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AYŞE ERKMEN, Ketty and Assam, 2002. Room instillation with wood chips, podium, two tigers, room: 700 square meters. Courtesy of the artist and Rampa Gallery, Istanbul.

Love the Future

Also available in:  Chinese  Arabic

The first half of 2011 has been nothing less than precarious. From the protests that are sweeping through the Arab world with varying degrees of optimism and progress to the devastating earthquakes that hit New Zealand and Japan, in the past four months the global status quo has been turned on its head.

More recently, there was the Chinese government’s unexplained detention of artist and social critic Ai Weiwei, which many suspect was prompted by the revolutions in West Asia. Thanks to instantaneous news feeds on the internet, the world has been quick to respond. But the challenge now seems to be how not to forget those in need while attempting to move forward with the concerns of one’s own daily life. These events should remind us of the fragility of life and social stability, and inspire us to honor the dead as well as those who continue to strive against human injustices in order to build a better, safer world for all of us. So, as the international contemporary art world gears up for the fair- and festival-filled calendar in May and June—from Art HK to the 54th Venice Biennale—this issue of ArtAsiaPacific focuses on visionary artists participating in this season’s megaexhibitions, all of whom examine the rationales, structures and histories that underlie the world as we think we know it, as well as those directly involved in the complex developments taking place in the region. 

Anticipating the Venice Biennale, from Turkey, editor-at-large HG Masters considers the site-specific installations of Ayşe Erkmen. As the Istanbul-born artist prepares to reinvent the interior of the Turkey Pavilion, Erkmen insists all aspects of her practice have to be driven by necessity and purpose in addition to the history and context of where she exhibits. In Sydney, contributing editor Olivier Krischer considers the use of sculptural casts in the illusionistic works of Hany Armanious, the Egyptian-born artist who will represent Australia. Krischer considers how Armanious’ works recast commonplace objects in materials that are entirely different from the originals—be it mud, plaster, polyurethane or pewter—to create “quasimagical possibilities” that have influenced a younger generation of Australian colleagues. Representing Singapore, video artist and filmmaker Ho Tzu Nyen talks to AAP Almanac contributor Darryl Wee about his collaborations with experimental musicians such as Oren Ambarchi, and his interest in creating discursive ruminations on lesser-known histories, particularly the myths embedded in the founding of his country. Also examining the act of storytelling is Sung Hwan Kim, who talks to managing editor Ashley Rawlings as he prepares for his solo exhibitions at the Kunsthalle Basel in Switzerland and Tate Modern in London. Kim’s practice, which incorporates video, drawing, installation and performance, weaves truth and fiction together with poetry, music and personal memories in dark explorations of narrative and the warping of information.

Among profiles, our West and Central Asia editor Sara Raza speaks with multimedia artist Tamara Kvesitadze, exhibiting in the Georgia Pavilion, while Georgy Mamedov, director of the Bactria Cultural Center in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, who is co-curating this year’s Central Asia Pavilion, talks to AAP about the challenges of presenting artwork from a little-known region to an international audience. 

In Essays, reviews editor William Pym lingers on a paradoxical call for freedom in Adel Abidin’s simple yet poignant video, Jihad. Following the India Art Summit in February, Jyoti Dhar ponders how the country’s art market and burgeoning nonprofit spaces might generate new ways to create and discuss art. From Cairo, artist Mohamed Abdelkarim offers a different view of Egypt’s recent revolution through a personal tribute to his peer, Ahmed Basiony, a much-loved experimental artist who was killed during the Egyptian revolution in January. 

Also meditating on the work of a respected peer, from France, painter Yan Pei-Ming writes a thoughtful appraisal of the work of Gu Dexin, while in Questionnaire Michael Joo tells us how he uses the internet and what he considers to be the phrase most overused when people describe his artwork. For The Point, Andrew Cohen raises some thorny issues that surround the recent auction of works from the Ullens collection of contemporary Chinese art. In Reviews, Isabella Ellaheh Hughes looks for the connecting threads that run through this year’s Sharjah Biennial, while senior editor Don J. Cohn probes three books that reassert the legacies of Asian artists in the annals of 20th-century art history. 

Finally, in The Last Word, Tokyo-based Edan Corkill reflects on the immediate impact that the magnitude 9.0 Tohoku-Kanto Earthquake had on the Japan’s visual arts community. In moments when we cannot make sense of rapid, often unexpected changes, we might consider what artist Tsuyoshi Ozawa tweeted to the world on March 18, quoting one of Japan’s greatest 20th-century artists: “If Taro Okamoto were alive now, this is what he’d say: ‘Despair completely, and cry. Then be born again anew. Live anew.’”

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ABHKARNDTSCAF Mikhael Subotzky