MA QIUSHAYou (A Parabola from East to West), 2012, watercolor and mixed media on paper, 78.5 × 110 cm. Courtesy the artist and Beijing Commune.

Us, You, #MeToo

Also available in:  Chinese

It has been one year since the New York Times published a report on the numerous allegations of sexual misconduct against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein. The article unleashed the #MeToo movement that has swept across the globe in almost every industry, profession and calling, including art and publishing. To mark the anniversary of this historic moment for women to speak out and share their experiences of sexism and sexual harassment, in our Nov/Dec issue of ArtAsiaPacific we focus on artists who, through their work, highlight the challenges women face. 

For our cover Feature, AAP Beijing desk editor Tom Mouna met up with Ma Qiusha, an artist who came of age during China’s massive social, cultural and economic transformation. Mouna considers Ma’s diverse practice encompassing performance, video, installation, photography and painting, all of which revolve around personal and collective memories of growing up in China in the 1980s and ’90s. Ma’s most visceral works look at the familial and cultural expectations of children, such as in the video From No. 4 Pingyuanli to No. 4 Tianqiaobeili (2007). Here, the artist sits in front of the camera speaking calmly about her childhood, specifically her intensely academic-focused upbringing and her parents’ wishing she were a boy. Only at the end does she appear to be in pain as she talks, and it is revealed, through the blood spilling from her lips, that she has spoken for more than seven minutes with a razor blade in her mouth. Ma’s artworks looks at cultural phenomena beyond her own life as well, from the shifting colors of women’s hosiery to online automobile subcultures. Mouna reflects, “Perhaps not surprisingly for an artist whose practice deals with the idea of control or the lack of it—over one’s own agenda, over the female body, over the larger societal shifts occurring in Beijing and China—Ma likes to collect objects, as if to temporarily possess narratives that they carry or for the purpose of allowing her to process conjectured histories.” 

In the second Feature, AAP contributing editor Jyoti Dhar examines the career of Anita Dube, an artist, writer and curator who has played a pivotal role in India’s tightly knit art scenes since the early 1980s. Dhar looks back at Dube’s interdisciplinary practice—from her involvement as the leading spokesperson in the 1980s art group known as the Radicals, who sought to incorporate the voices and perspectives of marginalized groups, to her critical art reviews in the progressive Indian newspaper Economic Times. Dhar’s analysis offers some hints of what to expect at the forthcoming Kochi-Muziris Biennale this December, which Dube helms as curator.

This issue also concludes our two Feature series to mark AAP’s 25th anniversary. Then and Now, a selection from our archives of articles and images that capture the social, political and cultural mood over the past two and half decades, revisits Peter Robinson’s rise on the 1990s New Zealand art scene at the time of the country’s debates on the return of land and rights to indigenous peoples, and spotlights the emotionally raw performances by Indonesia’s Melati Suryodarmo in the late 2000s examining ideas of struggle, powerlessness, resistance and loss. We continue our visual portfolio of five up-and-coming artists in Young and Emerging, this time with those whose practice utilizes new kinds of digital media: Hayoun Kwon, Miao Ying, Jess Johnson, Refik Anadol and Foundland Collective. 

For our special Feature Inside Burger Collection, Katharina Amman, head of the Swiss Institute for Art Research, and Christina Végh, director of the Kestner Gesellschaft in Hannover, meet with artists Teresa Hubbard and Alexander Birchler to discuss their project about the American artist Flora Mayo, created for the Switzerland Pavilion at the 57th Venice Biennale. Together they discuss feminism, power relations, narrative structures and reframing history around a nearly forgotten figure. 

In Essays, two guest contributors examine recent trends in their respective art scenes. With three art fairs—Art Stage Singapore, SEA Focus and Art SG—lined up for 2019, critic Reena Devi considers whether Singapore’s frenzied push for these commercial events will actually benefit all involved in the country’s arts ecology. From Shanghai, curator Danielle Shang scrutinizes China’s new generation of private museums, asking if it is time for the many collector-driven initiatives to adopt institutional standards and social responsibilities. Rounding out the essays, Joyce Wong, the winner of AAP’s inaugural Young Writers Contest, examines cross-cultural themes in the work of Shezad Dawood. 

In Profiles, AAP reviews editor Ophelia Lai meets up with Cambodian multidisciplinary artist Khvay Samnang during his recent visit to Hong Kong. AAP Australia desk editor Tim Walsh sits down with Brisbane-based artist Dale Harding after a whirlwind year of exhibitions in TarraWarra, Liverpool and Stockholm. Ink Society director Olivia Wang talks with California couple-collectors Jerry Yang of Yahoo! fame and Akiko Yamazaki about their shared love of both traditional and contemporary art forms as well as their support of cultural institutions. 

Rounding out the issue, for Where I Work, AAP associate editor Chloe Chu visits the Hong Kong studio of Japanese artist Izumi Kato, whose solo show is currently on view at Beijing’s Red Brick Art Museum. Do Truong Linh files a Dispatch from Hanoi and reveals a still conservative yet growing art scene in Vietnam’s capital. In One on One, New Zealand’s representative artist for next year’s Venice Biennale, Dane Mitchell, explains his admiration for the late On Kawara, particularly his date-related works. For The Point, we invited Quandamooka artist Megan Cope to elaborate on the importance of contributing to the collective discourse of Indigenous Australian artists active in the 1980s and ’90s. Working with similar concerns as Ma, Dube, Hubbard and Birchler, Cope looks back and reflects on her critical position in society, “Artists are often the first people in society to carefully articulate their position in the world, in ways that not only expand our visual literacy but also convey what it feels like to be on the receiving end of injustice and prejudice.” In the year since #MeToo, it seems more imperative than ever to pursue discussions around issues of social justice, and explore ways to fight inequality.

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Artspace Asian Art Biennale 1 Nov-3 Jan 2021 RossiRossi