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Archive for the ‘Artist-run’ Category

Hong Kong Street Art Series: Above Second imports new energies and aesthetics to local art scene

Posted by artradar on October 14, 2010


HONG KONG STREET ART URBAN ART SERIES

In this first feature in our Hong Kong Street Art Series, Art Radar Asia will introduce you to one of the newest art spaces in Hong Kong to show street and urban art, Above Second. In this post, co-owners Jasper Wong and May Wong discuss the importance of supporting the local art community and encouraging people to consider creative career options, as well as explain their choice of location and their first-time buyer appeal.

In a steep lane in Sai Ying Pun, Above Second stands aloof from busy streets and is a fifteen minute walk from the gallery-saturated Central district. This glass-fronted art space with a graffiti wall on the side was founded and is run by Jasper Wong and May Wong.

 

Above Second, one of Hong Kong's newest art spaces dedicated to street and urban art.

Above Second, one of Hong Kong's newest art spaces dedicated to street and urban art. Image courtesy of Above Second.

 

Before Above Second came into being, May dedicated most of her time to a nomadic gallery called Apostrophe which travelled to different spaces to do shows for artists from predominantly Denmark, the US and the UK. She found out about Jasper a year and a half ago after discovering his works on the blog of hip hop artist Kanye West and then inviting him to do a show at G.O.D, a Hong Kong-based lifestyle store. After some talking over a gallery plan in Hong Kong they ended up opening Above Second together earlier this year.

Half a gallery and half an art space

Above Second is very different from other mainstream galleries in the Central district in many ways. To begin with, Jasper won’t even consider it a gallery.

“It’s not a gallery in the strictest sense in what people usually perceive galleries to be. People see galleries to be like blank white walls… but we decided to turn it into more like a, I guess you can call it a creative club? That’s why we leave the word gallery in front of the name, ‘cause we don’t want to be specifically one thing.”

Above gallery is special in a way that it is a combination of a gallery and an art space. Jasper uses the gallery space at the front for painting and exhibition while May uses the art space at the back for art classes in the weekend.

 

Children drawing in the Above Second art space on Saturday. Image courtesy of Above Second.

 

 

Adults painting in the Above Second art space. Image courtesy of Above Second.

 

May elaborates on this concept:

“I think the main reason [for teaching art classes] is to generate more people to come into the gallery to see art. In a way, we enjoy teaching and we enjoy people coming in to share what art is and just be creative.”

“Basically when we teach (I’m talking about [teaching] three-year-olds to adults; everybody can come), we’re just giving them the materials, and then they can do whatever they want, usually. But we kind of try to give them a concept or give them some kind of inspiration for arts. For instance, we did a class that was based on Mondrian paintings, so we kind of restrict the colors to red, yellow, blue, and black, very Mondrian. Then we just let the students do what they want with it.”

 

Hong Kong street art gallery Above Second held exhibition "King for a Day" in July this year.

Hong Kong street art gallery Above Second held exhibition "King for a Day" in July this year. Image courtesy of Above Second.

 

Mission to support local art and promote art as career

Jasper also hopes that, through the art classes for children, the young generation in Hong Kong will come to consider art creation as a career path rather than just a hobby. He says,

“A lot of times I feel, from what I’ve experienced here, is that a lot of the parents tend to steal their kids away from creative pursuits. Their tendency [is] that if their kids are interested in music or art or dance or something creative, then it is seen more as a hobby, rather than something that they can dedicate their life to.”

Unlike many mainstream galleries in Hong Kong, Above Second is also less business-oriented and more driven by the goal to improve the creative environment in Hong Kong. Jasper states,

“Most galleries in Central, you probably see, they are all very commercial. They are all pretty much paint stores. They are trying to sell what’s hot, what’s the hot trend, and what people will buy at the time. They tend to show all the same kind of art. So when you go to one gallery it’s pretty much all the same. And it’s not very accessible to a lot of local people and they don’t tend to promote emerging artists or even to try to make the creative scene better in Hong Kong. So we started our gallery … there’s an altruistic mission to it: to try to make [the Hong Kong art scene] better, to try to bring in the emerging artists that have never been shown in Hong Kong or to try to promote local artists…. There’s a goal to try in a small way to make Hong Kong’s creative community better.”

Above Second doesn’t formally represent any artists as most of the traditional galleries do. Instead, it continually organises shows for different artists from around the world with intriguing “energies” and “aesthetics”. “We are showing the creative energy all around the world [by] supporting young and emerging artists from all around the world,” says Jasper.

Price range attracts young first-time buyers

As May points out, works in most of the Above Second shows are for sale at affordable prices and because of this the gallery has attracted a number of first time buyers.

“For the show King for a Day, we had three prints there and they all sold. Most of (our buyers) are under thirty years old or around thirty and they are all first time buyers. It’s really great to see, because the prints themselves are pretty reasonably [priced], and when people come in they are like ‘Wow! This is the first time that I have gone into a gallery where I can afford to buy something.’ So we kind of encourage that trend…. [In] some galleries the price ranges are at least 10,00 dollars. We [are] like a couple of hundred, four digits, five digits.”

 

 

Visitors and guests crowd outside Above Second at an exhibition opening.

Visitors and guests crowd outside Above Second at an exhibition opening. Image courtesy of Above Second.

 

Currently, Above Second is showing Nebula, an exhibition of paper-cut and stencil works by Danish artist Mathias and illustrations of another Danish artist Michael. This Friday, Above Second will open Primary, an exhibition of work by Hong Kong street artist group Graphicairlines. Says May of her hopes for the space,

“For me, in five years, I hope that the gallery will grow, have a couple more staff…. For us it’s still difficult to pay for all the expenses, the shipping and stuff, to get artists here, but we’re trying….”

CBKM/KN/KCE

Related Topics: Hong Kong venuesstreet artinterviews

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Posted in Art spaces, Artist-run, China, Hong Kong, Interviews, Medium, Street art, Venues | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Artpartment a Hong Kong space for experimental art – video

Posted by artradar on September 21, 2010


ARTIST-RUN SPACES VIDEOS PERFORMANCE ART VIDEO ART STOP MOTION

We bring you another summary of an [art]attack show by ChooChooTV, this one profiling C&G Artpartment, founded by Clara Cheung, who studied art in the United States for four years, and Cheng Yee Man (Gum), an HKAPA and RMIT graduate. Artpartment is a gallery and studio space in Hong Kong dedicated to the production and exhibition of experimental art.

Artists Clara Cheung and Cheng Yee Man (Gum) on ChooChooTV.

Artists Clara Cheung and Cheng Yee Man (Gum) discuss their Hong Kong studio and gallery C&G Artpartment on ChooChooTV.

We set up Artpartment for two reasons. Firstly we wanted a place to exhibit artworks, like an art gallery or a space for experimental art, and secondly we wanted to create a studio to teach painting. Clara Cheung on [art]attack

The artists own collaboration lies in performance art pieces, mostly conducted on the streets of Hong Kong. Says Gum,

“I totally disagree that an exhibition doesn’t require an audience;… for any exhibition, the more audience you have the better it is. We want to do things that attract people and performing art can provide that. You are forced to view it since we are on location in front of you.”

The video focuses on art created by the pair for the stop motion art group exhibition, “No Money for Art vs. No Time for Art”, held at Artpartment. They use video, drawing and painting to create videos expressing the social aspirations behind their work.

“We went to Poland in September for an art camp, it’s similar to an artist residency programme, and there were a lot of artists from different countries. Our work that we are exhibiting was inspired during that programme.” Clara Cheung on [art]attack

Both artists have strong views about the job of an artist and these are expressed in the video.

“The direction of our artwork is firstly, about our society and secondly, about the art society…. Art should create awareness, it should also be something we’ve not seen before, so the way we should approach art is to use it to reflect the society and political issues.” Cheng Yee Man (Gum) on [art]attack

“Different art media should all be part of the art scene. We need to unite and strengthen the art scene.” Clara Cheung on [art]attack

Watch the video here (length 6:39 minutes)

KN/HH

Related Topics: videos, video art, performance art, Hong Kong artists, artist-run spaces

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Posted in Art spaces, Artist Nationality, Artist-run, China, Drawing, Emerging artists, Hong Kong, Hong Kong Artists, Medium, Painting, Performance, Social, Stop motion, Venues, Video, Videos | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Curator Tobias Berger talks about Korean contemporary art scene in 4 questions

Posted by artradar on September 20, 2010


SOUTH KOREA CONTEMPORARY ART INTERVIEW CURATOR

Art Radar Asia recently spoke with German-born curator Tobias Berger, who currently holds the position of Chief Curator at the Nam June Paik Art Center, about the Center’s exhibition “The Penguin that goes to the Mountain“. During this interview, Berger also revealed a few of his observations on living and working in the Korean art environment.

Korean art has always been in the shadow of Japanese and Chinese artistic success, often “dismissed as a mere conduit between the two mega cultures.” This may be because few of the local magazines, exhibition catalogues and other art texts produced on Korean contemporary art are available in English. As Berger states, “There are none. They’re all in Korean. There’s nothing really good in English.” And while the local art scene is perhaps not on par with what can be experienced in these neighbouring countries, Berger notes that the art that is being produced in Korea is of a very high quality, due to good art schools, a diversity of art spaces, talented pioneers and governmental support.

This Korean contemporary art sculpture was shown at "Korean Eye: Moon Generation".

'Shamoralta Shamoratha' (2007) by Inbai Kim was shown at "Korean Eye: Moon Generation" in 2009. Korean Eye was founded in 2009 as a way to support emerging Korean artists by providing international exhibition opportunities.

As a European who formerly lived and worked in the Hong Kong art scene, how do you find the South Korean art scene compares?

“The Seoul art scene is probably the most sophisticated art scene in Asia. It has really good independent spaces, good commercial galleries, interesting art schools and good museums. It has this whole pyramid of different art spaces, exhibition possibilities, and it has a lot of really good and wonderful artists. That level of depth and the level of different kinds of art spaces is incomparable. Certainly in Beijing [you] have galleries, but you don’t have any independent spaces, and in Tokyo it’s also very different.”

How do you keep up to date with the Korean art scene?

That is a problem because it’s all in Korean and it’s very difficult to keep up [with]. I mean, you just go to the 10-15 [art] spaces once a month … and you talk to your friends and your colleagues that go to the big exhibitions…. You just have to look at how it is. There was a [recent] survey show called “Bright Future” but it only had twelve artists.

Tell us about the art school system in Korea? How does it differ from other places?

It’s the most sophisticated [system] because it had some good pioneers [and] a lot of governmental help. [South Korea] has some good art schools and it has a lot of good artists that have studied overseas and come back. This allowed a lot of critical discourse and [there were] a lot of magazines. That allowed the art scene to grow well and in the right way.

Korean art is becoming popular with international collectors. “Korean Eye, for example, was shown at The Saatchi Gallery in London earlier this year. Can you tell us why you think this is happening now?

“Here in South Korea you don’t feel that there’s much happening. The Korean scene is nothing compared to what’s happening in China…. On the one side, these shows, where this is popular or that is popular, don’t really mean a thing. There is a lot of good art in South Korea and the quality of the art is really on a high level, because art education has been good for 15-20 years. A lot of people are educated in Europe and America and have very good support and certainly output good quality art…. I mean, you don’t want to buy or you don’t want to show an artist because he’s Korean, you want to show an artist because he’s a good artist.”

JAS/KN/HH

Related topics: Korean artists, interviews, Tobias Berger, curators

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Tsong Pu discusses six artworks: Part II – Installations and art funding

Posted by artradar on August 17, 2010


TAIWAN CONTEMPORARY ART ARTIST INTERVIEW INSTALLATION

In this second of three interviews, Tsong Pu reveals the concepts behind two important installations, Transposition of Light and Water (1992) and Backyard in June (1997). In it, he shows that works aren’t always created in ideal gallery spaces and what this means for the art work, and we see his unique grid concept move off the canvas. Additionally, independent art space funding issues are framed by a discussion of Tsong Pu’s involvement in the 1988 founding of Taipei’s IT Park Gallery.

Master Tsong developed his trademark 1 cm by 1 cm grid technique very early on in his career; it is evident in 1980s mixed media canvases like The White Line on Grey (1983). The installations discussed in this interview represent a ten year progression on this idea, pushing the interview into the 1990s.

During this time, in 1988, Tsong Pu and three other artists, Liu Ching-tang, Chen Hui-chiao, and Huang Wen-hao, founded IT Park Gallery, one of Taipei’s older gallery spaces and a recipient of the Taipei City government’s 13th Taipei Cultural Award in 2009. When they first opened the space it was unique in Taiwan. As Tsong Pu elaborates, “During that time, there were some similar [galleries] but none exactly the same. The partnership was different, even the interior design was different. Some of the [other spaces] were just rented houses without renovation.”

Tsong Pu's trademark grid technique is clearly demonstrated in this detail of his 1983 canvas 'The White line on Grey' (mixed media, 194 x 130 cm). Image courtesy of the artist.

Tsong Pu's trademark grid technique is clearly demonstrated in this detail of his 1983 canvas 'The White line on Grey' (mixed media, 194 x 130 cm). Image courtesy of the artist.

To this day it is non-profit, although there is talk of turning the second floor of the gallery into a commercial space later this year, and from 1988 to 2005 was mostly self-funded. With no profits coming in, it was often hard to obtain funding. “There were always friends and relatives helping us all along, supporting us with small amounts of money,” says Tsong Pu.

While IT Park Gallery now gets some funding from the government – they apply for fund support from the National Culture Arts Foundation every year – Tsong Pu says the biggest constraint on the gallery is still financial. As he explains, today there is greater competition: “In the past, there were no people showing contemporary art but now it’s like everybody is doing it.”

He elaborates further on government support for contemporary art spaces: “The Taiwan government will always observe your operation only and they will not provide help. It’s only when you are successful they will help. Otherwise, they won’t. Unless you become very well-known overseas, then the government will help you.”

Tsong Pu is no longer involved in the management of IT Park Gallery, but through his association with the space, his work as a teacher and a judge, and his regular attendance at local exhibitions, he often finds himself exposed to new contemporary Taiwanese artists. Named as a “father figure to many young artists” by the Taipei Times he acts as a curator, selecting young and emerging artists for exhibitions: “… because I teach in two art schools; sometimes I’m the panel judge for competitions; I also visit exhibitions quite often. I will keep those young artists in my memory. Sometimes when I need to organise an exhibition I will get certain people to join certain kinds of exhibitions.”

This is part two of a three part series. In this part we look at how an installation created by Tsong Pu in the 1990s, Transposition of Light and Water, still reflects the unique grid technique he began using ten years earlier. We also look at an installation, Backyard in June, that has been exhibited five times and changed its name twice since its creation in 1996. For more on what to expect from the first and third parts of this series, please read the notes at the bottom of this post.

Tsong Pu's 'Transposition of Light and Water' (1992) on display at Taipei Fine Arts Museum.

Tsong Pu's 'Transposition of Light and Water' (1992) on display at Taipei Fine Arts Museum. Image courtesy of the artist.

Transposition of Light and Water (1992) was given the Award for Biennial Exhibition of Contemporary Art in 1992. It is now held in Taipei Fine Arts Museum‘s (TFAM) permanent collection, is that correct?

Yes. It is collected by TFAM.

Can you explain the concept behind Transposition of Light and Water? I understand it relates to early works such as The White Line on Grey (1983). How?

It’s actually related to the other one [The White Line on Grey] because their forms are the same. Maybe the differences are in the space, sizes, materials. The concept is basically the same; it’s just that it’s not in a square shape. This part [Master Tsong points to the glass boxes] is originally the grid box, taken out. And then a glass [plate] has been inserted to make the slash line. So this part [Master Tsong refers to the 1 cm by 1 cm boxes in The White Line on Grey] has been taken out, and it became this shape, form.

This is the cube, and then you can see the glass, that is the bisecting line. Because this is glass, it’s transparent, so you can see the inside. You can see the light, when the light goes through the glass it creates a rainbow. It’s on the ground, so you can see that there’s a line on the ground, just like the line on the canvas [The White Line on Grey].

This work dismantles [the grid pattern in The White Line on Grey] piece by piece.

You can see the relationship between The White Line on Grey and Transposition of Light and Water and the progression from one to the other. What about the other objects? How do they relate to the installation overall?

This is a tool, a clip… It’s just a coincidence. I use this to support [the glass cubes]. This is its only function. Because I was worried that after I added the water, plus the optical line, plus sunlight, there may be some movement in this line.

[These elements] added a feeling of time.

Can you explain how?

This is water. It will evaporate. It will disappear. I also put some iron on top and on the side. It will corrode, because the iron, the water and the sun will react together. Maybe you can see that there is, that this work is on the ground but with the water, with the iron, with the sun, they enable the work to show the concept of time. We can see that the glass and the water, they have a transparent quality so it’s more pure. When I see this work I think that it’s very beautiful.

So when TFAM displays it now, do they put water in it? Do they place all of the elements together?

Yes, it’s on display now and they put water in it.

Tsong Pu's 'Backyard in June' (mixed media, 420 x 420 cm) shown restrospectively this year at the Taipei Museum of Fine Arts. Image courtesy of the artist.

Tsong Pu's 'Backyard in June' (1997, mixed media, 420 x 420 cm) shown restrospectively this year at Taipei Fine Arts Museum. Image courtesy of the artist.

Could you please confirm for me why this same installation piece has two different names, A Space Not for the Chorus (1996) and Backyard in June (1997)?

I’ve exhibited this twice. [A Space Not for the Chorus] is in a square shape. When I first did this work in exhibition, the venue space was not ideal, [there were other artworks on display around it]. That feeling was like, for example, if you are a singer and you don’t have the right partner to sing along with. It will not work.

That’s why I picked that name.

Let’s talk about Backyard in June then.

It’s in the right space.

Yang Wen-I was the curator for the “Segmentation-Multiplication: Three Taiwanese Artists exhibit at the 47th International Biennial of Visual Arts (Venice, Italy) in 1997. She is quoted in Taiwan Panorama as saying Backyard in June “is making a piercing commentary on the state of the Taiwan environment, human and natural.” How is this work doing that?

In the 1990s in Taiwan, if you were in Taiwan during this period you would have noticed a lot of political reactions in art. In a painting, the mediums blend together, but if I make an installation or a sculpture the mediums are separate. The elements are separate.

During the 90’s, there were a lot of elections and political disputes in Taiwan. [Yang Wen-I] felt that my work… each part is not attached together, they are separated…

Is that important to your work, when you do an installation compared to a work like The White Line on Grey?

To me it’s a habit more than importance. It’s not very important. When people look at my work, they will feel that it’s like the political situation in Taiwan. One moment they are attached to each other, the next moment they are separated, then re-attached, and separated again.

This separation is shown because it was originally a vase, a flowerpot.

Can you elaborate on what were you trying to show or achieve with this separation?

It’s very simple…. Originally it’s a physical item, a container. A little bit like in a cartoon, it’s been pressed or squeezed, spread into circles; a little bit like in a comic. In reality, it wouldn’t happen this way. I’m using a comic style. When you squeeze [the pot], it will become this way… But in reality, it’s impossible [for the pot] to become this.

It’s like in cartoons, when an object has been hammered… If it’s not a cartoon, you won’t able to see that kind of effect – spreading [out] circle by circle. This is an exaggeration. Normally when we watch cartoons, when [a character] hammers something, the cartoonist is able to draw out the visual effect.

[Backyard in June] feels a little bit like archeology…. When you are doing archaeological research, maybe you will also put it this way [Master Tsong refers to the placement of each piece of broken pot]; collect these pieces, label them with numbers.

About this series

This Art Radar interview with Taiwanese artist Tsong Pu has been presented in three parts. In part one, Master Tsong discusses two works in which he has used and adapted his most well known technique, a 1 cm by 1 cm grid pattern. In part two, the artist speaks on two very different installation pieces, close in date of construction but not in their theory of development. Part three talks about some of the artist’s most recent installation work.

We have also premised each part with some of the artist’s views on the current Taiwanese contemporary art industry, as developed from his roles as mentor, curator and master artist.

KN/KCE

Related Topics: Taiwanese artists, Tsong Pu, interviews, installation art

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Myanmar artists access international art community, Art Radar speaks to Aye Ko about +ROAD

Posted by artradar on August 3, 2010


ART PROFESSIONAL INTERVIEW MYANMAR ARTIST AND ART SCENE

Late last month, Art Radar spoke with Nindityo Adipurnomo, one of the executive directors of Cemeti Art House, about the recent “+ROAD” collaborative project and exhibition between five young artists from Myanmar and five from Indonesia. He presented our readers with valuable insight into the Indonesian art climate and his perspective on the project.

Art Radar Asia thought it important to find out what is going on in Myanmar, so we contacted Aye Ko, Executive Director of New Zero Art Space and one of the participating artists in the exhibition. Here is what he had to say…

Aye Ko with some of his paintings

Outreaching to one of the most prestigious art centers in Asia

The reason why Aye Ko initiated the “+ROAD” project, as he said, was because he knew that Cemeti Art House is one of the most important art centers in Asia. He had had his first experience with Cemeti Art House when he invited the two executive directors, Nindityo Adipurnomo and his wife Mella Jaarsma, to the ASEAN Contemporary Art Exchange Program in 2009, where New Zero Group tried its best to build mutual understanding and connections with Cemeti. The project was initiated as a further step towards collaboration.

Aye Ko was keen for New Zero Group to learn from Cemeti Art House. He says,

The whole project was what we asked Nindityo for. The detailed program was planned by Cemeti Art House. As you know, Cemeti Art House’s experience is about twenty years, but honestly New Zero is just green. That’s why we need to learn from them.

Access to a passport the major selection criteria for Myanmar artists

According to Aye Ko, the most important consideration in the selection of Myanmar artists to participate in “+ROAD” was whether the artists held a valid passport, which is very difficult and costly to obtain in Myanmar. The second consideration was whether the artists could concentrate on their artwork and be serious about it. The final consideration: selecting a variety of artists who produced different genres and styles of work.

The “+ROAD” project ran for two weeks; an exhibition followed. Although two weeks is not a long time, Aye Ko did have a chance to observe the Indonesian art scene, culture and developing environment, especially during the workshops, when he and the other artists had friendly conversations and shared their knowledge, opinions and ideas. He attributes their successful communication to patience, understanding and a passion for arts, especially new media and contemporary art.

When Aye Ko and other artists brainstormed ideas in workshops, they didn’t know these ideas would be used to put together an exhibition; the news came as a surprise as well as a headache when the Cemeti organisers broke it. The artists began to seriously discuss their ideas: ways of presenting them as well as the use of materials, lighting and space. Aye Ko explained that this process is how great artworks are created and how artists gain respect and admiration from each other.

Myanmar artists need to learn from their Indonesian counterparts

Presentation of ideas and reflections on society were usually different for each of the artists involved in the “+ROAD” project, who had different ideas and emotions because of their unique social-cultural backgrounds and corresponding identities, but Aye Ko appreciated the differences. As he explains,

The sense of art could be promoted through sharing. Different ideas could also help [us] to understand more about their passion and identities. We also have an opportunity to oppose a view point.

Aye Ko felt that two weeks were a rather short period of time in which to brainstorm ideas and produce a piece of artwork, but overall he enjoyed the experience. It gave him the opportunity to discover different ideas and styles in others’ artwork and to learn from the Indonesian artists. As he explains,

I saw how hard working the artists from Indonesia are. I think the Indonesia artists concentrated a lot on their art and the ideas and they feel deeply about their art. I feel that we, Myanmar artists, need to work more, concentrate more and improve our communication.

Aye Ko’s view of the Myanmar art scene and future prospects

Aye Ko believes that projects like “+ROAD” are crucial for educating Myanmar artists and exposing them to international art practices and standards.

[The] Myanmar art scence is isolated from other countries. It needs to develop internationally and take time to develop enough for [the] international [art community]. Indonesian artists are catching up with international artists. [The] international art society is interested in Indonesia artists, in my opinion. There are many museums in Indoneisa but there is only one in Myanmar.

This project is a very crucial event, not only for me but also for New Zero Art Space, Myanmar artists and arts, and new generation artists. Because our country is isolated, it can [be] directed from an isolated country to a free and open art society. With this hope, I am trying to do different types of projects which can give [me] more knowledge.

[By] displaying these exchange programs, Myanmar artists knock the door of international art society for the first time.

As I said, I am planning to make this kind of event in Myanmar. We already did the Nippon-Myanmar Performance Art Exchange (2001/2005/2009), the Hong Kong-Myanmar Performance Art Exchange (2010), the ASEAN Contemporary Art Exchange (2009), and the Artists Residency Program (2010). There will also be the Mekong Contemporary Art Exchange in Vietnam and Bangkok this month. These events motivate me to do more art events continuously in order to promote international standards for local artists and new generation artists.

CBKM/KN

Related Topics: Myanmar artists, Indonesian artists, art spaces, collaborative art

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Nindityo Adipurnomo talks with Art Radar on “+Road” collaboration with Myanmar artists, “gambling spirit” of Indonesian collectors

Posted by artradar on July 21, 2010


ART PROFESSIONAL INTERVIEW INDONESIAN ART EVENTS

In an Art Radar Asia exclusive interview with Cemeti founder Nindityo Adipurnomo, we hear the fascinating story of their latest venture working collaboratively with artists from Myanmar.  Read on to learn how cultural conflicts and artistic disappointments were eventually resolved.

New Zero Art Space in Myanmar and Cemeti Art House in Indonesia joined hands in June this year to present the collaborative project and exhibition “+Road|5 Myanmar Artists + 5 Jogja Artists in Yogyakarta.

Within a tight schedule of two weeks, five Burmese artists and five Indonesian artists interacted and produced performances, videos and installations.

These creations acted as a language through which the two distinctive cultures could communicate their differences, resolve conflicts and move closer to mutual understanding.

The five participating Myanmar artists included Aye Ko, (Executive Director of New Zero Art Space), May Moe Thu, Htoo Aung Kyaw, Nwe (Thin Lei Nwe) and Zoncy (Zon Sapal Phyu). The five Indonesian artists were Doger Panorsa, Ikhsan Syahirul Alim (Ican), Restu Ratnaningtyas, Ristyanto Cahyo Wibowo and Wibowo Adi Utama.

To understand more about how the collaborative project came into being, how the event was viewed by the local art community, and to gain some insight into the Indonesian art scene, Art Radar Asia spoke with Nindityo Adipurnomo, one of the executive directors of Cemeti Art House.

+Road| 5 Myanmar Artists + 5 Jogja Artists, a collaborative exhibition currently being held at Indonesian art gallery, Cemeti Art House.

From a commercial art promotion to a cross-cultural art exchange project

Nindityo Adipurnomo explained that the idea of collaboration between the two art spaces was initiated by Aye Ko, Myanmar artist and director of New Zero Art Space and Community New Zero Art Space. Ko thought that, by hosting a project of this kind, New Zero Art Space might land an exchange grant from the Asian Cultural Council in New York. With this in mind, Ko proposed the idea to Mella Jaarsma and Nindityo Adipurnomo, co-owners/coordinators of the renowned Indonesian gallery Cemeti Art House and winners of the 2006 John D. Rockefeller 3rd Awards, who expressed a keen interest.

Art censored in Burma

The couple saw “+Road” as an excellent opportunity to develop networks within regions such as Myanmar. They had learnt much from New Zero Art Space and they had been seeking opportunities to cooperate with them since attending the New Zero Art Space organised 2007 ASEAN Contemporary Art Exchange Program, an event open only to members of the space. Of the programme, Adipurnomo recalled how each of the artists, gallery owners and art activists who participated had to bring along a single painting of a limited size with no political message. The night before the event, the Burmese police came and censored the art works on display, and removed the works of four Burmese artists. Despite this horrific episode, the programme was fruitful; each of the art activists present conducted informative talks.

In addition, “+Road”‘s aims were in line with the project-based platform Cemeti Art House has been working under since the beginning of 2010. This new platform focuses on an alternative approach to art and society in Indonesia. They have a successful model to follow; Landing Soon (2006-2009) was a three year exchange program in which one Dutch artist and one Indonesian artist resided in Yogyakarta and received assistance, guidance, and support from the studio manager through weekly progress reports.

“The reason [for launching the new platform] was because we were fed up with all the exhibition models, art fairs, auctions in Indonesia; [these events] never pay attention to invest in a kind of  healthy regeneration of the art scene. No, I’m one hundred percent sure that they do not realise this. The Indonesian commercial art scene has been investing in promotion only.” Nindityo Adipurnom

Conflicting goals of Burmese and Indonesians

However, it turned out Aye Ko wasn’t thinking about the kind of collaborative exhibition Adipurnomo had in mind. Basically, he just wanted to use Cemeti’s exhibition space for a group exhibition of five Myanmar artists and five Indonesian artists, where published catalogues could distributed. His commercial approach to the collaboration, which did not aim to provide any platform for meaningful interactions among artists, was certainly not what Cemeti Art House wanted.

“We did not want to only organise a promotional exhibition that has no interesting curatorial subject, not being involved in how artists go through their process before presenting their works in exhibition. And so we, in the end, asked [the artists] to just come to Yogyakarta; not bring any paintings with them. Instead, each of [the artists] should be well prepared with an individual artwork presentation in Power Point to see what we can do together.” Nindityo Adipurnomo

Jaarsma and Adipurnomo tried carefully to intervene and transform the  cooperation into a “mutual exchange project” instead: a program involving short events such as artists’ talks, discussions, workshops and master classes, allowing both groups of artists to understand each other better and create possibilities for a deeper collaboration, with an exhibition as the end goal. And in Jaarsma and Adipurnomo’s eyes, it was a success. “+Road” became a truly collaborative project for the ten artists involved, where they could engage themselves in intensive cultural exchanges and meaningful interactions.

Mix of talents strongly affects resulting artwork

The choice of the five Burmese artists and the five Indonesian artists was made separately by New Zero Art Space and Cemeti Art House respectively. Adipurnomo launched an open application, attracting nearly seventy artists, and selected five from this group. He admits to being disappointed with the choice made by New Zero Art Space. Among the five Burmese artists, only two were professional artists, while the rest of them were new members of New Zero Art Space and were very amateur beginners. In contrast, the Yogyakarta artists selected by Cemeti Art House had a lot professional experience.

Disappointment at Cemeti

“[The Burmese artists] are bad painters: they cannot draw, have no sense of colour and have, in fact, a very superficial sense of  exploring materials… While our local Yogyakarta artists you can see, … that they were very well trained academically, strong and skillfull in model drawings, sketches, colours, well experienced in treating materials with good sense.” Nindityo Adipurnomo

Burmese artists favour performance art, political art

Although the Burmese artists were generally inexperienced painters, their strength lay in performance art, an artistic skill which the Yogyakarta artists were either still developing or not interested in exploring.

“My very personal observation was that the artists from Yangoon were very much into performance art. They are very direct, expressive and always fulled of political intentions in their performance. They really use their body as the most direct tool and medium…. It often becomes a physical movement that is very close to a dance performance. One of our local artists participating in this project was [hesitant] to join the workshop on performance!” Nindityo Adipurnomo

This mix of opposing artistic strengths, differences which became very apparent during the workshops, influenced what was produced for the exhibition finale. “+Road” showcased a lot of video works and photographs, and a smaller number of installation and performance pieces, with no paintings at all.

Zon Sapal Phyu's 'Revolution of Own Space' (mixed media).

Aye Ko's 'No Money, Hungry, Hard Eating' (photography, video).

Wibowo Adi Utama's 'Art-NARCHY' (video).

Ikhsan Syahirul Alim's 'Commando Dance' (video, karaoke).

More opportunities open up future collaboration

Overall, Cemeti Art House viewed the collaboration as a successful pilot project, achieving its aim of engaging artists from two cultures in interactions that led to a gradual mutual understanding.

“[The] major understanding [the artists] did have was cultural dialogues. This is something that I find you can not just improvise in an Internet facilitation. You really need to [be] facing each other. Building up your assumptions, making a lot of missunderstandings and opening up conflicts, so that in the end you will understand each other better. We did ask every Indonesian artist to be a partner everyday by sitting on the same motorcycle – one motorcycle for two artists – during the two week intensive dialogue…. The time was just too short for so many reasons. But now we know better how to handle and open up more networks with young artists, who are really willing to continue in a deeper context.” Nindityo Adipurnomo

Working towards a healthy regeneration of the Indonesian contemporary art scene

Adipurnomo considers Cemeti Art House to be ground-breaking in promoting a healthy regeneration of the Indonesian contemporary art scene, which has grown largely commercially up to this point. From “rumours and a very quick-glimpse analyzation and observation”, he suggests that banks have been gaining control of the Indonesian art market.

Banking money makes a mark in the Indonesian art market

“In the beginning, [art] was dominated by rich people around the tobacco industry. Of course, Dr. Oei Hong Djien was the respected ‘pioneer’ of the Indonesian collectors, among many others who were more nationally known; Dr. Oei Hong Djien is going international quickly. He was also very generous in educating and influencing many other rich Chinese people in the tobacco industry to invest their capital in art. Starting from that mile stone, Indonesian art dealers and collectors [were] growing fast. Most of [these collectors] were hunting names instead of, you know, a ‘quality’. They created many kinds of tricks in order to get as many ‘big names’ as possible, which they could easily call ‘masterpiece’ makers. Auctions and art fairs were becoming a medium for them to gamble in so many tricky ways. This rapid growth of gambling spirit stimulated many other rich people, out of this tobacco industry, to borrow money from banks to join this gambling. That is the way banks are now getting involved. A lot of bankers started to invest their capital in the arts.” Nindityo Adipurnomo

New Jogyakarta Art Fair attracts outside collectors

With the opening of the Jogyakarta Art Fair recently, art dealers and bankers, many of whom had never visited the region before, flocked to Cemeti Art House to see what was happening. This is, perhaps, further evidence that the Indonesian arts scene is commercialising.

“Cemeti Art House is considered to be ground-breaking in promoting a healthy regeneration of the art scene. We have only been ‘fighting’ for that faith for so long. Of course, we are not the only ones. There are many others, such us Ruang Rupa in Jakarta, and the new comers like JARF (Jatiwangi Artists in Residence Festival), Forum Lenteng, and many other smaller scale [organisations] who come up and disappear and come up with different formulas [only] to dissappear again.” Nindityo Adipurnomo

CBKM/KN/KCE

Related Topics: Myanmar artists, Indonesian artists, art spaces, collaborative art

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Clarissa Chikiamco on Philippine independent art spaces funding challenge: Phillippine Star

Posted by artradar on July 14, 2010


PHILIPPINE INDEPENDENT ART SPACES FUNDING

In a recent Philippine Star article, Clarissa Chikiamco, a Manila-based art writer and independent curator, discussed the current difficult funding situation affecting Filipino independent art spaces, which parallels similar issues that arose in the Philippines fifty years ago.

Squeezed between “commercial gallery apparatus” and the “supposed behemoths of institutions”, independent art spaces, also called “artists-run or alternative”, are crucial for contemporary art as they “provide a more accessible environment ripe of the speculative”. However, as Chikiamco points out, three areas contribute to the inevitable fate of closure for independent art spaces.

Day-to-day expenses a struggle

First, lack of stable funding means that day-to-day expenses for these spaces are the most difficult to find.

Operational costs are the basic necessities which funding institutions nearly always shy away from, preferring instead to back output-type undertakings such as events or publications. Without stable funding time tick-tocks on the expiration date of these spaces, just like the legendary Philippine Art Gallery 50 years ago, need money ‘to pay for the light’.

Funding structure of NCCA needs a revamp

Second, Clarissa Chikiamco explains that the funding structure of the National Commission of Culture and the Arts (NCCA) needs to be re-examined. The strong case in point is Green Papaya Art Projects, an art space invited to attend the 2010 edition of “No Soul for Sale” at the Tate Modern, which aimed to showcase the “most exciting non-for-profit centres, alternative institutions and underground enterprises”. Each invited group had to secure their own funding to participate. Green Papaya’s request for funding to the NCCA was denied, strangely because the event wasn’t in the “list of prestigious international event”. Chikiomco notes that incidents like this reflect a deeper problem:

The schism between the NCCA and the community seems to have gotten wider in recent years, the government having an increasingly notorious reputation as a consistently unreliable source of support for the arts. Support in tangible materials is obviously in short supply but it goes beyond that to demonstrate a demoralizing lack of appreciation and understanding of the government of its country’s art scene.

Bea Camacho’s 11-hour performance at the Turbine Hall, part of Green Papaya Art Projects’ program for “No Soul for Sale.” Courtesy Green Papaya

Bea Camacho’s eleven-hour performance at the Turbine Hall, part of Green Papaya Art Projects’ program for “No Soul for Sale". Image courtesy of Green Papaya Art Projects.

Private support not an alternative

Third, Chikiamco states that private support, as a strong alternative to government funding in countries where the latter is declining, cannot be depended on in the Philippines. The few businesses that support the arts are more concerned with name branding; company-sponsored art competitions are the major form of participation these businesses take.

She then explores ways to improve the Philippine art funding challenge. There is a need to channel funds and good intentions for the arts to meet the basic needs of the art scene. A spirit of philanthropy is needed, while the sponsorship practice must be professionally branded so that corporations are properly recognised. Private support can come in many forms: bequests given to museums, travel grants, residencies for local artists to exhibit abroad, or simply covering the overhead expenses for independent art spaces.

Clarissa Chikiamco ends the article on an inspiring note:

Grounded in concrete resources and a healthy sense of reality, an art scene can — and will — only progress as far as our vision can take us.

Philippine independent art spaces profiled

Green Papaya Art Projects

Founded in 2000 by Norberto Roldan and Donna Miranda, Green Papaya Art Projects is the longest running independently run creative multidisciplinary platform in the Philippines. Its mission is to support and organise actions and propositions that explore tactical approaches to the production, dissemination, research and presentation of contemporary practices in varied artistic fields. It was the only Filipino group invited to “No Soul for Sale in 2010, billed by The New York Times as “the Olympics of nonprofit groups”.

mag:net GALLERY

Aiming to be at the forefront of Filipino contemporary art, mag:net  has been a cafémagazine/book/music/film store, exhibition space and a performance hub for many emerging local artists since the early 2000s. mag:net has eleven offshoots in Manila today, hosting exhibitions, film screenings, music and poetry readings and artist talks.

Mag:net gallery weekly updated schedule of events. Courtesy Mag:net gallery

mag:net GALLERY's weekly updated schedule of events. Courtesy Mag:net Gallery.

Over the years, their nicely run café business enables the gallery to stay independent and sustainable. Along with their carefully curated weekly changing events, this explains mag:net GALLERY’s successful management compared to other artist run spaces in the Phillipines and elsewhere.

Current exhibition at Mag:net gallery. Jucar Raquepo, Terror East, mixed media. Courtesy of Mag:net gallery

Jucar Raquepo's 'Terror East', part of a current exhibition at mag:net GALLERY. Image courtesy of mag:net GALLERY.

Silverlens Foundation

Established in 2006 in Manila, Silverlens Foundation is a grant-awarding body for photography artists. It provides professional and financial support for these artists through completion, acquisition, and exhibition. The Foundation is currently establishing a lending collection of contemporary photography and reference library relevant to the Philippines. It also regularly organises art talks, film screenings, lectures and slide shows.

Surrounded by Water and Big Sky Mind

The two pioneering artist run independent spaces in the Philippines were Surrounded by Water and Big Sky Mind, founded in 1998 and 1999 respectively by Wire Tuazon and Ringo Bunoan.

They both formed a close-knit artists’ community and invited their artist friends to exhibit and congregate. The goal of these spaces was to promote contemporary art by engaging in dialogues, encouraging innovation and diversity in art and supporting young and less established artists. Artists who passed through these two doors often became noteworthy characters in the Manila art scene.

Both spaces are defunct now, as both artists’ agenda deviated after they moved into the “mainstream”. Bunoan works with Asia Art Archive while still working on her art. Tuazon is working on his paintings for important art centres in Asia, organising festivals, and curating exhibits.

SXB/KN

Related Topics: artist run spaces, funding, nonprofit

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Sa Sa Gallery and Art Project, new artist-run initiatives in Cambodia

Posted by artradar on July 8, 2010


CAMBODIAN EMERGING ARTISTS ARTIST-RUN SPACES PHOTOGRPAHY

In 2009, a group of artists and photographers called Stiev Selapak founded Sa Sa Art Gallery, Cambodia’s first artist-run gallery. The programming focuses on emerging Cambodian contemporary artists. With the idea of wanting to promote the Cambodian contemporary art by supporting emerging Cambodian artists, Stiev Selapak started a new non-commercial initiative in early 2010, the Sa Sa Art Project.

Art Radar Asia spoke with Vuth Lyno, manager of Sa Sa Art Gallery, to find out more about this remarkable and influential group, gallery and project.

Chhin Taingchhea, Untitled, from Old Building series, 2009. Image courtesy of the artist.

Chhin Taingchhea, 'Untitled', "Old Building" series, 2009. Image courtesy of the artist.

Stiev Selapak formed to share ideas

Artist group Stiev Selapak was formed by six Cambodian artists and photographers in 2007, after meeting at a photography workshop. The ideal behind the group is to share, to communicate and to learn together. Three of the members graduated from the Royal University of Fine Arts and the other members came from various backgrounds.

Vuth Lyno, Sa Sa Art Gallery’s manager, for example, began his career in the arts as an information technology and communications specialist. In his work, he was required to take photographs for promotional communications which lead to a desire to explore artistic photography.

“Later on I realised that photography is not just about taking photos of happy people. I wanted to show real lives of people. For me that was the entry point.” Vuth Lyno, speaking with Art Radar Asia.

Vuth Lyno, Untitled, from Reflect series, 2007. Image courtesy of   the artist.

Vuth Lyno, 'Untitled', "Reflect" series, 2007. Image courtesy of the artist.

Each of the members implement their projects individually, but also work together. As Lyno elaborates: “Sometimes we would go out, take photos and document, review and show them to each other, comment and share what could be improved in a way where we could reflect [on] our personal inner perspectives.”

Sa Sa Art Gallery is founded

Stiev Selapak opened Sa Sa Art Gallery in early 2009. Significantly, Sa Sa is an abbreviation of Stiev Salapak, who are also known as the Art Rebels. For the group, the name Art Rebels did not find meaning in rebelling, but saw it more as wanting to do something new. “We want to introduce contemporary photography to people here and promote it to a wider audience,” Lyno divulges.

In the beginning, the group wanted to find a space which they could work in. Having some support, they could start having exhibitions. Mostly these events showcased photographic works, but the group soon realised that it was not only about Stiev Selapak, it was also about Cambodian artists and Cambodian contemporary photography.

“I believe that we contribute to the local art scene. When we had finished our creation of Sa Sa [Art Gallery] we had attended a one year photography workshop; we had group exhibitions together from all the students graduating from the class. That for me was the big step into the scene, when we look at it from the contemporary photography side.” Vuth Lyno, speaking with Art Radar Asia.

In Cambodia, most of the galleries are foreign-owned. Being artists themselves, the members of Stiev Selapak felt that Cambodian artists did not have a productive and equal relationship with these galleries. They commonly felt they needed a space that was Cambodian-owned, independent and that helped other artists.

Creating the gallery, the founders did not only exhibit their own works, but also work from other local artist groups. Though the size of the gallery is limited, they can still present and sell a decent-sized body of work. ”It’s a matter of how we can present that. So far we’ve exhibited a lot of photography, but we also show paintings and drawings,” Lyno elaborates.

Kong Vollak, Untitled, from Building 2 drawing series, 2009. Image courtesy of the artist.

Kong Vollak, 'Untitled', "Building 2" series, 2009. Image courtesy of the artist.

Sa Sa Art Project – a haven for experimental art practice

Earlier this year, Stiev Selapak founded a non-commercial initiative called the Sa Sa Art Project. This project is dedicated to experimental art practice and can accommodate installation art, residencies, meetings, and classes. The main goal is simple – to create opportunities for young artists to realise new ideas, to share their experiences and knowledge, as well as to educate the next generation about art.

One of the main activities of the project is inviting new and emerging artists to live and work at the Sa Sa Art Project’s space. Here they can experiment with new ideas free of any of the limitations normally encountered in commercial galleries. Each residency ends with a short exhibition. One drawing class every week is also held under the project which caters to students and local artists.

Both the Sa Sa Art Gallery and the Sa Sa Art project were created and founded by  Stiev Selapak, but what sets them apart from each other is that the gallery is operating commercially, hosting artist talks and welcoming students. The gallery focuses on showcasing emerging Cambodian contemporary artists’ bodies of work. The art project’s aim is to foster a community of knowledge sharing among artists. It tries to create opportunities for new artists, but also works as an educational program.

Funding and support in the Cambodian art industry

Finding spaces for the gallery and the project was easy, but the more challenging task was finding sustainable funding. In early March this year, Stiev Selapak organised a fundraiser so that they could continue with the programming of the gallery and to expand activities for the art project. Though they sometimes depend on the support from the public, most of the time the founders fund the gallery themselves. Since it is run with minimal funding and minimal resources, their communication and marketing are limited as well.

At the moment, the Sa Sa Art Gallery doesn’t operate on the same scale as other galleries in Cambodia, who represent a number of artists. Sa Sa is limited to representing the founders of Stiev Selapak and a few other artists they have close relationships with. One of the founders, internationally-known artist Vandy Rattana, is one of the more exposed artists in the group, exhibiting his works in Asia and in the U.S.

Vandy Rattana, Untitled, from Fire of the Year series, 2008. Image courtesy of the artist.

Vandy Rattana, 'Untitled', "Fire of the Year" series, 2008. Image courtesy of the artist.

“We have a new wave of artists and photographers coming now, continuing their practices in contemporary photography.” Vuth Lyno, speaking with Art Radar Asia.

One big difference in the Cambodian art scene is that ten years ago there were maybe a couple of contemporary art galleries, a number which has increased significantly over the past few years. Having the experience of creating and starting a gallery, Lyno’s advice would be to consider the idea carefully.

“Putting on an exhibition might not generate enough funds to continue running the gallery. Those who wish to start thinking of opening a gallery need to consider it carefully in terms of marketing [and] connections with buyers and collectors. These approaches have been adopted by many other galleries in town already. There are many gallery/restaurant/café [establishments]. My approach when I mean art gallery, [I mean] a clean gallery where they can appreciate the art.”

Neighbouring countries are more established and more systematic in terms of the development of their arts industries. The founders of Stiev Salapak believe that artists should make an effort to engage with each other in order to learn more. As there is almost no support from the government for the art in Cambodia, artists need to make the effort to create opportunities for themselves in the Southeast Asian region as well as in Cambodia itself. In saying this, although the art scene in Cambodia is relatively new, there has been a significant advancement in recent years.

The main goal for Stiev Salapak has always been to promote Cambodian contemporary art and by doing that, they support emerging artists. As Lyno states, this original idea has not changed. It has evolved into something bigger, meaning that the idea has evolved into something that can now accommodate and support Cambodian artists adequately.

“When we started as a group, we thought we wanted to create a new way of contemporary photographing and to support that we needed a space. Later on we realised it was not about our group, but about Cambodian artists, new emerging artists, the Cambodian contemporary art scene and [making a contribution] to the art scene. We also wanted to welcome other artists. That’s why we created the art project, so we can engage more emerging artist to realise their ideas; to create opportunities for them to experiment [with] their new ideas without any limitations.” Vuth Lyno, speaking with Art Radar Asia.

JAS/KN

Related Topics: artist-run spaces, Southeast Asian artists, photography

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Curator Valerie Doran on ‘Hope and Glory’ and challenges for Hong Kong art world – interview

Posted by artradar on May 28, 2010


HONG KONG CURATOR INTERVIEW

Valerie Doran, Hong Kong-based independent curator, writer, and translator

For a place that has been repeatedly touted as a cultural desert, Hong Kong has managed to attract arts practitioners from many walks of life who are dedicated to working with the challenging realities present within the Chinese city-state. These creative professionals are forging an atmosphere in Asia where the contemporary arts are accessible and alive. Valerie Doran, an independent curator originally from Rhode Island in the United States, embodies the spirit of these determined arts professionals who are striving to transform the parched art landscape of the former British colony.

Her most recent project, Simon Birch’s Hope & Glory: A Conceptual Circus, has been lauded by Art Forum Online as a ‘critic pick’ and praised by numerous media outlets, including the New York Times. However, Doran asserts, the exhibition represents more than a critically acclaimed artistic endeavor, and serves as an ‘intervention’ into the Hong Kong art world, “finding a way to do something in a place where it’s impossible to do it.”

A creative spirit seeking revolution

Valerie Doran is a dichotomy: a gentle creative spirit who harbors an intense attraction to revolutionary ideas. As a Wellesley educated translator and arts scholar who majored in both Chinese and English Literature, she effortlessly exists in both eastern and western cultural worlds. As a Chinese translator and expert in traditional Chinese literature, she can read and speak fluent Mandarin.

Valerie arrived in Hong Kong in the early 1980’s as a Wellesley-Yenching fellowship recipient at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, where she studied Chinese intensively and taught classes in the English department and core curriculum programme. She later studied at the National University of Taiwan while the territory was still under martial law, and became involved in the burgeoning local avant-garde arts scene, which was riddled with political activists. Of the mid-80’s Taiwanese art scene, she says:

“Artists and the dissidents were very linked, and were all kind of loosely affiliated during this interesting time. There was a lot of patronage of artists by corporate people who themselves were quite liberal… Many of these people were early supporters for what became the Democratic Progressive Party.”

Her Path to Curating

Doran’s journey to becoming an independent curator included working for the distinguished Johnson Chang at Hanart TZ Gallery, which has been an instrumental gallery in pioneering contemporary Chinese art. During her 3-year stint at Hanart, Doran first began dabbling in curating contemporary art exhibitions. It was then her interest in curatorial practice was thoroughly peaked, and she enrolled in the Hong Kong Art School’s curatorial studies program, run jointly at the time with New York’s Guggenheim Museum.

In 2008, Doran was one of the first independent curators selected to curate a show for the Hong Kong Museum of Art. Her exhibition, Looking for Antonio Mak, earned wide attention, and was named as the best Hong Kong exhibition of 2008 by Time Out Magazine, as well as being cited as one of the 10 best exhibitions internationally of that year by the China edition of Artforum Online.

Most Recent Project: Hope & Glory with Simon Birch

Her most recent project is Hope & Glory: A Conceptual Circus, inspired by Hong Kong’s British expatriate artist Simon Birch. The show encompasses 20,000 square feet in ArtisTree, a non-profit art space that exists within a sprawling office complex, and is one of the largest multimedia art exhibitions ever created in Hong Kong. The show’s installations utilize video, sculpture, costume and sound design, live performers and 2-dimensional paintings to create a fantastic, interactive environment. Running themes include the journey through life and transformation, the ‘hero’ mythologies of various cultures, and science fiction. The show also maintains a definitive preoccupation with craftsmanship and the process of producing art.

Art Radar’s writer and researcher Erin Wooters met with Valerie Doran to discuss her experience and the challenges of curating Hope & Glory, a mammoth and unprecedented project, with no comparable exhibition ever attempted in Hong Kong. Valerie’s revelations are surprising, and include details of the conceptual performance that didn’t come to fruition in Hope & Glory due to the grave injury of the human ‘artwork’, how exactly the Birch Foundation managed to secure government funding for the show within Hong Kong’s hyper-competitive and chronically under-funded art scene, and what this exhibition means for the future of contemporary art in Hong Kong.

'Heavy is the Head that Wears the Crown', 2010. Hope & Glory installation shot. By Simon Birch in collaboration with Paul Kember. Curated by Valerie Doran.

How did you meet Simon and become involved with this project?

Simon was one of the artists in my ‘Looking for Antonio Mak’ show, so that’s how I met him. What I was looking for [in artists for Antonio Mak] was not a style—I was looking for a level of sensitivity and a voice. There were artists that I liked and I wanted to work with, and I wanted a figurative painter.  I had seen a painting of Simon’s, and I didn’t know who he was, but when I saw one of his paintings I was very struck by the texture of the brushwork. So I met him. He had never heard of Antonio, and I showed him Antonio’s catalogue and he was almost in shock because he responded so strongly to the work and the imagery. So he wanted to do it … After that show completed, he asked me if I’d work with him on ‘Hope and Glory’.

Can you describe the process of curating the Hope & Glory show?

We met for over a year, working on this concept, the floor plans, the narrative, and the sub-narrative. There was a lot of discussion. Then, 3 months before the show opened, Robert Peckham from Hong Kong University, who is a history professor who had seen both the ‘Antonio’ show and a smaller show that Simon did during his illness, which was a really powerful show called ‘Out of the Darkness’, got to know Simon and was very interested in this project, so we had discussions with him. There was a lot of in-depth conceptual thought and discussion, which lasted for about a year, that went into this show. The show was very formed in Simon’s mind and he already knew certain things that he wanted to do. However, the show as it is now also has elements that were changed, or gotten rid of.

This is a very unique show. How was curating this exhibition different from your previous experiences?

It was a very different experience from curating a show that I generated the idea. This is a situation in which an artist came to me with a concept for a complex multimedia installation, and asks to have it curated, so what does that really mean? It is a very different role. The closest analogy that I can come up with to describe our relationship is an editor and a novelist. Editors come across novelists with all different levels of formed work. Some may be very sketchy, or have just a few chapters. It depends on what stage you get into the relationship with the writer. So, you must challenge the language, challenge the structure, and challenge the concept.

'Crawling From the Wreckage', 2010. Hope & Glory installation shot, including an interactive viewer. By Simon Birch in collaboration with Douglas Young. Curated by Valerie Doran.

Were there any surprises or unexpected difficulties in the making of ‘Hope & Glory’?

One of the key installations, the living room installation, originally wasn’t like that. It was originally all stage, and a key concept that ended up not being able to happen, was that he hired a guy he knows to transform himself into a super being. To transform himself, an everyday guy, into an iron man athlete over the course of a year. So, the guy started training for about 6 or 7 months, and filmed himself everyday, and that was to be edited into a film about his transformation. And then over the course of the exhibition, over 2 months, the man was to always be sitting in the living room. What happened was that 6 or 7 months into his training, the guy almost broke his neck during training. It was just before Christmas, and he severely injured his neck, almost severed his spine. So obviously that didn’t happen. Simon has him on video on one of the TVs on the floor, but the overall concept had to go. It didn’t happen. We decided then it would be fun to change the living environment into the computer vector cage, and create a cage for humans in the living room space.

When it came time to build the show, it was also so complicated to build that he hired a production company that usually sets up rock concerts. Because, no one knows how to do an art show here, except people who work at the museum. No one knew how to build it. We had to start from scratch with everything. It was hideously difficult.

I also knew I was taking a big risk, as was Simon, who was taking the biggest risk of all, because he’s put everything he has into the show, and he busted his butt for over and year and had to find a way to do something in a place where it’s impossible to do it.

'Spinal Mount Starcracker', 2010. Hope and Glory installation shot, by Simon Birch. Curated by Valerie Doran.

Are you satisfied with the show? Does it achieve your intentions?

I think it fulfills Simon’s vision, and I believe it’s achieved something. I believe we’ve constructed a pretty interesting world for people to enter and take something away. I think it has communicated a lot of personal vision of the artist, and I think it is conceptually multilayered and very interesting in that way. I think in terms of the physical realization of the physical works, that partly due to time limitations and all the other limitations when trying to do this, such as money and space, that certain things weren’t pushed to the limit and there are things we weren’t able to realize.

I think my collaborative experience with Simon was more problematic than expected, but that’s ok. On many levels I feel very amazed by his achievement, and I’ve learned a lot… The fact that we were able to pull together so many interesting people in the forums, and to see the students coming in, it’s awesome.

The show has gotten a lot of attention and a lot of press, and there is a really great article in the International Herald Tribune, and that’s all great, but that’s not the key issue for me.

Were pieces transported into the space or built in ArtisTree?

The large-scale sculpture pieces like the star and the steel ball, and the letters were made in a factory in Guangzhou, according to the technical drawings. The production supervisor would go out there and send photographs back.

The steel frame for the trophy ball was created in Guangzhou, and the trophies were put on by hand, one by one. And engraved one by one. The cage living room (‘Crawling from the Wreckage’) was put up string by string.

What is inscribed on the trophies?

On the ‘Spinal Mount Starcracker’… The name of every artwork Simon’s ever made and every person he’s ever loved or has been a friend to him is on those trophies, so that’s why he calls it ‘my life in a thousand cheap trophies.’

Can you tell the story about how this was funded?

Simon is an outsider in the art scene. He’s a Westerner. This is a very personal show for him, and he’s taking risks and exposing himself to a very unsympathetic, hermetic contemporary art scene.  The show has done a lot of amazing things in a lot of ways, but people are suspicious, asking, why is there government funding? Why did the tourism board give money for the show? We find this criticism quite hilarious, because Simon was working on the show for two years, with me for one year, and was maxing out all his credit cards and scrounging for sponsorship.

We heard about a mega-event fund, through somebody over at the NGO art organizer. They said, there’s this crazy fund you should try for, because they’re supposed to fund entertainment, sports, and cultural events, and they’ve got a ton of money. The main criterion is that you have to guarantee that at least 10,000 people will come to your event. The second thing is that you have to show that it will attract tourism, and that it will help benefit the image of Hong Kong. So Simon was like, let’s go for this. I’m thinking, are you crazy, they’re never going to give this to a visual artist. But why not try it, what have we got to lose, right? So, I asked a friend of mine who worked with me on the ‘Antonio’ show, who used to be a government accountant and is now an emerging curator, to come look at these forms and help us understand them. Simon also did a lot of research online about how to fill out these forms.

We filled out the forms, submitted them, and Simon was really surprised when he got short listed and called back for an interview. Then, we made the second cut, which meant that we were one of nine proposals asked to submit a seven minute PowerPoint presentation to their selection committee. That amazed us. This was all in February—we didn’t even know we had any government funding until March. All these artists are accusing- oh, they could only do this because they got government funding—which is wrong.

We had KC Wong with us for the presentation, who is a friend of Simon’s and a really great artist. He was originally going to do a piece in the show but it didn’t work out. The 3 of us went to meet 20 people in business suits at the Tourism Bureau and Leisure and Cultural Services Department, and there was a question and answer session and it wasn’t hostile. I was so surprised they were actually interested in knowing more. I never expected they’d give us money.

We were really shocked when around February we were told they were going to give us a matching grant for up to 2 million [HK] dollars for production costs. That means that we have to spend 4 million [HKD] on production and they’ll give us 2 million. However, the overall value of the show is over 15 million Hong Kong dollars [approximately 2 million USD] . That includes the sponsorship, venue (which we didn’t have to pay for), the graphic design, and the banners. This is all sponsored. For our education program, we got $50,000 HKD from Louis Vuitton to do our forums, which we are also using to pay for buses to bus in students from less advantaged areas.We were able to invite the Symbiotic Dance Troupe, a community-based group incorporating physically handicapped dancers, to perform at our first forum, and they did an interactive work inside the installation, which was absolutely beautiful. So we’re using the money very wisely and producing an educational pamphlet for students.

All the actors in the films, the designers, the film directors, and the musicians—they’ve all done this for nothing or for very little. So the main cost is the production but the value of the show is on the scale of the Tate Modern.

So does this mark a first for artists trying for this government fund?

Well, it is a relatively new fund and most artists would never even consider it. They all go running to the arts development council, where artists usually get money… Yet, here is something interesting, because it’s supposed to raise Hong Kong’s international image. Hong Kong is trying to strengthen its creative industries and make itself the creative capital of Asia, but still does not include the fine arts or visual arts within their definition of a creative industry. So, the fact that we are able to get this money actually for a visual arts project from this unlikely source, and they are willing to take a risk and fund us, is a very good thing.

'Twilight Shadows of the Bright Face', 2010. Hope & Glory installation shot. By Simon Birch in collaboration with Prodip and LucyAndBart. Curated by Valerie Doran.

How do you feel about the critics who call Hong Kong a cultural desert?

The way I look at it is this: Hong Kong is not a cultural desert, and there are a lot of talented people that are doing excellent work whether in the performing arts, music, visual arts, or theatre. The ‘desert’ is the lack of platform for them. The desert is in the cultural policy of the Hong Kong government. It’s a conceptual desert, not a real desert.

So, what is the definition of a desert? It is a place where things don’t get watered. There are plants, water them! If not, they have to move elsewhere to survive. Except for the performing arts, which has more of a platform and is better known, everything else has to move to the periphery to find ‘water’. They have to water themselves. That’s the desert.

Of course art can never be government generated, but, in the West you have a mixture. You have the Guggenheim, a private museum created by a collector, you have PS1, and there are artist-generated spaces. But here, space is at a premium—it’s valuable, it’s money. The government also doesn’t know what to do, because they don’t trust the artists. Even the ADC [Hong Kong Arts Development Council] —if you apply for $120,000 [HKD], they give you $50,000 [HKD] because they assume you are exaggerating funding needs. Everybody is always under funded.

What do you think the show means for Hong Kong?

I don’t know. I just think it’s this weird entity that happened. One thing it means for sure is that more people have been exposed to a serious multimedia installation by an artist, and been exposed to an artist’s vision. That’s amazing. That’s what you want.

What is the biggest challenge for advancing the arts in Hong Kong?

Space is a huge issue in Hong Kong—space for the visual art, where  is it? The museum? No.

1A Space is great but it’s way out there. Artists have to invent their own spaces here in Hong Kong. They are amazing in that way.  But the problem is that they’re not accessible to most people so there tends to be this kind of interiority or privacy, a self-contained, almost clubbish atmosphere here in the contemporary art scene. If you’re not a member of the club, it’s a problem. When it’s like that in art, it’s not a good thing.

There are a lot of new laws, like the ‘80% law’, which I find to be criminal. For instance, if developers are able to convince 80% of tenants to sell their properties to them, then you would be forced to sell your flat. People talk about post-colonialism, but I don’t believe there’s any such thing. There is just always a new colonizer, and right now the colonizer is the developers, and the government allows it. Together, they are colonizing Hong Kong space. That has to stop, and needs to be more rational.

Which Hong Kong arts organisations do you appreciate?

In terms of an organisation that has made a new contribution in the past five to ten years, definitely Asia Art Archive. I think Asia Art Archive is a very important organisation.

1A Space is good, and has been struggling to stay open. They are artists in a government owned space; that’s really tough.

There are some important grass roots initiative projects run by artists. The Kai Tak River Project is run by artists and architects who are trying to preserve the Kai Tak River Area as a cultural space, and this involves a whole lot of other issues.

The musicians and theatre performers in the San Po Kong district who moved into factory areas to have rehearsal and performance space have also formed an organization. The government has a new initiative to develop the San Po Kong area, so they are trying to throw everyone out. But, where are they supposed to go? They have formed their own group to try to change things. [The San Po Kong Creative and Cultural Industry Concern Group]

'Tannhauser', 2010. Hope & Glory installation shot. By Simon Birch in collaboration with Gary Gunn. Curated by Valerie Doran.

Are there any particular galleries you value in Hong Kong?

When it comes to commercial galleries I prefer not to answer that question, but in terms of non-commercial galleries, I can say that it’s really great there are some new locally run galleries showing more conceptual works with a less commercial and more experimental style. Like the YY9 Gallery, and the Exit Gallery. These put on small and interestingly conceived shows that are less commercial, which I think is really great.

Do you attend biennales?

Not really. Frankly I don’t have a lot of time to travel because I’m very busy. I have a child and I teach. I get to some things here and there, but biennales are not a compelling interest of mine.

How do you stay informed about the art world? What do you read?

I think I read very much at random. I’ll read some of the Western art news, like Art Forum, Art News, and The Art Newspaper. I actually find a lot of interesting stuff in the Financial Times; they have a great Arts and Culture section. Occasionally the Wall Street Journal. I’ll also look at Yishu, which is a contemporary Chinese arts journal published out of Canada. And Orientations Magazine, because I am also interested in traditional art, and I have a background in traditional Chinese painting.

However, I do research a lot of particular topics that I’m teaching. For instance, I may read about Indian art or the contemporary scene in miniatures from Pakistan. I’m not the kind of person who regularly reads a whole range of things; I’m very much driven by my personal interests.

What literature and writers have influenced your thinking?

There is a very intriguing text by the 17th century ‘eccentric’ painter Shi Tao, called in English ‘Enlightening Remarks on Painting. It is quite a radical and conceptual text in its way, and I have re-read it and drawn from it many times since I first read it more than twenty years ago.

Another book is ‘Ways of Seeing’ by the British humanist and critic John Berger. In fact, the text of Hope & Glory’s educational pamphlet, which we designed for students, (conceived by myself and Robert Peckham of HKU, with text by Robert) was inspired by Berger’s approach.

What projects are you looking forward to next?

[Laughs] Sleeping! Actually, I am involved in another project but we have not gotten to realize it yet, partly because of Hong Kong’s weird ‘creative industries’ definition. The project is ‘In Dragon Garden, which is a beautiful private garden in Tsuen Wan, and the granddaughter of the founder has managed to preserve it from developers. With her aunt and uncle, who now own it, they want to create a public cultural and artistic environment and garden. However, getting the support to do that is very difficult. So I’ve been working on a prototype art project with that, and so far we have not been able to realize it because of funding issues.

I would like to do another show that breaks the mold of how things are usually done here. I would like to work with a single Hong Kong artist and just do a major show in a major space, because no one does that. Like in New York. I just want to do that to change the paradigm. It’s great to have art in these private intimate spaces, and that’s why Hong Kong art has developed the way it has, in a very interesting way. But we need to break out of that and think about projection.

The other thing I’d like to do is create a different kind of space. And I’d love to be a curator and get paid for it. That would be exciting. [laughs]

EW/KN

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Posted in Art Funds, Art spaces, Artist-run, Curators, Democratisation of art, From Art Radar, Funding, Gallery shows, Groups and Movements, Hong Kong, Hong Kong Artists, Installation, Interviews, Museum shows, Museums, Mythical figures, Nonprofit, Performance, Profiles, Research, Sculpture, Simon Birch, Sound, Space, Valerie Doran, Video | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Contemporary Indian art meets tradition at inaugural ‘Sowing Seeds’ artist workshop in Rajasthan, India -interview

Posted by artradar on March 23, 2010


'Sowing Seeds' 2009 participating artists

INDIAN CONTEMPORARY ART WORKSHOP

The first edition of a new and unprecedented artists’ workshop in Rajasthan brings together traditional rural artists and urban international contemporary artists for approximately 12-14 days to create art and exchange ideas.

This project, called ‘Sowing Seeds’ (in Indian, ‘Beej Bonna’) is an interactive artists’ workshop and is to be held annually in an Indian countryside village every December with the aim of  facilitating the ‘rise of a new era’ in Indian visual art.

The 2009 ‘Sowing Seeds‘ program became a reality after six years of hard work, and plans for the December 2010 workshop are already underway. Art Radar catches up with the lead organizer of the programme, Mr. Vagaram Choudhary, to learn more.

Why did the camp start, and what is it intended to achieve?

“Nowadays in India, contemporary artists tend to work in big cities and display their work in urban galleries. Therefore, Indian village people have few opportunities to interact with contemporary art and artists. In rural areas, there are artists who are traditionally sound but their awareness of creating contemporary art is lacking due to a scarcity of contemporary cultural knowledge. Thus, many rural artists lose their talent when they work only for commercial purposes. We hope these artists and communities can learn and enrich themselves through this camp. We are trying to sow seeds between the rural and contemporary art worlds… Our main motto to is to explore this idea on fairly nonprofitable grounds.”

 

“As an alternative art space in India, we have accepted the challenge of organizing and welcoming different art forms that would help develop traditional Indian artists and society, as well as the emerging contemporary artists.”

Who started the camp?

“This camp was planned by a small group of artists from Rajasthan, in northwestern India. The first ‘Sowing Seeds’ project was handled by myself,  [Mr. Vagaram Choudhary.]”

What are the main objectives of ‘Sowing Seeds’?

We have 5 main objectives. They are:

  • Create meaningful connections and interactions between rural and contemporary artists
  • Develop interrelationships among artists from different geographical locations, creating an environment with varied social, religious and cultural perspectives
  • Develop contemporary art ideas using traditional materials and emerging techniques so that it could connect artists to the current global art scenario
  • Foster collaboration, encourage experimentation, exchanges and dialogues among practicing and emerging artists
  • Serve as a platform for regional and international exposure

Corina Gertz, from Germany. Created during Sowing Seeds 2009.

Is the program associated with a gallery?

“Yes, we are in partnership with the Kaman Art Gallery in Jodhpur. The gallery owner, Mr. Mitendra Singh, provided 40% of the financial support for this camp and also space for the exhibition. The remaining sum was financed by a group of artists.”

How are participating artists chosen?

“We released an open application for artists to participate in this camp. This was done online. We received 128 responses from all over world. Out of these, we selected 80 prospects. We appointed 3 senior artists as the jury, and they selected our final 13 participating visual artists and 1 performance artist.”

Do the artists create art individually, or in groups?

“Each artist works in conjuntion with village people, local sculptors, carpenters, tailors and other craftspeople help to create his or her work.”

What are the future plans for the programme?

“We plan to organize one camp a year in different village locations in the province of Rajasthan, India. If the opportunity was presented, we would ideally like to send a villager artist in an exchange programme to another country to learn new technological art techniques and ideas. This would greatly help these artists nurture their creative side.”

Aditi A. Kulkarni, from India. Created during Sowing Seeds 2009.

When and where is Sowing Seeds 2010, and how many participants will be invited?

“Sowing seeds 2010 will be held at a village near Mount Abu, in the Indian province of Rajasthan, from December 12-25, 2010.”

This year we will invite 15 artists:

  • 6 Indian visual artists
  • 6 visual artists from anywhere in the world
  • 1 art critic from anywhere in the world
  • 1 performance artist from anywhere in the world
  • 1 senior artist from anywhere in the world

Rajesh Pullarwar, from India. Created during Sowing Seeds 2009.

Who were the participating artists in 2009, and where were they from?

In no particular order:

Terue Yamauchi, Japan Maria Rebecca Ballestra, Italy Lucrecia Pittaro, Argentina
Judit Hettema, Netherlands Corina Gertz, Germany Bhupat Dudi, India
Aditi A. Kulkarni, India Vagaram Choudhary, India Rajesh Pullarwar, India
Nilesh Shidhpura, India Chiman Dangi, India

Can you describe the activities that artists participate in while completing the workshop?

“Rural + Contemporary,” was the theme for the ‘Sowing Seeds’ camp  held between 12th to 22nd December 2009, in which participating artists from Germany, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, France, and India got first-hand experience living in the remote Indian Sar village, in Rajasthan. This colourful, dusty, dry village with day and night temperatures fluctuating between the extremities had the perfect ambience for a camp that could provide fodder to the creative minds. Indeed, a wonderful opportunity had been presented to the visiting national and international artists to unleash their creative spirit. There was ample material locally available to experiment with. But the real challenge and learning happened while creating artworks that would reflect the theme of the camp – “Rural + Contemporary…”

“Local raw materials such as clay, paper, cow dung cakes, mud, wood, pottery pieces, cloth, threads, jute ropes, metal plates, powdered colours, etc., were innovatively used to bridge the communication gap between the ideating contemporary artists and the local people. Initial feelings of insecurity and apprehension gave way to a budding and blossoming friendship, thereby opening channels of interaction and understanding between cultures alien to each other. The villagers responded with overwhelming love and affection, providing tireless technical labour and assistance, tailoring the artistic creations effortlessly…”

“Every day was a new day, where the artists would be off to the village and nearby areas for realizing their artworks; the evenings would be delightfully graced with local cultural entertainment such as folk song and dances, and the late nights would be spend resting on a cot in inviting tents under the open sky. Deeply cherished moments were the ones around the bonfire where discussions of culture flowed in from people across continents in the cold mornings and nights. It never ceased to amaze each artist as to how a simple parallel world existed side by side to their seemingly advanced world!”

“…This camp beautifully brings out the understanding and the sensitivity of the various artists to the responses and nuances of the human mind such as emotions, fears, thoughts, relationhips, such as bonding with people and nature, the problems faced by humanity, and the causes which can enhance or destroy the human existence.”


Interested parties are encouraged to contact Mr. Vagaram Choudhary and check out Sowing Seeds for more information on this intercultural arts program.

EW/KCE

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Posted in Art spaces, Artist-run, Courses, Globalisation, India, Indian, International, Interviews | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »