SUN XUN, Beyond-ism, 2010, ink on paper, 650 × 200 cm. Courtesy the artist. 

The Young and the Restless

Also available in:  Chinese  Arabic

History has a devious way of repeating itself. Today we see waves of progress and turmoil, criticism and censorship, smacking up against each other in the public sphere. The digital revolution has given us life-changing technologies, most notably the internet, but is slowly leading the way to the replacement of people with machines. Around the world, political unrest is again on the rise, much of it fueled by growing concern over increasing nationalism and sectarianism, as well as economic disparity and government transparency. In this issue of ArtAsiaPacific, we look at a group of post-1980s artists who are attempting to comprehend the rapid transformations taking place today—from a micro-level of specificity, such as the situation of Hong Kong, to larger worldviews of the human relationship to nature and history. 

Our Features begin with an in-depth look at the work of Hong Kong artist Chow Chun Fai. Guest contributor Stephanie Bailey examines the 34-year-old artist’s career as a painter, photographer and activist and his contributions to the art community in Hong Kong. She traces the trajectory of Chow’s movie paintings based on film stills from the Hong Kong New Wave cinema of the 1970s and ’80s, as well as later films that followed, which explore the complicated identity of citizens hailing from the Special Administrative Region, particularly in the lead up to the 1997 British handover of the city back to China. Bailey explains how Chow’s recent 2012 “stand for a seat” in Hong Kong’s Legislative Council is a natural extension of his artistic practice.

In Taiwan, AAP’s Taipei desk editor David Frazier connects with influential French curator and critic Nicolas Bourriaud—recognized for his “relational aesthetics,” which celebrates communal activities over objects—just days before his first biennial in Asia, “The Great Acceleration,” opened at the Taipei Fine Arts Museum in September. Bourriaud discusses his approach to the 2014 Taipei Biennial, which he envisions as a platform to reflect on the importance of social relationships, particularly in a world of hyper industrialization, capitalism and ecological change.

From India, scholar Shanay Jhaveri sits down with recent Royal Academy of Arts, London, graduate Prem Sahib on the eve of his first solo exhibition in Mumbai to discuss the sense of intimacy and community evoked in his spare, minimalist installations and wall pieces, often inspired by nightclubs and changing rooms. 

Finally, Beijing-based independent curator Tiffany Beres discusses the art of Sun Xun, whose work appears on the cover of this issue. Today Sun is one of China’s fastest-rising post-’80s generation stars, known for his symbolic yet cryptic animated films, which are often inspired by authors such as George Orwell and Yevgeny Zamyatin—best known for their political satires on futuristic, dystopian societies. Yet, Beres argues, it is his use of the traditional Chinese art form of ink that lends a quality of timelessness to his dreamlike films. Reflecting on a newly made work, What Happened in the Year of the Dragon, which also includes the artist’s own calligraphy, Beres writes, “The ultimate result of Sun’s animation then, is not so much a film, as we have come to recognize it, but rather a manuscript—an alluringly immersive visual work of authorship.”  

Capping off Features is our special column, Inside the Burger Collection, where we introduce artist Nadia Kaabi-Linke and sociologist Timo Kaabi-Linke’s “Digging for Redemption.” They describe their forensic-intervention-cum-artist-project that delves into the history of the AM Qattan Foundation’s Mosaic Rooms gallery in London. 

In Profiles, AAP editor at large HG Masters looks at the career of Gu Wenda, whose works incorporate human hair and placenta powder; and from Sydney, contributing editor Michael Young talks with Australian artist Tony Albert, the winner of two back-to-back art prizes, the 2014 Basil Sellers Art Prize and the Telstra National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art Award. From London, West and Central Asia editor Sara Raza interviews Saudi collector and philanthropist Basma al-Sulaiman. 

Turning to Essays, Dubai desk editor Kevin Jones contemplates the way the Louvre Abu Dhabi is crafting its own unique narrative in the United Arab Emirates. For Case Study, Chin-Chin Yap explores copyright issues around the emerging field of artificial creativity, and from Myanmar we analyze the loosening of censorship laws under the present military junta government. 

For this issue’s Where I Work, managing editor John Jervis headed to a sleepy Japanese village on the Izu peninsula to visit the studio of Mono-ha artist Kishio Suga. Dispatch takes us to New Delhi, where contributing editor Jyoti Dhar explains how the longevity of its dynamic art scene depends on beefing up long-term support for experimental initiatives such as KHOJ International Artists’ Association. For The Point, Kevin Mitchell, interim provost of the American University of Sharjah, argues that educational institutions should value transformative experiences in their students and faculty, such as studio-based creativity, over test scores and ranking systems. In One on One, Lee Wen, best known for his “Yellow Man” series, relates his admiration for younger generation performance artist Jason Lim, whom he calls “the last samurai,” who with his surgical patience works through inner turmoil and youthful angst. Whether close up or panoramic, instantaneous or long-term, many of the artists we introduce in this issue illustrate how art that emerges from conflict can turn discord and mistrust into forms of understanding.