Madagascar has ancient connections to Asia, as the westernmost point of Austronesian expansion, Malagasy language being a close relative of languages spoken in Borneo, more recent connections between the island and India are evoked in this work. Gujarati traders, once a leading group of merchants throughout the ports of the Indian Ocean have settled in Madagascar since the 19th century and 70,000 descendants of African slaves and mercenaries, the Siddis, still live in India.





Joydeb Roaja

(b. 1973 in Khagrachori, lives and works in Chittagong, Bangladesh)


Searching My Roots (2017)

Pen and ink on paper

Courtesy of the artist


The series draws from the artist’s performance practice, and the beliefs of his native Tripura community in Chittagong Hill Tracts, to inquire into the possibilities of the survival of indigenous knowledge systems in the face of violent modernities. The artist, referencing painful memories of growing up in a region that has seen many conflicts, moves like an uprooted tree, walking through a landscape devoid of any markers of place, speaking to a sense of dislocated identity. Limbs become branches and sprout leaves, drawing from the traditional spiritual practices of the indigenous group to which he belongs, where the forest plays a central role in acts of becoming. 



Lantian Xie

(b. 1988 in the UAE , lives and works in Dubai, United Arab Emirates)


Taxidermy Peacock (2014)

Taxidermy Peacock

Courtesy of the artist and Grey Noise, Dubai


Peacock Tiles (2016)

Mahjong Tiles

Courtesy of the Jameel Art Centre


Collection of mahjong tiles, each from a different set. Each set is made up of 144 tiles, among which is one Bamboo #1 tile, or ‘peacock tile’, often featuring a depiction of a peacock, or sometimes a sparrow, crane, or other bird.


Meridian (2014) 

Two 1950s lithographs by John Fabreau from 1920s drawings by Danial G. Elliot

Courtesy of the artist and Grey Noise, Dubai


The work is based on 1950s lithographs by John Fabreau from 1920s drawings by Daniel G. Elliot. The hallways of Le Meridien Hotel in Garhoud, Dubai are filled with depictions of thirty six different pheasants, among which is this same Golden Pheasant. Dubai’s rise as a shining metropolis at the crossroads of the global neoliberal era’s new trade routes continues the old cycle of metropolitan cultural capital accumulation seen throughout history. 





Lavanya Mani

(b. 1977 in Hyderabad, India, lives and works in Vadodara, India)


Travellers Tales – Blueprints (2014)

Natural dye, pigment paint, applique and cyanotype on cotton fabric

Courtesy of the artist and Chemould Prescott Road


This series of paintings on cotton cloth evoke the sails of ships and remind of the complex role that textiles and dyes played in the history of colonialism in South Asia. They are realised using the kalamkari technique of cloth painting, the popularity of which, under the name of chintz, in 17th century Europe was such that French and English governments outlawed it to protect local mills. Inserted into the paintings are the texts of letters written by Western travellers to India who attempted to decode kalamkari and other techniques in order to replicate them back in Europe. Also used in these works is cyanotype, an early photographic medium which, when applied on cloth and exposed to light, produces blue colour, evocative of both the ocean and indigo - a dye that was a coveted commodity in the Indian Ocean trade and later colonial extraction from India - the origin of indigo’s name in Europe from ancient Greek times.





Malala Andrialavidrazana

(b. 1971 in Madagascar, lives and works in Paris, France)



Figures 1816, Der Südliche Gestirnte Himmel vs Planiglob der Antipoden (2015)

Figures 1862, Le Monde – Principales Découvertes (2015)

Figures 1899, Weltverkehrs und Kolonialbesitzen (2016)

Figures Figures 1889, Planisferio (2015)

Figures 1817, Eslam or the Countries which have professed the Faith of Mohamet (2016)

Figures 1838, Atlas Elémentaire (2015)

Figures 1853, Kolonien in Afrika und in der Süd-See (2016)


Pigment Print on Hahnemühle Cotton Rag

Courtesy of the artist


The artist creates complex collages of 19th century European maps, products of the Age of Western Imperialism and fragments of banknotes from around the world, illustrating the vision of whatever ideology those countries nurture on the ideal society, its citizens, and their struggles. Maps themselves are hardly accurate representations of places but rather the product of hegemonic ideas about the world, drawn to control and posses. These stunning compositions become a reflection of the myths and illusions, as well as the upheavals, clashes, and transformations of the world in the age of colonialism and its aftermath. 





Manish Nai

(b. 1980 in Gujarat, lives and works in Mumbai, India)


Untitled (2017)

Synthetic indigo-dyed burlap

Courtesy of the artist and Nature Morte


The artist references the material histories of indigo in the subcontinent, tied to colonialism and the institution of debt-based slavery. British colonialists wrecked social and ecological havoc on the population of Bengal by forcing farmers to cultivate indigo instead of the food crops they required for their survival, and charged huge rates of interests to farmers on loans for indigo farming. This eventually lead to the Indigo Revolt of 1859, where indentured indigo farmers from Burdhwan, Birbhum, and Jessore rose up against the ruling colonial and land-owning classes, before being brutally suppressed, as chronicled in Dinabandhu Mitra’s play Nil Darpan, published in Dhaka the same year. Nai’s work layers these histories of labour, anti-imperialist struggle, and the materiality of culture in his sculptural installation.





Ming Wong

(b. 1971 in Singapore, lives and works in Berlin, Germany)


Bloody Mary's - Song of the South Seas (2018)

Mixed media installation, single channel video

Courtesy of the artist


The work is part of the artist’s practice of using fragments from and references to popular culture and cinema, often impersonating in his works different characters from original films, irrespective of gender or racial background. "Bali Ha'i" is a show tune from the 1949 musical South Pacific, made into a 1958 movie by the same title from which the artist extracted the footage. The name refers to a mystical island, an exotic paradise, visible on the horizon but not reachable, and was originally inspired by the sight of Ambae island from neighboring Espiritu Santo in Vanuatu, where author James Michener was stationed in World War II. The matriarch of Bali Ha’i, Bloody Mary, sings her mysterious song "Bali Ha’i", with its haunting orchestral accompaniment, as an enticement to the American troops. The scene, as well as the entire film, exemplifies the construction of the exotic - often woven together with sexual desire - crucial instruments in the process of Western colonialism. Bloody Mary, a caricatural non-specific Pacific Island character, was played in the original film by the pioneering African-American actress Juanita Hall, who appears in this work intermittently with Ming Wong’s impersonation of her.





Moelyono

(b. 1957 in Tulungagung, lives and works in Tulungagung, East Java, Indonesia)


Benang Benang (diptych) (2016)

Acrylic on canvas

Courtesy of the artist and Ark Galerie


Noken Noken (2016)

Noken bag

Courtesy of the artist and Ark Galerie


The artist, known for his pioneering social practice, has been working in West Papua, Indonesia for more than a decade, in social activities mainly based on education, engaging with communities of women in the region’s villages. From them, he studied the history and philosophy of Noken (the traditional woven bag of Papua), and how it became an important part in the narrative of women's struggles in Papua, within a complex social and political situation. Moelyono realized his works through collaborations and meetings with Papuan communities on their native island as well as the ones settled in Java, facing a distinct set of issues as migrants, often subjected to discrimination. He does not see his works as illustrations of the "Noken" or the struggles of the people of Papua. They are a way to tell the story of encounter, learning, friendship, and movements with his communities in Papua.





Mrinalini Mukherjee

(b. 1949 in Bombay, d. 2015 in New Delhi, India)


Kamal (1985)

Hemp

Courtesy of the Kiran Nadar Museum of Art

Presented here with additional support from the Mrinalini Mukherjee Foundation


Mrinalini Mukherjee’s sculptural work references traditional idol-making practices of Bengal, whose sensuous iconicity she alludes to. Mukherjee began working with knotted hemp while studying under the artist KG Subramanyam who organized the Fine Arts Fair of the Faculty of Fine Arts, Baroda, which focused on revisiting and learning from traditional art practices, during which time she made small toys and other works with hemp. She continued her dialogue with the material, expanding it to the monumental scale we see here. Kamal (Lotus) presents a form that seems to be at once a deity and a carnivorous plant, referencing the complex relationship between the sacred and the forest in the religious practices of South Asia. 


Munem Wasif

(b.1983 in Dhaka, lives and works in Dhaka, Bangladesh)


Machine Matters (2017)

Single channel video

Courtesy of the artist and Project88, Mumbai

Assistant Cinematographer: Ferdous Ahmad & Joe Paul Cyriac

Sound Design: Saddul Islam

Production: Kauser Haider


The artist maps shifting histories of labour in the production of jute in Bengal, through the colonial, post-colonial, and neoliberal periods. Wasif’s film focuses on now-defunct machines of a jute mill in Bangladesh, speaking to the country’s transformation from a producer of textiles to a site of assembly of cheap, mainly polyester, garments as part of a globalized, out-sourced supply chain. The proverbial ‘silencing of the looms of Bengal’ by the British, who devastated the textile manufacturing during the Raj to the point of biological extinction of the muslin producing cotton sub-species, echoes in Wasif’s film, which speaks to the subtle insidious violence of an unfulfilled modernity.





Nabil Ahmed

(b. 1978 in Dhaka; lives and works in London, UK)


INTERPRET (2018)

Installation

Courtesy of the artist

Commissioned by Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary (TBA21)–Academy.



Nguyen Trinh Thi

(b. 1973; lives and works in Hanoi, Vietnam)


Letters from Panduranga (2015)

Single channel video

Courtesy of the artist


The essay film is an experimentation between documentary and fiction portraying a Cham community in Vietnam, living on the most southern and last surviving territory of Champa, an ancient kingdom dating back nearly two thousand years and conquered by Vietnam in 1832. The film, made in the form of a letter exchange between two filmmakers, was triggered by the Vietnamese government’s plans to build Vietnam’s first two nuclear power plants in Ninh Thuan, right at the spiritual heart of the Cham people, threatening the survival of this ancient matriarchal Hindu culture. Public discussions regarding the project have been largely absent in Vietnam due to strict government controls over public speech and media, and local communities have also been excluded from consultations. The film also alludes to the legacy of colonialism and war, including the United States’ destructive and deliberate bombing of cultural heritage during the Vietnam War and the perspectives of ethnography and of artifacts from colonial exhibitions and art collections.





Nontawat Numbenchapol

(b. 1983 in Bangkok, lives and works in Bangkok, Thailand)


Mr. Shadow (2016-2018)

Inkjet print on paper

Courtesy of the artist

Assisted by Korn and Chan; post-produced by Nutcha Pajareya


In the middle of a mountain range at the border between Shan State in Myanmar and Northern Thailand, in the buffer zone where many Shan refugees live, a motorcycle moves along the steep and winding path. The dust from the red dirt road kicks up behind the motorcycle, ridden by a young man in an all green army suit. The warm sunshine illuminates the dusk and the breeze blows gently as the young man parks his motorcycle at a spot from which he can see the terrain below the mountains. They stretch to infinity, toward the horizon tinged with the vibrant hues of the setting sun. The young man slowly removes his hat, but there is no head underneath, nothing, not a face. He then removes his shirt but his body is transparent. The clothes come off piece by piece until his body completely disappears. All that remains are the mountains and the setting sun as they welcome the darkness of the night. 





Norberto Rolodan

(b. 1953 in Bacolod, lives and works in Manila, Philippines)


Himagsikan (2018)

Tapestry/banner with embroideries, old Catholic vestment (humeral veil), and metal amulets and chains

Courtesy of the artist and Silverlens Gallery


Kalayaan (2018)

Tapestry/banner with embroideries, old Catholic vestment (humeral veil), and metal amulets and chains

Courtesy of the artist and Silverlens Gallery


Erehes (2017)

Old Catholic vestment (cape) with embroideries and soft amulets

Courtesy of the artist and Silverlens Gallery


This series of pseudo-religious banners revisits the Philippine Revolution against Spain. The uprising began in 1896 after Spanish authorities discovered the Katipunan, the underground organisation that served as catalyst of the independence revolutionary movement. As an underground organisation, it made use of different strategies to expand its influence and gain support from the people. Among these was operating behind the infrastructure of the Catholic church that was under the Spanish hierarchy. By practicing as Christian converts and becoming part of the laity, Filipinos aided the insurrection unsuspected. Himagsikan (revolution) and Kalayaan (independence) are banners that made use of parts of Catholic ceremonial vestments re-embroidered and re-embellished with symbols of the uprising. They mimic and subvert the pompous display of colonial power. Signifying made-up churches like Iglesia de la Revolution, and Iglesia de la Independencia, the banners are likened to battle flags rallying resistance against Spain.    





Paul Pfeiffer

(b. 1966 in Honolulu, Hawaii, lives and works in New York, USA)


Incarnator (2018)

Video and installation

Courtesy of the artist

Supported by Bellas Artes Projects, Philippines


Encarnador (Incarnator) is the old Spanish term for the carver of Santos, or devotional images of the Catholic saints that is particularly revered in the former Spanish colony of the Philippines, which also has a pre-colonial and still surviving tradition of sacred wooden figures. Encarnador particularly refers to the craftsperson specializing in the final step of Santo production in which the image is finished with a skin of paint, turning carved wood into human flesh. The video hones in on a particular workshop of wood carvers from the town of Paete, the centuries-old center of Santo production in the Philippines. The repetitive gestures of the carvers at work are explored visually in relation to the surrounding landscape, where the rice-planting season is underway. Timeworn traditions of manual labor are recast as a metaphor for the production and consumption of images in today’s global marketplace. Justin Bieber is treated as a modern day incarnation of the Santo Nino or Infant Jesus, embodying the complex relationship between innocence and complicity, the sacred and profane in the perverse spaces and temporalities of global capitalism.





Praneet Soi

(b. 1971 in Kolkata, lives and works between Amsterdam and Kolkata)


Footpaths: Srinagar 2018 (2018)

9 hand-painted papier-mache tiles, 16 images on paper, looped video, 4 tables,

LCD screen

Courtesy of the artist

Commissioned by the Samdani Art Foundation, Para Site and

Muzeum Sztuki Nowoczesnej w Warszawie.


The work, resulted from a collaboration between the artist and the workshop of craftsman Fayaz Jan in Srinagar is part of Soi's ongoing process of engagement with craftsmen in the troubled Indian state of Kashmir and of researching the recent political situation there. The 9 interlocking papier-mache tiles are drawn with floral details whose forms are reminiscent of the many cultural influences that have layered in Kashmir over the centuries. The craft of papier mache that Kashmir is renowned for was itself introduced to the region by the Sufifi preacher Saha Hamdani in the 13th century. The tiles are accompanied by research materials, sketches, and drafts produced by the artist within this project, including a study of the tomb of the mother of Ghiyas-ud-Din Zain-ul-Abidin, built in 1430 CE. Its unique architecture points to the many connections and exchanges between South and Central Asia which often crossed through Kashmir. A large optical diagram related to the phenomena of anamorphoses reflects Soi’s intention to personalise the depiction of political uncertainty – a process that is underlined within the video that is part of the installation.





Raja Umbu

(lives and works in Kampung Uma Bara, Sumba)


Skirt with Kadu motif (2010)

Textile


Raja Umbu, a traditional weaver and member of the royal (raja) family of Uma Bara village on Sumba island in Indonesia weaves an ancestral story of migration to Sumba, a collective foundational myth that continues to be reconstructed on the island amid rapid cultural change. The languages of Sumba, as well as the majority of languages in Indonesia, including Bahasa Indonesia, belong to the Austronesian language family. Her native eastern part of Sumba is known for its unique dyeing and ikat techniques.



Rashid Choudhury

(b. 1932 in Faridpur, British India; d. in 1986, in Dhaka, Bangladesh)


Untitled (1980)

Untitled (Allah Hu) (1981)

Untitled (year unknown)

Tapestry

Courtesy of the Samdani Art Foundation


Rashid Choudhury began working with tapestries after his return to Bangladesh in 1964 following studies in Paris. The works here were made quite late in his career, after he had established the first single loom tapestry factory in Chittagong. Choudhury referenced folk narratives from Bengal in his works, drawing equally from Hindu, Buddhist, and Islamic sources. Many of his tapestries began as watercolours or paintings, growing into woven forms. While he references Islamic calligraphy in this work, we see none of the geometric abstraction typically associated with it; instead Chaudhury creates a vibrant image that seems to reference ecstatic Sufi and Fakiri forms of devotion.



Sarat Mala Chakma

(b. 1932 in Rangamati, Bangladesh; lives and works in Bangladesh)


Sarat Mala Chakma is a master weaver belonging to the Chakma community who was awarded the Master Craftspersons Lifetime Award in 2016. Presented here is the textile which won her the National Award in 1998, which uses traditional motifs from the repertoire of Chakma textile culture, upon which she innovates to produce this magnificent work. Additionally, other textiles from the Chittagong Hill Tracts are presented, courtesy of Rani Yan Yan. They include the black Pinon-Haadi, which is part of the traditional attire of the Chakma community, woven on a handloom known as bein, and the red and white head band from the Tanchangya community. Traditional textiles from the Chittagong Hill Tracts have many points in common in terms of materials, dyes, techniques, and motifs with textiles produced in a broad contiguous mountain area spreading to Myanmar, India, South-West China, Thailand, Laos, and Vietnam, revealing the many cultural connections that have existed before and in parallel to the modern nation-states. 





Sawangwongse Yawnghwe

(b. 1971 in Shan State, lives and works between Berlin, Germany; Amsterdam, Netherlands; and Chiang Mai, Thailand)


Rohingya Boat Portrait (2015)

Oil on paper

Courtesy the artist

Supported by Canada Art Council


There Were Light Bulbs So We Could See Them (2012)

Oil on paper

Courtesy of the artist


They Were Buried In The Mud Anther The Bridge (2012)

Oil on paper

Courtesy the artist


He Was Also Shot In The Head (2012)

Oil on paper

Courtesy the artist


Untitled (2015)

Oil on silk

Courtesy the artist

Supported by Canada Art Council


The artist, descendent of a prominent family leading the struggle for the rights of the Shan people in Eastern Myanmar, is committed to expose the hidden and repressed histories of violence and oppression in his country. He critiques dominant Bamar-centric artistic and historical narratives by presenting a personal, counter-historiography, often in solidarity with other oppressed or excluded communities in Myanmar. The works in this exhibition include portraits of Rohingya as well as a mass grave of bodies, based on eye-witness accounts of Rohingya refugees. The works resonate with the poem "The Earth Is Closing on Us", by Mahmoud Darwish:


The earth is closing on us, pushing us through the last passage, and  we tear off our limbs to pass through.  The earth is squeezing us. I wish we were its wheat so we could die  and live again. I wish the earth was our mother  So she’d be kind to us. I wish we were pictures on the rocks for our dreams to carry as mirrors.  We saw the faces of those to be killed by the last of us in the last defense of the soul. We cried over their children’s feast. We saw the faces of those who’ll throw our children Out of the windows of the last space. Our star will hang up in mirrors. Where should we go after the last frontiers? Where should the birds fly after the last sky? Where should the plants sleep after the last breath of air? We will write our names with scarlet steam. We will cut off the head of the song to be finished by our flesh. We will die here, here in the last passage. Here and here our blood will plant its olive tree.





Sheela Gowda

(b. 1957 in Bhadravati, Karnataka, lives and works in Bangalore, India)


Of Becoming (2018)

Installation

Courtesy of the artist

Commissioned by the Samdani Art Foundation, Para Site and

Muzeum Sztuki Nowoczesnej w Warszawie.

 The newly created work inscribes in the artist’s long standing explorations into the field of materiality and space, offering nuanced and vibrant means of understanding the world. She is interested in the power that objects and forms carry in capturing aspects of reality, with its social and cultural narratives, that are otherwise unseen by and unspeakable through other languages of representation and analysis. Materials for Gowda can be at the same time complex metaphors and ends in themselves, forgetful of their many cultural and spiritual investments attributed by human practice, but charged with a potential spiritual tension of their own. Her vocabulary is constantly discovered and invented in the things that surround her and that she respells into her works, like the gamcha, the ubiquitous towel cloth in Bangladesh and throughout South Asia, which form the basis of this work.  





Sheelasha Rajbhandari

(b. 1988 in Kathmandu, lives and works in Kathmandu, Nepal)


My Great-Great-Grandmother’s Shawl (2017)

Photographs, recreated hand-printed muslin ‘Damber Kumari’ shawl, counterfeit and

original clothing tags


The artist traces socio-political changes in her native Nepal through changes in cultures of clothing in her family. She references her maternal great- great- grandmother’s traditional Damber Kumari shawl, which contained pieces of fabric from Nepal and Varanasi, and imitated textiles from Dhaka. Adding to these layered histories, she embroiders real and counterfeited brand tags from cheap mass-produced clothes from India and China, juxtaposing these with images of her grandmother wearing the shawl. Rajbhandari raises questions of authenticity and copying that go into the production of culturally significant items, producing an artifact for the contemporary moment, where diverse textile cultures are being flattened out by mass-production.





Simon Soon

(b.1985; lives and works in Kuala Lumpur)


King Kalakaua's Hawaiian Travels (2018)

Wood

Courtesy of the artist

In collaboration with RJ Camacho, Antonia Aguilar, Lauro Penamante, Arnold Flores, Joseph de Ramos

Supported by Bellas Artes Projects, Philippines


Melayu Pono’i


In 1881, the last King of Hawai’i, Kalakaua, embarked on a round the world trip to encourage the importation of contract labor for plantations and brought the small island nation to the attention of world leaders. King Kalakaua was also fired by the concept of the Malay race and its political future, or in the words of the U.S. Consul 'inflamed by the idea of gathering all the cognate races of the Islands of the Pacific into a great Polynesian Confederacy’. This series of four carved panels capture four incidents across the Asia Pacific rim.They recount episodes of diplomatic exchanges premised on political recognition and imagined kinship loosely based on William Armstrong's Around the World with a King (1904). These episodes follow the travel of King Kalakaua to San Francisco, Japan, Siam and Johore. The creation of the reliefs was also a relay of sorts, from idea to conception. The idea was a long standing interest of writer Simon Soon, who provided research details and mood boards. These materials were then passed on to illustrator RJ Camacho, who decided to base his design on Filipino modernist painter Carlos ‘Botong’ Francisco’s theatrical tableaux that elevates the folkinto national consciousness. Finally, the carving is executed by Ka Celing, a master woodcarver from Paeta, Laguna. Besides being adept at carving religious statuary, Paeta craftsmen had also produced one of the most iconic diorama of Filipino history at the Ayala Museum. By collaborating with a Filipino illustrator and craftsman, the relief panels take poetic license in connecting the political ambition of King Kalakaua to the fifirst political uprising in Asia, the Philippine revolution.In this instance the stylistic reference to both an art and craft history connected to nation-building is deliberate. One might speculate if Filipino novelist and patriot Jose Rizal’s imagined community of Malay races owes part of its imagination to King Kalakaua’s desire to establish Pan-Polynerian confederacy?


Panel 1

During his time in San Francisco, King Kalakaua was feted to a lavish Chinese banquet in Hang Fen Lou restaurant,San Francisco. The banquet was hosted by the Consul-General of China in recognition of Kalakaua's kind treatment of Chinese workers in Hawai'i.


Panel 2

While in Japan, Kalakaua visited a Shinto temple of Shiba. In a moment of tranquility, he drew the Japanese Emperor aside and suggested, ‘Not only are Japanese Emperors descended from the Sun Goddess, so are the Hawai'ian kings.’


Panel 3

When it was time to depart Siam, King Kalakaua and his party were driven to the landing. They were then seated in the royal barge, with the stately movements of its twenty-four oars, that carried them to a steamer called ‘Bangkok’. Kneeling Buddhist monks were invited yo give a blessing to the ship and all aboard her as the ship set sail for Singapore.


Panel 4

In Johore, the setting is a reception hall of the Istana. The valet of King Kalakaua is made to wear the ceremonial feathered cloak. The Sultan of Johore and the King of Hawai’i greeted each other warmly. For they recognised each other as 'long lost brothers'. To commemorate the renewal of kinship, King Kalakaua received a green and gold Koran.


Simryn Gill

(b. 1959 in Singapore, lives and works between, Sydney, Australia and Port Dickson, Malaysia)


Pressing In (2016)

Relief prints on butterflfly paper

Courtesy of the artist and Jhaveri Contemporary


Pressing In (2016)

Relief prints on ledger paper

Courtesy of the artist and Jhaveri Contemporary


Pressing In (2016)

Relief prints on ledger paper

Courtesy of the artist and Jhaveri Contemporary


Sweet Chariot (2015)

Silver Gelatin Print

Courtesy of the artist and Jhaveri Contemporary


The artist creates a series of prints using collected lumber washed up from the sea at Port Dickson, Malaysia. Weathered and degraded by exposure to the sea and the sun, they bear traces of their origins, as parts of oars, or ships, and of their journey, becoming part of the ecosystem of the waves, encrusted with organisms and microbes that eat away at it. Gill presses these pieces of found wood onto a collection of papers, including wage records, star charts, accounting ledgers and reference books sourced in junk shops, markets, and online. In doing so, she entangles the drift of these pieces of wood which trace the rise and fall of markets, human and celestial movements to create images of histories adrift.





Su Yu-Hsien 

(b. 1982 in Tainan, lives and works in Tainan, Taiwan)


Hua-Shan-Qiang (2013)

Colour video with sound; Giclee prints

Courtesy of the artist and TKG+


In collaboration with 


Rajiuddin Choudhury

(b. 1963 in Dinajpur, lives and works in Dinajpur)


Beast (2018)

Paper mask 

Courtesy of the artist



Taloi Havini

(b. 1981 in Arawa, Autonomous Region of Bougainville, lives and works in Sydney)


Kapkaps (Pendants) from the Mysterious Isles of Melanesia (2015)

Porcelain, copper and gold lustre

Courtesy of the artist and Andrew Baker Art Dealer


The artist references in this work histories of colonialism, and the use of museological display within it. Consisting of four kapkaps, hand-carved, shallow relief porcelain disks, with gold lustre and copper glazes, it mimics the customary clamshell and tortoise shell inlay. Kapkaps were articles of signifificant cultural and sacred value in the Hakö practices of Bougainville island in which Havini was raised in, and were obtained by force or by trade across the Moananui by colonists, and locked away in glass cabinets such as the one seen here in museums in Europe. She challenges the inaccessibility of these spaces and objects to the very people they were wrested from and honors the generations of ecological and cultural trauma whose trace they now bear.



Than Sok

(b. 1984 in Takeo, Cambodia; lives and works in Phnom Penh)


Srie Bun (2016)

Installation of five clerical garments (cotton, chemical dye), five garment hooks

Courtesy of the artist and MAIIAM Contemporary Art Museum


Five Buddhist clerical garments hang on the wall at the same height. The different colors belong to two sects within Cambodia’s Theravada Buddhist system and signify ranks within each sect: three orange colors of Maha Nikaya and darker maroon and ochre colors of Thammayut. The Buddhist monk, wearing robes, is believed to delineate a merit field comparable to the fertile rice field, where seeds are sown for reaping. The word veal srie in the Khmer language means rice field, and bun refers to merit making, which the artist notes is increasingly synonymous with monetary and this-world offerings. The robe’s rectilinear form and seams imitate those of the rice field: paddies framed by dikes. In Srie Bun, the artist has carefully cut away measured fields of fabric, revealing deliberate holes. His gesture questions the robe’s symbolic power atop mortal male bodies, and if peace can be advanced when hierarchical notions of sect and rank remain at the moral core of society.





Thao-Nguyen Phan

(born 1987 in Ho Chih Minh City; lives and works in Ho Chih Minh City)


Man Looking Towards Darkness (2014)

Curtain made from Indigo dyed jute fabric, silk, hand embroidery, framed

Courtesy of the artist


The work engages with the history of jute cultivation and manufacture in Vietnam. During the

Japanese occupation of Vietnam from 1940-1945, the Dai Nam jute factory was built and industrial plantation campaigns to “uproot rice, grow jute” were implemented, resulting in the horrific famine of 1945 that killed 2 million Vietnamese. The artist presents an indigo dyeing jute curtain woven by Tay women using traditional methods. Next to it lies a photograph of three stones under an ancient banyan tree, which were used to detach jute fiber for factory use. Today, these stones lie undisturbed under the tree, carrying within them the painful material histories of occupation and forced labour.


Untitled (Heads) (2013)

Dried shredded jute (hemp) fifiber and jute stalks, bronze, thread

Courtesy of the artist

The work locates the jute plant as both the cause and witness of a tragic event, when Vietnamese farmers were forced to grow jute instead of rice during the Japanese occupation of then French Indochina from 1940-1945, which lead to large scale famine and the death of 2 million Vietnamese. The form of the sculpture is inspired by the Ma Mot tree, a totemic tree constructed by Tai minorities in Northern Vietnam for religious purposes where objects such as animal bones and amulets are hung, representing a dead or evil spirit. The artist reincarnates the jute plant as a Ma Mot tree, hanging on its drooping branches portraits of farmers whom she interviewed during the course of her research, in an attempt to create a ritual yet individualized space of healing from painful histories.


Voyages de Rhodes N No. 1, No. 36, No. 38, No. 103 and No. 116 (2014-17)

Watercolour on found book

Courtesy of the Samdani Art Foundation


Voyages de Rhodes No. 9, No. 30, No. 34, No. 35, No. 40, No. 42 , No. 76, No. 124 (2014-17)

Watercolour on found book

Courtesy of the artist and the Factory Contemporary Arts Centre, Saigon


Thảo Nguyên Phan poetically traces the origin and adoption of the Vietnamese Romanized script called chu quoc ngu through the work of the French Jesuit missionary, Alexandre de Rhodes who wrote the first trilingual Vietnamese-Portuguese-Latin dictionary, the Dictionarium Annamiticum Lusitanum et Latinum in 1651. Phan uses Rhodes’ travelogue Rhodes of Vietnam: The Travels and Missions of Father Alexandre de Rhodes in China and Other Kingdoms of the Orient (originally published in 1966) as the canvas for her watercolours. Drawing occasionally from episodes in the story, Phan uses the surface of the text to speculate on cultural hybridities, which bears traces of layers of violence and subjugation. The imposition of a writing system affects cultural violence, rendering knowledge inaccessible to many: having nowhere to go, stories burst out of limbs like trees.





Trevor Yeung

(b. 1988 in Guangdong Province, China, lives and works in Hong Kong)


Acanthus Medallion (Bangladesh) (2018)

Plaster, Pigment, Metal, Cotton, Porcelain

Courtesy of the artist


White Tower (Ceiling Medallion) (2018)

Plaster Ceiling Medallion, Wood, Cotton Fabric, Silicone, Epoxy, Work Table

Courtesy of the artist

Commissioned by the Samdani Art Foundation, Para Site and

Muzeum Sztuki Nowoczesnej w Warszawie


The works are part of an ongoing research on acanthus, a relatively obscure plant in its living form that is nevertheless the source of one of the most prominent motifs used in art and architecture throughout different geographies and eras, including the Greco-Roman, Classical Islamic, Greco- Buddhist, and Mughal worlds, as well as in contemporary vernacular decorations across the globe. The plant is not native to South Asia, but the ornament referring to its leaf entered the region in several distinct waves. The Victorian era style plaster used, among others, in ceiling medallions, is still commonly used - often adapted and combined with other aesthetic references - in interior decorations in Bangladesh, in a complicated relationship with its colonial past. The work references these hybrid medallions, and adds a white porcelain cast of an actual acanthus leaf on the decorative leaves which carry in their shapes the many historical and cultural layers of interpreting this motif.


Supported by the Hong Kong Arts Development Council. Hong Kong Arts Development Council

fully supports freedom of artistic expression. The views and opinions expressed in this project do not represent the stand of the Council.



Truong Cong Tung

(b.1986,Dak Lak, Vietnam; lives and works in Ho Chih Minh City, Vietnam)


Blind Map (2013)

Canvas, eaten by termites

Courtesy of the artist and the Factory Contemporary Arts Centre, Saigon


Truong Cong Tung engages with the traditional spiritual practices of Vietnam, some of which are also influenced by Buddhism, to investigate modes of being with non-humans, including plants, insects, and spirits, which emerge within these traditions. In Blind Map, he invites a colony of Termites occupy a length of canvas, and present to us the traces of their vigorous activity. Through this process, a transfiguration takes place where the artist becomes termite, and the termite becomes a painter, creating a space of indistinction of identity across species. 





Tuguldur Yondonjamts

(b. 1977 in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, lives and works between Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia and New York, USA)


Smuggled landscape #09, #10 and #13 (2015)

Charcoal on paper

Courtesy of the artist

Antipode Suit #4 (2017)

Textile

Courtesy of the artist and Richard Taittinger Gallery


Inspired by his training in Buddhist thangka painting, the drawings embody the Buddhist idea of maya—or modes of shifting perspectives. The painstakingly drawn territory is created using a technique of shading that forms illusions of snow-covered mountains and deep valleys. On closer inspection, they reveal semblances of many images at once, faces of monsters, animals or possible mythological figures and, above all, immense, uninhabitable, and seemingly dangerous frozen expanses. These abstractions illustrate the Mongolian struggle after the end of communism in 1990, retrieving repressed shamanistic practices and mythological history. In addition, fossils and mummies found embedded in the Mongolian permafrost have reignited links to the vast steppes of Eurasia and older histories of migratory and temporary dominance over their trade routes. More recently, the unlikely discovery by scientists of the remains of an alligator in the frozen Altai Mountains bordering Mongolia have greatly impacted the artist’s imagination.



Yajnopaveeta


Thread


The yajnopaveeta or janeu is a white thread worn exclusively by the Brahmin caste in Hinduism, always from the left shoulder to waist. It is a sacred object conferred through specific ceremonies and it has become the recognisable marker of the upper caste in traditional Hindu society. Cast remains a leading factor in the stratification of society in India and cast related violence has increased in recent years.





Zamthingla Ruivah

(b. 1966 in Manipur, lives and works in Imphal, Manipur)


Luingamla Kashan (1990 - ongoing)

Textile

Courtesy of the artist


Mazui Kashan

Textile

Courtesy of the artist


Phor-Re

Textile

Courtesy of the artist


Zamthingla Ruivah created the Luingamla Kashan in memory of Ms. Luingamla of Ngainga village who was shot dead while resisting rape by two officers of the Indian army on 24 January 1986. Using motifs from the weaving traditions of the Tangkhul, she wove a kashan (a traditional garment) that pays tribute to Luingamla, and the spirit of a community ravaged by   state violence. Nagaland has been under the Armed Forces Special Powers Act since 1958, when Naga separatist groups attempted to secede from India; since then it has been abused by security personnel to shield themselves from prosecution for crimes committed against the populace. Today, many members of the Tangkhul community wear the Luingamla Kashan as a symbol of solidarity.