Sunday, November 14, 2010

PostHeaderIcon Asian Women’s Aesthetics in 21st Century Contexts (3)

Reflecting on issues beyond appearance and gender

Monsters Series”, Sharon Chin

Sharon Chin, Malaysia
Malaysian artist Sharon Chin took banned books as a motif, the central idea being that the process of censorship is essentially arbitrary in nature. Chin represents censorship as a stern monster that lives in the dark. This monster explodes punishment upon us that we can not circumvent. The monster, however, disappears whenever he is exposed to the light of knowledge and discourse. The work “Monsters Series” that Chin exhibits in this biennial is one of two parts of her solo exhibition “Sensors: Banned Books & Other Monsters”. This work reveals numerous issues about freedom of expression in media, especially media produced by women in Malaysia. It is notable to point out that Chin uses statistics of censorship to bite back at the system.
Renoir's Ball at the Moulin de la Galette and the Thai  Villagers.2008.photograph,video 11min

Araya Rasdjarmreansook, Thailand
Thai Artist Araya Rasdjarmreansook lives in a quaint village, though she works as a professor in the city of Chiang Mai and has several experiences abroad to her name. The people in her 4 channel video installation are not among her art circle friends or elite colleagues, but farmers who are actually her neighbors.
In this series, Rasdjarmreansook introduces the audience to the farming community in her village by drawing attention to 4 different renowned modernist paintings, each shown on a different video channel. Each painting invokes us to watch and listen to female and male farmers conversing equally among each other about their everyday lives, which townspeople may not be acquainted with. It is from dirty jokes, morality, hope and aspects of career and culture that the audience gets a glimpse into the lives of farmers. If we compare the feminist movement in the modern era, which is concurrent to the creation of the paintings, and observe the farmers in conversation, we can distinctly see the social and cultural distance between these two poles. Rasdjarmreansook continues to use the element of spoken language to deliver meaning to her art.

Pillow that My Dad Ever Uses, Imhathai Suwatthanasilp


Imhathai Suwatthanasilp, Thailand
In contrasting to Rasdjarmreansook, the young Thai artist from Bangkok, Imhathai Suwatthanasilp, pays much attention to her family. The Asian ideal of the centrality of family leads Suwatthanasilp to understand how to communicate with people of different age groups. The skill of weaving hair, usually seen as a woman’s pursuit, was actually taught by her dad, who had long hair. Her father’s hair and weaving skills become a memorial in the work Pillow that My Dad Ever Uses. Another work of hers, “Last Phrase from My Dad” rises from messages from her father just before he died. Suwantthanasilp’s work, especially through the act of touching the hair, reflects the adoration and warmth in her family. Although falling hair signifies death, new hair will grow to replace it. But if the person who owns it passes away, the fallen hair may transform into a relic, like the Buddha’s hair, worshiped wherever it is purported to be.

Dragon Sign, Oeur Sokuntevy
Oeur Sokuntevy, Cambodia
Just next to Thailand, it is rare that a native artist is active in the international contemporary art stage in Cambodia. The visual arts in Cambodia mostly get support from governments, NGOs, and foreign tourists. Oeur Sokuntevy is one of few female Khmer artists who diligently followed her dream to become an artist, and is now renowned in Cambodia and neighboring countries. Oeur accentuates that invisible mix of Khmer belief and culture which haunts every action and decision. She draws attention to the superstitious nature of Cambodian Society by creating twelve animal sculptures that represent the Chinese zodiac. Her zodiac animals have been transformed to embody the contemporary Khmer lifestyle. She calls those animals “gods” and “goddesses,” in following her belief in the invisible spirits which rule human life. The work depicts her and the Khmer way, combining the Hindu-Indian and Chinese beliefs in each zodiac.


Le Hien Minh and her site specific work
Le Hien Minh, Vietnam-American
A native Vietnamese who was born and raised in Hanoi, Le Hien Minh currently lives and works in New York, her home since 2004. She creates site-specific art work at both indoor and outdoor venues of the biennial site.  She’ll create one thousand crane birds by using traditional Vietnamese paper. The birds represent her position between two contrasting homes – Vietnam and the USA – which push and pull her like uncontrollable forces of nature. The motivation to experience “otherness” compelled her to move away from her roots and create a new identity to balance with her new life. Natural elements such as rain, wind, humidity in her art work can be equated to the uncontrollable forces of her life. Le is a new paradigm of people reared in authoritarian states who aspire to more choices in life without fear of any risk in return.

Tiffany Chung, American-Vietnam
Across the sea of dust is a new film project by Tiffany Chung, a Vietnamese who grew up in the USA and now lives and works in her ancestral Vietnam. Her film depicts the lives of three young people living in and between developing places in Vietnam and Japan. The film’s atmosphere juxtaposes the physical and psychological transformations in modern life, revealing the profound differences between the two. Both women and men are affected by the speed of this transformation, unfolding into aimless, lonely and dispirited minds which are hidden beneath a sophisticated environment.

Both Le and Chung cross their locations, an experience which will resonate within the Vietnam of the present and future.


‘Under Water’, Mami Kosemura
Mami Kosemura, Japan
Unlike Chung, Japanese artist-Mami Kosemura, views landscape in Japan as an ideal picture. 
Her appreciation for landscape has exposed a distinct method and perspective. Kosemura was formally trained as an oil and mural painter. Recently, her works are blossoming within digital era, yet she combines manual technique to distort the digital works she has done. The work, ‘Under Water’ was a combination of both techniques. It is composed of a video projection of an animation and photographs that depict ‘Utopian landscapes’. The word “Utopia” in this series has conceptual and visual meanings which the actual context didn’t provide. It germinated in her mind and found visual expression in her art work. Possibility, observation and a time-based process are Kosemura’s great admixture of creation.
“The Well”, Mandana Moghaddam

Mandana Moghaddam, Iran-Sweden
Far from East and Southeast Asian expressions, an Iranian artist allows her visitors to talk to each other through “The Well” at the biennial site and Gothenburg, Sweden. “The Well” was planned to be installed in 2 cities, Tehran and Gothenburg, but was blocked by censorship in Iran at the last minute. This site specific work will be recreated again by the same artist – Mandana Moghaddam. Through her installations, she tackles questions relating to immigration, exile, communication, human isolation and gender restrictions. The central idea is to communicate with the alien world outside of Iran, a matter that Moghaddam would like to express and share in public. It also opens up her local community to be recognized. The work plays the role as a site of neutrality, but the Iranians government’s reaction over “The Well” gives this work a crucial topic to be discussed–namely, freedom of speech and choice.

The Well, Mandana Moghaddam
In the conversation of the contemporary art of Asian woman artists, we cannot deny that globalization and media influence one's environment and personal understanding. People nowadays do not live in the same way as our ancestors.  We travel and experience more complex locations, cultures and roots in both mental and physical ways. Our perceptions and views must adapt while perspectives from multi-identities and multi-roles emerge.  There are less universal explanations to define woman today, and with specific cases and varied contexts, we no longer share the same image. 

In conversation and exhibition, try to cultivate an openness to women’s expression in various situations and contexts, while creating a “close” connection to the “far” differences among the genders.
- wrote by Sutthirat Supaparinya

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Here are useful links about the show:
http://www.iwabiennale.org/
Read review by Robert C. Morgan, the Brooklyn Rail issue September 09
read review by Lee Jeongsook in C-arts mag or The2009IWAB
and by Jung-Ah Woo 2ndINTERNATIONALWOMENART.pdf

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