Ilza Burchett – About the contemporary art exhibition “Concept Context Contestation: Art...

Ilza Burchett – About the contemporary art exhibition “Concept Context Contestation: Art and the Collective in Southeast Asia”

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Currently on show at Goethe Institute, Hanoi, is the traveling version of the contemporary art exhibition Concept Context Contestation: art and the collective in Southeast Asia, curated by Iola Lenzi (Singapore), Agung Hujatnikajennong (Indonesia) and Vipash Purichanont (Thailand).

Commissioned in 2013 by the Bangkok Art and Culture Center (BACC), it was presented in its original version the same year in Bangkok, with the participation of artists of three generations from the countries in Southeast Asia: Thailand, Indonesia, Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, Myanmar and Cambodia.

Conceived to be: “…about conceptual approaches to making art for, with, and about the collective and collective issues in Southeast Asia,” and “…chart one of regional contemporary art’s most important threads, locally-rooted conceptual thinking used to engage in ideas about and for the collective. It will investigate the close connection between conceptual approaches and social ideologies in Southeast Asian contemporary art of the last four decades.” [1]

The traveling version of the exhibition embodies the curatorial idea of connectivity, taking it to each country, which is represented by the participating artists and in the process contextualising it within diverse environments, by responding to the challenges of the local conditions at the time of visit.

This flexible approach to the exhibition format allows for the actual context to exert its transformative force, allowing the traveling versions of this exhibition to become – to some extent – country and site specific.

In its current presentation at Goethe Institute, Hanoi, the exhibition is not just a display of artworks, but creates an effect of mimicking the art it is built on, and itself acquires the form of an installation.

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This accentuates even further the “collective dynamics of the visual dialogue”[2] between the artworks, successfully conveying the curatorial vision of how “… layered thinking and metaphoric tactics remain constants – and are in fact hallmarks – of the contemporary in Southeast Asian visual art. “[3], thus further reflecting on the impact of the context on the idea of the collective.

The complexity of this visual dialogue doubles its layers under the weight of its conceptual content, as conveyed by the curatorial approach and as expressed by the participating artists in each individual artwork on show.

In this light, the aesthetic impact of the exhibition as a whole and of each artwork, seemingly takes a secondary place, which also brings about a sense of familiarity with the ways in which the artists choose to formally express and convey their ideas, thinking and emotions.

In fact, in spite of the complexity of their respective socially critical narratives and messages, the artist’s works in this exhibition give an impression of directness, which in some works borders on simplicity and melodrama – sometimes rather deceptively – in terms of the formal aspects of delivering its message. There is a commonality of this specific characteristic in the artistic expression of Southeast Asian artists represented in this exhibition.

A number of works in this show seem to exhibit this feature to a lesser or higher degree.
The lamentation of past and current societal changes in the work of:

Amanda Heng, Singapore, Let’s chat, 1996 ongoing – performance, installation:

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Bui Cong Khanh, Vietnam, The past moved (Hanoi version), 2015 – interactive, installation:

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Aung Myint, Myanmar, The Intruders, 2010 – performance:

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Tung Mai, Vietnam, Aluvita, 2013 – installation:

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and with added ambiguity in the exploration of individual’s relationship to power in the work of:
Tay Wei Leng, Singapore, Integration ll, 2013 – sound installation (speakers):

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Nge Lay, Myanmar, The relevance of restricted things, 2010 – digital photography:

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Phan Thao Nguyen, Vietnam, The captive stone, 2013 – installation:

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Vandy Eattana, Cambodia, Khmer Rouge Trial, 2009 — digital C-print photography:

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…and the most sophisticated and masterfully powerful in its history lesson of regional commonality and solidarity, is the work of:

Sutee Kunavichayanont, Thailand, Hanoi blackboard (Crossed histories), 2015 – white pastel on canvas:

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“Concept Context Contestation: Art and the Collective in Southeast Asia” would have been not as convincing in its vision, without the inclusion of the art, representative of the early signs of the emergence of the new type of creativity and originality of the artistic expression in the contemporary visual art of the region, like:

Chaloppd Nimsamer, Thailand, Rural environmental sculpture, 1982 – photographic documentation/performance art:

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and the remarkable works on newspaper and dó paper by the great pioneer of the Vietnamese contemporary art, Vu Dan Tan:

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whose works are presented as symbolic banners – masterfully compacting the meanings and messages of modernity – as a signifier of the arrival of the new times of changing understanding and appreciation of the contemporary art of the region of South east Asia.

This is an important exhibition, which thanks to the invitation and the organizational collaboration of Goethe Institute in Hanoi, shows to the Vietnamese and international public the sophisticated character of the contemporary art created by the artists across three generations from the Southeast Asian region.

[1], [2], [3] quoted from the text (BACC exhibition) published here

Ilza holds the deep conviction that there is nothing more damaging than indifference and that only a critique, based on peer to peer assessment of contemporary art practices, is the way to broaden and encourage the creative thought and new original artistic ideas — fostering a better understanding of contemporary visual art and the role of the artist as a creator of cultural values.
Ilza Burchett is an internationally exhibiting artist, now based in Hanoi, Vietnam.



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