The 2017 Asian Art Biennial will be hosted this year by the Taichung-based National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts (NTMoFA) from Sept. 30, 2017 through Feb. 5, 2018.
Under the theme “Negotiating the Future,” the biennial will showcase how artists use arts as a medium to trigger and establish different relationships with society, and how they can overturn existing ideologies and social structures.
Director Hsiao Tsung-huang (蕭宗煌) of NTMoFA noted that the museum started organizing the biennial since 2007 to present the diversity of Asian arts and explore the interrelations between Asia and the world. It also serves as a platform for artists in Asia to hold dialogue and exchange ideas.
This year, the biennial is curated by the Taichung museum’s researchers in collaboration with three international curators from Iraq, Indonesia, and Japan for the first time. After developing the theme together and researching separately, the curators worked to jointly present the issues faced by art and society in Asia through diverse discourses and viewpoints.
The biennial will feature a total of 63 artworks encompassing videos, installations, paintings, sculptures, and new media by 36 artists from 21 countries. Moreover, the exhibition venue will extend to the Taichung-based Asia University Museum of Modern Art for the first time to showcase larger artworks by art collectives.
According to Iraqi curator Wassan Al-Khudhairi, the theme “Negotiating the Future” searches for possible tools to use while navigating to a future of our choosing. Based on the geopolitical significance of the Middle East, she re-examined the scope and definition of Asia, selecting artworks to present how artists negotiate, interfere, or break the current system to challenge, question, and rewrite geopolitics.
Works by artist Lawrence Abu Hamdan as well as a collaborative project by Shuruq Harb, Samah Hijawi, and Toleen Touq will explore the influence of geopolitics on human thought and present the synergies under those influences.
The ongoing project of “The River Has Two Banks” by Harb, Hijawi, and Touq traces the relations between Palestine and Jordan. The project will further explore the regional connection between the two areas and how local communities partner with each other to overcome social and political challenges.
“168:01,” a participatory installation by Iraqi-American artist Wafaa Bilal, uses technology and public participation to reconstruct the library of the University of Baghdad, in which over 70,000 collections of book were damaged and ransacked by military forces in 2003.
The installation includes book shelves that will enable physical and virtual visitors to reconstruct the lost books together. Viewers can also help rebuild the university library through an online donation system.
Indonesian curator Ade Darmawan believes that it is important to use artistic practice to predict the future. He invited art collectives to participate in the biennial to observe the development of Southeast Asian contemporary art through dialogues between different groups, especially on the changes in social structure and the environment following the rapid economic development of Asian cities.
The Jatiwangi Art Factory, for example, created the “Super Natural Agricultural Investment Project (超自然農業投資計劃)” for Taiwanese investors and villagers from the Indonesian village of Wates to discuss and implement a cultural development project proposed by local artists in a business meeting.
The project was not only a form of art performance for people to understand developmentalism but also a way to strengthen civil negotiation for confronting the Indonesian Air Force that claimed Wates village in 1951.
Art Labor is a Vietnamese art group that has been reviving and promoting the wood-carving culture of Jrai village through holding workshops, exhibitions, and film screenings in cooperation with experts from different fields. They will present “Jrai Dew Sculpture Garden” to critique the chaos created by humans and the cost that society has to pay for the new economic system.
Japanese curator Kenji Kubota (窪田研二) noted that this year’s participating artists drew on their instincts to analyze and create images and installations to express strong messages over the imbalances and contradictions embedded in contemporary society.
The Japanese art group Chim↑Pom for example, created a road with asphalt paving to cover the interior and outdoor space of the museum. Taking inspiration from the Sunflower Student Movement, the group uses the road to symbolize that the museum venue is also a street that connects to the Legislative Yuan.
“Final Days,” an artwork by the Yangjiang Group from China, replicates scenes from boutique shops while decorating the space with slogans used by Chinese street peddlers. The co-existence of high-end couture and discount banners highlight the dynamism between localization and globalization.
“Nonsense Factory” by Korean artist Yang Ah Ham (咸良娥) will question and explore the crisis of modern life and the imbalance of hierarchies and social systems. She uses fictional stories to retrieve abstract reality from the real world and make the abstract reality meet the real one through installation art.
Other featured artists include Taiwan’s Wang Wen-chih (王文志), Liu Ho-jang (劉和讓), Hsu Che-yu (許哲瑜), Lo Yi-chun (羅懿君), and Chen I-chun + Luo He-lin (陳依純+羅禾淋), who will use different mediums to interpret the “Negotiating the Future” theme and explore methods for art to negotiate with society and fixed systems.
The artists will contemplate and critique economic systems derived from wars, such as Taiwan’s outlying Kinmen Island that had a unique history of war. Their artworks will highlight the impact of war on economy, life, and society.
“Invisible Direction (隱形的方向)” by Chen I-chun + Luo He-lin for instance, is an ongoing project attempting to blur the boundaries of systems and challenge national legal regulations by responding with three versions of the project incorporating China, Singapore, and Taiwan.
Various events including forums, workshops, and tours will also be led by participating artists and creative professionals to explore the theme from different perspectives during the biennial.
For more information, please visit http://www.asianartbiennial.org/2017.
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