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LASALLE College of the Arts holds Singapore’s first contemporary Asian art histories conference

LASALLE College of the Arts will be hosting leading artists and academics in modern Asian art from 3 to 5 December 2018 at Singapore’s first major international conference on Southeast Asian Contemporary art histories. Art and Action: Contemporary Art and Discourse in Southeast Asia.

Co-convened by Jeffrey Say, Programme Leader, MA Asian Art Histories, and adjunct lecturer Iola Lenzi, the conference aims to advance art historical debates and will discuss the development of art practices in Southeast Asia over the last 50 years.

Highlights include an artists’ panel with prominent Southeast Asian artists such as Dr S. Chandrasekaran (Singapore), Arahmaiani (Indonesia), Yee I-Lann (Malaysia), and Imelda Cajipe-Endaya (Philippines). There will also be a Comics panel where Eisner Award-winning comic artist Sonny Liew, author of The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye, will be speaking about his practice.

Organised by the MA Asian Art Histories Programme at LASALLE – the first taught Masters programme in the world to focus on Asian modern and contemporary art histories – the conference coincides with the Programme’s 10th year in 2019 and is complemented by two specially curated exhibitions, Moving Pledges, curated by Lenzi, and Dissolving margins, curated by LASALLE’s Melanie Pocock. Both contemplate the role of contemporary art in society, and are on at LASALLE’s Institute of Contemporary Arts Singapore.

“This conference represents the Programme’s goal of building discourse in the relatively new field of Southeast Asian contemporary art, and to discuss themes and issues that are current in the field. What makes this conference unique is that it will be accompanied by a specially curated exhibition on Southeast Asian contemporary art to be held at LASALLE’s Institute of Contemporary Arts Singapore. Prior to attending this conference, I recommend that delegates head to the Moving Pledges and Dissolving margins exhibitions to understand the artistic practices and the theoretical articulations of Southeast Asian art,” said Say.

“Response to the conference has been overwhelming. Our open call for papers attracted interest from all over the world, with the art of nine Southeast Asian countries being represented among the different panels. This shows not only that the time is right for Southeast Asian art to come into its own as a substantial area of study, but that Singapore and LASALLE are recognised as thought leaders in the field,” said Dr S. Chandrasekaran, Head, McNally School of Fine Arts, LASALLE College of the Arts.

Art and Action will bring together leading international scholars on contemporary art discourse, including Professor Terry Smith, Andrew W. Mellon Professor of Contemporary Art History and Theory at the University of Pittsburgh, Professor John Clark, Professor Emeritus at The University of Sydney and leading scholar of Asian modern art, and Marian Pastor Roces, independent curator and social critic who works from a Cultural Studies background to describe structures of power. Lecturer Gilles Massot from LASALLE’s

McNally School of Fine Arts will also be presenting at the conference, along with alumni from the MA Asian Art Histories Programme.

The conference programme is structured around six thematic panels that address specific issues and discourses arising from the particularities of Southeast Asian artistic practice. By connecting visual practices through empirical observation and contextual understanding (involving a grasp of regional peoples, politics, histories, and cultures), each panel represents a different vantage point from which to advance knowledge and the writing of recent art histories.

Old Codes New Meanings: Aspects of tradition in contemporary Southeast Asian art

The interrogation of the tradition/modern binary has remained a consistent preoccupation of the field, as underscored by Apinan Poshyananda’s 1996 exhibition Contemporary Art in Asia: Traditions/Tensions. This highlights that modernity and tradition are not antithetical in Southeast Asia. Drawing from these ideas, this panel re-examines the relevance of tradition to the study of Southeast Asian contemporary art.

During the period of nation-building, tradition was often integrated into art as a positive emblem of national identity. Given the relationship between artistic practices and social realities, how can we evaluate contemporary artists’ critical engagement with aspects of tradition, particularly when the latter have been exploited to represent nationalist ideologies?

‘Stealing’ Public Space: How Southeast Asian contemporary art engages with the city

In modernising Southeast Asia, the city has been represented either as an embodiment of progress, prosperity, and pluralism, or as a locus of moral decadence and social inequality, opposed to rural self-sufficiency and cultural ‘authenticity.’ This panel’s papers examine the ways in which contemporary art critically engages with the city, and all it represents, as res publica.

Direct Dissemination: Comics and popular media as social practice in Southeast Asia

In Southeast Asian cultures, images, gestures, narratives and audience participation are frequently conflated into a single expressive genre. Extending from the panel Public Space and Social Interventions, this session addresses a lacuna in regional art histories which have yet to analyse the significance of mass media forms as flexible creative expressions that include both visual and textual elements.

Word-play as Clue and Cue: The place of text in contemporary Southeast Asian art

In recent decades, text has appeared as a recurring component of regional art practice. In such works, locality is registered using words or characters as decorative devices, the deployment of text within the image as a counterpoint or expansion of pictorial narrative, or the use of writing to invite audience involvement. This panel’s papers explore usages and forms of textual integration in visual practices.

Not Lagging, sometimes Leading: Tracing the implications of technological parity

There is no doubt that modern art in Southeast Asia owes a debt to centuries of European representational painting. However, such a lag does not apply to photography, video and film, since these mediums were adopted in several Southeast Asian centres not long after their popularisation in Euramerica. Extending John Clark’s theory of the decentred modern, this panel’s papers explore works produced with visual technologies, including film, video, and photography.

Daring Canon: Assessing art historical narratives of Southeast Asian contemporary art

In this “Asian Century”, historiographies of twentieth-century Asian art still contend with the problematic dominance of the Euramerican canon. If one subscribes to contemporary art being informed by context, is it legitimate to look explicitly at Southeast Asian practice to discern shared formal, conceptual, and processual traits across the region?  Papers presented in this panel examine canon-making in Southeast Asia from a range of perspectives.