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Posts Tagged ‘Sound art’

International contemporary artists produce unique works for Istanbul

Posted by artradar on October 15, 2010


NEW MEDIA ART FESTIVAL INSTALLATION

Akbank art centre, Istanbul continues with its exhibition “The Rhythm of Istanbul“, in collaboration with the Akbank Jazz festival. Marking the twentieth anniversary of this world renowned music festival, it will feature installations by six internationally acclaimed artists working in sound and new media.

Julian Opie, 'Rod and Verity Walking', 2010, lightbox installation. Image courtesy of Akbank Art Centre.

Julian Opie, 'Rod and Verity Walking', 2010, lightbox installation. Image courtesy of Akbank Art Centre.

Curator Gisela Winkelhofer is using the commission to approach the use of sound and rhythm and to explore how movement combines with the architectural spaces of the festival, shedding new light on the confrontation between mass media and the individual.

Angela Bulloch, 'Progression of 8 Peverted Pixels', 2008,  7 DMX modules, 1 black box module. plexiglas, printed aluminium panels, DMX cables, 1 RGB lighting system DMX controller, size 52 x 52 x 52 to 62 x 70 x 62 cm. Image courtesy of Akbank Art Centre.

Angela Bulloch, 'Progression of 8 Peverted Pixels', 2008, 7 DMX modules, 1 black box module. plexiglas, printed aluminium panels, DMX cables, 1 RGB lighting system DMX controller, size 52 x 52 x 52 to 62 x 70 x 62 cm. Image courtesy of Akbank Art Centre.

Accordingly, artists with a reputation for transforming the spatial encounter will be present. Canadian-born Berlin-based Angela Bulloch is showing her Progression of 8 Perverted Pixels (2008), taking the light transmitted from ordinary TV programmes, abstracting them beyond recognition and projecting them as shape-changing beams.

Specially commissioned by the festival, Tony Oursler‘s new work also evokes the spectator’s virtual relation to their surroundings. Both movement within the work and the transgression of different media takes central place in the exhibition. Another new work Rod and Verity Walking (2010) by Julian Opie positions itself on the fringes of two distinct mediums, in this case film and drawing.


Tony Oursler, 'Marlboro, Camel, Winston, Parliament, Salem, Marlboro Light, American Spirit', 2009, PVC tubes, video projection, dimensions varied. Image courtesy of Akbank Art Centre.

HG/KN/HH

Related Topics: festival, installation, sound art, crossover art

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Hong Kong a desert for new media art? New gallery I/O an oasis – interview

Posted by artradar on July 8, 2010


HONG KONG ART GALLERY CREATIVE DIRECTOR INTERVIEW

Situated on Hong Kong’s Hollywood Road, Input/Output (I/O) is not a usual kind of gallery with ink paintings, sculptures and canvases on display. Instead, being the only gallery in Hong Kong that is primarily focused on promoting new media arts, it is set to de-marginalize the “quirky” art genre through facilitating critical exchanges about it in exhibitions, workshops, talks and meetings with artists. Glass-fronted, the small gallery has been successful in attracting a wide range of visitors, from curious passers-by and tourists to students, curators, artists and professionals from various fields, to gather and have conversations about new media arts.

Having been open for a year, the gallery has held several exhibitions which showcased new media works of art graduates and practitioners mostly from Hong Kong. Presenting Chinese graduate artist Lu Yang’s “A Torturous Vision” this year, the gallery has inspired debates in Hong Kong that question the definition of new media arts and how it binds science, art and technology.

Art Radar Asia spoke to Rachel Connelly, Assistant Creative Director of I/O, to find out more about the background of the gallery and its ambitions going forward.

How is I/O funded?

It’s funded privately – by sales.

Why is I/O situated on Hong Kong’s Hollywood Road?

I think when I came on board, this had already been decided. But it’s a very central location – obviously Hollywood Road is known for its art galleries. We are providing something unlike the commercial spaces that focus more on traditional arts, so we try to provide something very different. We also have the advantage of having a glass-fronted space; people that walk by are very intrigued by what we do.

What led to the establishment of I/O?

The gallery is a platform for new media arts. It is owned by a new media artist, and having realised that there are not many platforms here in Hong Kong for exhibiting new media arts, he wanted to provide a space to promote them. He’s from Hong Kong.

Why is new media art interesting to you?

Being new to Hong Kong and completely new to media, my background was non-profit art-spaces and contemporary visual arts, but not necessarily new media. New media is a new term, a new genre and I wanted to explore that.

There’re obviously a lot of new media artists in Hong Kong, and in China more so, but it is a new genre, too. To me, it’s interesting what it is that defines new media, and what makes it different from just being termed ‘sculpture’, ‘installation’ or mixed media work.

So it is also quite interesting to discover what this term means to artists. It is not our role to give the answers to these questions; our role is to create dialogue around new media art practice and provide exhibitions that ask questions about that. Coming from England, the idea of coming to Hong Kong and China, to where new media art has a great reputation outside itself, was exciting; it is something that artists are really interested in here.

Is the new media art market doing well in Hong Kong?

As I saw it, new media occupied a slightly marginalised and kind of quirky position. It needed to almost come to maturity and stand up for itself as a new genre. The way I saw to do that was to place it within contemporary arts and the conversation around art practice. So everything that is shown in the gallery needs to be asking these questions; it cannot just be about the technology.

I think in terms of the Hong Kong market, the art that is bought here is still very traditional.

What has the I/O done to promote new media arts?

Within a year, we’ve literally been in a position of educating people about new media arts, and we have done this by providing them with exhibitions that will show them examples of that. This is still very new, and so we are also telling people how it is possible to actually buy all these objects, by providing them the equipment necessary to show these works in their homes. We will also help to install it.

Last year we were kind of in a position of educating about new media – because people are still very traditional here in terms of art buying. People buy paintings and sculptures mainly.

Last year we raised a lot of interest by having a lot of different shows ranging from film works and CG animation to even the canvas … we have created a lot of interest in terms of questioning the genre.

What do you think the “traditional arts” in Hong Kong are?

It’s canvas, ink paintings, sculpture, etc.

Who are the people that I/O wants to “educate”?

It’s not really educating but promoting, getting people to be aware of what you’re doing and also to encourage people to switch their focus from more traditional arts to new media. And so it’s just the idea of making people aware that it is there – not necessarily a role, but a position that we find ourselves in, which is fine because that’s still exciting.

How does I/O decide what to show and what not to show?

It is a selective process, project-by-project. We are selecting artists from the world of new media, but then, like I said, it depends on what you see as new media or what artists within the genre, see that to be. I wanted to get away with the idea that it’s just about technology – even if that is important … it’s a new tool, which is fine, but it needs to stand up in terms of content.

'Experiments on the Notation of Shapes' by Joao Basco Paiva is an audio visual installation where architecture is translated into sound, creating a fictional sonic expression of Hong Kong's cityscape.

Is there something that I/O would not show? Are there any examples of new media art that it wouldn’t show?

Have you got a definition of new media arts? Because I haven’t. It is still being decided and that is why it’s very exciting. It is at a very raw stage. It’s what I have been saying – encouraging conversations around what new media arts are. It’s not about definite answers; it’s about discussing what the genre is. Some people think that it’s about software; some people think that it is CG animation; some people think it is interactive self-generative programs. In the case of Lu Yang she has two canvases of her series of five, and this adds to her conversation around bio-art and what that is; I was intrigued about that and wanted to have those conversations in the gallery. So in this case, canvases fall under that. Primarily, it’s about discussion.

So you think that there shouldn’t be any boundaries to art?

Art is about questioning the boundaries, whatever they are. It’s not necessarily an artist’s role. If you are asking me about censorship, that’s a different question, I don’t think there should be censorship, no.

Why does I/O choose to show Lu Yang’s “A Torturous Vision”?

From the beginning I felt that it was necessary for I/O to create a dialogue around what new media is, in order to raise it out of its slightly marginised state, to raise awareness of new media as a genre, and almost ask it to ‘stand up’ for itself, within a contemporary fine art context. It means different things to different artists here in Asia, and even more different to artists in Europe.

All our exhibitions have been trying to create a conversation to discuss what these might be. An example was an early exhibition, “New Media, New Thinking”, which was in response to a call out that I did among artists living in Hong Kong. Proposals came back from very different artists, and I chose three that seemed to all agree that new media had central main themes around interactivity, and also the use of technology.

One was quite a traditional medium actually – film, but questioning the medium itself. By placing the participant directly between the projection and projector, he is questioning the audience’s interactive role within the work.

The second piece, by Evan Roth, was a 3D graffiti app for an iPhone, who said the interactivity for his work couldn’t be any larger than the internet community that views it – he actually uploads all his work using open source software, and then it is available for you to download for free.

The third piece was animated paintings, based around German Abstract Expressionism and ink paintings, but here the artist asks you to interact just by spending time with the work, letting your subconscious unfurl.

These three different approaches interested me [as] to how new media is being used by artists today. We then showed works by Portuguese artist Joao Vasco Paiva, which used complex programming to create a self generative orchestrated score for two projections focusing on Hong Kong cityscapes.

Lu Yang was as intriguing as she falls loosely into a genre, which is much larger in China, called  ‘bio-art’ and this interested me in terms of the discussion around art and science.

What has been the reaction to Lu Yang’s “A Torturous Vision” so far?

Great. It’s intriguing; it pushes all of your buttons. It is an exhibition of extremes. All the artists inspire you in different ways. We have had different people across the board coming in, from science academics, to people visiting Hong Kong and walking past, to artists who came to hear the recent talk by the artist herself.

I/O is also running an off-site project. What is that about?

I/O Off-Site is a way of promoting new media arts in a more public context; it’s also a more commercial project. I still feel that new media arts are still very marginalised and therefore by promoting the media in public places, in interesting developers to use new media arts to show in their buildings, not only continues the conversations, but then in reality we can get media artists jobs! Artists need to survive.

How is I/O different from other galleries in Hong Kong?

We are a commercial space, but we are solely focused on the study of new media. We also run more on a project-by-project basis, as opposed to having a stable of artists that we represent…. We are solely promoting new media arts, but we also offer an events programme that runs along the side our exhibitions. That makes us very different from most commercial galleries. Non-profit organisations like AAA and Para/Site may have this, but not many others commercial galleries. But we saw it necessary to continue the conversation, not just through exhibitions but around talks, events, music programming, film screenings; all these different events are about encouraging the discourse.

What does I/O want to accomplish in the Hong Kong art scene?

The idea of promoting new media arts and artists, to get it on the map. To provide a platform solely focused on this.

What has been the development of I/O so far?

In a year, I feel that in terms of people knowing about us, what we do through our exhibitions and events programme, we have achieved a lot. We are trying different things and providing programs of varying interests. This year we’ll go into our Off-Site project – that’s a whole other exciting year to come.

How is I/O going to develop?

The first year we worked with primarily artists that lived in Hong Kong; the second year is about exploring further into China and Asia. Off-Site projects will be more of a focus too, and this will be artists from all over the world. Future development will be concentrating on taking new media outside the traditional white cube.

Art Radar Asia recently published an overview of young Chinese artist Lu Yang’s controversial bio-art exhibition “A Torturous Vision” – read it here.

CBKM/KN

Related topics: business of art – promoting art, new media art, venues – Hong Kong

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Is text writing or image? Bloomberg prize-winner Phoebe Hui examines – video interview

Posted by artradar on June 29, 2010


HONG KONG ARTISTS VIDEO ARTIST INTERVIEW

In a short five minute interview on ChooChooTV’s weekly show [art]attack, emerging Hong Kong artist Phoebe Hui gives viewers a peek at her creative process.

In the interview, Hui expresses a strong interest in the transformation of text from one medium to another.  To her, such transformations serve as a way of linking text to other concepts.

Artist Phoebe Hui at work in her studio

Artist Phoebe Hui at work in her studio.

“The way I view text is not just a form of communication but also as an image.”

By removing the meaning of written words, Hui transforms them into more than just a method of verbal expression. In an early piece titled Doublets Doublets Doublets, Hui bases her process on a game by author Lewis Carroll.

“I will remove one alphabet letter in a word…and gradually change other letters too. These are still text that we are familiar with but once we change it our focus is no longer on the meaning of the text but simply on the relation of the symbols.”

After graduating from the School of Creative Media at the City University of Hong Kong, the artist travelled to England where she studied for a masters degree at the University of the Arts London. Following graduation she decided to move back to Hong Kong.

Although Hui has achieved considerable success as a young artist, it has not come without disappointments. On her move to London from Hong Kong Hui states:

“For me, my path from attaining the scholarship from HKADC [Hong Kong Arts and Development Council], I thought I would have a very successful year in London, but it was not as good as I thought it would be.”

In spite of this setback, Hui went on to win the Bloomberg Emerging Artist award in 2008 after her return to Hong Kong, an accomplishment she is “very satifisfied with.”

While she expresses concern about support for artists’ programs from both organisations and Hong Kong audiences, she remains positive and driven.

“It seems like a very successful road, but I’m still not where I want to be.”

Watch the video here (length of video, 5:22 mins).

EH/KN

Related Topics: Hong Kong artistsemerging artistsinstallation art, conceptual art

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Sound art, trickery and time – interview Hong Kong new media artist Chilai Howard Cheng

Posted by artradar on November 12, 2009


HONG KONG ART

A portrait of the young artist Chilai Howard.

A portrait of the young artist Chilai Howard.

Chilai Howard Cheng, an ambitious young artist in his early twenties, draws attention to his video exhibition Stiffen Water at Para/Site Central, Hanart TZ Gallery in Hong Kong (5 Sep – 30 Oct). A fresh graduate of School of Creative Media and The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, also formerly educated in UK, Chilai is finding the limelight in international art shows – Barcelona, Seoul, Hamburg, and more – using innovative new media.

Just arriving from his part-time job in graphic design, Chilai loosens up in an interview with Art Radar. He talks about his deliberate manipulation of human perceptions with the sound of water dripping from five different sources, and more importantly, his mission to turn more people in Hong Kong from blind buyers into educated art admirers.

Q: Where were you born and educated and how did that influence your art?

I was born in HK. I went to high school in the UK and studied art there for 6 years. For university, I went to HKUST  (Hong Kong University of Science and Technology) – creative communications design, and later CityU School of Creative Media. A tutor named Adrian Cooper, whom I met in high school, was very encouraging and recommended some artists such as Alberto Giacometti, a painter and sculptor. This influenced me to start doing some paintings and installations in his style. It’s hard to do installations in Hong Kong though – you need storage and a big studio. Video is easier to manage, so I chose that to begin with.

Q: When did you know you were an artist?

I don’t think I’m an artist. To me, artists no longer exist. R Picasso, Dali were artists because they invented and revolutionized styles and trends. Nowadays, most videos are imitations of the early cinema. At the moment, I call myself an art worker, hopefully an artist after 30 years. I believe that true artists are inventors, such as  Jeffrey Shaw , a media artist as well as the Dean of Creative Media who shaped media art. 

Q: Where did you get your inspirations for Stiffen Water?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stiffen Water by Chilai Howard, video, 2009.

Stiffen Water by Chilai Howard, video, 2009.

 

It’s actually a continuous work of final year project. I calculated the water drops from the beginning to the end of the five-day exhibition. In video-making, we take a micro-narrative approach. Since I want the audience to take a closer look at the water they drink, I decided to play with audience’s conscious and unconscious minds. Even though the video appears to freeze at times,  there is actually still motion in it.  Playing with the same concept, I once made an 18-minute video with scenes from Hong Kong in the sixties, yet in the end the characters revealed that it was in fact the year 2007, so I tricked the audience into identifying the time frame as the sixties.

Q: Why “stiffen”? Not “stiff”?

DSC_0035

Part of the installation work by Chilai Howard

I don’t have an answer because neither do I care much about the title of an artwork, nor do I find it an indispensable element. As a matter of fact, I believe a title ruins all the hidden surprises. I prefer to have my audience guess the subject of my artwork in the way they perceive it. If I were to give my artwork a random title, I would be inviting criticism. It should be the audience, not me, who should name it.

Q: What difficulties lie in the manipulation of the kinetics and sound of water (and to make sure that effects are suitable for the image)?

I had to make sure that the sound and image are synchronized. Basically, I mixed five different sources of water – toilet, shower, pipe, pissing, and water dripping into a tank, with one bass sound. The frequency and the pitches of all five sources are very different, and I had to decide where to place the high-pitch sound.

Q: What aspects of life are you trying to question through Stiffen Water?

Instead of appreciating water, we take it for granted since it’s always been with us. I have a preference for natural elements, such as wood, leaf, plant, trees, for my installations. In the UK, I once shot a bunch of leaves for many days to observe the changes in motion and light. 

Q: How does it differ from other video works of yours, such as Doors? Any particular favorite?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Doors by Chilai Howard, video, 2009

The Doors by Chilai Howard, video, 2009

 

While Stiffen Water is about the natural life, Doors focuses on a social issue. With a plethora of historical buildings under destruction, it’s important to know that ancient is not synonymous with obsolete. As I spent three days taking photos of the same image, I found the patterns of door’s opening and closing fascinating. China attempted to cut off everything from the UK when it took over Hong Kong, so I wanted to shed light on the significance of Star Ferry Pier to our country.

On the other hand, Body Gender is more of a balanced statement inspired by some of my female Hong Kong friends who believe that they’re not treated fairly in Hong Kong – although I think there is equal treatment for all.  By showing only body parts instead of its entirety,  I wished to create the illusion that “he” might be a “she”, or vice versa. 

Q: Next stop for the exhibition? How do reactions to Doors differ between Hong Kong, Barcelona, Seoul and Hamburg ?

The video will travel to Berlin and Taiwan. Right now Doors is in Hamburg. I wanted to go, but I stayed for this exhibition. I also carry a part-time graphic design job, but only for the money. The design industry is far too commercial and practical in Hong Kong, thus not conceptual enough as it is in UK. It’s hard unless you’re a famous designer. 

Q: Obstacles in your art career?

One advantage that Hong Kong has is its small size, which means a smaller art society than that in other countries. So it makes easier to expose your art in Hong Kong. The problem is that people here are not interested in art or art exhibitions. Instead of appreciating art and the history behind it, some buyers use it as pure decoration. Another obstacle is that it’s hard to expose Hong Kong art to the world. There are very few internationally renowned artists from Hong Kong compared with, say, Canada, so we don’t attract as many people to our overseas exhibitions. Due to political reasons, Chinese artists are not that exposed to the world either until recently the government relaxed its policies on art. The West loves traditional Chinese art and calligraphy, but some treat it as no more than decorations, too. 

Q: What key message do you want to convey through your art?

No fixed message, but I pay attention to political or social issues. For instance, the financial markets are Hong Kong’s main asset, but as companies begin to move their headquarters to Shanghai, what else will be left in Hong Kong then? We used to have factories, but they all moved to mainland. Even yuan is more valuable than Hong Kong dollars now. 

Q: Future endeavors?

I might go back to UK to study. But I will return to Hong Kong. This is my dream to expose Hong Kong art to the world. That’s why I’ve always wanted to be a teacher, to educate young kids. The art education here needs a lot of improvement. I have to be famous to acquire the credibility to convince people and change how they perceive art. 

Q: What are other graduates of your class doing? 

Not everyone wanted to be an artist. Some preferred to work nine-to-five shifts. Some became art administrators for organizing shows, while others entered the field of business, marketing, or advertising.  Everyone’s dream is different.

Q: Did you imagine yourself to be successful at a young age? Future exhibitions?

IMG_8900

Timeless by Chilai Howard Cheng, 2009.

I don’t consider myself successful, but I’m honored to be included in the exhibition. Success is when I can influence more people to appreciate art. That’s my dream. 

My new video Timeless will be exhibiting in October Contemporary. This time I will shoot a curtain to illustrate the patterns of light’s coming in and out, which reflects how time flies, and how both light and time are untouchable, abstract systems. In fact, I almost had the opportunity to exhibit my first installation there, but I missed the invitation email sent by Input Output. 

Q: You were accepted at Goldsmith College, University of London, Central St. Martins College of Art and Design. Why did you return to Hong Kong?

My art was rather renowned where I went to school in UK.  However, it’s common for westerners to like Chinese art because they find the integration of the west and east exotic. So I was dubious of my talent. I was confused about whether I were really good at art, or did they simply like my work due to the incorporation of oriental elements. To prove to myself that my artwork is worthy, I came back to Hong Kong and began everything from zero. I don’t regret the decision, especially now that I’ve started to hold exhibitions, an opportunity that would be hard to obtain in a much larger art society in UK.

WM/KCE

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Posted in Asian, Chilai Howard Cheng, Chinese, Doors, Gallery shows, Hong Kong, Hong Kong Artists, Installation, Interviews, Light, New Media, Photography, Political, Slow/fast art, Social, Sound, Sound art, Time, Video | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Shahzia Sikander questions authority with new video art medium at Para/Site in Hong Kong

Posted by artradar on September 23, 2009


PAKISTANI CONTEMPORARY VIDEO ART

SpiNN (2003) by Shahzia Sikander, still image of video

SpiNN (2003) by Shahzia Sikander, still image of video

Art Radar talks to Pakistani miniaturist and video-maker Shahzia Sikander on the occasion of her debut show in China.
The internationally acclaimed Shahzia Sikander spent 2003-2008 performing an in-depth study of the moving image and the fruits of her analysis are on display at “Authority as Approximation,” her first solo exhibition in China at the Para/Site Art Space in Hong Kong.
Curated by Alvaro Rodriguez Fominaya, the 5 works on display are video art pieces that challenge authority and question existing stereotypes of Pakistani culture.

The exhibition is unique as it stands as her first show comprising only moving images, and continues her practice of critically deconstructing traditional imagery of India and Pakistan.

For this event the venue is transformed into a black-box screening gallery, allowing viewers to appreciate Shahzia Sikander’s treatment of the video medium, which represents a departure from her seminal miniature drawings, and highlights her approach to new media.

The show displays her past video work ‘SpiNN’ (2003), which was shown in the Venice Biennial Arsenale exhibition, and emphasizes her latest film, the video-essay ‘Bending the Barrels’ (2008), which debuted in New York early in 2009. The subject of Sikander’s ‘Bending the Barrels’ is a Pakistani Army military brass band performing in formation, which is examined as a politcal device. On the meaning of this film, cultural critic Aditya Dev Sood explains:

“In her choice of Pakistani Army Bands as a subject for visual capture and representation, Sikander triggers deep resonances from within the tradition of Indo-Islamic miniature painting. The corporeal language, rhythm, space-making and compositional effects that she discovers and creates in film appear rooted in courtly spectacles as well as in their painterly representation, in various Mughal and later Company and British Imperial styles.”

Bending the Barrels (2008), by Shahzia Sikander, still image of video.

Bending the Barrels (2008), by Shahzia Sikander, still image of video.

It’s all about the drawings

Sikander specializes in drawing, and all of her art is conceived in this way and then evolves into various mediums.

As an artist she wears many hats: she also programs animation and operates the camera when shooting film. She creates animations from scanned drawings using the applications Photoshop and Fireworks.

For her film work, she was permitted to operate the camera at the Pakistani military facility herself. However, regarding what medium she chooses, she remarks “the idea dictates the medium.” Unconcerned with medium, she has no preference whether an image is moving or not, and instead chooses what best facilitates communication. However, despite the medium of a work, it will eventually be reflected in Shahzia’s 2D drawings. She comments “Even during filming, it was all research or fodder for drawing.”

Unprecedented Access

Perhaps most surprising about this exhibit is that Sikander, who lives in New York City and is married to an American, was able to gain access into a Pakistani military facility to film original footage of the army’s brass band. Sikander explains that she was allowed inside and permitted to film because she won a military medal in 2003 as an honored Pakistani artist, and was thus granted entry. However, she added that “I find when a project is approached with intent and clarity, I have always been granted access and goodwill has been reciprocated.” Her American husband was also allowed inside the facility to film with her.

Video art: “It’s always been there”

Sikander’s exploration into the moving image reinforces the rising trend of video art. However, Shahzia sees video art as far more than a trend, saying “It’s always been there at the forefront of contemporary expression.” She suggests video art will only become more pervasive, commenting “It’s easier to send a disc, and its immediacy allows for a larger audience… [With Youtube] Everyone now has the freedom to become a videographer.”

The exhibition runs from Sept 2-Sept 30, 2009, at the Para/Site Art Space in Sheung Wan, Hong Kong.

-contributed by Erin Wooters

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Posted in Alvaro Rodriguez Fominaya, Art and internet, Asia expands, Biennials, Connecting Asia to itself, Hong Kong, Islamic art, Miniatures, New Media, Pakistani, Shahzia Sikander, Sound, Sound art, Video, War, Women power | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Catch Palestinian Art in Venice – Islamic art in the spotlight or in a corner?

Posted by artradar on July 29, 2009


Emily Jacir, Stazione 2009

Emily Jacir, Stazione 2009

ART PALESTINE VENICE BIENNALE

The debut of Palestine contemporary art at the 53rd Venice Biennale (June 7th – Sept. 30th) attempts to elevate Palestine art to the international spotlight. This post explores whether Islamic art from Palestine has been marginalized and to what extent the inaugural show  throws light on Palestinian art today.

In the past, Venice played a merchant role as a fulcrum between the Western and the Islamic world. Now, as an artistic realm, Venice gives Palestinian art its virgin step to impress a wider audience in the west.

However, contrary to traditional art, contemporary Palestinian art does not equate to Muslim art, and perhaps that’s why the work of seven participating artists is being featured at the Biennale. To avoid religious controversy, Muslim message is absent, whether or not it’s a true representation of Palestinian art is questionable, but Palestinian art does emerge in a gamut of forms.

Instead of pushing forward a message, it is more about preserving a collective memory. Subject to approval, chef d’oeuvres such as Gregor Schneidor’s enormous black cube, inspired by the Ka’aba in Mecca, did not pass through the religious sensitivity screening.

While accepted in the Muslim community in Germany, it was rejected at the Biennale in 2005 because some viewed it as a terrorist threat. Despite Venice’s ingrained connections to Islam culture, what is representative of all Islamic symbols is still not tolerated at the exposition. 

If the theme does not revolve around Islamic roots, Palestinian artists must borrow other elements from their culture and history to assert a unique statement about their artwork. Free from religious implications, their artwork references Palestinian issues both on a local and global scale, bridging the past and the present.

Among the participating artists at the Biennale, Emily Jacir installs a stazione that encourages cultural exchange between Venice and the Arab world within architectural space and design. Situated on all of the vaporetto #1 stops, stazione provides a link between Venice’s heritage and the Arabic world, with Arabic translations inscribed on the shops in order to inform tourists of the rich origins. 

Shadi HabibAllah, Ok, hit, hit but don't run 2009

Shadi HabibAllah, Ok, hit, hit but don't run 2009

Another artist Shadi HabibAllah, through video and animation of hominoids, delves into the visual perception of natural objects surrounding us in the mechanical state – that work is a living experience, not just a visual reference.

To evoke notions of collective past memories, Taysir Batniji uses multimedia approach by playing the “Date Video”, significant in abstracting a process where time is suspended, as the ticks resonated the length of time since the border closures that forbid him from returning home.

Via photography and video of the panorama of the structural architecture and geography of the Shufhat Refugee camp in Jerusalem, Jawad Al Malhi explores the refugee population that is marginalized and neglected. Since outsiders don’t have access to narrow passages in the camp, the panoramic view enables exploration of the image of camp as well as the entropic nature of the space of the camp. By exploring claustrophobia and containment within the camp, he casts light on the dark side of reality in the land of promise.

Taysir Batniji, Atelier 2005

Taysir Batniji, Atelier 2005

Sandi Hilal and Alessandro Petti employ a sound installation device to explore the contemporary spatialization of urban centers. They take a dialogue in the dark approach, where the visitors enter a black-out room, blinded and only able to hear murmurs and cries of recorded discourse of what it is like to live in the Palestinian community. Heartbeats and musical interventions compounded the effect further. These two artists endeavor to illustrate the Ramallah Syndrome, which references the illusion of the new spatial social order and economic opportunities after the Oslo peace process. They question how Ramallah maintains as the city of Normalcy despite Israeli occupation and daily destructions.

Last but not least on the list of exhibiting artists, Khalil Rabah applies the Biennale idea to his work “A Geography: 50 Villages -The 3rd Riwaq Biennale”. This imaginary biennale takes place in the public space of 50 Palestinian villages, all of which are characteristic of ancient and original architecture and archways. While it rethinks confinement in physical space , it also runs parallel with Riwaq’s goal to protect and promote cultural heritage in Palestine. Meanwhile, by omitting large-scale and formal artistic presentation, it protests against the homogenization of the standard in the international art market. Moreover, it reexamines the biennale culture and ways to link Palestine art with the rest of the world.

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Contributed by Wendy Ma

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