The first Trans—Southeast Asia Triennial research exhibition series #I
June 22, 2021

Host: Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts

Organizers: Art Museum of Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts / Research Center for New Art Museum Studies, Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts

Collaboration with: Womanifesto, The Factory Contemporary Arts Center

Special Thanks: Asia Art Archive

Duration of project: One year

Stage I: March 8 to May 10, 2021 ( Exhibition preview: March 8 to 25, 2021); Stage II: End of 2021 (Final date TBD)

Opening: 25 March, 2021

Venue: Exhibition Hall 5 and Hall 6, Art Museum of Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts, University Town, Panyu District


Womanifesto 2020 Gatherings Joining Gatherings:

in Udonthani: Nitaya Ueareeworakul (Tuk), Jidamas Sriraksa (Nuch), Tikamporn Faioopara (Krin), Krisanah Wannakham (Nah), Khaunrudi Sameapak (Ja-eh), Meena Ueareeworakul (Meena) and Ouy.

in Baroda: Varsha Nair, Ananya Patel, Rashmimala, Urna Sinha, Anuradha Upadhyaya, Ku- natharaju Mrudula and Amruta Patel.

in Sydney: Phaptawan Suwannakudt with Shuxia Chen, Helen Grace with Toby, Sue Pedley with Kyati and Charlotte and Virginia Hilyard with her mother Shirley Hilyard.

in Basel: Lena Eriksson, Nicole Boillat, Chris Regn, Chris Hunter, Martina Henzi, Martina Gmür and Jim Osthaarchic.

in Berlin: Karla Sachse, Susanne Dobrovoda, Ann Noël, Gabriela Vasquez-Pacheco and Lea Mat- tenklotz.

in London: Nilofar Akmut, Liliana Constantin, Stefano Boring, Anca Dimofte and Reiko Aoyagi

Spirit of Friendship

Artist groups discussed in the project: Gang of Five | Group of 10 | Salon Natasha | Hanoi Triad | Nhà Sàn | a lit- tle blah blah | Mogas Station | Infinity | Wonderful District | Zenei Gang of Five | The Propeller Group | HanoiLink | Sàn Art | OM | New Space Arts Foundation | Hanoi Doclab | Hanoi-Saigon Sculpture Group | Phụ Lục | Chaap Collective | Art Labor | Then Group | New Form | XEM | Sao La | Chaosdowntown

Artistic Directors: Wang Huangsheng, Hu Bin and Chen Xiaoyang

Curator: Biljana Ciric

Assistant Curators: Hu Chao and Claude Chan

Project Coordinator:Stephanie Sipei Lu

Visual Design: Yang Liu and Toby Tam

Exhibition Production: Li Tiejun, He Quan and Huang Xingbiao

Public Programme: Wang Xiuyuan, Liu Ziyuan,Yu Shuang and Yang Liu

Exhibition Assistants: Yuer Zhang, Zhaohong Chen, Winnie Wen, Alex Zhao, Zhuopeng Jiang,Guorong Jian

Womanifesto open day

SOF-Group Photo

       This curatorial proposition doesn’t look at Southeast Asia as a region, but instead looks at the core of its connections, and the relationships that formed and informed the art scene in certain local contexts.

It focuses on the relationality and importance of proximity within the art itself, taking it as a part of life and not allowing it to turn into ‘the system’. It aims to look at the emergence of the voices that shape thinking and acting within situated contexts.

        It is curatorial exploration that has been deeply embedded in my own individual research experi- ence and friendships over the decades, which I have spent walking through the region, learning and listening. With no institutional infrastructure and support, friendships created a space for re- search, for conversation and for active listening.

        This exploration intends to re-think and propose how we think and act in relation to the production of knowledge through exhibitions in times of pandemic and separation. It proposes to spend time and revisit important exhibitions through repetition. And here I define repetition not as a passive act, but as an active position that gives birth to the new.

The system of art has been created through the prism of competition and visibility, giving pressure to constantly produce something new. This curatorial strategy proposes to re-visit public moments that became relevant in local contexts. These propositions are shared as a process to unlearn our mode of working and being in the world, based on the extractivist logic that is practiced when doing exhibitions.

It is a curatorial attempt towards practicing care from a distance, and finding ways to embody those experiences in times of ideological and physical separation.

The core of the first part of the project restages and revisits, through repetition, important exhibitions/events that have happened throughout the region, producing important reflections on how the art community functions and what its core values are. Repetition will give us the possibility to re-think, look again and read again these moments – unpacking their relevance within the current time. Repetition also gives us the possibility to learn about the situated local context that the trien- nial aims to reach, engaging local actors who actively produce knowledge, and grow care-provid- ing support for their communities.

Through repetition, I as a curator propose to practice care for deep listening and knowing the sub- ject, in order to find ways of engaging with him/her on a deeper level, rather than them simply describing it. It allows access to knowledge that is not ours, and we learn to appreciate it and ac- knowledge its urgencies.

Repetition as a gesture towards deep listening will be presenting two projects, along with their methodologies of working with two communities. Firstly, Womanifesto: an international women’s art event established in Thailand in 1995 by a group of female artists. Secondly, Spirit of Friendship: an ongoing research project and exhibition organized by The Factory Contemporary Arts Centre (initially Zoe Butt, Bill Nguyen and Le Thien Bao and now with additional contribu- tions from Van Do and Le Thuan Uyen), which has been looking at the role of artists’ friendships in developing experimental practices in Vietnam since 1975.

Womanifesto 2020 Gatherings

Womanifesto’s presentation explores past and present through , but it also focuses on the current re-activization during the pandemic. The presentation within Repetition in March will present two parts of Womanifesto’s archive, composed of publications/albums and video documentaries, as well as ongoing activities initiated in 2020/21 during lockdowns by members of Womanifesto and their local communities. Gatherings are happening in six different locations: Nitaya Uearee- worakul in Udon Thani, on her farm; Phaptawan Suwannakudt in Sydney; Varsha Nair in Baroda; Lena Eriksson in Basel; Karla Sachse in Berlin; Nilofar Akmut in London. Each artist acts as a host and gathers 2 to 5 artists in their place in their studio, house or online – depending on social distancing measures. The gatherings during the pandemic pertain to the importance of proximity and physical presence, and they continue to expand the importance of relationality during times of separation. As each group is in a different stage of lockdown and gathering, their existence will be acknowledged through the exhibition, and some places will present works and stories created dur- ing these gatherings.

While the outcome of the current gathering will be presented in March, the full version will be presented within the final triennial exhibition at the end of 2021.

Spirit of Friendship

The Spirit of Friendship was presented for the first time in 2017 by The Factory Contemporary Arts Centre in Vietnam.

The project proposes to think about the exhibition as an introduction, as an educational display. It gives recognition to how ‘friendship’ continues to further the testing and encouraging of ideas among artists, beyond what was officially understood, taught, or predominantly exhibited in Viet- nam at that time, believing their art worthy of more than catering to ideological/formal and touris- tic (commercial) demand.

“This exhibition’s chronology will chart from 1975 until the present-day, where evidence – such as quoted testimonial, documentary photographs and videos, exhibition catalogs and artwork  from a few of the artist groups themselves – will illustrate the rise of experimental artistic activity across the country.

From the utilization of domestic living rooms, to the re-appropriation of traditional architecture; from public activation of artist studio space to the bar-cum-studio; from the hostel as art host to the occupation of diplomatic zone as site of artistic production – what we observe in this land- scape is an entrepreneurial flair for strategic survival as artists strive to be heard in a context great- ly underestimating their role in society. Curatorial focus inside this exhibition will share how artists study the lives of artists before them, as a means of learning, and paying homage to their legacy; while also highlighting the practices of particular artist groups – Salon Natasha, Nha    San, Group of 10 and San Art – for their facilitation of differing means and modes of making, thinking, talking and disseminating artistic ideas, thus influencing their community’s capacity to participate and understand the experience of art as a conduit with which to grapple differing per- ceptions of contemporary life.” (Excerpt from curatorial statement by Zoe Butt, Bill Nguyen and Le Thien Bao, 2017)

The above-mentioned artists variously live and struggle with making their art publicly accessible, often resorting to making their domestic spaces open to a general public, or temporarily taking over the public places, that are similarly found in many local contexts, such as in China during the 80s and 90s before the dissemination of ideas had been filtered through the standardization of art.

The Spirit of Friendship ongoing project tellingly unpacks a public sphere that, during the condi- tions of a global pandemic (its social limits and official restrictions), are pertinent reminders of what the role of an artist can be.

This re-presentation of ‘Spirit of Friendship’ will precede an in-depth presentation of artist, curator and educator Tran Luong in the final stage of this triennial at the end of 2021.

Each project’s physical presentation has been carefully developed with collaborators. Physical presentations highlight the proximity, tactility and importance of being able to engage with actual objects in a more direct way, challenging museological displays and protective measures usually imposed, but also creating the possibility to think about how we can continue to be intimate in the new world unfolding in front of us.

Each project will be followed by public program structures around these public moments.

note: The concept of deep listening has been inspired by Aboriginal people’s practice of deep listening, an almost spiritual skill, based on respect. Listening here suggests inner deep listening and quiet still awareness.

The Guangdong-based GAFA Art Museum commits itself to the cultural and art research spanning from the Pearl River Delta and Southern China to Southeast Asia and beyond, with the Trans - SEAsia Triennial series as a research platform. Missioned to bolster the communication in art and thinking in Trans-Southeast Asia with an open curatorial perspective and new art museum practice, this triennial shall support cultural self-knowledge, understanding and innovation within the region via unconventional exhibitions, discussions, archive building, publication and other public programs.The theme of the First Trans-SEAsian Triennial is “Durian · Durian”.

Throughout the duration of the Triennial, a series of exhibitions, workshops and other public events will be staged across multiple online and offline sites, as a result of long-term research and site-specific collaborations facilitated by the Triennial. At a later stage of the Triennial, all work will be revisited and reconstructed in the museum site to form new ways of conversations and dissemination, through a gathering exhibition.

© Art Museum of Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts