Southeast Asia Topology

Posted on 09/05/2014 Under News


at Project Fulfill Art Space, Taipei, Taiwan

Southeast Asia Topology is an interleaving of memories between rivers and oceans and is a cause for the beginning of comprehension and re-acknowledgment of our neighboring region, which, like us, is also situated in the midst of the sea and faced with powerful mainland force. The exhibition explores Southeast Asian societies and their art mechanisms, which are fostered under the circumstances of globalization and confronted with multiple risks. The following four artists are invited for two exhibitions and correlated academic events in 2014, and they are: Jompet Kuswidananto(Indonesia), Sutthirat Supaparinya(Thailand), Dinh Q. Lê(Vietnam), and Ho Tzu Nyen(Singapore). From the diverse perspectives based on the historical, political, and social issues pertaining to Southeast Asia, these artists have gathered to collectively weave together a topology to prompt for the formation of communal memories.

The focus of the art project, Southeast Asia Topology, is to investigate how different groups located in various geological locations have come to form connections and interactions, and also with attempts to extend the mutual understandings to the new immigrants living in Taiwan. The objective is not to focus on a singular ethnic culture. The region of Southeast Asia has an extensive colonial history, with perspectives that are wide and diverse in its scale and scope, which expand beyond transnational issues to include transitions of ethnic, religious, gender, class, political, language, cultural, generational, and theoretical discourses. How many of us can precisely describe locations of familiar names, such as the Chao Phraya River, Ho Chi Minh City, and Malacca? Through the four contributing artists of this project, discussions of distinctive social issues and cultural conflicts from different Southeast Asian societies will be conducted. By guiding contemplative perceptions toward the direction of cultural hybridity resembling that of post-colonial concepts, the emphasis is placed on the fusion and innovation of cultures, with cultural egoism made obsolete.

Multiple Memory Interleaving

Taiwan is faced with overwhelming cultural pressures from China and the West, and has long neglected Southeast Asian cultures and contemporary arts. However with the recent influx of new immigrants, a surge of interest has emerged in Taiwan for Southeast Asia’s high level of hybridity, mobility, and innovativeness, which have resulted in the surpassing of the preconceived national frameworks leading to the boarder-crossing excavations of historical connections, social-cultural changes, political revolutions, and economic reforms. From which, a deconstruction could also be made for the “Asian-style” neo-liberal hegemony that is implicit in the “Special Economic Zones” implemented by China in Southeast Asia.

Taiwan’s awareness for the oceans and rivers are quite self-confined; however, South Asia, having undergone similar destructions during World War II, much like other East Asia nations of Taiwan, China, and Korea, and thus with a presumed similar historical fate as these nations, is nonetheless demonstrating far more social, ethnical, and religious diversities compare to other Asian regions, with political systems and focuses on the arts and cultures also quite different from other nations. Today in Taiwan, there is a 1/10 ratio with a new born child being the result of a transnational marriage. With the relationship between Taiwan and Southeast Asia growing increasingly more intimate, it is necessary for us to learn and understand Southeast Asian cultures and histories and also the developments of contemporary art in the region.

The Changing Navigational Path, the Symbol of Crossing-Domains

Southeast Asia Topology symbolizes the crossing of geo-political boundaries, with emphasis placed on history, the impacts of territorial disputes for the people, and additionally with the topological positions based on the self, rivers, oceans, and memories expanded to concentrate on the identity shifts with Southeast Asian migrant workers as well as a variety of community-based self-initiated social movements. Traces of colonialism, separation, foreign intervention and other incidents and processes have remained in the region, which have helped to shape its cultural memory. The exploration of the diverse contemporary arts flourishing in this area and the juxtaposition and comparison of Southeast Asia and Taiwan are still quite weak and uncommon in Taiwan. Therefore, these contributing artists have gathered to encourage for a greater focus on multiculturalism, biodiversity, diverse economic and ethnic power relations.

The vision is that through Southeast Asia Topology, an inspection on a changing navigational path and a project of crossing-domains, we could further understand this region that we are geographically close to and exchange frequent interactions with, but somehow seem to be quite spiritually distant from.