A Look Back through Our Archives, from 1993 to 2017

Also available in:  Chinese

NALINI MALANIMedeamaterial, 1993, still from the artist’s 58-minute documentary on the multimedia performance and installation project at the Max Mueller Bhavan, Mumbai, 1993. Courtesy the artist. 

AAP 5: “Nalini Malani: Missives from the Streets,” by Kamala Kapoor

At the time when global art was first taking root, Nalini Malani was fast gaining visibility among curators both at home and throughout Asia. In issue 5 of ArtAsiaPacific, Mumbai-based critic and curator Kamala Kapoor conducted a lengthy interview with Malani, discussing topics from the narrative traditions of Indian art to the artist’s portrayals of human oppression and devastation—whether in the form of sectarian riots, imperialism or environmental destruction. The interview concludes with a discussion of Malani’s Medea Theater (1991–96), an ambitious, four-part multimedia project that combined painting, installation, performance and video art. Initially conceived for Max Muller Bhavan Bombay with Indian actress and director Alaknanda Samarth, the performances teased out Malani’s ongoing preoccupations with oppressors and the oppressed, including violence against women. EWN 

XU TANMade in China,1997–98, mixed-media installation, dimensions variable, installation view of “Cities on the Move” at Secession, Vienna, 1998. Courtesy Guangdong Times Museum, Guangzhou. 

AAP 24: “Static Interference: The Big Tail Elephant Group of Guangzhou,” by Melissa Chiu

In the 1990s, Beijing and Shanghai were considered China’s sole centers for contemporary art—until the alternative art scene in the southern city of Guangzhou started to make noise. In a Feature published in 2000, curator Melissa Chiu looked at the activities of the Big Tail Elephant Group—active from 1991 to 1998 and comprising Xu Tan, Lin Yilin, Chen Shaoxing and Liang Ju-Hui—who captured the absurdities of the Pearl River Delta region’s breakneck modernization and peculiar hybridization of socialism and capitalism. Lin and Chen both engaged with the city street itself, with Lin constructing a wall as he moved across a street in Safe Passage Through Linhe St (1995), and Chen’s dioramas of cut-out figures held up in front of actual locations. Xu’s installation of plastic toys with a gold-covered couch and silver-wrapped bed in Made in China (1997–98) foreshadowed China’s new consumerist society, whose products were no longer exclusively for export. HGM 

CHEO CHAI HIANGMailed from UK 3, 1973, mixed media on brown paper, 52 × 76 cm. Courtesy the artist. 

AAP 46: “Cheo Chai Hiang: The Time Is Out of Joint,” by Ho Tzu Nyen

In 1973, Cheo Chai Hiang mailed four white pieces of cardboard, wrapped in brown packaging and sealed in an envelope, from England to Singapore. Meant as a submission to a group exhibition, the package’s imprints and dents, incurred through travel, was a vital element to the work itself, tracing the journey from artistically progressive England to, at the time, relatively traditional Singapore. In a Feature published in issue 46, Ho Tzu Nyen explores the specters—of art history and of Singapore’s past—that form the practice of Cheo, a seminal figure in the development of art in the country. YC 

RAVINDER REDDYHead, 2009, bronze, 3 × 1.86 × 2.68 m. Courtesy the artist. 

AAP 70: “An Unexpected Oracle,” by Gregory Galligan

In 2010, Indian artist Ravinder Reddy’s public sculpture Head (2009), installed outside of Bangkok’s Central World luxury retail mall, emerged unscathed from an arson attack initiated by members of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra’s die-hard, Red-Shirt camp, who were violently protesting, in their eyes, the elite-serving government. In an Essay published shortly after the event, Gregory Galligan examines the sculpture, speculating that the Thai public’s myriad perceptions of the work reveal the contradictory values upheld by society, thus reflecting the uprising’s underlying issues, and the mass confusion that allowed for the work’s miraculous survival. CC 

BASEL ABBAS and RUANNE ABOU-RAHMEThe Incidental Insurgents, Part 1: The Part About The Bandits (Chapter 1), 2012, still from single-channel HD video with color and two-channel sound installation: 6 min. Courtesy the artists and Carroll/Fletcher Gallery, London. 

AAP 92: “Basel Abbas and Ruanne Abou-Rahme: Potential of the Moment,” by Kevin Jones

Preoccupied with the notion of a coexisting past and present, artist duo Basel Abbas and Ruanne Abou-Rahme produce multimedia installations that explore the tension between historically determined realities and reimagined futures. In issue 92, Kevin Jones wrote about the Palestinian artists’ technique of layering sound and image to convey the many (im)possibilities of a given moment, such as the artists’ three-part film-and-installation project, The Incidental Insurgents (2012–15), which explores the limits of radical action through pop culture tropes about anarchists, outlaws and accidental antiheroes. OL 

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