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HAJRA WAHEEDThe ARD: Study for a Portrait 1-28, 2018, photographic collage, transfer paper, mylar and archival tape on graph paper, 35.6 × 46 cm. Photo by Paul Litherland. Courtesy the artist.

Radical Hope

Also available in:  Chinese

The pandemic-plagued world is ripe with divisions. The social-isolation methods and restrictions on travel that have kept people apart are further hardening opinions and hearts to our shared predicaments. Finding new ways to connect to one another and to relate to the planet that we share has become a driving impetus behind many artists’ practices. As communities around the world look to address both immediate and longstanding problems, artists have the ability to create spaces of understanding, empathy, and awareness that foster greater alliances between people.

In the spirit of togetherness and mutual support, ArtAsiaPacific’s September/October cover Feature about the practice of Hajra Waheed traces the Montreal-based artist’s explorations of the possibilities for “radical hope.” AAP deputy editor and deputy publisher HG Masters charts how Waheed’s meditations on the motif of the spiral have inspired her to seek out new approaches to, in the artist’s words, “resisting tides of violence and despair.” Her latest work, Hum (2020), which was originally created for the Lahore Biennial 02 in January and exhibited again at Portikus in Frankfurt, is a 16-channel sound installation featuring performers collectively humming songs that were central to solidarity struggles in the ongoing decolonization of the Global South. The act of humming, Waheed says, “cuts across a crisis of hardened differences, challenging border constructions and for a moment, transforming divisions around ethnic, religious, linguistic, and national affiliations into a larger call for solidarity.” 

Layering a collection of perspectives is central to the multimedia practice of Hong Kong-based artist Lam Tung Pang, who personifies landscapes and elements of nature to convey the pathos of his hometown amid times of dramatic transformation. His latest installations, including his commission for the revamped Hong Kong Museum of Art, Image-coated (2019), reflect his experience of the city’s societal shifts in the wake of over six months of pro-democracy protests. AAP managing editor Chloe Chu visited Lam in his studio to discuss these new projects, the importance of observing to Lam’s creative process, and the difficulty of maintaining a clear perspective when one is “caught within the wave of history.” 

For Up Close, AAP editors take a closer look at new moving-image projects by Diane Severin Nguyen and Allison Chhorn as well as the latest investigation by the collective Forensic Architecture. Rounding out the Features section, AAP contributing editor Paul Laster examines the work and career of Canadian painter Tim Gardner, who is known for his sensitive autobiographical watercolors of his male friends and family members, in Inside Burger Collection. 

In Essays, we spotlight the winner of our Young Writers Contest 2020, Cheng Mun Chang. In her article, Chang argues that the logic of colonialism undergirds post-independence Singapore’s land reclamation projects. She considers the impact of these development policies and details the costs of such enterprises through the works of locally based artists Charles Lim, Zarina Muhammad, and Debbie Ding.

The Profiles section features Los Angeles-based Miljohn Ruperto, whose collaborative films and animations reject “concepts of originality and essentialism,” writes Ikon Gallery curator Melanie Pocock, and instead accommodate multiple views. Offering an expansive, and often historical, perspective is also at the heart of works of art-and-anthropology duo Zheng Mahler. Their research-based installations and videos, AAP associate editor Ophelia Lai explains, reveal the interconnectedness of seemingly disparate materials, locales, and peoples. In Singapore, Patricia Chen met with arts patron Rachel Teo to discuss The Private Museum, a platform for collectors that Teo co-founded with her father. Chen asserts that “Teo’s example shows that being . . . intentional about contributing to the art community’s systemic needs can make a difference in this difficult time where needs abound.”

In The Point, socially engaged artists Lucas Ihlein and Kim Williams reflect on their experience of working with the Biennale of Sydney (BoS) to curb the organization’s reliance on plastic. They relate BoS’s initiative to how the art world can begin to systematically address the planet’s human-driven ecological crisis. Meanwhile, in his Dispatch from Vancouver, curator and writer Godfre Leung intersects the issues of race and space, and elucidates how the city’s art scene has been shaped by the two. For One on One, Palestinian artist Inas Halabi writes about how London-based Rosalind Nashashibi’s approach to filmmaking has influenced her own explorations of “the construction of identity in relation to history and place.” And in a special Tribute, gallerist Johnson Tsong-zung Chang bids farewell to the charismatic Hong Kong artist Gaylord Chan (1925–2020). 

Lastly, for Where I Work, John Alexis Balaguer visited the studio-residence of artist Norberto “Peewee” Roldan, who co-founded Manila’s oldest artist-run nonprofit space, Green Papaya. Roldan’s bungalow in Metro Manila now houses documents and artworks damaged in the June fire at Green Papaya. Balaguer describes his home-studio as brimming with artifacts from the city’s disappearing architectures, which Roldan incorporates into his assemblages, preserving but also adding layers to their significances. A longtime activist and advocate for regional artists in the Philippines, Roldan embodies the spirit of art, community, and camaraderie that runs through this issue. 

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