Sunshower: Contemporary
Art from Southeast Asia,
1980s to Now

Sunshower: Contemporary Art from Southeast Asia, 1980s to Now
The National Art Center and Mori Art Museum, Tokyo
05.07.17 – 23.10.17

At Sunshower, pomp and circumstance matter. Organised to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations ( ASEAN ), the exhibition brings together some 190 works by eighty-six artists, spread across the Mori Art Museum and the National Art Center in Tokyo. Advertised as the ‘largest ever’ show of contemporary Southeast Asian art, Sunshower announces Japan’s commitment to Southeast Asia, if not its centrality to the region’s artistic fortunes – and fraught histories.

A state-backed project of this scale – and its celebratory rhetoric – is bound to provoke scepticism. What does it mean for Japan, a wealthy ex-colonial power, to tell the story of one of its former territories? Who benefits from this narrative of the region, and from an organisation of artworks and cultural materials that is as compelling as it is ultimately fictional? How can the relationship between players of disparate power be negotiated justly? These questions deserve urgent attention, especially given the ongoing push by museums such as the National Gallery in Singapore and M+ in Hong Kong to institutionalise knowledge and consolidate art histories.

But the relationship between official mandates, state sponsorship and curation is hardly straightforward. Arranged in nine broad thematic sections rather than by nation, the mode in which Sunshower is installed reveals the conceptual risks taken by its curatorial team. Their framework posits that contemporary art is better historicised in terms of shared trajectories, such as urbanisation, protest and the rise of alternative artist spaces, than as the outgrowth of national modernisms. Although less tethered to geographic demarcations, a narrative based on social and economic shifts is nevertheless subject to other, no less institutional, imperatives – namely, the promotion of heavily redacted histories of development by the authoritarian regimes that belong to ASEAN. Like many sprawling contemporary art exhibitions, Sunshower is caught in a double bind, attempting to extricate artists and artworks from identitarian frameworks while still operating within the rigid politics of international relations.

The exhibition most successfully evades the reproduction of official discourse when viewers are challenged by sensorial experiences that defy easy categorisation. As a frontispiece for the Mori venue, Zulkifle Mahmod’s rattling metal towers, VIBRATE Vibration ( 2017 ), produce a maddening hum that follows viewers far into the show’s opening section, ‘Growth and Loss’. The steady vibration gives way to the thumping hip-hop beats of Korakrit Arunanondchai’s music video Painting with history in a room filled with people with funny names 3 ( 2015 ), in which the artist plays a new age Buddhist shaman, a native of urban wastelands who leads the way into the next chapter, ‘Medium as Meditation’. Then there are moments of deafening silence. In ‘Dialogue with History’, viewers linger in front of Vandy Rattana’s photographs of Cambodian landscapes pitted by American bombs or Hoang Duong Cam’s abstract paintings, based on found photographs from the Vietnam War. This affective journey fleshes out each theme with psychological insight.

Indeed, subjective specificity might be the only way to approach an idea as complex and unruly as Southeast Asia. Simryn Gill, an artist who divides her time between Sydney and Port Dickson, Malaysia, presents Blue ( 2013 ), a suite of 210 paintings that concentrate on the subtle modulation of the colour and its metaphorical associations with everything from impenetrable oceanic depth to the lightness of disintegrating seafoam. Nearby are inscrutable vignettes of rural life by Svay Ken, who began painting in 1993 at the age of sixty, after the fall of the Khmer Rouge. His pictures challenge viewers to find a language to describe and discuss unfamiliar social interactions without simply exoticising them. Brought together under the heading ‘Day by Day’, these disparate works, by the critically acclaimed globetrotter and the naive outsider, suggest the impossibility of measuring rates of artistic development or scales of artistic mobility in the region against any single standard.

Despite the effectiveness of these passages in complicating the representation of Southeast Asia, the inclusion of such a vast number of works delivers watered-down historical lessons. Norberto Roldan’s Dialectical Materialism ( 2013 ), which announces its title in giant painted letters, appears as an anodyne attempt to encapsulate the tumultuous history of political activism in the Philippines during the 1980s. Ringo Bunoan’s For Lee Aguinaldo ( Work After Chabet #3 ) ( 2009 ), on chipboard soaked in buckets of water, summarises Philippine conceptualism in one epistolary inside joke. Similar compressions apply to other political and art-historical narratives, often presented so obliquely that even the studious reader of wall texts is left grasping for connections.

The underlying problem with the exhibition’s mission to educate Japanese audiences about Southeast Asia is a lack of self-awareness. In sections titled ‘Archiving’ and ‘What Is Art? Why Do It?’, the story of alternative artist spaces like The Artists Village in Singapore, among other socially engaged projects, is presented through dense photographic and textual ephemera. Yet there is great irony in a museum attempting to present, even assimilate, challenges to its own white cube. Also unacknowledged are previous Japanese attempts to expand the ‘archive’ of Southeast Asian art through research and data collection. Works by 1990s flag-bearers of contemporary Asian art, such as Montien Boonma and FX Harsono, are on loan from the Fukuoka Asian Art Museum, one of the first institutions with an acquisitions programme for contemporary Southeast Asian art. Any Japanese history of the region must also be a history of the nation’s own learning about the region, and the faint spectre of a colonial enterprise will remain as long as its epistemological projects pose as neutral and authorless.

Sunshower also points to a broader crisis of authorship. As outspoken curators such as Apinan Poshyananda and Jim Supangkat gradually retire, few young exhibition-makers have stepped in to fill their shoes. Perhaps the strong authorial presence that the older generation commanded now appears overbearing or simply unattainable, when so-called independent voices are readily absorbed by official structures. Institutional collaboration – the new norm – foregrounds shared responsibility, deliberate inclusivity and cultural sensitivity. All this makes for dutiful professionalism. But as the field matures and bureaucratic infrastructure proliferates, how can curators assert criticality within the consensus production machine of state-backed initiatives? Where is the balance between incorporation and divisive provocation? Can autonomy be sustained within the genre of the megaproject?

Perhaps what Sunshower needed was not a bolder conceptual framework, but rather a return to the most basic curatorial act of bringing objects together. Take the pairing of Aung Myint’s Five Continents – Is the World Nearly Destroyed? ( 2009 ) and Yee I-Lann’s Fluid World ( 2010 ), which greets viewers at the National Art Center location. The latter work, featured heavily in the exhibition’s publicity material as an exemplar of borderless regionalism, shows a map disrupted by the blue crackle of batik dyeing. In Myint’s painting, hung opposite, rivulets of blood-red paint meander across wrinkled paper membranes, seeping through the boundaries of land masses and pooling over screaming faces that crowd the continents. With one brilliant juxtaposition, the myth of Southeast Asia as site of utopian fluidity is broken, and revealed instead as a world deformed by fluidity – its divisions undone by the friction of movement and disrupted by unruly material processes. For a brief moment, the forced coherence of the exhibition recedes and art’s intractability reigns.

太阳雨:80 年代至今的东南亚当代艺术

《太阳雨:1980 年代至今的东南亚当代艺术》
国立新美术馆& 森美术馆,东京
2017 年7 月5 日 – 2017 年10 月23 日

译/ 黄晔丹

在展览“太阳雨:80 年代至今的东南亚当代艺术”中,绚丽的场景至关重要。为纪念东南亚国家联盟 ( ASEAN,简称“东盟” ) 成立五十周年, 本次展览汇集了由86 位艺术家所创作的190 多件作品,以日本东京的森美术馆和国立新美术馆两家美术馆为展场。主办机构宣称该展览是迄今为止“规模最大”的东南亚当代艺术展,彰显了日本对东南亚地区的投入,乃至该国在东南亚艺术发展—及其苦难历史中所扮演的核心角色。

如此规模的展览获得国家层面的支持—以及加诸于上的赞美之辞—必定会惹来众多质疑。对于日本这个富裕的前殖民主义政权来说,借着展览之便而讲述其过往历史上众多殖民领地之一的故事,这一切究竟意味着什么?从这地域性的叙述,以及与之虚构性同样引人注目的艺术品和文化素材的组织中,谁是受益者?如何才能公正地协调不同参与方的关系?鉴于包括新加坡国家美术馆和香港M+ 视觉文化博物馆在内的众多美术馆不断推进知识的体制化和艺术史的整合,以上问题尤其值得我们的关注。

然而,官方授权, 国家资助与策展工作三者之间的关系并不明了。《太阳雨》以不同的主题而非按照国家来划分出九大展览版块, 显示了策展团队在概念上的冒进。在这一框架设定下,比起以国家来分界,用共同的议题 ( 比如城市化, 抗议, 另类艺术空间的兴起等 ) 来梳理现代主义进程,能将当代艺术更好地历史化。尽管较少受制于地理界限的划分,基于社会经济变迁的叙述却更容易受到其他体制化程度不亚于前者的规则所制约—即对被东盟专制政权大量删节的发展史的宣扬。和许多体量巨大的当代艺术展一样,“太阳雨”也面临两难的局面:尽管想让艺术家和作品从身份框架中解脱,却仍然在国际间僵化的政治关系中运行。

本次展览避免复制官方论述的最成功之处就是观众被那些无法轻易归类的感官体验所挑战。森美术馆主立面的展品— 祖基菲勒· 玛穆德 ( Zulkifle Mahmod ) 那嘎嘎作响的金属塔型装置作品《使振动发生振动》 ( 2017 年 ) 发出一阵阵令人发狂的蜂鸣, ( 其声浪 ) 一直追随着观众直达展览开场单元“发展与缺失”的尽头。随后,平稳的震动声波被一阵阵嘻哈鼓 乐所取代,音乐的源头来自考拉克里特· 阿如南诺才 ( Korakrit Arunanondchai ) 的录像作品《在一个充斥着滑稽名字的人的房间里以历史作画 ( 第3 号 ) 》 ( 2015 年 ),艺术家在这件作品中扮演了一名新时代佛教萨满兼城市废墟的原住民的角色, 这为下一章节“作为冥想的媒介”揭开了序幕。在这一章节中,人们时不时会体验到恍若身处隔音室般的静寂。而在“对话历史”单元中,观众总会逗留于万迪· 拉塔纳 ( VandyRattana ) 所拍摄的经历过美军炸弹侵袭的柬埔寨之风景摄影作品前,抑或在黄阳琴 ( Hoang Duong Cam ) 以越战时期的现成照片为蓝本的抽象画前徘徊不去。这趟情感之旅不仅为每个单元的主题注入了血肉,同时还赋予心理学意义上的洞见。

的确,面对像东南亚这样复杂且难以掌控的概念,个体特异性 ( subjective specificity ) 也许是唯一的切入方法。现居悉尼和马来西亚波德申两地的艺术家西蒙瑞· 吉尔 ( Simryn Gill ) 此次展出的《蓝》 ( 2013 年 ) 系列作品由210 张画组成,聚焦于蓝色微妙的渐变及其隐喻式联想—从海洋般无法穿透的深色调到稍纵即逝的海水泡沫般的浅色调。在《蓝》的旁边则是斯瓦伊· 肯 ( Svay Ken ) 高深莫测的乡村生活小品画。这位艺术家在红色高棉倒台后的1993 年开启绘画生涯,当时他已年届六十。其作品通常要求观众寻找一种恰当的语言来论述自己所不熟悉的社会场景,而不是简单地将其异化。上述两类完全不同的作品被同时纳入《日复一日》这一大主题下—其一出自广受好评的环球旅行家的手笔,另一则是圈外素人艺术家的杰作—表明该地区的艺术发展程度或艺术流动规模不可能被任何单一标准所衡量。

尽管上述展品充分展现了东南亚当代艺术的丰富多元性,本次展览依然有不少作品旨在传递某种搀杂水分的历史教训。诺伯托· 罗尔丹 ( Norberto Roldan ) 的《辩证唯物主义》 ( 2013 年 ) 用巨大的字体把题目画在画布上,展现了艺术家试图浓缩菲律宾八十年代政治动荡的一次治标不治本的尝试。林戈· 布诺安 ( Ringo Bunoan ) 的《献给李· 阿奎纳多》 ( 2009 年,《查比特3 号》仿作 ) —浸泡在水桶里的纤维板—把菲律宾观念主义归结为一个只有圈内人懂的笑话。类似的情况也出现在其他一些展品对政治和艺术史的叙述中,这些话语表达得如此间接, 即使是那些孜孜不倦阅读展览标签的观众也难以掌握个中联系。

本次展览以教导日本观众了解东南亚地区为使命,然而却存在着缺乏自我意识的潜在问题。在题为“文献”以及“何为艺术?为何艺术?”的单元中,对于新加坡艺术村 ( Artists Village ) 等另类艺术空间和其他社会介入型项目的叙述,皆通过密集的照片和文本物件来呈现的。然而讽刺的是,美术馆却试图展示,甚至同化那些本来就是为反对其白盒子空间而产生的社会实践。同样未被公开承认的是日本之前试图通过研究和收集数据来扩充其东南亚艺术“文献库”的种种努力。蒙庭· 波玛 ( Montien Boonma ), 胡丰文 ( FX Harsono ) 等上世纪九十年代亚洲当代艺术旗手的作品都是从福冈亚洲美术馆借展过来的,该美术馆是第一批拥有东南亚当代艺术收藏计划的艺术机构之一。东南亚地区任何与日本有关的历史必须同时亦是日本自身对该地区的学习史,而只要其认识论上还在摆出中立的, 匿名的立场,殖民主义的影子就仍会一直阴魂不散。

《太阳雨》同时还从广义上显示了一场作者身份的危机。随着阿皮南· 波西亚南达 ( Apinan Poshyananda ) 和吉姆· 苏庞卡 ( Jim Supangkat ) 等敢于直言的策展人逐渐退居幕后,能够接替他们位置的年轻策展人少之又少。或许是在所谓的独立声音轻易就被官方体制吸收的今天,上一代策展人所追求的强烈的存在感早已变得难以忍受,或高不可攀。机构合作这一新规范强调责任共享, 兼容并蓄,以及文化敏感度。所有这些都助长了重在恪守本分的专业主义。但随着该领域走向成熟,官僚基础设施迅速增长,策展人如何能在得到国家支持及社会共识的新措施中坚守其批评立场?合作共生与分裂挑衅之间的平衡点到底在哪里?在这一超级大项目的样式上,是否还能保持独立性?

也许《太阳雨》需要的并不是一个更加大胆的概念框架,而是回归至策展行为的基点:将不同物件汇总。以国立新美术馆的两件作品—昂明 ( Aung Myint ) 的《五大洲:世界将要被摧毁了吗?》 ( 2009 年 ) 以及易伊莲 ( Yee I-Lann ) 的《流动的世界》( 2010年 ) —为例:后者作为无国界地区主义的模范, 频繁出现在展览的各种宣传材料里,画面上是一张被蓝色蜡染裂纹浸透的地图;而在与之遥相呼应的昂明的绘画作品中,血红色的颜料在皱巴巴的羊皮纸上蜿蜒流淌,渗过大陆板块的边界,覆盖了充斥着各大洲的尖叫的人脸。正是这么一个精妙绝伦的并置, 东南亚作为乌托邦式的流动性场域的神话便被打破,取而代之的是一个被流动性扭曲的世界—其分界被移动产生的作用力所消解,也被难以控制的物化过程所破坏。在这瞬间,展览褪去了其迫不得已的连贯性,而让艺术恢复了其难以驾驭的本色。