Orbiting Asia: Contemporary Asian Art in Transnational Spaces

Title: 1209 | Orbiting Asia: Contemporary Asian Art in Transnational Spaces
Area: Border Crossing and Inter-Area
Stream: Art/Art History
Presentation Type: Panel Presentation
Pei-chun Hsieh, Binghamton University, United States (organizer, chair, presenter)
Jihan Jang, Binghamton University, United States (presenter)
Alaina Claire Feldman, Graduate Center, City University of New York, United States (presenter)


"Can artists truly be, paradoxically, both orbital and local? If a contemporary Southeast Asian art historian’s task is to transcend the reductive, ideological frame of nationalism and its modernist fictions, a simultaneous challenge is to do so without simply replacing old narratives with a new, if more sanguine, mythology". As if a timely response to Gregory Galligan’s critique on the avant-garde oblivion in David Teh's recently published book, Thai Art: Currencies of the Contemporary, the following three papers examine how contemporary artistic productions in Asia reimagine and transcend national boundaries; furthermore, probe into minor historical materials on the diachronic axis of research.
In "Something for Nothing: Korean Contemporary Art After Democratization", Jang investigates a specific historical space produced by a new generation of Korean artist after 1987. Moving beyond the production of visual art, Hsieh delineates a genealogy of mediated female voice and installation art in postwar Taiwan and questions political identity in relation to listening and the resonance of space in her "Sonic Wall: Dissonant Nation in Chen Ting-jung's You are the only one I care about (whisper)". Finally, Feldman reflects on her curatorial experience at Independent Curators International. By appropriating, "outernationally", a term coined by Paul Gilroy to describe the spaces of counter-cultures of modernity, she argues that the way touring exhibition transgress neoliberal hegemony to a outernational network that exemplifies solidarity among local researchers and practitioners across Asia and beyond.

Panel Abstracts:
Sonic Wall, Paper Siren: Dissonant Nation in Chen Ting-jung’s You Are the Only One I Care About (whisper)
In 2018, commissioned by Kunsthalle Wien, Taiwanese artist Chen Ting-Jung produces a sound installation that replicas Beishan Broadcast Wall in Kinmen, Taiwan. Installed in 1967 as a three-storied, concrete-made construction with forty-eight speakers, Beishan Broadcast Wall aired the song “You are the only one I care about,”performed by Taiwanese cultural icon Teresa Teng, every half an hour for three decades as an attempt to interpellate the disconnected people on Mainland China after the civil war. Inspired by this operation of political propaganda, Chen remakes this phallic-shaped fortress into a curvy, horizontal wall made of papier-mâché and recomposes this solo piece into a two-vocalist a-cappella in a time when foreign voices are most undesired in the advent of the 27th Austrian Legislative election. Drawing on Chen’s doubling as a critique on the original sonic event, this essay attempts to delineate a genealogy of mediated female voice and art in postwar Taiwan. I examine two moments of emergency marked by mediated female voice: First, Teresa Teng’s voice crossing the border between the U.S.-supported KMT government and the Chinese communist; Second, Chen’s engagement with the past in her paper-made sonic wall. It is my argument that, in her replication and reference to Beishan Broadcast Wall, Chen discords the operation of mediated female voice to foster nationalism in postwar Taiwan and questions political identity and social experience in relation to listening and to the resonance of space in the global rise of right-wing populism.

Something for Nothing: Korean Contemporary Art after Democratization
The year 1987 marked a historical change in the realm of politics and economy on the Korean peninsula. Achieving both democratization and industrialization, the peninsula transformed itself into what president Kim Young-Sam called Shin Hanguk [New Korea]. Overcoming an age of repression during the authoritarian regime of Park Chung-hee and Chun Doo-hwan, liberation ushered in changes not only in politics, but also economics—not to mention the art world. During the 1970s and ‘80s, two opposing practices faced off in the Korean art world: Korean monochrome painting, usually known as Dansaekhwa, and Minjung art, which was supposed to represent social reality in realistic painting. For two decades, the conflict between abstraction and representation, or modernism and realism, dominated the Korean art world and its politics—as did similar debates in literature. The artistic production consisting of two completely different spheres divided by Dansaekhwa (modernist) and Minjung art (realist) was starting to collapse by 1987. Around that time, a new generation of artists started to produce other forms of work that followed neither Dansaekhwa’s silent abstraction nor Minjung art’s politics of representation. This paper will examine the works of this new generation of artists, who mainly presented their works after 1987. Focusing on the works of three artists(Lee Bul, Kim Beom, Choi Jeong Hwa), this paper will investigate how works of art have been produced in a specific historical space after the democratization of South Korea.

Outernational Curating and Regional Networks: Asia as an Example
This paper will cover reflections on curating “outernationally”, or what British historian Paul Gilroy describes as the spaces of the counter-cultures of Modernity. Beginning with the under-recognized contemporary exchanges of cultural discourse and materials between artists in the Caribbean, I will describe experienced problems of such regional exchanges due to colonial and neoliberal networks and infrastructures including privatized airlines and shipping companies that do not allow for direct or economic flows. Yet within such regional networks of artists, curators and practitioners, there are moments of solidarity which can be found online or through independent, outernational art institutions and individuals. Such a network will be realized, for example, at the Mishkin Gallery, City University of New York in 2021 with an upcoming project titled Sound Meridians: Counter-Mapping Through Sound (Taiwan, Indonesia, the Philippines and Malaysia). The exhibition, conference and publication will be organized by artists and curators throughout Asia and will move between continents and national borders. Sound Meridians will travel and create spaces for exchange of unique sound cultures, exemplifying solidarity among local researchers and practitioners across Asia and beyond

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