CAI GUO-QIANG, Black Ceremony, 2011, photo documentation of a fireworks event in Doha, December 5, 2011, which applied 8,300 black smoke shells fitted with computer chips, and had an explosion area 29,500 square meters. Photo by Lin Yi. Courtesy Cai Studio, New York.

Statutes of Liberty: How Artists Govern Themselves

Also available in:  Chinese  Arabic

In February, together with the New Museum in New York, we co-published the Art Spaces Directory, a book that is both a guide to and a celebration of independent art initiatives from 96 countries—from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe. The book is an accompaniment to the museum’s triennial “The Ungovernables,” devoted to presenting challenging work by young artists from around the world. Since ArtAsiaPacific embarked on this project over a year ago, alternative spaces and artists collaborations have been a constant focus of our attention. In our March/April issue, we explore ideas of creative self-determination and examine some of the leading artist-run collectives in the Asia region.

For the cover feature, editor-at-large HG Masters considers the work of the young Berlin-based Vietnamese artist Danh Vo. Masters begins by taking a close look at Vo’s full-size copper replica of the Statue of Liberty, entitled We the People, which reflects the artist’s ongoing fascination with the United States and concepts of birthright, assimilation and freedom. As Masters delves into Vo’s work—as well as the artist’s personal life story—he describes Vo’s process as “thinking about objects as vessels of history, and as a result of certain legal relationships (owned, inherited, borrowed, appropriated, stolen), between the artist and their owner, is more akin to how an archaeologist or anthropologist approaches found artifacts.” By understanding the provenance of the subtle objects Vo chooses to display, one slowly sees the human face of political conquest and war. Also mining modern history, contributing editor Andrew Cohen travels to Beijing to examine the early influences of Political Pop artist Wang Guangyi, particularly his largely unknown work created while he was a member of the Northern Art Group. Here, Cohen investigates the impact of the frigid climes of Wang’s hometown of Harbin, French Revolutionary paintings and Taoism on Wang’s lesser-known works.

In China, Japan, Korea, Taiwan and Hong Kong, where ruthless real-estate development casts long shadows on every aspect of urban life, a group of young artists has started to question what constitutes “community.” Managing editor Olivier Krischer sits down with the directors of several artist-run initiatives, such as Woofer Ten in Hong Kong and LAB39 in Seoul’s Mullae Artist Village, to discuss their strategies for survival, including their special brand of art activism, which they dub “artivism,” and the networks between these artists that are forming in these Asian megalopolises.

Sandhini Poddar, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum associate curator for Asian Art, traces the social activism that spurred the development of India’s new-media art community, beginning with artists such as Navjot Altaf, the late Rummana Hussain, Nalini Malani and Vivan Sundaram, whose work first came together as a direct response to the 1992–93 Hindu-Muslim riots in Mumbai, and brings us up to the present through the politically astute work of Amar Kanwar, Raqs Media Collective and Desire Machine Collective.

In Essays, Julia Holderness files a report from Christchurch, one year after the 7.1-magnitude earthquake rocked the New Zealand city, and talks with local residents about how the role of art and artists aids reconstruction efforts. Rachel Kent, senior curator of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, questions the meaning and purpose of national survey shows through the recent exhibition “Paris-Delhi-Bombay” at the Centre Pompidou in Paris. In her column, Case Study, contributing editor Chin-Chin Yap sifts through the copyright quandary that surrounds artists Pierre Huyghe and Philippe Parreno’s doe-eyed manga character Annlee, who was so adored by the international art world that her French creators decided to emancipate, or terminate, her in 2002. Parreno justified the action, “We own the copyright to this sign, and we decided to give the copyright back to the sign itself.” Among Profiles, in New Delhi, Jyoti Dhar interviews Sheba Chhachhi, whose large-scale public projects in the Indian capital carry compelling messages about feminism and water conservation to city residents.

For the Point, Amman-based Palestinian artist Ala Younis reflects on what it means to live, and survive, in a time of revolution, one year after the first stirrings of the Arab Spring. In Dispatch, contributing editor Sara Raza travels to Tashkent to witness the burgeoning Uzbek art scene. And from Japan, Edan Corkill’s Last Word discusses the latest cultural initiatives that are rekindling a love affair between East and West Asia. 

Reviews take us from Darwin to Los Angeles. Our lead review mulls over the recent Istanbul Biennial, while in Doha, we attend Cai Guo-Qiang’s first solo exhibition at Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art; and in London we visit Iniva (Institute of International Visual Arts) to see “Entanglement: the Ambivalence of Identity,” a group show that reflects on the complexities of living in more than one culture. Senior editor Don J. Cohn reviews three books dedicated to women artists—monographs on Sarah Sze and Chiharu Shiota, along with a survey of Singaporean female artists. From evoking New York Harbor to contemplating the role of independent art spaces, this issue demonstrates the geographical and conceptual reach we pride ourselves in sharing with our readers.