RICHARD LIN with his daughter at his studio in London, 1968. Photo by Richard Pare. Courtesy Kaohsiung Museum of Fine Arts.

Slow Art Movement?

Almost 60 years ago the São Paulo Art Biennial was founded to introduce contemporary art from North America and Western Europe to Brazil, with the aim of transforming the South American metropolis into an international art center. Today, many locales once considered far-flung—from Aichi to Moscow and the Canary Islands—now share São Paulo’s goal of placing international art alongside their own revered artists on their home turf. But as events such as biennials and festivals and the flow of commercial and intellectual capital make the world smaller, ideas of thinking locally, notions of home and conditions of connectedness loom large. The issues that confront cultural production in the 21st century—international market pressures versus an understanding of context, online exposure versus real-time presence, national pride versus trans-culturalism—affect both artists and curators as they make creative decisions. Anticipating a flood of biennials in the second half of 2010, ArtAsiaPacific’s September/October issue looks at the work of artists who are acclaimed internationally for embracing their own particular place. 

In this issue, we welcome AAP’s new art director Jiminie Ha. An MFA graduate in graphic design from Yale University, Ha has worked on projects for distinguished creative clients including New York’s Whitney Museum of American Art, architecture studio Leong-Leong and Belgian fashion designer Maison Martin Margiela. Among many discreet changes, Ha has enhanced our Features section with larger images—all the better to pore over each of the artists’ works. From Berlin, editor at large HG Masters appraises the work of Apichatpong Weerasethakul as the 40-year-old Thai artist finds himself, unexpectedly, at the forefront of contemporary art-film discourse after winning the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival. Masters characterizes Apichatpong’s practice as mirroring the Slow Food movement, and this is best illustrated in the artist’s complex and enigmatic prizewinning work, Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, which involves locals in remote villages in northeast Thailand. 

Managing editor William Pym also considers the art of the moving image with a look at the practice of artist duo Muratbek Djumaliev and Gulnara Kasmalieva, recently nominated for the prestigious Artes Mundi Prize. Djumaliev and Kasmalieva’s works illuminate both the burgeoning Central Asian video-art scene and the tempestuous recent politics of the artists’ native Kyrgyzstan. Contributor Siddhartha V. Shah discusses the extraordinary career of MF Husain, the standard-bearer of Indian Modernism, beloved for his depictions of folk and tribal life in South Asia, as he celebrates his 95th birthday this month. The artist tells AAP of his enduring passion for the Subcontinent: “I knew all the theories and different ‘-isms,’ and I appreciated them. I didn’t reject them, but I wanted the basis of my work to be folk. I was very conscious of the question, ‘What is Indian culture?’ so I painted images relevant to our time.”

At the other end of the spectrum, features editor Ashley Rawlings offers a bracing refresher course on the pioneering Japanese street photographer Daido Moriyama through an analysis of a recent body of work shot in Hawaii, which Rawlings describes as the artist’s “search for a sense of home in a foreign landscape.” And contributing editor David Frazier considers the origins of Minimalism and installation art in Taiwan by focusing on the monochromatic paintings of Richard Lin and the bold spatial interventions of Tsong Pu, outlining their respective artistic struggles at home and abroad in the process.

In Profiles, the issue has solicited frank talk from this year’s upcoming biennial curators—Gwangju’s Massimiliano Gioni, Shanghai’s Gao Shiming, Busan’s Takashi Azumaya, Media City Seoul’s Clara Kim and Taipei’s Hongjohn Lin and Tirdad Zolghadr—as they share their motivations behind each ambitious project. In Essays, contributing editor Gregory Galligan offers a ground-level reading of Bangkok’s recent political volatility by discussing the population’s relationship to public art, while Jina Valentine draws inspiration from an exhibition of Japanese Art Brut in Paris to reflect on the history of Japanese society’s relationship to the mentally ill.

For our commissioned projects, we invited this year’s Cartier Award-winner Simon Fujiwara to share candid thoughts on what he couldn’t live without, in Questionnaire. For My Eight, Brisbane-based wife-and-husband duo Isabel and Alfredo Aquilizan, known for their process-based work of collecting and collaborating with migrant communities, share airplane assemblages created by young children from the region. Artist, professor and curator Salima Hashmi sends us a poetic postcard from her home in Lahore, while Auckland-born Anna Sew Hoy cuts up a napkin in order to revisit and reimagine a recently exhibited sculpture.

In Reviews, AAP Almanac contributor Cameron McKean offers a thorough analysis of the recent Biennale of Sydney, ceramics specialist Garth Clark takes an expert look at the clay works of Ai Weiwei and senior editor Don J. Cohn examines three publications on local histories: Barbara Pollack’s breezy account of the burgeoning art scene in China, a collection of essays about the Realist movement in Asia, and the definitive tome on experimental art practices in India from 1997 to 2007 compiled by the New Delhi-based Khoj International Artists’ Association. 

To expand on HG Masters’ proposal that Apichatpong’s work reflects the spirit of the Slow Food movement, perhaps we are witnessing the beginnings of a similar effort in today’s dissonant global art world—one in which regional diversity is celebrated and local context still matters.