Asia Art Archive hosts three exhibitions that explore art periodicals in Asia as tools for criticism, historical research, travel writing, and fiction. Conceived by AAA team members, these presentations are part of the public programmes leading up to It Begins with a Story: Artists, Writers, and Periodicals in Asia, the symposium organised by Asia Art Archive in collaboration with The University of Hong Kong, 11–13 January 2018.
Li Xianting’s Contribution to Art Journals in China (1978–2001)
Anthony Yung with Guo Hongwei
This presentation is an investigation into Li Xianting’s practice as an editor and a writer working for Meishu, Fine Arts in China, and Next Wave—newspapers and magazines he was involved with for over two decades. Li began his career in art as an editor of Meishu magazine in 1978. As the youngest member of the editorial team, he was committed to reporting on topics that represented the profound changes that art was undergoing during the post-Cultural Revolution era. The issues and events he covered included calling for a reconsideration of the artistic concept of realism, the re-emergence of abstract art, and the first unofficial exhibitions organised by artists since the end of Cultural Revolution, such as New Spring Exhibition, The Stars Exhibition, and Twelve Men Painting Exhibition. In 1985, Li joined the weekly newspaper Fine Arts in China (Zhongguo Meishubao), where he focused on the most cutting-edge art practices and debates of the time, making the newspaper the most dynamic platform for exchange in the discussion of experimental art in China in the 1980s.
In 2001, Li became the founding editor of Next Wave—an arts and culture magazine focusing on installation, performance and video art, independent film, rock music, sound art, and dance. Here he initiated an “Archives” section to re-examine exhibitions of the late 1970s; these pieces achieved what he had hoped to do at Meishu, where he had encountered many obstacles. Produced in collaboration with artist Guo Hongwei, this exhibition features newly annotated and translated archival materials, and explores how periodicals can be used as a platform for critical debates and historical research.
Anthony Yung is Researcher at Asia Art Archive, specialising in China-related research projects. Guo Hongwei is a Beijing-based artist who explores painting as a form of collecting in his works.
Somewhere Along the Line
Karthik K. G. in collaboration with Sneha Ragavan
Somewhere Along the Line presents an assemblage of objects, images, and text, organised along four conceptual themes related to travel and movement. The project begins with an investigation into the various kinds of writings on travel and identifies four broad lines of movement: one-directional outward movements, repeated forced movements, movements inward, and meandering movements. These four types of movement correspond with four abstracted line forms, and are presented along with a set of four corresponding objects and select citations. The display explores how creative and intellectual milieus are formed and enabled by mobility—of people, objects, and ideas.
The oriented line, characterised by writings about movements outwards, is represented here through an installation that restages the Great Indian Rope Trick of the nineteenth century. Recursive lines, marked by texts that discuss the repetitive nature of forced migrations, are suggested here through recursive code poetry and a maze-like stepwell. In contrast to these outward movements, the meditative line gazes inwards, towards tradition and a labyrinthinet expedition to the interiors of a land. The meandering and circuitous wayfaring line concerns itself more with the journey than the destination. These threads emerge out of AAA’s forthcoming Dossier Three, a collection of artists’ writings on travel from twentieth century South Asia, which engages with journeys outward and inward, places familiar and strange, and across thresholds of public and private.
Karthik K. G. is a New Delhi-based artist and researcher whose practice is driven by his deep interest in abstractions, questions of technology, and their implications on our everyday lives. Sneha Ragavan is Researcher at Asia Art Archive, based in New Delhi.
Fantasy of a Dialogue
Nicole Yuen Lai with work by Au Sow-Yee
Fantasy of a Dialogue takes as its point of departure a moment during which art periodicals in Asia embraced the dialogue form to advance discussion on art in the region. This inquiry focuses on three works published respectively in Vrishchik (India), The Trend of Art Thought (China), and sentAp! (Malaysia). A 1970 issue of Vrishchik presents a conversation between a painter and an art critic about strategies to compete in the world market; a 1986 issue of The Trend of Art Thought features a fictional encounter between artist Henry Moore and a Chinese chef; and a 2006 issue of SentAp! includes an artist and professor’s autobiographical script on modern art history in Malaysia. These texts experiment with narrative structures, providing a stage for myths, memories, facts, and fictions. The display investigates how these dialogues reveal new ways of interpreting art historical contexts across multiple geographies while negotiating the relationship between self and other.
The exhibition consists of two parts. The first, a commissioned work by artist Au Sow-Yee, features an archive of an imaginary secret agent, scientist, and artist inspired in part by the American silk tycoon Jim Thompson, who disappeared under mysterious circumstances while in Malaysia in 1967. The second, a series of photographs from AAA Collection and other sources, traces the sites imagined within the dialogues.
Nicole Yuen Lai is Collection Coordinator at Asia Art Archive. Au Sow Yee is a Taipei-based Malaysian artist who explores cultural subjectivities in Malaysia and transfiguration in historical fictions.