It is December 13. Only eight days before the end of the world, according to some. Thousands of people around the world are preparing for the sky to fall, for the outbreak of a deadly plague, and for the invasion of Planet Earth by zombies—as predicted in the ancient Mayan “Long” calendar, which purportedly concludes on December 21, 2012. In Melbourne, the founder of the website Survive2012.com Robert Bast has spent more than USD 350,000 in anticipation of the “big day.” He bought 75 acres of land that sits 1,500 feet above sea level and built a house there with a fully equipped bunker. In China, two men are constructing their own souped-up boats to provide sanctuary for their families when the killer floods ravage the land. Mother Nature Network provides a list of the ten best places in the United States for surviving Armageddon. Meanwhile a small wedding company in Siberia is marketing “End of the World” survival kits that include a pencil, candles, matches, twine, soap, medicinal herbs for relaxation and vodka. The kits are priced at a reasonable USD 30.
Others are taking a more celebratory approach. In Hong Kong, restaurants are offering six-course “End of the World” dinners for HKD 2,112.12, while restless folks around the world are joining special tours to the Mexican resort town of Cancun, which sits near ancient Mayan ruins, to toast the end of one era and usher in a new one. The team at ArtAsiaPacific prefers to stay at home, stretch our bodies and our minds, perhaps with some yoga or even an evening hike, and welcome the end of the Long calendar—spanning more than 5,000 years—and the start of a new epoch.
AAP itself has completed another era: its second decade. Looking back at the first issue in 1993, the art world in the Asia region seemed full of possibilities or bleak with a lack of them—depending on your perspective. Today, those not under the sway of the Mayans’ apocalyptic prophesies claim that the region is enjoying a cultural renaissance and is the most happening place to be. New museums continue to be launched or construction is underway, art schools are expanding with more aspiring artists, alternative art spaces push boundaries of experimentation and galleries are sprouting up across Asia and the Middle East. All of this leads to more opportunities for artists, curators and proponents of civil societies that respect creativity and the freedom of expression. All of these indicators—some positive, others regressive—are carefully traced in the Almanac.
Now in its eighth edition, the Almanac is edited by Istanbul-based HG Masters, with the assistance of John Jervis, Hanae Ko, Kathy Zhang, Don J. Cohn, Noelle Bodick, Miryam Rodriquez, Hillary Luong, Katherine Tong and Michael Lacoy. We extend our gratitude to our many contributors and desk editors who actively sought out their local connections and shared their firsthand knowledge; their involvement is instrumental. We are also grateful for the generosity of the many individuals and organizations that share their enthusiasm, insight and resources with us.
For each edition of the Almanac, we invite influential art-world figures to reflect on the major cultural events of the past year and the year to come. Lars Nittve, executive director of the M+ museum at West Kowloon Cultural District in Hong Kong, and Elizabeth Ann Macgregor, director of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, each point to reasons for hope in a year blighted by cultural intolerance (in Hong Kong) and government budget cuts (from Canberra). From their unique perspectives, Saudi Arabian doctor-turned-artist Ahmed Mater and Burmese performance artist Moe Satt discuss art’s role in society. Dhaka-based collectors Nadia and Rajeeb Samdani, who recently debuted their Dhaka Art Summit, point to the pockets of creativity forming in Bangladesh, and the influence of neighboring giants India and China. From Georgia, Wato Tsereteli, an artist and co-curator of the first Tbilisi Triennial, explains the need for regenerating outdated educational platforms for art in the post-Soviet nation.
The design of the Almanac was overseen by art director Danielle Huthart, designer Beryl Kwan, photo editor Ann Woo and intern Shruti Chamaria. Together they have produced a lively mix of text, images, inventive typography and illustrations throughout nearly 180 pages of content.
Despite any trepidation you might have about the new year, by traversing the globe through the Almanac that is in your hands, you will revel in the atmosphere of creativity and imagination fostered by new partnerships and collaborations occurring among artists, galleries and institutions across the region. We at ArtAsiaPacific prefer to err on the side of optimism, and hope for the best in 2013. After all, thanks to Gangnam Style by South Korean musical sensation Psy, K-Pop is now a global phenomenon. Now that’s a reason to get up and groove.