Wed, Oct 10, 2018 - Page 13 News List

What can an Asian biennial do?

The Kuandu Biennial asks questions about Asia and the potential of its contemporary art

By David Frazier  /  Contributing reporter

After one skirmish, for example, a defeated gang bemoans, “They have turned another proletariat! They made him a foreman, then he put down a union strike and bought a television on credit!”

“Woody Allen did something similar with What’s Up, Tiger Lily? (1966),” said Vienet, interviewed at the exhibition opening, “but I think it is the first film completely done this way,”

“I wanted to make a film, but I didn’t have any money,” Vienet said. “So I bought the film rights from a Hong Kong company for US$1,000 and simply changed the dialogue. It was just 400 lines of text. It only took me two days and it was finished.”

Now 45 years after its release, the film still views as a wonderful, absurdist comedy.

But what does all of this say about Asia and its contemporary art paradigms? The answer seems to point towards emphasizing cultural identities, which is to say, a key approach in this exhibition is about working through tangled histories in order to discover what sorts of local identities can function in a globalist context. Hardly incidentally, this is one of the most significant themes of recent decades in Asian contemporary art, including works of individual artists and large, critically oriented exhibitions throughout the region, including several biennials. At its core, the question perhaps boils down to this: How can we participate in a global system and still maintain a local cultural identity? For the international critics of the TFAM conference, this problem may seem a bit pedestrian, but Asia still has much history to come to terms with, and this is one way to start.

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