As the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) concludes the commemoration of its 50th anniversary, the Philippines marks the historic occasion by hosting a contemporary art exhibition featuring ten artists who will represent each ASEAN member state.
The exhibit titled Ties of History: Art in Southeast Asia is curated by noted art historian, scholar, and curator Patrick D. Flores.
It will be held simultaneously in three major art institutions in the Philippines: the Metropolitan Museum of Manila (MET Manila), the University of the Philippines Vargas Museum, and the Yuchengco Museum.
The exhibition’s artists from the region will gather in Manila to open the exhibition on August 8 (MET Manila), 9 (Yuchengco Museum), and 10 (Vargas Museum) with a series of programs for each venue. The opening reception of each venue starts at 5pm. The exhibition will be on view from August 10 to October 6, 2018.
The project is presented by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) through the Dalubhasaan Para saEdukasyonsaSining at Kultura (DESK) with the support of the Office of Senator Loren Legarda.
“Ties of history” is a phrase taken from a document signed by ASEAN’s founding members on August 8, 1967. The document describes “a region already bound together by ties of history and culture.” A region that is “conscious that in an increasingly interdependent world, the cherished ideals of peace, freedom, social justice, and economic well-being are best attained by fostering good understanding, good neighbourliness and meaningful cooperation among the countries of the region.” The document gave birth to the regional organization, which taken as a collective is the world’s 5th largest economy.
Ties of History: Art in Southeast Asia is a survey of contemporary art, on the one hand. On the other, it is a diligent study of a particular practice. The project selects three works of each artist from the ASEAN countries to be exhibited in three institutions. This enables the exhibition to present a more in-depth look into the interests of the artist and allows the audience from different parts of the city to view the exhibition.
As Flores, who was recently appointed as Artistic Director of Singapore Biennale 2019, explains, “this undertaking…draws attention to the thoughtful and sensitive process of artistic transformation and maturity and tries to avoid the tendency of survey exhibitions to merely select the most popular or the most accessible.”
“It also reminds us that artistic practice is not fully formed but rather gleaned in the condition of constant forming. It is this constant forming that the project endeavors to curate,” he adds.
NCCA Chairman Virgilio S. Almario agrees that “[t]here is much to gain in gathering the talents of the region in order to view not only their works but to also reflect on the realities each of them respond to.” He further emphasizes that “it is a proud moment that the Philippines initiates this celebration of ASEAN artists.”
Almario also remarks on the importance of the ASEAN in the current climate. For him, “[the] ASEAN is a unique regional organization because it aims to be known to the world as one community despite its diversity in religion, race and culture. In a world troubled by differences in belief, finding peace may be meditated through art that lets us see the threads that string us together.”
Senator Loren Legarda, one of the Philippines leading cultural advocates, expresses her pride with the recent developments in Philippine contemporary art: “Support for Philippine contemporary art is at its peak with our participation at the Venice Biennale for four consecutive years after a 51-year absence, with Dr. Flores as the first curator since our re-entry. This collaborative endeavor further puts the country at the center of contemporary art globally, not just in Asia. I invite our ASEAN neighbors to continue this art project annually or in the form of a biennial in the same manner by which we host political and economic affairs in ASEAN.”
Ties of History: Art in Southeast Asia aims to identify artists from across generations who have demonstrated both responsiveness and range in relation to the concerns of aesthetic material and socio-historical contexts.
A contemporary artist based in Singapore known for her collaborative and multidisciplinary approach to art, Amanda Heng (b. 1951) explores social issues in the context of Singapore’s inter-cultural social milieu.
Roberto Feleo (b. 1954) is a seminal Philippine artist whose works are sharp sociohistorical commentaries on Philippine myth and history and creative investigations into local materials and techniques.
Known for his practice that includes the use of natural materials and traditional tools used in Indonesian craft,Anusapati (b. 1957) has inspired a younger generation of artists disposed to respond to craft, modernism, and the environment.
Do Hoang Tuong (b. 1960) of Vietnam belongs to an influential generation of abstract painters in the South of Vietnam in the 1990s. From an academic perspective and within the narrative space of his paintings, he expresses the desire of a founding condition of a new subjectivity.
SavanhdaryVongpoothorn (b. 1971) was born in Laos and came to Australia in 1979. Her practice implicates Lao cultural references interwoven with Australian and other cultural mediations in a productive space of resettlement.
Working with photography and the moving image, Chris Chong Chan Fui(b. 1972) from Malaysia questions and redirects how humans work within such intersecting fields as economics and ecology.
JedsadaTangtrakulwong (b. 1972) lives and works in Thailand. His practice is informed by Thai cultural sign systems and reflects on the delicacy of daily existence.
Min Thein Sung (b. 1978), born and based in Myanmar, works with and on motifs, media, and processes inspired by the everyday and his childhood.
Artist and curator VuthLyno (b. 1982) from Cambodia is the Co-founding Artistic Director of Sa Sa Art Projects, an artist-run space initiated by the StievSelapak collective in Phnom Penh. His artistic and curatorial practice is primarily participatory in nature, exploring collective learning and experimentation.
Working with organic materials, Yasmin Jaidin (b. 1987), a contemporary artist from Brunei, interrogates how these elements are often overlooked in the context of contemporary life.
A network of practitioners in contemporary art in the region was consulted in the selection of artists for the exhibition.These advisors include Ahmad Mashadi, Head of theNational University of Singapore Museum; Khim Ong,Deputy Director, Curatorial Programmes at NanyangTechnological University Centre for Contemporary ArtSingapore (NTU CCA Singapore); LoredanaPazzini-Paracciani, independent curator, writer, andlecturer of Southeast Asian contemporary art; andindependent curator and scholar Grace Samboh.
The public is invited to join an artist talk and roundtable discussion with the advisors from the region as they discuss contemporary art in Southeast Asia on August 11 at the MET Museum of Manila. There will also be a public and education program to feature talks and lectures by scholars of and practitioners in the region in the duration of the exhibition’s run.