From May 10 to July 20, 2014, Singapore’s Centre for Contemporary Art (CCA), a national research center of the Nanyang Technological University (NTU), will host the critically acclaimed exhibition No Country: Contemporary Art for South and Southeast Asia, as part of the Guggenheim UBS MAP Global Art Initiative. The exhibition was first presented in New York at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum last year (February 22–May 22, 2013) before its recent showing at the Asia Society Hong Kong Center (October 30, 2013–February 16, 2014).
Curated by June Yap, Guggenheim UBS MAP Curator, South and Southeast Asia, the exhibition will feature 19 paintings, sculptures, photographs, videos, and mixed-media works by 16 artists and collectives from 11 countries, including Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, and the United Kingdom. Through these works, No Country invites audiences to engage with some of South and Southeast Asia’s most challenging and inventive artists, including Tang Da Wu, who currently lives and works in Singapore.
No Country’s presentation in Singapore, which brings the artworks back to the region from which many of the artists hail, calls for an even closer examination of regional cultural representations and relations, and suggests the possibility of a renewed understanding through a process of mutual rediscovery that transcends physical and political borders.
The Centre for Contemporary Art presentation will mark the debut of two works from the Guggenheim UBS MAP Purchase Fund not previously shown as part of No Country: Loss by Sheela Gowda and Morning Glory by Sopheap Pich. The exhibition also features individual video installation rooms for works by Tran Luong, Amar Kanwar, and the Otolith Group.
In spring 2012, a committee of five esteemed experts in South and Southeast Asian art nominated candidates from which Singaporean curator June Yap was selected as the first curator appointed in the Guggenheim UBS MAP Global Art Initiative. Ms. Yap has been an independent curator since 2008, working with artists throughout the region. In 2011, she organized an exhibition of the work of Ho Tzu Nyen for the Singapore Pavilion at the 2011 Venice Biennale. In 2010, Ms. Yap curated You and I, We’ve Never Been so Far Apart: Works From Asia for the Center for Contemporary Art in Tel Aviv for the International Video Art Biennial.
June Yap has curated No Country: Contemporary Art for South and Southeast Asia with assistance from Helen Hsu, former Assistant Curator, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, and guidance from Alexandra Munroe, Samsung Senior Curator of Asian Art, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. Nancy Spector, Deputy Director and Jennifer and David Stockman Chief Curator at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, New York, and Joan Young, Director of Curatorial Affairs, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, are providing curatorial oversight for the entire multi-year initiative. The Centre for Contemporary Art is collaborating closely with June Yap and the Guggenheim curatorial team in staging the exhibition in Singapore.
The exhibition—the title of which was drawn from the opening line of W.B. Yeats’s “Sailing to Byzantium” (1928), which was later adopted by Cormac McCarthy for his novel No Country for Old Men (2005)—presents South and Southeast Asia in terms of transformation and trace, charting patterns of historical and contemporary influence within and beyond the region itself.
With a narrative stretching from the ancient kingdoms and empires to today (the region now comprises more than 15 nations), No Country seeks to reflect upon exchanges and relationships within and between South and Southeast Asian nation-states, on the overall status of the nation-state today, and on the pressures and effects of globalization and colonialism.
According to Ms. Yap, "There is a tremendous diversity of artistic practice in South and Southeast Asia, and certainly more artists and artworks than any single project can accommodate. In this exhibition, the intention is to present the range of aesthetic developments and subjects of interest to contemporary artists, and to challenge the privileging of nation and national narrative as a basis for understanding them. Accompanied by programs for engagement with different local audiences, No Country is more than an exhibition; it is a platform for discussion and exchange."
The artworks are grouped according to four themes: reflection and encounter, intersections and dualities, diversities and divisions, and the desire for unity and community. No Country presents artworks that challenge and explore the region’s historical ambiguities, territories both psychic and literal, individual subjectivities, and political, economic, and aesthetic negotiations.
Within South and Southeast Asia, experiences of cultural transmission and adaptation, and of colonization and division, have become inscribed as cultural memory and identity. In this way, cultural representation has become closely tied to nationalism, and has been articulated through national difference.
Professor Bertil Andersson, President of Nanyang Technological University, said: "As one of the world’s fastest-rising universities in Asia, NTU is proud to be associated with this exciting exhibition that showcases some of the best contemporary artworks from Singapore and the dynamic region. This historic first-time partnership between the CCA and the Guggenheim will be the start of great things to come, as it strengthens cultural and artistic exchanges across borders and inspires our creative young talents in Singapore and elsewhere to aim for artistic excellence. By engaging the public through on-the-ground and online activities, it will also deepen the relationship between artists and the larger community, and expand the global dialogue about the region’s rich contemporary art scene."
Ute Meta Bauer, Founding Director of the Centre for Contemporary Art, stated: "We are very pleased that the CCA is working together with the Guggenheim on an exhibition that critically examines contemporary art in South and South East Asia. June Yap, the exhibition curator, is one of the curators whom I met during my first visit to Singapore a decade ago and whose rigorous curatorial approach I appreciate highly. No Country's consideration of ideas and themes related to postcolonial spaces is in line with what the CCA explores in Paradise Lost, our first exhibition in our new gallery space. The CCA is committed to research and discourse, and No Country will bring a complex perspective on contemporary artistic production that addresses the diversity of South and Southeast Asia."
Centre for Contemporary Art
Block 43 Malan Road, Gillman Barracks
Singapore 109443 Singapore
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- 1. & 3. Navin Rawanchaikul, Places of Rebirth, 2009, Acrylic on canvas, triptych, 220 x 720 cm overall, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, Guggenheim UBS MAP Purchase Fund, © Navin Rawanchaikul and Navin Production Co. Ltd. Photo courtesy the artist
- 2. Tang Da Wu, Our Children, 2012 Galvanized steel, glass, and milk three parts: 62 x 89 1/2 x 23 1/2, 26 1/4 x 44 1/2 x 12, and 8 1/2 x 3 1/8 inches (157.5 x 227.3 x 59.7 cm, 66.7 x 113 x 30.5 cm, and 21.6 x 7.9 x 7.9 cm), overall dimensions vary with installation, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York Guggenheim UBS MAP Purchase Fund, 2012