Dream makers: The Mansudae Art Studio commissions in their local and global contexts
Charwei Tsai | Taiwan b.1980 | Mushroom mantra 2009 | Black ink on mushrooms | Installed dimensions variable | Site-specific installation for APT6 | Courtesy: The artist
Chief Michel Marakon | Vanuatu b.c.1950 | Mague ne hiwir (ranking black palm) grade 9 (detail) c.1980 | Carved black palm with synthetic polymer paint | 257 x 44 x 50cm | Purchased 2008. The Queensland Government’s Gallery of Modern Art Acquisitions Fund | Collection: Queensland Art Gallery
One of the great contributions the Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art (APT) series of exhibitions makes to broader discussions about art is the recognition of different, parallel art histories that have developed in the region in local and specific ways. The APT project takes into account how twentieth-century art has unfolded in various localities in Asia and the Pacific; that local art histories are affected and altered by their diasporas; and that ideas about the flow and influence of international art histories are contingent; and, of course, that they are embedded in local, modern and contemporary art histories.
Within the APT exhibition this can often create dissonant and awkward disjunctions — there are no great clear arcs that illustrate the world’s multiple art histories per se.
I would argue, however, that this is one of the strengths of this APT, the sixth in the series, and that we must consider these diverse expressions, especially if one has set geography as a defining element of the project.
Also, as a recurring exhibition, the APT is a major forum that looks periodically and regularly at contemporary art in the Asian and Pacific region.
In his most recent publication, What is Contemporary Art? (2009), Professor Terry Smith argues that:
. . . in the aftermath of modernity, art has indeed only one option: to be contemporary. But ‘being contemporary’ these days means much more than a mindless embrace of the present. The most recent universalisms, such as globalization or the fundamentalisms, are falling conspicuously short or are overarching, disastrously. An immediate consequence is that contemporary art has become — in its forms and its contents, its meanings and its usages — thoroughly questioning in nature, extremely wide-ranging in its modes of asking and in the scope of its inquiries. What makes these concerns distinct from the contemporary preoccupations of previous art is that they are addressed — explicitly, although more often implicitly — not only by each work of art to itself and to its contemporaries but also, and definitively, as an interrogation into the ontology of the present, one that asks ‘What is it to exist in the conditions of contemporaneity?’1