The unofficial Singapore contingent arrived in Brisbane today.
Spotted at the APT6 were Low Sze Wee, Joyce Toh and other folks from NAG and SAM, Lee Weng Choy of The Substation, Agnes Lim of The Esplanade, Eugene Tan of Osage Gallery, and Jose Tay of the National Museum (although he’s been here for some weeks now, on official attachment to the Queensland Art Gallery).
I bet that, like yours truly, they weren’t able to check out the ongoing Open House back in Singapore, which ends on Sunday. From what I gather, some say the three-day event that involves some house-hopping at Niven Road to check out artists’ works has been fab. But there have also been some lively discussions online about the $12 admission/tour fees, too.
Anyway, I did catch some interesting talks at APT6, including Subodh Gupta’s on the creation of his mammoth mushroom cloud installation, and another on North Korean “contemporary” art. More on these two in the next post.
“Writing About Asia Pacific Art” was the title of the third talk I attended.
But at some point, it veered towards a more general “writing about art” panel discussion on the crisis of art writing today. There’s no question that the print medium is undergoing a global crisis, something that was underscored during the talk by the case of ART iT, a bilingual art quarterly that first came out six years ago in Tokyo.
Last June, it completely transformed into an online magazine to cut costs.
Among the issues raised were the boom of online publications on art (particularly blogs), the “difference” between art criticism and art journalism, the decline of art criticism in newspapers, and a lot of other messy issues that needed an entire conference or at least a day to flesh out, instead of a one-hour talk.
These are issues that, of course, struck a chord.
I’ve been writing this blog for a couple of months now and sort of getting the hang of it (it can get pretty schizo shifting from doing this to writing something a bit more, er, well-behaved on print).
For Art’s Sake! started off as an extension of TODAY’s arts coverage but I’d like to think it has somehow taken a life of its own.
At the risk of sounding defensive, I’ve got two points.
On the idea of art criticism fast disappearing from newspaper, there seems to be an assumption that there’s a clear distinction between art reporting and art criticism. For folks who belong to, are immersed in or are practitioners of a section of the Humanities that partially owes its evolution to the notion of grey areas, that’s a bit too black and white isn’t it?
It’s as if simply “reporting” about art is an uncritical endeavour (and it seems, given the flow of the discussion, moreso if you’re writing a blog as fluffy as this one).
And if that’s the case, then there’s another assumption that wasn’t clearly brought up either. The kind of art criticism that the member of the audience who brought it up wants to see in the newspapers. A particular kind of writing that, at the very least, has a semblance of being somewhat academic in tone, approach and lingo.
And “lingo” is not one of the words you’ll want to see if you’re reading that particular kind of art criticism.
Unless of course, it’s in brackets.
If that’s the case, the discussion seemed to have conflated art writing for newspapers and art writing for niche publications like a journal.
And besides, given one of the the pressing issues brought up (i.e., the very presence of finding anything about art fast disappearing in print particularly newspapers), isn’t the simple act of writing about art in itself at the very least, the start of a critical endeavour? At most, a political gesture too?
So yeah, don’t slag off bloggers. Or those who report about art in newspapers without footnotes. We’re passionate about the arts too, you know.
Anyways, I was finally able to check out more works at the Gallery of Modern Art, including a bunch of video works from China and Japan. No comment on the Chinese works, as I have a bit of Chinese contemporary art fatigue at the moment (even as I swoon over the Japanese works at APT6).
Here’s South Korean Kibong Rhee’s There is no place – Shallow Cuts. It’s a beautiful installation of a willow tree enveloped in fog. A timed fog machine allows viewers to catch glimpses of the tree – or simply its silhouette.
Tibetan artist Gongkar Gyatso has a couple of 2D works revolving around the Buddha image. He’s also created a fun work for the kids section titled Funky Buddhas where white Buddha sculptures are fair game to children’s (and adults’) creative imagination. You’re given a set of stickers to stick on any part of the sculpture.
As in anywhere.
And then there’s The Mekong, a section featuring artists from Cambodia, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos and Vietnam, curated by QAG’s Russell Storer (who’s helping out with the next Singapore Biennale-but-in-three-years) and Rich Streitmatter-Tran (who also had a hand with the previous SB’s Burmese temple made of sugar).
It’s a nicely curated sub-section. In my opinion, an apt teaser of sorts to the kind of work happening in these countries around the Mekong River, a mix of different media, generation and persuasions.
Kicking it off was a 14 minute video by Jun Nguyen-Hatsushiba. The Ground, the Root, and the Air: The Passing of a Bodhi Tree sees a group of artists in the improbable act of painting their surroundings while simultaneously doing a balancing act standing on wooden motorboats as they traverse the river (a wonderful shot).
At some point, they pass by a Bodhi tree and, in a move that caught me by surprise, jump into the river to swim towards it.
Also part of the group show was the Triennial’s other husband and wife team, Tun Win Aung and Wah Nu from Myanmar, who contributed photos of miniature recreations of their work studio. I heard they’re currently working with Osage Gallery for an exhibition next year.
(On another, note, I also heard that a retrospective on Italian fashion designer Valentino, which will be exhibited in Brisbane next year, will also land on our shores – courtesty of the Sentosa IR.)
Anyway, other works in The Mekong includes “updated” porcelain vases by Bui Cong Khanh.
And, finally, a nice bookend to Nguyen-Hatsushiba’s work, these rattan installations by Sopheap Pich. The Cambodian artist had previously exhibited his rattan works at The Esplanade’s Concourse area. Mixing childhood memories of the Vietnamese incursion into his hometown. Small buffalos or pigs look in wonder or bafflement at these huge rattan structures that seemingly fall from the sky – alluding perhaps to bombs. It’s cute but at the same time, also surreal.
Tomorrow: more works at the Queensland Art Gallery section. Plus some thoughts on North Korea and “big” art.