Writing on Contemporary Art of Southeast Asia.
The struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting
- Milan Kundera, The Book of Laughter and Forgetting (1979)
With an audience that was welcoming and curious, I had an invaluable opportunity to share my learnings on the history and art of Southeast Asia (SEA) not as a presumed expert on the region but as a student, a specialist critic, still grasping at the diversity of SEA countries. Previous editions of TAKE on art magazine have given me great editorial freedom to review exhibitions and biennales from this part of the world which, in my view, is often overlooked in the international sphere save for the discussions on global art markets. Speaking in Baroda not only permitted the possibility to share what I have learnt but to also have my views tested, challenged and discussed within a safe but intellectually rigorous space in the presence of stalwarts from the Indian art scene.
Understanding art from any particular region requires for its entangled historical, socio-political, religious and cultural narratives to be contextualised in a manner that allows regional and international audiences to access its coded references and significance. Since my move to Singapore in 2008, I naturally encountered art that emerged from specific local circumstances. As an Indian hailing from Nigeria, I was evidently not a native of the region and I certainly did not come close to speaking any of the languages. Therefore, writing about regional art competently required considerable reading on my part that would enable me to transcend an artwork’s obvious formal imperatives. I familiarised myself with regional history and the cultural, economic and political shifts of various countries, their anti-imperialist struggles and burgeoning nationalist ideologies that indeed many Southeast Asian artists critique.
In order to access what these artists were saying and how they were saying it, I oriented myself with Southeast Asian art through numerous exhibitions at institutions, galleries and young biennales across the region alongside conversations with artists and curators who kindled a sincere appreciation of the region’s hybrid cosmopolitanism and historically inclusive, syncretic outlook, contemporary artists’ agency and their voice for the dispossessed. Having written about various artworks beyond their specific ‘local context’ for over some six years, I stand convinced that themes tackled by SEA artists would find common ground with Indian viewers unfamiliar with the region. And so I set about convincing the astute Baroda audience of Southeast Asian contemporary art’s universal appeal. But first, contextualisation was key. I began by giving the audience a gist of crucial events from mid 20th century that shaped the political orientation of Burma, Vietnam, Cambodia, Philippines, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand.
Continue reading your story on the app
Continue reading your story in the magazine
Falling In Love (Again): India's Weaves Story
India’s love affair with handwoven cloth shows no signs of abating. Open any fashion magazine or newspaper and weaves get ample play. Designers up and down the country extol the virtues of weaves, proudly brandishing their innovative work with weavers to contemporise motifs and palettes. This is laudable but hardly surprising.
Regal Renaissance: The Royal Opera House Re-opens
The Royal Opera House Mumbai is widely touted as ‘Mumbai’s cultural crown jewel’ and India’s only surviving opera house. The original idea for the space was conceived of in 1908. It was inaugurated in 1911 by King George V, and eventually completed in 1916. The design incorporated a blend of European and Indian detailing.
Technologies Of Elegance
As soon as you enter the exhibition space in Bikaner House, the display ahead sort of takes your breath away. It’s a carefully crafted mise-enscène, filled with dangling screens, suspended sequins, overflowing jewellery boxes, glass displays, and more. And yet, in spite of the exquisite setting, and the props that inhabit it, your focus never wavers from the clothes, which form the essence of the exhibition.
Fictioning The Landscape: Robert Smithson And Ruins In Reverse
That zero panorama seemed to contain ruins in reverse, that is – all the new construction that would eventually be built. This is the opposite of the ‘romantic ruin’ because the buildings don’t fall into ruin after they are built but rather rise into ruin before they are built. –Robert Smithson, “A Tour of the Monuments of Passaic, New Jersey”
The Kerala boy stands alone, facing the sea or what looks like the sea. Water is never far from his feet. His eyes are dark and his hair is blacker than the best Tellicherry pepper. He is an inch taller than most and a little long in the tooth. He likes the language of protest. He likes the flavour of a season called ‘Left’.
Ghosts Of Ghan-Town
Landing gracefully on a rock, the camel tucked in its wings And wondered if this was perhaps Miryam Springs? This parched and desolate landscape was not what he hoped to find What of the flourishing settlement he had once left behind?
The humidity is sabotage and my skin is undone. I’ve always had a preference for dryness. While other women fear wrinkles, I never mind the beginnings of a crease. They seem cleaner, those intersecting lines. But then I’ve never been afraid of getting older, of being an abstraction.
The Smuggler: A Mural By Sadequain
The story goes that Sadequain (1930 – 1987), living in Karachi, was exhausted and in poor health. He was offered a stay at a government rest house at Gadani in 1958, so that he could recover. Gadani is located in the province of Balochistan on the Arabian Sea, a few kilometers west of Karachi. It must have felt quite remote from the city back then. The western coastline of Pakistan has long been infamous for underdevelopment and for unregulated trade activities with West Asia.
It’s 2011, late summer. All over Europe, young people are occupying central public squares to demonstrate for more social justice. In Berlin, their agenda is different. The completists gathered at Alexanderplatz aspire for justice primarily on an intimate level. They believe that only when the redistribution of material wealth includes equal chances of finding sex and love — no matter how elderly, disabled, or ugly you are — communism will become real.
A Writer's Discourse
There are two moments in Plato’s dialogue Phaedrus that I come back to often. The first is an epitaph that Socrates uses to explain bad writing, which he recites (and I will now quote) in full:
Anthony Ha and Sadie Mae Burns
Their Ha’s Dac Biet pop-up preceded the pandemic.
MIND GAMES: The Psychology of Board Games
What is the mind? For the ancient Greeks, the idea of the mind was synonymous with the concept of “soul.” Plato believed the psyche was immortal and became wiser and more perceptive after death. More recently, Freud and Jung refined the idea of seele (soul) as a subset of the overall psyche, that which governs thought and behavior — in short, personality. As a game designer and armchair psychologist, I am fascinated by what makes games tick. But even more, I love to discover what makes players tick. Games are products of the human mind, and the mind is the arena on which the contest is played. All the aspects of cognition — perception, thinking, judgment, language, memory, and more — play into the game experience.
Keep Singapore's Books Clean
The city-state wants to prove it’s safe not just for wealthy tycoons but for investors, too
At Stone Barns Center, guest-chef residencies are bringing fresh flavors to fine dining.
José Jeuland 2020 BIG SURPRISES
It was the end of 2019, welcoming the year 2020 when I told myself that it would be a great year
Have «comfort foods» PUT YOUR healthy diet ON THE BACK SHELF?
Nutrition Myth Buster Jonny Bowden says toss out the old nutrition advice along with the junk food. It’s time to start fresh before you start having health issues.
It wasn’t in my power to mend a broken heart, but I sent needle and thread, with chocolates for good measure
Home is Where the Heart Is
Arinze Stanley is Staying in Nigeria
YELLOW SCORPIONS - P-51 Mustangs rule the skies in China
Using Chinese airfields, the 311th Fighter Group was the first to take World War II to the Japanese. The 311th’s 530th Fighter Squadron, which became known as the “Yellow Scorpions,” was the first squadron based in China. During their combat tour, they flew A-36 dive bombers along with all versions of the P-51 (A, B, C and D). However, it was their expertise with P-51 B and C models that earned them the respect of Japanese pilots.
MAGGIE LINDEMANN SPILLS THE TEA ON HER UPCOMING EP, TRAN- SCENDING GENRES AND COLLABORATING WITH POP PUNK’S FINEST.