TAIPEI FINE ARTS MUSEUM (TFAM) / Benesse Art Site Naoshima / Museum of Modern Art in Kamakura
quarterly • July 2013 • www.cocain.pl • edition 500 copies • ISSN 2299-6893
TABLE OF CONTENTS Preface Paweł Łubowski A LONG JOURNEY ....................................................................................................................3 Resident Mateusz Maria Bieczyński TAIPEI FINE ARTS MUSEUM (TFAM) ...................................................................................4 Mateusz Maria Bieczyński ART MUST SPEAK WITH MANY VOICES ..........................................................................12 Mateusz Maria Bieczyński GROUP ENERGY ....................................................................................................................20 Controversies Esther Lu A CURATORIAL POSTSCRIPT TO “THIS IS NOT A TAIWAN PAVILION” ...................26 Interviews Mateusz Maria Bieczyński WAITING FOR THE TYPHOON IN THE ARTS? ...............................................................34 Territories of art Agnieszka Mori BENESSE ART SITE NAOSHIMA .........................................................................................38 Tadeusz Sawa-Borysławski THREE STEPS TOWARD MINIMALISM ............................................................................48 Art archive Marta Smolińska RENÉ BLOCK: CURATOR EXTRAORDINAIRE AND A RELENTLESS EXPLORER ........................................................................................52 Shinya Watanabe THE MUSEUM OF MODERN ART, KAMAKURA .............................................................58 Comments Krzysztof Stanisławski CONTEMPORARY ART IN THE “COUNTRY WITHOUT A GALLERY”, THAT IS BELARUS .................................................................................................................62 Benjamin Fallon “GANGNAM STYLE” .................................................................................................................70 Jerzy Olek DEPENDENT ON WHAT THERE IS ...................................................................................72 Recommendations Tim Warrwick SEARCHING FOR EURASIA ..................................................................................................76 Cassandra Naji MAKE ART NOT WAR ...........................................................................................................78
A LONG JOURNEY Paweł Łubowski Nowadays, travelling to Asia poses no challenge. The flight takes over ten hours. The Internet makes it possible for us to find ourselves there with a single click. Is this also true when it comes to reception of contemporary art from the Far East, whose understanding requires knowledge of culture, among us Europeans? This is a journey through a tradition different from ours, conditioned by specific history, and spirituality so unlike ours. Getting to know them takes decidedly more time. Unfortunately, Europocentric as we are, we tend to ignore this fact and see the mere surface of the accomplishment of these excellent cultures… The current issue of our magazine is dedicated to selected institutions presenting contemporary Asian art. The special guest of this issue of “CoCAin” is the Fine Arts Museum in Taipei. Interviews with its director Huang Hai-Ming and the director of the Biennale will familiarize our readers with the history, achievements as well as problems of the most important institution in Taiwan. Esther Lu talks about the appalling decision to exclude the
Taiwanese Pavilion from the tradition of staging national pavilions at the Venice Biennale forced by the People’s Republic of China. A tradition that was meant to facilitate free and unhindered cultural exchange between nations. This event provoked a discussion on national identity and constitutes the subject matter of the current exposition at the Taiwanese Pavilion at the 55th Venice Biennale… We also present other aspects of the Taipei art scene, for instance the Taipei Contemporary Art Center association, which acts against institutionalization of art. In this issue, you can read about the problem of private museums in South Korea as well as about one of the first museums of modern art in the world, Kamakura in Japan and the centre of contemporary art Benesse Art Site Naoshima situated on the islands in the Japanese Seto Inland Sea. To complement this, there are articles discussing our European problems, providing background and context to the achievement of Asian institutions presented in “CoCAin”. Have a great read.
TAIPEI FINE ARTS MUSEUM (TFAM) Mateusz Maria Bieczyński
TFAM. This abbreviation stands for the Taipei Fine Arts Museum. A cultural institution based in the capital of Taiwan, established by the central government in 1976. The reason behind its foundation was the necessity to redefine and to enrich cultural life in this island state; TFAM was the first museum in Taiwan dedicated to contemporary art. In order to provide a profile of the institution, the historical context of its inauguration and activity, the architectural form, programme guidelines as well as the most important projects carried out at the museum need to be taken into consideration. The History of the Institution The erection of a new seat was commenced in October 1980 and completed in January 1983. Marta Su of the National Palace Museum was appointed head of the museum’s Preparatory Office. Taipei Fine Arts Museum (TFAM) was officially inaugurated on 8 August and the first exhibition opened on 24 December 1983. Dr Huang Kuang-Nan was installed as the director of the institution (6 September 1986) and held the position until his appointment as director of the National Museum of History on 27 February 1995. His successors as TFAM director include Chang Chen-Yu (1995-1996), Liu Pao-Kuei (1996), Lin Mun-Lee (2000), Huang Tsai-Lang (20002007), Hsieh Hsiao-Yun (Jean Wang, 2007-2010), Chen Wen-Ling (March-September 2010), Wu Kwang-Tyng (2010-2011), Weng Chih-Tsung (2011-2012), and since 2 July 2012 Hai-Ming Huang. Over the years, the museum has been appraised in a variety of ways. TFAM has a rather intriguing and complex history of institutional interactions with the local art scene. In 1986, Su Rui-ping had to resign after she had had an installation by the artist Zhang Jianfu removed from an exhibition; besides that, a red metal sculpture by Li Zai-qian, entitled Unlimited Minimalism, had been repainted in silver. In 1988, performance artist Lee Mingsheng was beaten up by museum guards when he brought a glass filled with his own faeces and presented it during a public discussion held on the occasion of the World of Dada exhibition that featured Duchamp’s famous urinal. It was perhaps as compensation for moral damages that Lee became the first Taiwanese artist to participate in the Venice Biennale in 1993. In 1995, the newly appointed director Chang ChenYu was forced to resign following a several-monthlong protest against the way he ran the institution and used museum funds. Previous heads of the institution were mostly accused of giving too little prominence to Taiwanese art in the programme of the museum. This slightly changed at the turn of the millennium when the increased professionalism of the local art scene led to a softening of the opposition between the institution and local artists.
A building of Taipei Fine Arts Museum, architect: Kao Er-Pan, Exterior shot. Photo: Archive of TFAM
The museum kept developing and eventually gained the position which it enjoys today. Scandals and upheavals did not cease to happen, but they were no longer as consequential as the previous ones. For instance, director Hsieh HsaioYun was accused by her successor of neglecting the educational mission of the museum and inviting international exhibition blockbusters with the intention of boosting her own prestige. Wu Kwang-Tyng also claimed that the museum eluded administrative procedures, not only causing financial loss but also ruining its reputation.1 The lack of consistency in the management of the institution and too many concessions to the city rather than to art were also animadverted on. In 2009-11, the museum came under fierce criticism. Commenting on the problems of TFAM, Fumio Nanjo, the director of the Mori Art Museum and curator of the Taipei Art Biennial, said that a new model should be developed for Asian institutions. Very diplomatically, he expressed hope that “one day policy makers would realize that short-term gain can cause long-term harm and that there are no shortcuts in cultivating cultural assets”.2 Art Radar Asia - Taipei Fine Arts Museum director appointed after 2 years of controversy, http://artradarjournal.com/2012/07/04/taipei-fine-arts-museumdirector-appointed-after-2-years-of-controversy/ 2 L. Shao, Research Log. Turbulence in Cultural Affairs, http://www. aaa.org.hk/Diaaalogue/Details/1071#5, retrieved on 6 Feb. 2013.
It appears that these problems have been successfully overcome. The current director of the institution, Hai-Ming Huang, with a PhD in Aesthetics, Science and Technology of the Arts from the University of Paris VIII, has been curating since the early 1990s. Before accepting this position, he was the director of the Department of Cultural Creative Industries, National Taipei University of Education. He worked as a director of the Association of Culture Environment Reform Taiwan and curated several large-scale public art installations. Huang founded and co-curated the first edition of the Taiwan Avant-Garde Documenta in 2000. Extensive experience and awareness of the problems of contemporary art on an international scale, as well as a broader perspective resulting from his excellent education received abroad, make Huang the best person to stabilize the condition of the museum and guarantee consistency of its future development. It should also be stressed that the positive achievements of the institution considerably outweigh the above mentioned internal upheavals. Moments of weakness failed to strain the strong position of the Taipei museum. The architectural form of the institution is also worth attention.
The Seat of the Institution The construction plan for the museum was approved in 1978. It was to be located in the Guan Shan Second Municipal Park in Zhong Shan N. Road,
Interior shot. Photo: Archive of TFAM
Interior shot, TFAM Library, B2. Photo: Archive of TFAM
Section 3. The architect Kao Er-Pan was chosen to supervise the design process and construction. The building project was a creative and symbolic one. An atypical and slightly futurist plan with a traditional atrium, or courtyard. Associations with traditional Chinese architecture were repeatedly emphasized in descriptions of the building. The entire structure relies on a visually interesting combination of corridors situated one above the other or intertwining. The form of a tube makes the plan of the building similar to the Chinese pictogram which signifies a fountain. This is a metaphor suggesting that the museum is a source of vital culture. Each floor offers symmetrical and vast gallery spaces, mutually pervading and open to the outside, and particularly to the neighbouring park, owing to their glass walls. In the literature on the architecture of TFAM, there are recurrent suggestions that the structure is another local adaptation of the Japanese Metabolist Movement in Architecture. Similarities between the movement and the Taipei building include planning with panache, geometrical plasticity of form and the illusion of organic growth resulting from additivity as regards the elements of composition. The building rises up visually as multi-storey corridors overlap. It would indeed be possible to find common features shared by TFAM and selected structures designed by Japanese architects, members of the movement. Located in the Shimbashi district of Tokyo, the
Nakagin Capsule Tower designed by Kisho Kurokawa is one example. Erected in 1972, it became a peculiar symbol of the rebirth of Japanese architecture in the postwar period. The two buildings are similar in that their structures are inhomogeneous, made of an assimilation of distinct shapes. The Programme of the Institution TFAM was the first museum of contemporary art on Formosa and, initially, it was chiefly dedicated to Taiwanese artists. As a consequence, in 1984-90 the Biennial exhibition Trends of Modern Art in the R.O.C. was the main feature of the programme. It displayed works by local artists with Republic of China (Taiwan) passports. The event constituted the first ever national art contest, transformed in 1992 into the Taipei Biennial and the Taipei Prize. The former propagated the idea of curatorial invitations extended to mature and recognized artists, while the latter offered young and unknown creators an opportunity to compete with others. Apart from the promotion of Taiwanese art, international exchange was another preliminarily formulated aim of the institution. The museum hosts many international shows, frequently sponsored by foreign institutions, such as the British Institute or the Goethe Institut. The first exhibition organized by TFAM and presented abroad was Message from Taipei, which was staged in Japan in 1989. Showed in Germany in 1996 and 1997, the
exposition Taiwan: Kunst Heute was the export project that achieved the greatest impact. It was housed by Museum Ludwig in Aachen as well as by the Haus der Kulturen der Welt in Berlin. Since the mid-1990s, the TFAM mission has been gradually evolving. The promotion of Taiwanese identity in contemporary art became a priority, particularly by the most spectacular enterprises, including the Taiwanese Pavilion at the Venice Biennale and the transformation of the Taipei Biennial into an international event. The largest exhibition staged during this period, the 1996 edition of the Biennial, was entitled The Quest of Identity. Works by 110 artists were presented on every floor of the building. Regularly mounted exhibitions by foreign artists belonged to the most significant events that took place in the museum in the first decade of the 21st century. The institution offered a balanced selection of expositions reviewing Pacific art (Currents in Korean Contemporary Art (2000), Spreading Realism – Oil Painting from China Mainland Since 1978 (2006) or The Color of Nature, Monochrome Art in Korea: Collections from the Busan Museum of Art (2010)) and western art (Spanish Tapestry: Contemporary Art from Spain (2000), Taiwanese Treasures: Western Art from Private Collections (2001), Contemporary Art from Central American Isthmus (2002), Slovak Contemporary Graphic Art (2007) and The New Italian Art Scene (2007) amongst others). Expositions displaying private and museum collections also played a prominent role in the TFAM programme (e.g. New Media Collection 1965-2005 Centre Pompidou (2006), The Story of Shanghai: Selections from the Shanghai Art Museum Collection (2009), Manet to Picasso: Masterpieces from the Philadelphia Museum of Art (2010)). Many individual exhibitions were organized, for example by artists related to Chinese-speaking culture, such as Cheng I-Hsien (2000), Lin Wei-Min (2000) and Chen Chi-Kwan (2003) or from Japan, e.g. Satoshi Hasagawa (2000). Internationally recognized artists, including Tracy Moffat (2000), Vivienne Westwood (2005), Paul Gaugain (2010) or Ai WeiWei (2011-2012), were also featured at TFAM. Those events were interwoven with attempts at contextualization of the local history of art, such as Contemporary Taiwanese Art in the Era of Contention (2004), Figurative Painting in Taiwan (2005), Surrealist Art Taiwan (2007) and Eye of the Times – Centennial Images of Taiwan (2011), to name but a few. Annual reports on the activities of the institution are available at the museum website, giving details regarding its history and programmes of events in particular years. They constitute a very interesting and valuable source of information. Undoubtedly, the history of the museum is an inseparable part of cultural life on the island. An excellent chronology can be found in G. Minglu’s monograph Inside Out:
New Chinese Art.3 The fact that it was the first art institution resulted in the central role it has always occupied.4 TFAM animates cultural life on Taiwan. Taipei Art Biennial Inaugurated in 1996, the Taipei Biennial soon turned into an international event. As soon as 1998, Fumio Nanjo, the director of the Mori Museum in Tokyo, became its curator. Felix Schoeber rightly observed that “the Taipei Biennial since then has aimed to become one of the leading contemporary events in Asia, adopting a strong theme and inviting numerous famous Asian and western artists”.5 The idea for consecutive editions was to appoint an internationally renowned curator who would then choose a local collaborator. In 2000, Jerome Sans, a curator of French origin, was invited; he decided to cooperate with Mobray Hsu from Taiwan. The next edition, entitled Do You Believe in Reality?, was prepared by the Belgian curator Barbara Vanderlinden and Amy Huei-hua Cheng from the island state. The 2006 curatorial couple included the American Dan Cameron and Jun-jieh Wang. In 2008, the sixth edition was organized by Manray Hsu, based in Taiwan and Berlin, and Vasif Kortun from Turkey. Prepared by Hongjohn Lin and Tirdad Zolghadr, the last jointly curated Biennial took place in 2010. Unfortunately, the event is not always willingly accepted by the local art scene, which seems unprepared to comprehend the importance of such a prestigious event. The problem is more complex than it is usually suggested in the literature. From an outside perspective, tension appears to result from the readiness to protect traditional values of Taiwanese culture against being absorbed by “modern China”, which floods the island with its products in a most expansive way. These products are an expression of a simplified image of Chinese tradition and culture. This is reinforced by processes related to technological revolution, which naturally leads to social changes.6 Regardless of those problems, TFAM consistently maintains the status of an open institution, involved in international cooperation and offering the residents of the island a chance to participate in cultural events that go far beyond the local context. This is confirmed by the exciting schedule and the panache of the 2012 edition of the Biennial curated by Anselm Franke from Germany. G. Minglu (ed.), Inside Out: New Chinese Art, San Francisco 199, pp. 203-207. 4 Cf. J. C. Kuo, Art and Cultural Politics in Postwar Taiwan, CDL Press 2000. 5 F. Schoeber, Re-writing art in Taiwan: secularism, universalism, globalization, or modernity and the aesthetic object, [in:] F. Shih (ed.), Re-writing Culture in Taiwan, Routledge New York 2009, p. 169. 6 Y. Kikuchi, Refracted Visual Culture and Identity in Colonial Taiwan Modernity, University Hawaii Press 2007. 3
Exterior shot, right side view, day shot. Photo: Archive of TFAM
Exterior shot, right side view, night shot. Photo: Archive of TFAM
His curatorial concept was based on the ancient Chinese legend about a monster called Taowu, which served as a sort of archetype or a cultural motif. In his book The Monster that is History, the historian of literature David Wei Wang argues that Taowu is a symbol of the concept of history in Chinese culture. His ability to foresee the future and to frustrate human efforts gives the monster control over history. Human beings envy the monster as they also seek to gain power over the course of things, without avoiding brutality or violence. In addition, Taowu serves as a warning that the sense of holding power over reality is illusionary as reality keeps escaping human cognition. Following this line of thought, Anselm Franke formulates a more far-reaching concept that Taowu, wishing to seize absolute power, can be regarded as a general metaphor for violence and brutality performed in the name of enlightenment and rationalism, regardless of the historical period or specific culture. In the interpretation of the German curator, Taowu becomes a real “monster of history”. The exhibition features pieces displaying the monster or exposing the mechanisms governing Taowu. They attempt to diagnose modernity tormented by dialectic contradictions – rationalism and violence. The concept of the Biennial was based on the notion that the absurdity of a political system can be disarmed only with the help of a message which uses the phraseology the system relies upon. These assumptions explain why authoritarian systems are so apprehensive of art – it employs the same “irrational” methods of creating reality, and thus constitutes an alternative order. Art and International Politics Observing Taiwanese cultural life within the context of its relations with the People’s Republic of China, one receives the impression that tension is generated constantly. The question whether contemporary Chinese artists should be invited to exhibit on the island causes disagreement among the audience of the museum. But the reasons behind the tension are not always that straightforward. It can appear by accident, as happened during the exhibition Ai WeiWei Absent. It was the first individual show by this artist in the Chinese-speaking territories and was hosted by TFAM at the turn of 2011 and 2012. Art Radar Journal reported that “the most conspicuous element of the exhibition was what was not there: the artist himself”.7 The title had been chosen by Ai WeiWei In his programme statement accompanying the exhibition, the artist wrote “that the artist’s presence at an exhibition is not a necessity. An exhibition is a one-time event involving the presentation of artworks. Absence from an exhibition constitutes a sort of test. I believe that ethnically we are all Chinese. We share a cultural background and have similar problems in the context
long before the event took place, but it acquired new significance when he was apprehended and disappeared without a trace for 81 days. The lack of reaction on the part of the museum provoked fierce criticism from various art-related circles. As a result of critical comments pertaining to this passivity, the Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou visited the exhibition during his re-election campaign to demonstrate Taiwan’s involvement in the protection of artistic freedom and human rights. Apart from this controversy, the exhibition – especially considering the country in which it was held – had an important political impact on commentators of artistic affairs in Asia. This situation clearly demonstrates that there is a necessity of ceaseless mediations by the institution located in the capital of Taiwan, aimed at the avoidance of direct confrontation. One might ask – from the European perspective where political discourse is free or even intentionally provocative in most countries – whether the tactic of omitting or blurring the questions about the relations between the island and continental China is the right strategy. It seems that the local specificity of relations and inequality between the two states make “omitting” the only and, admittedly, an effective way out of permanent deadlock. This is a genuine geopolitical stalemate, rendering direct communication impossible. And this is what the discussed story of the Chinese dragon Taowu seems to be about. Taiwan Pavilion at “La Biennale” in Venice In 1995, TFAM was responsible for the task of organizing the Taiwanese Pavilion at the Venice Biennale.8 Since 1997, continental China was exerting pressure on Biennale organizers to forbid Taiwan from using the name “Republic of China”. Taiwan had its own pavilion until 2000, but in 2001 it was “degraded”. First, it was put on the list of institutional participations, and then included into the category of collateral events. The discussed processes seem to confirm the subject matter most often chosen by contemporary artists, that is, the search for identity. It takes on a variety of forms, which is perfectly reflected in the 2001 pavilion concept as well as the current project. Describing “national” teams from Taiwan in consecutive editions of the Venice Biennale in the 1990s, Felix Schoeber pointed out that the strategy developed by TFAM was very different from those of the present political situation. I don’t feel that my absence will affect the exhibition at all. If my absence has an effect on the exhibition, then it is necessary. Absence is the current state of my work and myself as well as part of my cultural conditioning. This status assigns special meaning to this exhibition.” 8 Cf. D. Clarke, Foreign Bodies: Chinese Art. At the 1995 Venice Biennale, [in:] same author’s, Art & Place. Essays on Art from a Hong Kong Perspective, Hong Kong University Press 1966, p. 250ff.
implemented in other pavilions. He insisted that, contrary to other competing countries, which presented works by the leading artists in a given period in order to achieve a massive impact, Taiwan “has never tried to present a single strong message that would make it stand out among other national pavilions; on the contrary, the pavilions, especially those of the 1990s, were characterized by a tendency to recreate a complex microcosm of Taiwanese identity within each show – not an easy task, considering how little space is available inside the second floor of the old prisons – the Prigioni – in Venice.”9 Mounted in the Taiwanese Pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 2011, the exhibition The Heard and Unheard focused on soundart. The main feature of the exhibition, sound is both a medium and a metaphoric platform of political activities. Because of these two ways of interpreting music – both at the level of content and aesthetic form – the exposition did not reveal the main cultural trend in contemporary Taiwanese society. Works by two artists, Hong-Kai Wong and Yu-Hsien Su, are displayed. The strategy of the former lies in exploration of the collective experience of listening and recording sounds in a given space of social work and production. The artist went to his home town of Huwei on Taiwan and invited old age pensioners who used to work in a local bakery to join him. They returned to a historical industrial space and recorded sounds in the place where they were once employed. In his installation Sounds of Nothing, Yu-Hsien Su also refers to the life of ordinary people. Invited participants were to create their own “music”, which was then compiled by the artist. The piece constitutes a subtle comment on the pluralistic society. Various voices intermingled, forming the music of a community. The exhibition was completed by an audiovisual installation and documentation presented in Sound Library / Bar, organized by the cultural critics TiehChih Chang and Jeph Lo within the framework of an architectural design by Kuo-Chang Liu. It shows historical changes in Taiwanese identity through the prism of social movements, beginning with the end of martial law in 1987. The curatorial concept contest for the Taiwanese Pavilion at the 2013 Venice Biennale was won by the curator Esther Lu. Working under the auspices of the Taipei Fine Arts Museum, the jury decided on 19 November 2012 that she will be supervising a team of artists including Hsu Chia-Wei from Taiwan, Bernd Behr of Taiwanese and German origins and Katerina Seda from the Czech Republic. For the first time ever, the island country will be represented by F. Schoeber, Re-writing art in Taiwan: secularism, universalism, globalization, or modernity and the aesthetic object, [in:] F. Shih (ed.), Re-writing Culture in Taiwan, Routledge New York 2009, p. 170.
foreign artists. According to the official statement issued by TFAM, the application submitted by Lu and her team was the best of six contestants. It was pointed out that “Lu’s project stands out because it reflects the tension between imagination and critical thinking in contemporary art”. The curator says that her idea relates to historical context and the present political and cultural situation of the Taiwanese Pavilion in Venice. She insists that “the works and narratives of curators and artists create a platform for exploring subjectification. The project views the pavilion as both an exhibition space and a concept evolving over time.” The project also takes the theme of this year’s edition, the Encyclopedic Palace, into consideration. This short characterization demonstrates that Taiwanese art revolves mostly around the issue of identity of the island country.10 Its close connections with the history of continental China as well as the separateness of the island are significant factors. The question of political and economic relations between the two countries and their effect on cultural life in a wider international context is prominent. Summary The search for a national identity characteristic of the work of contemporary Taiwanese artists may be seen as a natural point of departure for placing this article in a broader context. An attempt to define this identity in a larger context seems an excellent alternative for the binary relation between Taiwan and continental China. A readiness for engaging into dialogue with other countries in the region and raising the question of its identity is easily discernible in the activities undertaken at TFAM. Hopefully, a dialogue pertaining to these issues initiated in the realm of art and culture will positively affect the social and political life. Thus the Taipei Art Biennial can be regarded against the background of other cultural events in the AsiaPacific area, such as the Yokohama Triennale, the Biennale of Sydney, the Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art at the Queensland Art Gallery as well as the Singapore Biennale, as an interesting analytical perspective, which may be the guiding force of this quest thanks to its specific economic and political situation.11
Cf. extensive literature on this matter, including G. Schubert, J. Damm, Taiwanese Identity in the 21st Century: Domestic, Regional and Global Perspectives, Routledge 2011; J. Damm, P. Lim (ed.), European Perspectives on Taiwan, Brussels 2012; A. Heylen, S. Sommers, Becoming Taiwan: From Colonialism to Democracy, Otto Herassowitz Verlag 2010; G. M. Davison: A Short History of Taiwan. The Case for Independence, Westport 2003. 11 Cf. W. Hung, P. Vang, Contemporary Chinese Art. Primary Documents, Duke University Press New York 2010, p. 350. 10
ART MUST SPEAK WITH MANY VOICES Interview with Huang Hai-Ming, director of the Fine Arts Museum in Taipei Mateusz Maria Bieczyński
Mateusz Maria Bieczyński: You have recently been appointed as director of the Fine Arts Museum Taipei. What are your plans regarding the institution? Huang Hai-Ming: Obviously, TFAM was established a long time before I was appointed as its director and, consequently, its profile was defined before I could have any influence on it. This is the point of departure for my work. I believe that in a globalized world, where metropolises across the world compete with one another, institutions such as TFAM must take up new challenges. If a museum based in the capital wants to continue to play the leading role and hold an influential position in the cultural development of a country with two other major art institutions and several important regional centres, it seems only natural that there will be more or less conscious competition among them. This is a multifaceted situation; it can be said to be developing in many directions and at many different levels. Maintaining the high status, acquired by TFAM over the years, is a priority. We need to respond to contemporary challenges, and one of them is surely the competition from big cities, especially regarding such domains of cultural life as, for instance, design. Mateusz Maria Bieczyński: The Taipei museum appears to occupy a special role. Its activity seems
Director HUANG Hai-Ming. Photo: Archive of TFAM
Interiror shot, TFAM B2 gallery, work (the installation in the middle) by TSONG Pu, “In a Distant Snoring Sound”, Collection of Taipei Fine Arts Museum. Photo: Archive of TFAM
to be determined by a number of factors, including first of all its location in the capital of the state and the ensuing necessity to differentiate between “what is Chinese” and “what is Taiwanese”. The two elements are closely connected yet they can be in mutual opposition at times. How is the search for “Taiwanese identity” going to affect the programme of your museum? Huang Hai-Ming: As you have rightly observed, the strategies adopted by TFAM in response to identity influences differ slightly from those developed by institutions situated in other regions of Taiwan. Being based in the governing centre of the state, in the capital, requires a different approach than in the case of other institutions. But nationality is not the only category that matters to us; on the contrary – we pursue a policy of openness. Considering this, the contrariety that you’ve mentioned is not that sharp. It should not be regarded as opposition. We are the only such institution in the city; moreover, we are directly subordinated to the City Department of Culture and, as a museum based in the capital, we have to perform specific functions. Our programme has to encompass all artistic forms, including old, contemporary, national and foreign art, fine arts and design, etc. We are also
involved in international activities. This means that the questions of nationality and locality aren’t as eminent in our institution as in those situated in other parts of the country. If you asked the residents of this city about their identity, their answers would be more diverse than in other regions. As an institution, we have to meet the expectations of this audience. In a sense, the museum needs to reflect what they are. Taking all these factors into account, your question should be related to another kind of identity problem. I mean identity in a broader context, seen through the prism of the internationalization of the institution. Consequently, presentation of Chinese art is as important as presentation of art from any other part of the world. The international character of our institution has naturally influenced its programme. Before I was appointed as TFAM director, I’d closely observed the Taiwanese art world. I’d noticed that artists from Taiwan are no longer as focused on questions of locality as they used to be. They tend to explore the idea of contemporariness – what is it actually? What is their individual “here and now”? Of course, we may still come across artists who try to create more conservative pieces, representing a one-sided viewpoint. The tendency
A building of Taipei Fine Arts Museum, architect: Kao Er-Pan, Exterior shot, left side view. Photo: Archive of TFAM
to deal with subjects of nationality was quite typical of the 1990s. Contemporary artists tend to be preoccupied with the present. Therefore, many use modified elements of Chinese culture in their work. References to the tradition of continental China have recently become fairly popular. Mateusz Maria Bieczyński: Have you got any ideas about how to present Chinese art in your institution to match these modifications and the increased popularity of Chinese culture? Huang Hai-Ming: Chinese artists are an interesting choice for cultural institutions in Taiwan. The programme strategy in institutions such as ours, from the point of view of its director, cannot depend on where artworks come from. There is a much more important criterion: the profile of the institution and the question of whether the displayed art is interesting, or simply good. A museum has to have a unique character. I would like to find space for various aspects of contemporary art. The museum should constitute a platform where certain things can happen and certain interesting events can take place, also with the participation of Chinese artists.
I must add that the museum that I work for is directly subordinated to the Taipei City Cultural Department and it is our responsibility to keep the audience satisfied. At the same time, we have to stick to the strategy of cultural development adopted by the city. The extent of cultural exchange with continental China is determined by expert opinions on the work of artists whose pieces we would like to exhibit. We always ask the question: what kind of art do we want to promote? And it is only then that we ask where the artist comes from. On the other hand, TFAM is the oldest art institution in Taiwan and it has to do its duty to Taiwanese artists. In this regard, presenting Chinese art may be interpreted as facilitating international exchange. However, this is true not only about the People’s Republic of China. We do our best to participate in significant processes taking place in the region and to strengthen relations with our neighbours, Korea, Macao, Hong Kong and Japan. Without a doubt, Taiwan and China share a common tradition up to a point, but Taiwan has been cultivating international relations for a long time and its society has developed in a different fashion than people in continental China. Taiwan had a chance to grow individually. At the same time, all the countries in the
Interiror shot, 1F gallery. Work by HOU Chun-Ming, “Gods Searching”, Collection of Taipei Fine Arts Museum. Photo: Archive of TFAM
region were directly connected with China and its tradition. Their histories are different and the social and political conditions of life are very different as well. They have developed in their own unique ways. So, maintaining exchange with European countries is important, but staying in touch with other countries in the region, with which we share fragments of our history, is no less significant. Mateusz Maria Bieczyński: Is the museum cooperating with other cultural institutions in Taiwan in organizing exhibitions which are then presented worldwide? Huang Hai-Ming: There are many examples of our work with other local institutions or foreign cultural sectors based in Taiwan. However, these were mainly connected with loans or educational interests. As you might be aware, the museum has a long history of curating exhibitions in-house, to be presented outside the country. However, none of these have yet included work from our fellow institutions in Taiwan. The island may be small, but each of the cultural establishments here tends to be very diverse in terms of its goal and mission statement. It is exciting to see if collaboration across institutions could happen soon in the curatorial sense. Mateusz Maria Bieczyński: As a keen observer of artistic life in Taiwan, you must have been keeping track of what was happening at the museum that you’re directing now. What is your opinion of its activities before you came to work here and which events deserve special attention? Huang Hai-Ming: Let’s talk about the past then. I have been observing artistic life in Taiwan since at least the early 1990s. It was more or less in that period that the most important large-scale exhibitions were staged at this museum, in this building, in 1996 and 1998. The first one was called Taiwanese Art Subjectivity. The aim of that group exhibition was to recapitulate the main subjects raised by Taiwanese artists in the past. It was one of the first events organized at this institution that sparked off direct reaction from the audience in our country. It was the first time artists felt that they represented society. In 1998, the second edition of the Taipei Biennial took place. It was also its first international edition, curated by Fumio Nanjo from Japan, who is now director of the Tokio Mori Museum. His central idea was to search for identities of particular countries in the region within the context of a shared cultural source in the case of South Asian states. The notion that each Asian country actually has a
unique character, a specific cultural phenomenon, was extremely rare at that time. In this way, the museum became, in a sense, an active member of the international art world; it conceived and organized a large exhibition within the framework of such an important event as the Biennial. That destroyed the stereotypical image of a museum as a closed white box. As a result, it was no longer a place environed by its architectural setting. Complex problems which we must confront in a broader context were presented in a very simple fashion. I’d like to develop this sort of strategy in the museum. Mateusz Maria Bieczyński: Are there any other initiatives planned for the future, apart from the Biennial? Have you come up with any new ideas already? Huang Hai-Ming: You’re asking about specific actions that will be taken under my supervision. Before I answer your question, I must remind you that I’ve only been director of this place for a couple of months and I haven’t had enough time to give everything a thought. It is true, though, that I wouldn’t have accepted this position if I had had no vision in regard to this institution. So I can tell you about some ideas I have, based on my observations from the past, which constitute the framework of how I envision this institution. In the past, I was fortunate enough to witness major artistic events, including Documenta in Kassel as well as other international happenings. I noticed a new tendency for exhibitions to be staged in urban space, outside of the original space of the museum. Symbolically, we might call this a union between art and the public interest. It might be said that art seeks to determine its function in the public sphere to an increasing extent. This embracing of everyday life provides the point of departure for further reflection on the nature of an institution whose objective is to present art to the local audience and to the outside world. Even before I became director of the institution, I shared my opinions with the people working here. It was in 2000, during the Taipei Biennial. I was organizing a group exhibition at the Kuashan Cultural Park, located in the centre of the city. I invited artists from all over the country to cooperate in the development of a programme for a site where public meetings take place. I wanted to link various artistic communities with the centre of the country and to facilitate direct interaction between artists and the public (society). My intention was to make a show accumulating the creative energy of the whole country, at least in metaphoric terms. I wanted all regions to engage in a sort of dialogue within the framework of an event that offered an alternative to the Biennial, of which
Interiror shot, 2F gallery. Exhibition “Jewels of 25 years Museum Collection”, Photo: Archive of TFAM
it was part. Generally speaking, I first and foremost wish to come up with a programme featuring events that transcend the original and one-sided function of a contemporary art museum as an exhibition venue. We will not only host exhibitions of contemporary art in the traditional sense but also carry out projects situated at the crossroads of disciplines: architecture, design and fashion. Moreover, there is a rather vast space surrounding the museum waiting to be used. A spacious park behind the building and a forum in front of it. Every Sunday evening, people come to see performances and concerts, film projections and plays. All this takes place in front of the building; it’s open to everyone free of charge. These assumptions – openness and free access – determine the way we establish contact with the audience by providing a programme of alternative activities as opposed to traditional exhibitions. They are meant to create a platform for the exchange of various experiences as well as for public discussion. TFAM can also exemplify the tendency for museums to “accumulate” in one place, which is a new phenomenon in Taiwan but one well-known in the world. There are elements of an educational park in the immediate neighbourhood, with alternative spaces for artistic actions. We would like art to go out and become a significant part of people’s lives, to be more conspicuous as a fragment of reality. I believe that collaboration with other institutions in the city is also important. I hope that this cooperation
will be even closer in the future, that we will be able to intensify this exchange and collaboration. In my opinion, only large-scale cultural events can produce discernible effects in the field of encouraging social discourse on significant subjects. New energy tends to appear where various cultural activities meet, which – being intense – may be regarded as a new voice of society. This stance leads to one more important consequence. I do not want to appraise the institution only by the number of visitors. This is, of course, significant information and shows whether the institution is doing its best to meet the expectations of the public. But getting certain statistical data confirming its popularity cannot be the main goal of the museum. Balance must be maintained between proposing new subject matters for public discussion and fulfilling particular requirements. Plans to be implemented at TFAM under my supervision are partially based on the observation of Taiwanese society. It is very variegated and highly developed. First of all, it expects professionalism. Representatives of the administration keep asking why an institution like ours cannot meet the cultural needs of all people – all members of the society. The vision is as beautiful as the task is infeasible. We cannot strive to provide “everything for everyone” because a society is never homogeneous. It doesn’t speak with one voice. The voices are many. Within the society, there are numerous communities pursuing various aims. We do our best to address
different groups of people and to engage in a dialogue with them. So the art we present must speak with many voices. Mateusz Maria Bieczyński: Does the museum plan to establish art in public space? Does it intend to enter the public space around the museum? Huang Hai-Ming: Discussing such questions, one has to define the concept of the boundaries of a museum. Is it enclosed within a building or should it go out? While pondering the sense of extensive activities happening in public space, one should consider how it is to be done. Do we want to establish very specific interactions or do we prefer shorter, ephemeral actions? As for the museum, we want to reach the local community with our educational programme. If I was to talk about this, I’d have to discuss the wide range of activities that we offer, starting with the cultural centre, the library, via our collaboration with schools to the so-called university of the third age. In this way, we seek to encourage various social groups to take part in artistic life. We can also affect social life. Therefore, the type of activities you have mentioned, consisting of placing artworks by a prominent artist in public space may, but doesn’t have to be, part of this programme. We could consider it if it fitted our strategy of inspiring social participation in the events organized by our museum. The Biennial is obviously an important way of transcending institution boundaries. We go out to the centre of the city or to local communities. The latest edition of the Biennial demonstrated that artists use the context of open public space in their actions to a great extent – their ideas are implemented under the supervision of our institution. Recently, a Turkish artist created site specific works in the context of traditional residential areas in our city. It was a way of relocating our museum outside its walls.
the broader context. On one hand, we have to act locally, but on the other – we also have to embrace international exchange. Right now our collection boasts more than 4,500 works of art. In the future, we are going to add artworks to our collection that will allow their thematic exposition. Mateusz Maria Bieczyński: What is your opinion of this year’s edition of the Taipei Biennial? What was its biggest success? What was the biggest surprise? Huang Hai-Ming: The greatest success of the 2012 Taipei Biennial was connected with the issues which have occurred during the process of modernization in Taiwan, and from this starting point several mini museums were developed. Among these mini museums, artists from Taiwan played significant roles in the whole perspective of the exhibition, moreover, their presentations and ideas were even performed as initiators to some points. This edition of Taipei Biennial was well-coordinated and exhibited in many ways. This was illustrated in the exhibition scale, selection of artworks, gallery design of walking directions and visual presentation. Furthermore, this year’s edition, to a great extent, was very inspiring, and has given rise to our motivation to construct the subjectivity of biennials. Finally, I look forward to seeing a closer relationship to link biennials, the city of Taipei and the country as a whole.
Mateusz Maria Bieczyński: Are you building up a collection? Is there a specific objective behind it? Who is responsible for compiling it? Huang Hai-Ming: When TFAM was established, it was the first contemporary art museum in Taiwan. Therefore, the focus was on defining the history of Taiwanese art and that determined the shape of the collection. As a consequence, we are able to interpret the history of art in our country as well as that of world art in a wider context on the basis of our collection. Today, there are at least two other institutions dedicated to contemporary art in Taipei and our objectives have changed up to a point. Being based in the capital, we ought to see Exterior shot. Photo: Archive of TFAM
GROUP ENERGY Interview with Fang-Wei Chang, director of Biennial and International Projects Office, Taipei Fine Arts Museum
Mateusz Maria Bieczyński: The subject that I would like to concentrate on during our interview is Taipei Biennial. As I understand, there was a long process leading to its current format. Can you tell me something more about the beginnings of this event?
Mateusz Maria Bieczyński
Fang-Wei Chang: Almost simultaneously with the establishment of TFAM in 1984, processes started and led to the creation of the predecessor of the Taipei Biennial. At the beginning, it was a contemporary art competition addressed to Taiwanese contemporary artists. The competition was initiated in 1984 and transformed into a biannual competition in 1992. Further evolution led to a different stage of the Biennial, which had its first unveiling in 1996. At that time, 6 curators and scholars were invited to curate a biennial exhibition entitled The Quest for Identity, which functioned as a contemporary art platform for presenting and exploring contemporary Taiwanese art. In 1998, Ms. Mun-Li Lin, the museum director in that time, opened the event internationally and then it was with the worldwide biennial trend – the “biennial boom” in the 90s. More or less at the same time, the Gwangju Biennial, which is another important artistic event for the region, also began. The Japanese curator Fumio Nanjo was invited to be the first international curator of the Taipei Biennial; 36 artists from Northeast Asia, such as Korea, Japan, China and Taiwan, were invited. He was to look for cultural traditions which were common for these regions and the project was based on deep observation and thorough research, with the aim of responding to key issues in society at that time. Some perspective started by Nanjo in 1998 was continued in the following editions, when the Biennial went beyond the Asian context. In 2000 we began employing a “co-curator model”; the Biennial then became a collaboration between an international curator and a Taiwanese curator. This model applied till the previous edition in 2010. In 2012, one curator was in charge like during the edition in 1998. This is a short summary of the Taipei Biennial’s history. Mateusz Maria Bieczyński: Does making Taipei Biennial more international mean that you will also invite curators from Europe and other parts of the world, outside Asia? Fang-Wei Chang: Yes, the museum is open to a wide-range of international collaborations in general for different programs. For the Taipei Biennial, in accordance with the developmental model we have, the curators propose the contents of the exhibition, and select artists after research and studies. As the event organizer, we have never resisted any proposed ideas, such as the amount of local or international artists selected or the quantity of artists to be represented
Exterior shot at 2006 Taipei Biennial, work by Regina Silveira, “Irruption Series (Saga)”, Collection of Taipei Fine Arts Museum. Photo: Archive of TFAM
for any specific region, etc. What is more important is the overall content, concept, presentation, process and how the event is responded to. In this context, we would very much like curators who respond to the previous editions of Taipei Biennial, so that they are more aware of the exhibition and local context, and its related issues. Most of the time they actually do, so taking a look at it linearly in time, the history of Taipei Biennial is very interesting. They respond to one another and beyond. It’s important that a biennial creates a new locality via local and international works. Mateusz Maria Bieczyński: Can you explain the selection procedure for the curator of each Biennial? Fang-Wei Chang: The selection procedure has undergone a few changes from edition to edition. For example, Fumio Nanjo appeared in the orbit of our interests in 1996 as a curator who distinguished himself in the region for being very open and who was interested in Taiwan. He was selected as the curator of the Biennial after long and stormy discussions in the museum. In turn, during the first edition in 1996, the decision was mainly made by the museum director. Since 2000, however, we have developed another system which is based on a two-stage selection process. Firstly, we invite professionals who are connected but not limited with the history of the Biennial and the museum to recommend candidates for the Taipei Biennial. For example, in 2000 Fumio Nanjo also recommended curators, and then it became a kind of tradition. One curator is then selected from all the proposed candidates by a committee. In the selection
procedure, we try to correlate with the past. In other words, our previous curators remain in contact with the Biennial and the museum. In this way, we are also creating a future family tree for the Taipei Biennial. Mateusz Maria Bieczyński: How much independence does each curator of the Taipei Biennial have? Fang-Wei Chang: The Biennial has been part of the museum program, it’s an exhibition and institution at the same time. In a sense, we are to some extent similar to the Whitney Biennial – a biennial based in a museum. TFAM has a huge space at its disposal and the Biennial also has its operation office in the museum. That’s the starting point for the curators. The second important factor in regard to the “freedom” for the curators is the budget for a given edition. All these do not mean that the Biennial should be closed up within the traditional white cube of the institution. The curator receives from the museum the basic conditions – the place and the budget, and they expand it. They are also free to collaborate with any other institutions and professionals. However, they develop from the framework set up earlier. If the curatorial concept is to completely abandon the museum as a venue for presentation, then we would be forced to object. Fortunately, this has not happened so far. In the last edition, one of the projects proposed to literally close the museum during the day and to open from the evening to the morning. We couldn’t agree since the museum is a public institution, and during Biennial, the museum also has other programs; furthermore, it would take
a long time to negotiate and change the opening hours of the museum, it would be very complicated, and not possible to be realized for the time and budget we had. After discussions with the curators, we came to the conclusion that the costs and time outweighed the benefits in terms of public access to the Biennial. We have not rejected any other ideas. Mateusz Maria Bieczyński: Who is the Taipei Biennial addressed to – who are the exhibitions organized within its framework directed towards? Most importantly, is it for a local or international audience? Fang-Wei Chang: The biennial exhibition is for the local and the international audience. The Taipei Biennial brings out a great deal of criticism among the local art scene; it is both loved and hated. We are pleased to have, in general, an active attitude from the audience, because it means that the biennial is quite visible, active and taken into serious consideration. The responses are also important from an organizational perspective, partially because they represent a significant indicator for particular points of the program. Mateusz Maria Bieczyński: Does the fact that you are hated by some mean that the Taiwanese audience is not an easy one? Is it an audience prepared for modern art? Fang-Wei Chang: I am not completely convinced about it. The answer closely depends on the specific aspects of what is hated and why. Most of the time, even very successful exhibitions are hated by some people, it’s normal. Our museum has a relatively long history – almost 30 years by now, and has succeeded in organizing many exhibitions; museum education has been an important focus too. Many young audiences have the memory of visiting the museum occasionally in their childhood. In the last few years, however, the situation has been a little more complicated partially due to the prolonged process of transformation in many aspects in the museum. Mateusz Maria Bieczyński: TFAM is also an institution responsible for preparing Taiwan’s participation in the Venice Biennale. Do you cooperate with any other institutions in its preparation? Fang-Wei Chang: Yes, our museum has been responsible for the Taiwan pavilion in the Venice Biennial visual art section since 1995. We have not been cooperating with other institutions, but many of the participating projects are based on open calls and are selected by a jury committee. Mateusz Maria Bieczyński: The participation status in the Venice Biennale has recently undergone
significant change. Taiwan was excluded from the main competition. What brought this about? Fang-Wei Chang: Taiwan had its own pavilion again in 1995. In 2001 and 2003 we were presented as a national pavilion. Then we became a guest of the event – an accompanying event. Currently, we participate in the Venice Biennale as one of the collateral events. The Taiwanese exhibition in Venice stimulates and energizes local imagination through the ongoing process of identification and subjectification of the island; it is treated seriously. How Taiwan participates in the Venice Biennial has been widely discussed locally. The pavilion has been and will be positioned as a Taiwanese exhibition. We have stated that we would like to be included in the competition. Nevertheless, we are also fully aware of the risk and the potential that art is treated as a political instrument. Mateusz Maria Bieczyński: This is politics through the help of art… Fang-Wei Chang: Yes. Politics is in almost everything in life, and it’s part of the reality. The politics of art is potentially able to provide an alternative time and space for further perception of our real situation and compel us to reperceive, reconsider and react, to our reality, and so to potentially make a new situation/ reality. We all just need to be sensitive with the function and role of art. Mateusz Maria Bieczyński: Could you tell us what your view on the place of Taiwanese art in world art is? Fang-Wei Chang: It’s difficult to give just a simple answer to the question. Taiwanese art is, after all, varied. Taiwan is located in Northeast Asia with different colonial stages in its history. With the quick changes in the socialeconomic situation currently, there are various tensions in society, which brings out multi-development in art. It is particularly visible in the context of large cultural events, such as the Biennale in Venice. In addition, because of the democratic process in Taiwan, the masses usually take all opportunities to fully express their opinions. For instance, in Venice Biennale’s case, we have also been criticised several times by the local art scene for different reasons. My opinion is that only through open discussion can we stimulate qualitative creations in art; the audience should have chances to address their opinions to exhibitions. However, on the other hand, when you are connected with this type of event and are responsible for taking decisions concerning a national representation to an artistic event of such a level, then you notice that it is the collective subconsciousness forcing the results. This concerns group energy hiding
beneath the surface. Of course, behind the scenes there are also various tensions. The critical voices of unsatisfied curators and critics also represent a driving force for the competitions we organize – they naturally provide conditions for full transparency, professional operation and qualitative presentation. Usually, competitions are not a guarantee of the best art exhibition, but it is still our adopted strategy, even though I would sometimes have my personal opinions on the result, I think the process in the flow of history will manifest and count for itself. Mateusz Maria Bieczyński: Who was presented last time? Fang-Wei Chang: The participating artists were Hong Kai-Wang and Yu-Hsien Su and the curator was Amy Cheng. We noted that participation in the Venice Biennale is not only for outstanding artists, but also an important platform for the curators to have international experience for exchange and attention. Mateusz Maria Bieczyński: Are there many independent curators in Taiwan? Fang-Wei Chang: Yes, there are many independent curators or promising young curators who have appeared in the last two decades.
independent from institutions is a big challenge. The range of freedom of both types of curator – independent and institutionalized – is defined by totally different factors. To a certain extent, the freedom for a project and the position of independence, like in other countries, also comes with uncertainty. These mechanisms in Taiwan work in the same way as everywhere else. The situation of the art scene is similar all over the world and Taiwan is no exception. Mateusz Maria Bieczyński: In that case, perhaps a few words about Taipei Biennial 2012? Fang-Wei Chang: Taipei Biennial 2012 is curated by Anselm Franke, based in Berlin. It is the largest event we have dealt with so far, and is the most complete one too – in terms of the conceptual structure and its overall presentation, and has been well received. For this edition, the biennial is curated by an international curator, different from the “co-curator model” of previous editions. Anselm is also a curator who has been so curious regarding local issues and has been deeply involved in discovering the local-inlarge. He came and stayed in Taipei very often during the preparation work and sometimes even got to know something I did not know before, amazing! Mateusz Maria Bieczyński: That means progress!
Mateusz Maria Bieczyński: So has the profession of curator in Taiwan also liberated itself from institutional dependency?
Fang-Wei Chang: Yes, we think so too.
Fang-Wei Chang: Of course, to an extent, it has. It is also obvious that a curator’s work which is fully
Fang-Wei Chang: Thank you.
Mateusz Maria Bieczyński: Thank you for the interview.
Interior shot, installation view of 2012 Taipei Biennial, work by Anton Vidokle and HU Fang, “Two Suns”, 2012. Photo: Archive of TFAM
Interior shot, 3F gallery. Installation view of 2012 Taipei Biennial, TENG Chao-Ming, “A Monument for The (Im)possibility of Figuring It Out” (detail), 2012. Photo: Archive of TFAM
A CURATORIAL POSTSCRIPT TO “THIS IS NOT A TAIWAN PAVILION” Esther Lu
During the 55th Venice Biennale, a collateral event “This is not a Taiwan Pavilion” is staged in the Palazzo delle Prigioni to unfold and twist around the history of “Taiwan Pavilion”, to engage the art world’s imagination for its existence in this specific context, which runs on a parallel reflection to the international reality of Taiwan. The underlined identity politics, however, is transformed into poetic investigations and mediations on exchangeable perception and nomadic diaspora, and derailed from the relation tied with the notion of nation-state in its exploration in geography, history and possible connections through three art projects presented by Bernd Behr, Chai-Wei Hsu and Kateřina Šedá + BATEŽO MIKILU. My first curatorial curiosity runs with the fascinating collective imagination from Taiwan – local people regard “Taiwan Pavilion” as a national pavilion, the most prestigious opportunity for artists to be a national representative of a de facto country. On the other hand, “Taiwan Pavilion” has not been listed for national participation in the Venice Biennale since China’s participation in 2001. An ambiguous nostalgia has sustained this collective imagination on the island since then, resisting the temptation to catch up with its upto-date status in reality. I am interested in the mechanism of such a fantasy, or reality per se, and I am driven to make a comparison study to see how image and cultural production operate to constitute an understanding of identity. The title of this project is proposed as a speech act to communicate its problematic two sides. It tackles the local imagination, while questioning how relevant it is to make national participation in an international biennial event today. The enforcement of national boundary and the appetite for cultural authenticity or exoticism seem not to provide a valid common ground for cultural exchange, but more to serve a greater economic circulation and political interests. With all its incapacities to become a national participant, “This is not a Taiwan Pavilion” takes the oppositional approach to have a group of international participating artists explore the complexity of identity and navigate the possibility of human coexistence through exposing the mechanism of identity making. Bernd Behr’s film and sound installation Chronotopia draws on several parallel historical materials from twentieth-century Taiwan to explore the idea of an abandoned future and questions of historiography: the last holdout of World War II, Lee Guang-Hui, an Ami Takasago soldier; the Futuro houses on the outskirts of and in downtown Taipei; and the
Bernd Behr, “Chronotopia”, 2013; Chronotopia draws associations between parallel temporalities related to Taiwan: From a fragmentary portrait of Lee Guang-Hui, the last holdout of WWII, emerges a meditation on the narrated image through architectural fictions and the historical figure of the silent film commentator, the Taiwanese Bianshi; production still, Taipei, 2013. Photo: © Bernd Behr
Bernd Behr, “Chronotopia”, 2013; Chronotopia draws associations between parallel temporalities related to Taiwan: From a fragmentary portrait of Lee Guang-Hui, the last holdout of WWII, emerges a meditation on the narrated image through architectural fictions and the historical figure of the silent film commentator, the Taiwanese Bianshi; live bianshi narration by Ying-Hsiung Huang, Palazzo delle Prigioni, Venice, 2013. Photo: © Bernd Behr
Chia-Wei Hsu, “Marshal Tie Jia”, 2013; Began with artist’s conversation with the frog god Marshal Tie Jia, the work depicts a contour of the energy and tension between mythology and modernity by presenting Marshal Tie Jia’s current domicile, an island, and birthplace, a pond, in juxtaposition, crossing issues of memory, imagination and identity that are narrated in the shifting of space-time; production still: the Turtle Island, Matsu, 2012. Photo: © Chia-Wei Hsu
Chia-Wei Hsu, “Marshal Tie Jia”, 2013; Began with artist’s conversation with the frog god Marshal Tie Jia, the work depicts a contour of the energy and tension between mythology and modernity by presenting Marshal Tie Jia’s domicile, an island, and birthplace, a pond, in juxtaposition, crossing issues of memory, imagination and identity that are narrated in the shifting of space-time; production still: Yan-Yan Huang singing Min Opera on Turtle Island, Matsu, 2012. Photo: © Chia-Wei Hsu
culture of the silent film commentator bianshi in relation to local cinema history. He has also invited the director Ying-Hsiung Huang, who initiated the contemporary bianshi movement for the blind, to conduct a live cinematic performance in Venice.
Chia-Wei Hsu’s mixed media installation Marshal Tie Jia creates a new mythology of representation by deconstructing the production relations of image, culture, and history around his communication with the divine world. Through video, installation
and text, the tension of fictional narratives in various forms is stretched to depict the forming and deforming of myth, culture memory and identity, in a complex structure of juxtaposition between the frog god Marshal Tie Jia’s birthplace – a pond in
Jiangxi, China – and his current domicile in exile, an island in Matsu on the Taiwan Strait. Kateřina Šedá + BATEŽO MIKILU challenge the possibility of perception exchange in a
Chia-Wei Hsu, “Marshal Tie Jia”, 2013; Began with artist’s conversation with the frog god Marshal Tie Jia, the work depicts a contour of the energy and tension between mythology and modernity by presenting Marshal Tie Jia’s current domicile, an island, and birthplace, a pond, in juxtaposition, crossing issues of memory, imagination and identity that are narrated in the shifting of space-time; installation view: green screen space with the altar table and the play, Palazzo delle Prigioni, Venice, 2013. Photo: © Chia-Wei Hsu
Chia-Wei Hsu, “Marshal Tie Jia”, 2013; Began with artist’s conversation with the frog god Marshal Tie Jia, the work depicts a contour of the energy and tension between mythology and modernity by presenting Marshal Tie Jia’s current domicile, an island, and birthplace, a pond, in juxtaposition, crossing issues of memory, imagination and identity that are narrated in the shifting of space-time; production still: Nuo dance performing on the pond of Jingsi Village, Jiangxi, 2013. Photo: © Chia-Wei Hsu
Kateřina Šedá+BATEŽO MIKILU, “This is not a Czech Pavilion”, 2013; Two incentives inspired the development of this project. Esther Lu said: “This is not a Taiwan Pavilion.” BATEŽO MIKILU, six high school students from Zastávka, said: “This is not our town.” Šedá gradually came to see in the two places
(Zastávka and Taiwan / the Taiwan Pavilion) a common problem – the surroundings had become the center of each place, and decided to improve the relations around these two places with actions that would generate an image of consideration; maps for action, Zastávka, 2013. Photo:© Kateřina Šedá+BATEŽO MIKILU
Kateřina Šedá+BATEŽO MIKILU, “This is not a Czech Pavilion”, 2013; Two incentives inspired the development of this project. Esther Lu said: “This is not a Taiwan Pavilion.” BATEŽO MIKILU, six high school students from Zastávka, said: “This is not our town.” Šedá gradually came to see in the two places (Zastávka and Taiwan / the Taiwan Pavilion) a common problem – the surroundings had become the center of each place, and decided to improve the relations around these two places with actions that would generate an image of consideration; action photo, Zastávka, 2013. Photo:© Kateřina Šedá+BATEŽO MIKILU
deterritorialized topological approach to the historical context of this exhibition as a metaphor and Zastávka, a dysfunctional industrial town in the Czech Republic. Apart from the installation, they perform 88 collaborative actions under the title This is not a Czech Pavilion during the five days of the preview and opening weekend in Venice to unfold a common problem shared by the two places: how they are perceived by their surroundings that defined their status quo. A new image, generated by the consideration of the audience in their actions, will propel new social relations when they turn each and every wall into a mirror. Their critiques on every pavilion along with the action documentation are shown on their website to generate an alternative guide to the Venice Biennale. As these three projects navigate presences and discussions across space and time, they review a wide spectrum of the history, geopolitics, and contemporary life of the Taiwanese cultural context, and initiate a critical dialogue in order to address the ideologies shaped by various political, economic,
and globalized institutions. Imagination is employed to fuel the tensions of intertextuality and establish new relations; the politics of art hereby acts to reveal invisible imagery via new narratives and actions for the dialectic process of subjectification. The turn of narrative as the exhibition’s aesthetic aspect is reflected through the title as well as three projects to contemplate the dynamic of perception, memory and history. The exhibition seeks to play out a poetic resistance from the artistic and curatorial positions to generate a new understanding of reality. It explores various parameters in a quest for fractions of imagery and narrative to depict a slippery reality to reflect Taiwan, as well as the very context of the exhibition per se. It is interesting to note that the initial local response to the selection of this project (through an open call competition) was actually quite phenomenal and influential; there were two petitions initiated by local artists to boycott the international artist list of my project and the operation of the organizer, Taipei Fine
Arts Museum’s, biennial office. The reloading of the collective fantasy for a national pavilion was so strong that the Culture Ministry had to call a meeting to extinguish the fire, and the biennial office was shut down for reformation. Meanwhile, the political sensitivity of the project received great attention from the La Biennale Foundation, and this project’s contents were closely supervised in order not to disturb the peace for other countries.
reflections permitted and promised. It is not merely about some people and some places, but how people of various backgrounds can eventually come to a meeting point to think how we see one another and examine the mechanism of such seeing. For more about the project, please see: www.venicebiennaletaiwan.org
With this regard, I would like to explain the history of “Taiwan Pavilion” and my curatorial approach a bit further. Taipei Fine Arts Museum has been organizing “Taiwan Pavilion” in Venice since 1995, due to the vitality, institutionalization and internationalization of the art scene in Taiwan. It was listed for national participation until China Pavilion established their existence in 2001. Such a difficult condition applies to every aspect of Taiwan’s international participation, and Venice Biennale is of no exception. It is hard to argue how much expectation the local art scene holds for this event. On the other hand, I don’t need to remark that there have already been many previous alternative participations in the Venice Biennale from Taiwan as collateral events or independent events, and there has been no lack of imagination for different interventions in this event in the past. I believe the experimental tendency is still one of the biggest forces running through the proliferation of biennials. In this project, I attempt to measure the making of culture and identity and create an aesthetic vehicle from the title to carry three projects’ presentation in a parallel investigation, and a critique on the institution of both local participation and international operation of the Venice Biennale. Nevertheless, to avoid instrumentalization of artistic practice, I deliberately position this project not as a political action, but an investigation to study what the politics of art could affect with a modest and honest title to point out the reality. It is through the projection of imagination and ideologies that politics is called. So to speak, the dialectic engagement with audience is the departure of new politics and reality. It is through audience that the imagery of Taiwan comes to form, and this curatorial strategy is proposed to deal with this difficult international struggle and to work through the boundaries embedded in people – what constitutes us and to whom we call strangers. If this project craves out a spacetime between reality and imagination to imagine who we are with all these poetic portrayals of marginal and silenced characters, gods, positions and memories, I would like to think art could be a medium to demonstrate a generous compassion for life and existence with the
WAITING FOR THE TYPHOON IN THE ARTS? Institutional critique and open art access at Taipei An interview with Meiya Cheng and Jun Yang Mateusz Maria Bieczyński
Meiya Cheng is the chairman of Taipei Contemporary Art Center. Jun Yang is an artist and part of the initial group founding the art center. Taipei Contemporary Art Center was founded in 2009 by a group of artists, curators, writers, cultural activists and scholars. The center functions as a nonprofit organization run by a board and its association. After the first three years when it was located in downtown Taipei in two converted buildings (with a size of 800 m2) it has moved this year to its new venue – a smaller storefront location, also in downtown Taipei. Mateusz Maria Bieczyński: Your institution differs from the others in Taipei and generally in Taiwan. Could you describe the main aims of Taipei Contemporary Art Center? Meiya Cheng: Defining TCAC as an institutional practice we have to start with the Taiwanese history of institutional critique. In 2008/2009, back to that time, we could observe – not suddenly, but as a result of a longer process – that Taiwan borrowed the concept and discourse of the creative cultural industry from Britain. Literally there are a several reasons that all the major museums started to host all of the populist exhibitions, in a way. One is that the major art institutions on the scene in Taiwan are following a kind of commercial direction. The biggest museums would like to have as big attendance of the public as possible – they need numbers as an indicator of their work. It means that they have more visibility, when they are following general taste. For example there was an exhibition of Pixar – American DreamWorks factory – in TFAM. According to that point the cultural sphere should make some money. As a result the program should follow the general taste to guarantee the profit in return. These two ideologies – one of politicians and the second of museums as a cultural industry – are determining the cultural life. And the third also – unfortunately – the history of Taiwanese art museums is not that long. The base and the foundation is not that solid. Also the organization is rooted in the old public service system. So in those museums – no matter of which field – there is a system of orders and ranges, and very often the people working there, with insufficient knowledge of what’s happening outside of the institution and outside of Taiwan, are not capable of creating a discourse or practices to resist the situation, neither to defend their crucial position of art production. That’s the situation that most local art professionals are concerned and the drive to initiate a new institution. Jun Yang: Structure-wise the museum workers are on the payroll of the city government. All the past directors were appointed by the system of
Taipei Contemporary Art Center, exterior shot. Photo: Mateusz Maria Bieczyński
Meiya Cheng and Jun Yang . Photo: Mateusz Maria Bieczyński
pure bureaucracy – one has to understand that the bureaucracy requires that one, in order to become a director, has to fulfill such criteria as, for instance, having a PhD, having to have served several years within the university system etc. … Therefore, the system isn’t based on professionalism of running a museum or a museum program, and certainly it is not devoted to the idea of content, vision, social discourse, not to mention about the “cognitive resistance” . It’s based on pure public servant and political party servants. In a sense, even the word ‘public’ in public servant is wrong since they are not serving the public but the mayor or the minister. So TCAC is offering in contrast a more open environment, which lets the young curators get out of this institutional hierarchies and develop their own concepts. Mateusz Maria Bieczyński: So this critical approach to art institutions as a reverse is building your own concept of art institutions, which you’re bringing into existence at TCAC, right? Jun Yang: The art center was founded (2009) at a point when the Taipei museums, the content, the people in charge, and therefore the cultural policy of both the city and the cultural ministry, were very problematic. The institutions were very bureaucratic extensions of basically the politicians, doing either conservative or purely populist and commercial actions, without
going into too many details or without wanting to slap too much on these issues. The art center was certainly founded also as a reaction to the situation of that time; to the vacuum both the city and its institutions created. An initiative to create a platform to discuss exactly these issues, like cultural policy, museum politics, curators situations, production of contemporary art, artist situation and other relevant issues within the contemporary art discourse. There was no space in Taipei where these discussions took place publicly. Meiya: The main aim was to question the art and cultural policy, to question the organizational shape of the institution, to speak about the role of the curator, culture as a tool for diplomacy or governmental interest, culture as a pure creative industry. Questioning that is not an issue itself. It should lead us to propose new ideas – let’s propose something new if the old is not working. Let’s create a sphere to discuss some current and actual issues. Changing into the active role of culture-connected people that do not wait mindlessly. I’m pretty sure that these activities started a tendency to put a resistance and to criticize the actual situation in the younger generation, which started to put some demands on institutions, started to be more critical to their practice. Before we established this space, there was like
6 months of lobbying. It was the most important moment for this institution – I would say. In the beginning it was an idea to create a weekend gathering, to invite there 50–60 curators, professors and art connected people. The dean of the University as well. And some of these people hadn’t even talked to each other for years. It was very difficult to convince them to stay at the same place for 3 days. Lots of beer, good food and some difficult, complicated relationships. But that’s in a way a picture of the local politics in any city. It was not even decided here to have a permanent space or an institution at that time. We wanted to open the discussion about the current situation of contemporary art in that specific moment. Mateusz Maria Bieczyński: So can you define the aim of TCAC more directly? Jun: If I would have to define more what TCAC tends to be, then I would say that this institution is more like a platform; like a meeting point. A discursive meeting point, not only for the local community, but ideally also for the international curators exchange. Of course you can criticize this Center in many aspects. There are many levels of weakness. But at the same time you have to take into account that there is no budget or, to be fair, there is a very small budget. Even the conference, which is organized
next week, is produced with the support of all of those involved, including the participants. Basically it is an issue of what the museums should, could do, but they don’t do. There is no platform for many relevant and interesting discussions and issues. The art center tries to fill this gap. Meiya: In that sense, we are an alternative to what has happened before. Jun: The important question is also the name. Why we do not have any other abstract name, but just contemporary art center? It’s because we are thinking of this space more like a facility, a platform – an intersection point for artists, curators, students etc. For these reasons exhibitions are not really the priority for us, but presentations, discussions, support, etc. … That’s a more interesting aim than trying to mimic the museum or a commercial gallery, or to compete with them. Mateusz Maria Bieczyński: But you’re working with institutions and organizations… Jun: We’re not really working with the official organizations, for various reasons, but at the same time the art center does not reject them out of hand. The most important thing when dealing with both the city and the state is to keep the art
Logo of Taipei Contemporary Art Center, interior shot. Photo: Mateusz Maria Bieczyński
center’s criticality and a certain healthy distance. The collaboration should be based more on the content. There are some institutions, which are more compatible, like for example Taipei Artist Village. It’s like sharing resources, and collaborate on certain events. Meiya: If you check the program, which we have carried out from February, you will see that there are many different curators organizing the talks, not only our members, but also international curators or younger generation. We are trying to have a more public, open structure. And we don’t have a very closed list of people. We don’t interfere even. We ask if a curator has a project of research in a hand and we invite them here to speak and present their concept. So it is very rare to go about very particular things like an exhibition or publication. We are a more process oriented group of people – the research itself is a point of concern for us. The process of art creation is not less important than the final act of presentation. We like to show that in our spaces. There is no authority or hierarchy here and that’s a most distinguishing thing for this space. Mateusz Maria Bieczyński: So all curators in the world are welcome here…? Meiya: Of course not definitively all. We want to establish a certain direction. Mateusz Maria Bieczyński: So, “quo vadis”? Where are you going? Meiya: We want to keep the fresh view, to never stop asking questions… Mateusz Maria Bieczyński: Do you believe in art as a tool of social and political change? Jun: “Social” – definitively; “political” – it’s I think a different topic in a way. But of course if we have a social change, there is also always political change in a way. We have also some other changes – perhaps it is more to define the problem of the visibility of changes and their kinds. But I’m convinced that the art is a very important and engaged tool for any kind of social change. Definitely it has a strong social responsibility in itself. Since the art center engaged in many ways in public discussions, we can see these topics being picked up by many younger artists and curators, and social activists. This certainly has been reflected on the social and cultural issues in town in the past years. Mateusz Maria Bieczyński: The space itself is somehow reflecting the special character of this
contemporary art center. What is the concept of the colors in this space? Jun: The space indeed reflects the concept of our art center. This is a rented space in the downtown, a very classical Taiwanese building. So the first important thing is the location – the art center has to be accessible, besides being downtown, it has access to the subway, some interesting galleries are around here and so on. The shape of the space is important to define it. We used color as an architecture tool to define the space and its functions. Like I said before, it does not follow a program of a museum or a commercial gallery and therefore the space, its architecture should not mimic them, like mini white cubes. Right at the entrance the yellow section/color of the space is defined as the public service realm and entrance, and meeting point. The archive is part of this section as well. There are several big tables inviting people to use the space, curators, artists etc., to have meetings here or to simply use them as their temporary working space. We also do smaller presentations there, the blinds at the front and throughout the space function also as projection screens. Then comes the grey area, which defines our office section. The green at the back is the kitchen service facility. The thing is that usually when the curator or an artist doesn’t have a studio, what they do is going to cafés for meetings or presentations – we thought the art center could provide such a facility to the art community, but without any commercial function and interest. And only downstairs in the red area is the exhibition space, which is also used for larger presentations, workshops or events. This space hierarchy is important since it reflects the understanding of the art center’s mission. Like in the former space of the art center – it was always important to create the architecture that was welcoming and inviting; not the exhibition and the ‘greatness’ of art should be at the front – but a space the public could use, followed by ‘production, research’ of art center (= the office) and only at the end the ‘exhibition’. This logic is certainly in opposition to other museums and galleries here in Taipei (where it’s all about the show, and the production and office are hidden). Mateusz Maria Bieczyński: Everything is logic here. Well done. Thank you! Jun: Well said! Thank you! Meiya: Thank you!
BENESSE ART SITE NAOSHIMA A coinage formed by combining the Latin terms bene [well] and esse [being] Agnieszka Mori
Benesse Art Site Naoshima is a joint name for the Contemporary Art Centre along with the adjacent trade and hospitality complex, a development under the auspices of Benesse Holdings Inc and the Fukutake Foundation. This complex stretches over three islands – Naoshima and Teshima in Kagawa prefecture and Inujima in Okayama prefecture, all located in the Seto – Japanese inland sea. Naoshima is connected to Takamatsu by a ferry line, Takamatsu is the capital city of Kagawa prefecture, situated on Shikoku island. The man behind this whole venture is Soichiro Fukutake – MD of Benesse Holdings and a chairman of the Fukutake Foundation – a prolific businessman who is also successful with various cultural and artistic endeavours. His motto says: “use what exists to create what is to be”. He came up with the idea of this enormous site to create multi-purpose locations where art and top-class architecture complement stunning natural settings. In search of a modern paradise Contemporary art and architecture within such beautiful natural surroundings of the islands, when viewed in the context of their rich and remarkable heritage, create the amazing feel of the Benesse Art Site. An important concept behind the whole complex and its existence is the idea of bringing together the local community by encouraging it to participate in the region’s development. Locating a Contemporary Art Museum away from the big cities and tourist trails brings a whole new meaning to this institution. In May 1988, Soichiro Fukutake, who – by then tired of Tokyo and very much enchanted by the unspoilt natural beauty of the archipelago – invited the architect Tado Ando to work with him on this remarkable new project. The outcome of their collaboration was Benesse House designed by Ando, where initially the Fukutake family art collection was stored. The mission of this art site project was to seek harmony between nature and architecture in spite of all the possible frictions. Yet again, Tado Ando proved that art and top class architecture can go hand in hand with nature. Between 1992 and 2010 on these three islands, various art and architectural projects were brought to life, and are now parts of the outstanding Benesse Art Site. Its centre is the largest of the three: Naoshima Island. Naoshima / Benesse House / Symbiosis of Nature, Architecture and Art Benesse House comprises four separate buildings, all designed by Tado Ando, and all four have become a perfect symbiosis of art, architecture and nature. This grand design serves two purposes: a museum and a hotel. The main building is laid out on the
Benesse House Oval. Photo: Tomio Ohashi, courtesy of Rie Tamagawa, Benesse Holdings, Inc. Benesse Art Site Naoshima
Teshima Art Museum. Photo: Noboru Morikawa, courtesy of Rie Tamagawa, Benesse Holdings, Inc. Benesse Art Site Naoshima
south slope overlooking the sea with works of art being displayed both inside and outside the museum. The three subsequent buildings are named Benesse House Park, Beach and Oval. All three were based on the same principle: to surround visitors with an omnipresent blend of two seemingly contradicting ontological categories: nature and culture and to create a place of complete bliss and harmony. The art collection housed in the museum is thoroughly impressive, the magical ambience boasts the works of such artists as Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns, David Hockney, Richard Long, Andy Warhol, George Segal, Bruce Nauman and James Turrel, alongside some famous native artists: Yukinori Yanagi, Shinro Ohtake, Kan Yasuda, Tadao Ando and Hiroshi Sugimoto. Site specific installations by Yayoi Kusama, Walter De Maria, Hiroshi Sugimoto, Niki de Saint Phalle and Cai Guo-Qiang were commissioned for the complex and deserve at least a separate mention. Each of these outdoor installations was designed to fit a particular area chosen by the artist. In this way, the visitors have an opportunity to discover art whilst admiring the scenery.
Naoshima / Art House Project Art and architecture in the context of community Art House Project is an idea entailing modern art being placed in genuine, old Japanese houses and temples, turning traditional space into a work of art. This project covers seven houses equally full of old customs and traditions, and featuring contemporary art and architecture. This project was chiefly accomplished by the local people, encouraged to actively interact with the community. The residents of those dwellings are also guides who show visitors round, explaining all the complexities of the designs, often embellishing their lectures with anecdotes and stories of local life. And so, in a two-centuryold house, you can look at some great works by Tatsuo Miyajima: “Sea of time”, “Naoshima Counter Window” and “Changing Landscape”. All three of them make up a single project from 1998 named “Kadoya”. It was the first of the seven sets of the Art House Project. “Sea of time” was accomplished with the help of local people. In a dark room the artist built a pool, and inside the pool the LED displays count from 1 to 9. The pace of the changing numbers is decided by people invited to participate. Another house is called “Minamidera” and comes from 1999
Lee Ufan Museum. Photo: Agnieszka Mori
Chichu Art Museum. Photo: Mitsuo Matsuoka, courtesy of Rie Tamagawa, Benesse Holdings, Inc. Benesse Art Site Naoshima
Claude Monet Space. Photo: Naoya Hatakeyama, courtesy of Rie Tamagawa, Benesse Holdings, Inc. Benesse Art Site Naoshima
as a result of an extraordinary collaboration between Tado Ando and the artist James Turrell. There is “Kinza” from 2001 where “Being Given” by Rei Naito is installed inside a tiny two-hundredyear-old house. There are other installations like “Go o Shrine” from 2002 with work by Hiroshi Sugimoto titled “Appropriate Proportion”, “Ishibashi” from 2006 reconstructed and readapted by Hiroshi Senju, “Gokaisho” from 2006, arranged by Yoshihiro Suda who featured his work called “Tree of Spring” in there and, last but not least, there is “Haisha” also from 2006, an installation accomplished by Shinro Ohtake who took on the task of transforming an old dental clinic into a work of art. In order to respect the intimacy of every household and not to breach its sanctity – something of great importance in Japan – visitors are bound by certain restrictions, like strictly no photographs of any kind can be taken and each group of visitors is limited to a very small number of people. Naoshima / Chichu Art Museum The relationship between human and nature Chichu Art Museum was opened to the public in 2004 and was designed by the Japanese architect
Tado Ando. It was brought into existence mainly to house and exhibit three artists: Claude Monet, Walter de Maria and James Turrell. It’s also supposed to encourage visitors to contemplate nature and the meaning of life. Even though the best part of the museum is situated underground, this is to avoid interfering with the island’s natural environment, the place is full of natural light. Its space is constantly changed and influenced by the passing time, depending on the time of day or season. Here we’ve got Japanese spirituality and appreciation of the natural world and the western quest for individuality mixed together, somehow we are more likely to appreciate those values whilst contemplating the beauty of nature and the changing seasons. Concrete corridors are filled with natural light and there are plants sprouting up from the cracks in the concrete surface. The only place we can have a sweeping view of the island is a café raised on the ruins of the terrace used for obtaining sea salt. The shape of this building is based on simple geometrical figures cut into the surface of the ground. A bird’s eye view offers nothing but the outlines of those figures. This “modern cave”, executed in the finest materials, is a seamless combination of nature, architecture and light.
Lee Ufan Museum. Photo: Agnieszka Mori
Photography is not permitted in the Chichu Art Museum, with no exceptions. Each presentation is a complete surprise, much to the awe of the returning visitors. There is a garden adjacent to the museum, it’s a re-creation of Monet’s garden with 150 species of plants together with 40 trees arranged over 1000 sq. metres. It makes us aware of the close symbiosis between man and nature, which is exactly the message this establishment is trying to get across. Naoshima / Lee Ufan Museum A structure that can be unified with the landform and fit into the landscape Between Benesse House and Chichu Art Museum, there is a museum devoted to just one man – Lee Ufan, who is a Korean-born artist working in Japan. He was one of the leaders of the minimalist movement called Mono-Ha, which was active in the 70s. It’s another Naoshima museum designed by Ando. In front of the huge concrete wall, monumental stone and iron sculptures have been positioned, on the other side of this wall there are corridors leading downward under the ground level and to the three rooms of various sizes, made of different materials and lit by three different kinds of lighting. All of this is a result of the architect – artist
dialogue and serves one purpose: to create a perfect harmony between art, architecture and the natural surroundings. Naoshima / Naoshima Bath ”I♥湯“ I Love YU Shinro Ohtake has created a place where traditional Japanese baths meet artistic creation. An oldfashioned public bath-house became the inspiration for a walk-in collage-based installation, a space clad with a mosaic, murals, ceramics with fragments of old boats thrown in the mix. These highly artistic public baths are free for the locals to use and it’s a form of gratitude for the people of Naoshima for their help and support with bringing the art site projects to life. Inujima and Teshima Inujima and Teshima are the two remaining islands making up the Benesse Art Site Naoshima project. The former became a house for the Inujima Seirensho Art Museum, where one can admire enormous works by Yukinori Yanagi. The museum has been designed and built according to the concept that architecture should correspond with the natural setting surrounding it, becoming one of
Shinro Ohtake Naoshima Bath “I♥湯”. Photo: Agnieszka Mori
Chichu Art Museum. Photo: FUJITSUKA Mitsumasa, courtesy of Rie Tamagawa, Benesse Holdings, Inc. Benesse Art Site Naoshima
the elements of a natural cycle, and therefore this building is self-sustainable when it comes to energy sources. It becomes cool in summer and warm in winter. It’s designed to evolve together with the environment of Inujima. Rei Naito and Ryue Nishizawa are the two artists behind the architectural object on Teshima Island. It’s an organic form, wonderfully blending into the natural beauty of the island; its form reflects the magnified shape of a teardrop. On Teshima we can also find “Les Archives du Coeur” by Christian Boltanski, visitors can listen to the sound of other people’s beating hearts and have their heartbeat recorded and included into the project. Benesse Art Site Naoshima is an exceptional place, where amazing architecture meets versatile pieces of art, all that with the unspoilt insular beauty as a backdrop. It’s also a place where respect for the native population and visitors has always been the main priority, a veritable art temple where, similarly to light and shade, western and eastern culture permeate and complete each other.
THREE STEPS TOWARD MINIMALISM Tadeusz Sawa-Borysławski
In 2013 Museum der Moderne (Modern Art Museum, aka MdM) in Salzburg celebrates 30 years of its existence. In 1998, an international competition was announced to select the winning project for MdM’s new edifice (145 projects were submitted in total). The winner was Friedrich-Hoff-Zwink Architects, a fairly young studio from Munich. Since then, the new building has overlooked the city. It was erected on the top of Mönchsberg (1350 metres above sea level), a short distance from the Kupelwieser family manor house and, when seen from a further distance, it seems to blend into one with the romantic palazzo; often it takes a second look to distinguish between the white cube of the museum and the equally white palace and its tower. The rocky slopes plunge toward the old town and many of its streets have their perspective interrupted by them. And so this building we are trying to find is somehow naturally obscured from sight, and we can only guess it is somewhere above our heads. There is Getreidegasse, Herbert von Karajan Museum, Gstättengasse… we follow the intricate pattern of streets, passing by the lacelike façades of the old tenant houses, with many signboards and shop windows. Old and faking old meets new. The streets are full of tourists and locals. We plan to find the quickest way to MdM. The address is: Mönchsberg 32; but it turns out that the entrance leads through the dark hall of some tenant house at Gstättengasse 13, further on we step into huge corridors carved into the rock. It is a type of futuristic interior that brings Fritz Lang’s “Metropolis” to mind. From here we only need a short ride in an elevator that takes us 60 metres higher above the street level.
Mönchsberg - view toward the Museum der Moderne and Kupelwieser Villa. Photo: T. Sawa-Borysławski
Futuristic lobby at the level of the hallway at Gstättengasse 13. Photo: T. Sawa-Borysławski
Mönchsberg-Aufzug is a part of SLB (Salzburger Lokalbahnen), so you can buy your ticket anywhere in the centre and catch a bus that takes you nearly to the front door of the aforementioned address, however, going through all those motions from the faraway silhouette, meandering streets, to the doorway of Gstättengasse 13 is a way to extend the pleasure of discovering a place no one should be deprived of. Salzburg is a place thoroughly soaked in its glorious history, mostly – the history of Mozart, but also the history of one of the more significant cities of the Alpine region. It’s so strongly defined by its past that one needs to – and I don’t mean any offence – purge oneself a little, and getting to the lofty MdM is a most adequate way of doing it. When the elevator door releases us into the hall leading to the museum, all we can see is sheer concrete, stainless steel, glass and light. The museum has 3000 sq. metres, which doesn’t necessarily make it huge. It comprises 3 levels and only 2300 sq. metres of exhibiting floor. It also houses a library, admin. offices, technical support rooms and stock rooms. There is also a viewing terrace next to the restaurant, from where we can admire the panorama of Salzburg. The façade of MdM is white, thanks to the white marble facing and its form is utterly simple. Observed from the south, it looks like a cube with small indentations in its side walls. The shape is not at all a result of an orthodox formal styling, which would be to produce
Getreidegasse, the prospect of a street shut off by the rocky slope of Mönchsberg. Photo: T. Sawa-Borysławski
Interior of the Museum der Moderne, Salzburg. Photo: T. Sawa-Borysławski
a building in a single, undivided form. It seems to have been designed in order to be reminiscent of minimal and functional planning. There is a single surface level, be it a sheet of concrete or sheet of glazing, no unevenness, except from the terrace entrance shaped as a protruding glass loggia. You may say this building is a multi-surfaced sculpture; windows appear to be some sort of appliqué onto the concrete façade. This type of glazing is nothing new, since it was in frequent use in the modernist architecture of the 20s and has been used ever since, including in residential developments. The simplicity of design and logical structure are the main plus points here, both of which are strongly rooted in Modernism. Unfortunately, large information and advertising banners placed onto the façades are a definite drawback. I understand they are meant as temporary fixtures but, with this grand, minimalistic design as a backdrop, they seem most inappropriate and very much at odds with the whole ritual of accessing this mighty edifice. Surely there must be a different way of advertising. The interior is sculptural, to say the very least. We navigate through orthogonal concrete caverns designed with a great deal of austerity. This space is complex and much harder to figure out than it seems when looking from the outside. Architectural detail executed in glass and steel discreetly marks entrances and exits, small back rooms and alcoves are lit up in order to help visitors find their way in a maze of passages and corridors. Upper lights create a sketch-like pattern on the walls and ceiling. Light frequently serves as a signpost, marking important spots like stairs or entrances. The way subsequent rooms are interconnected is particularly impressive. I’m thinking of the glass passages above some of the rooms and those between the walls. This enables visitors to ‘see through walls’, appreciating spatial openness and divisions at the same time. Roaming through the building, it’s easy to forget about the exhibits. We are happy simply to admire the interior, picking our favourite angles with a camera and cropping what’s not desired. The interior itself is a veritable tribute to minimalism, with modest, yet perfectly executed, detail. Space – even though not as vast as is the case with some museum interiors – is formed with a panache and diversity which creates wonderful opportunities for exhibition arrangements despite its limited size. And just as with all architecture meant for showcasing purposes, minimalism serves it just right. Most art looks great in this kind of setting.
Interior of the Museum der Moderne, Salzburg. Photo: T. Sawa-BorysĹ‚awski
RENÉ BLOCK: CURATOR EXTRAORDINAIRE AND A RELENTLESS EXPLORER Marta Smolińska
René Block, one of the most prominent and brilliant curators of the second half of the 20th century, celebrated 45 years in the art business with his Edition Block (http://www. editionblockberlin.de/) in 2011. In anticipation of his semi-centennial anniversary, I would like to take this opportunity and present some of the finest positions in his impressive portfolio. Block doesn’t show any signs of slowing down, quite the opposite – he is still totally on the ball when it comes to the art world. He was barely 22 when he set up a gallery in Berlin and bravely showcased – unknown at the time – artists who later on became some of the most celebrated names of the international art scene of the second half of the 20th century. His gallery became a springboard for Fluxus, with Wolf Vostell, Gerhard Richter, Siegmar Polke and Joseph Beuys frequently showing up. To make it possible, Block took up lots of odd jobs, like kitchen porter and other similar posts. Block claims: “In 1964 when I started running an art gallery, American and British Pop-Art had already started its triumphant march across western Europe. It was an amazing and passionate movement from the young people’s point of view. There were galleries (although probably not in Berlin) which got involved in promoting it, so I didn’t feel like I ought to join in. In Germany though, there was this new generation sprouting up: Beuys, Polke, Richter, Vostell and international Fluxus. Nobody wanted
René Block during the jubilee of the 45th anniversary jubilee of Edition Block. Photo: Marta Smolińska
Joseph Beuys, “Schlitten”, 1969, (Edition Block: 50 copies). Photo: Marta Smolińska
to take care of that lot, so I did. In 1964 it wasn’t necessarily considered as mainstream and I dare say – Fluxus has kept this status up to this day. When it comes to geographical fringes – it’s every explorer’s dream. In the 80s I was extremely interested in the Antipodes. The climax of this fascination was receiving an invitation to chair Sydney Biennale, as the first non-Australian curator. That was in 1990. When it comes to Europe, I was always fascinated by the North: Finland, Iceland and the Scandinavian countries. I was very lucky to co-operate with many artists from northern Europe. Later on, after the political system had changed, the focus of my interest shifted to southern Europe. The Balkans and Istanbul specifically. My thoughts were: This art is so much fresher, these artists actually have something to say that we are not aware of, something is stirring up. I consider all commercial, mainstream art as boring on principle.” It was in 1967, after the performance in Aachen had caused an outrage, that Block became interested in Beuys. Shortly after this, Vostell introduced Block to Beuys and their long-term collaboration began. Block still regards Beuys as his guru, who solidified his conviction that abstract art is less worthy than
art strongly linked to human existence with all its problems. When asked about the most important concept Beuys had passed onto him, Block answers: It was a sense of humour and laughter, and then he rushes to explain, saying that it’s important for an artist to have some perspective when it comes to his works and himself. It’s OK to approach art with humour, and it is clear from what Block says that Beuys had this attitude of not taking his works completely seriously. Later on, there were many twists and turns in Block’s career path with stops in New York and Stuttgart, where he was busy promoting German art outside Germany, and sitting on a jury panel assessing projects by young art curators in Amsterdam. He was also famous for discovering Balkan art (a series of exhibitions titled Balkan-Trilogie). When he arrived in Kassel, assuming the position of the new head of the Kunsthalle Fridericianum (a position he held between 1997 and 2006), he came up with a new programme relying mostly on presenting art from the parts of Europe regarded as peripheral, both topographically and culturally: Serbia, Kosovo, Montenegro, Bulgaria, Turkey and Croatia. In this way, a popular theory, much favoured
Elina Brotherus, “Miroir”, video, 2001, “October Salon” in Belgrade. Photo: René Block
by post-modernists, about abandoning centres in favour of less frequented peripheries, became reality in the curatorial field. Block was determined to give voice to those artists who, for whatever reason hadn’t achieved fame but still managed to make their mark and inspire others in their own countries. Balkans felt like the Africa of Okwui Enwezor with all the exposure they received during Documenta 11. As far as Block was concerned, Kassel was supposed to become a place to accommodate a dialogue, not only on the West to West front, but most of all it was meant to convince the West to open itself to the fringes of Europe, to the unknown – terra incognita. Block is well aware that he perceives this unknown art from the foreign, western point of view, but at the same time he makes an effort to eliminate preconceptions and to ask valid questions: Is this work interesting? Does it convey an original message? He knows that he only has a very partial understanding of a foreign art scene, yet he hopes that it is the most essential part. It is important to have some acquaintances among the artists of the foreign place when you do your research there, this way you can extend your network and find more exciting names you would never hear of otherwise.
Work selection greatly depends on meeting and communicating with artists to confirm whether a particular piece is convincing and honest. Block insists on talking to artists himself, even if there is an obvious language barrier. Even if gesturing with hands and legs is involved, he thinks it gives better results than using an interpreter. Artists everywhere seem to use globalized new media dialect and so any potential barriers between the West and peripheries can’t possibly remain airtight. Block admits that the concept of centre and peripheries and their mutual relation is not something set in stone. He sees and appreciates the nomadic nature of centre, predicting that at any time it may be shifted toward more peripheral areas, when affected by political or economic changes. The connection between art and economy is extremely fascinating, according to Block. They usually go hand in hand. Whenever there is a time of economic prosperity, art flourishes too. The examples of ancient Rome, Greece, Egypt or XVIIth century Netherlands testify to this theory. When Europe became wrecked and ruined after WWII and lost its dominant power over the global economy, America instantly stepped in and New York “stole the idea of modern art”, shifting the
cultural centre beyond the Atlantic Ocean. Today we are witnessing a similar process, only with China in place of the USA. Their rapid economic advancement is accompanied by a massive boost in the arts field. New Zealand is another place of interest and keen exploration for Block. Toi Toi Toi exhibition (the words stand for good luck in German) took place in Kassel in 1999 and had the specific purpose of introducing works from a region completely unknown to most Europeans, who happily associate Antipodean art solely with primitive art by Maori tribes and nothing else. This showcase proved that there are fascinating painters to be discovered in New Zealand, artists who could easily pull their weight as much as their European colleagues did (self-taught painter Colin McCahon who was most prolific in the late 40s and produced many paintings with a striking formal resemblance to the Neue Wilde). In 2000, Block organized an exhibition and a conference which meant to look into various contemporary art biennials all over the world, to explore their specifics and contributions to the international art scene. The headline of that event was Song of the Earth and it united artists, curators and art critics involved in such regular events as
the biennials in Havana, Istanbul, Johannesburg, Kwangju, Lyon, Pittsburgh, São Paulo and Sydney. As may be expected, Venice Biennale is looming behind it all, giving it some point of reference… but wait. Maybe the centre is about to shift even for biennials. Maybe it already has? Block’s initiative has enabled an international dialogue among the works from all over the globe. He made it possible for artists, such as Daniel Burren, Allan Kaprow, Hale Tenger, Patricia Piccinini and Chung Seo-Yung, to meet in one location of Kunsthalle Fridericianum. His exhibition titled Looking at you from 2001 was focused on emphasizing the importance of the new media, considered one of the most vital factors facilitating communication beyond geographic and cultural boundaries. Block presented a wide range of artists including Nam June Paik and a generation of artists born in the 70s. They had one thing in common and that was interest in the media, particularly TV images that started to flood in from behind every corner, suddenly their violent, lurid content could be seen everywhere and subsequently it was translated into the universal language of video art. It was yet another statement highlighting the role of new media in bridging gaps between different countries and their arts.
Braco Dimitrijević, “In Advance of Broken History”, 2006, “October Salon” in Belgrade. Photo: René Block
Jarosław Kozłowski, “Rhetorical Figures”, 2006, installation in the hall of Museum of Yugoslav History in Belgrade, next to the limousine of Josip Broz Tito. “October Salon” in Belgrade.
47. October Salon in Belgrade was organized under Block’s supervision with a headline proclaiming: Art, Life & Confusion. Block chose the Finnish Roi Vaara’s Artist’s Dilemma picture from 1997 to grace the cover of the exhibition catalogue. There is a posh looking artist standing in a middle of a vast, icebound landscape under a crossroad signpost. The trouble is, the sign is pointing in two opposite directions; one says: Life, another says: Art. What to choose? Does it mean one can’t go with the other? Portentously, the artist is looking toward the direction that promises life, which brings him closer to Block’s own views. Block has always emphasised the need to remain close to life and reality in all artistic endeavours. His curatorial actions and decisions are sensitive to changing reality, making him able to adjust to whatever happens in a given moment and place. In the vestibule of the 25th of May Museum (date of birth of Josip Broz Tito) Block placed Jarosław Kozłowski’s work just next to Tito’s luxurious limousine. He had once seen this installation with words floating across the electronic displays: No news from … and names of various cities appearing one by one, and remembered it immediately upon seeing the Yugoslavian dictator’s
car. Block quickly commissioned Kozłowski to make another such work, adding the word Belgrade to the appearing message. Helping and supporting young curators is something René Block has always been concerned with. He often organizes workshops for them without charging any fees for participation; the young apprentices even get remunerated for arranging displays. An important event took place in 2005 in Kunsthalle Fridericianum in Kassel. It was a presentation titled Collective Creativity, and its purpose was to bring together curators from different countries and get them to work on one project. Block claimed that the previous 15 years had seen many similar projects, where groups of artists produced works visibly commenting on the current situation and thought it was worth stimulating curators to come up with a similar effort. The nine years of his work in Kassel had its culmination in the form of a succession of five shows, with the joint headline of 5 tage bis zum ende der kunst which was a paraphrase of Joseph Beuys’ sentence and also a tribute to the artist he respected all his life. Each show had its own curator
(one of them was Alina Şerban from Romania), the last one called fremd bin ich eingezogen was run by Block himself. Five different shows, each carrying a unique hallmark of its curator, yet they all displayed a certain kinship of thought typical for Block and his apprentices. This affinity manifested itself in the works selected for the shows, which all revolved around problems of here and now, touching on real life and present issues like: alienation or culture clash, see the Hasidic Jews celebrating Purim against the streets of modern-day Jerusalem, with all the symbols of a busy metropolis (amateur anthropologist show by the Israeli artist Yael Bartana, curated by Birgit Eusterschulte). Another show titled indirect speech was arranged by Alina Şerban, touching on language interpreting problems, including the language of art (Romanian artist Ştefan Constantinescu’s attempt to translate pre-Raphaelites’ favourite motif: Death of Ophelia into video-art). Block chose a citation from a song by Franz Schubert as the title for his part, words suggesting alienation, incapability of feeling “at home” – would it be some hint at his own state of mind, since Kassel failed to become home to him, in spite of his rather long stay in this city? Perhaps it was just a way of focusing on problems of isolation, a feeling that touches so many people of today, depriving them of a sense of belonging? In 2008, when René Block had already left Kassel, he moved to Berlin to start a new venture. In a post-industrial building, a short distance away from Hamburger Bahnhof, he opened a venue promoting young Turkish art. He was supported by the Vehbi Koç Foundation and called this new institution Tanas (http://tanasberlin.de/) which is an anagram of the Turkish word sanat – meaning art. The people who grabbed his attention are Turkish artists with unique and astounding potential. Shortly afterwards, he came up with the idea to publish monographs presenting their accomplishments. These books were written in both Turkish and English, in order to help them get noticed and leave the peripheries for the sake of international reception within the centre. The big plus point is that they were written by Turkish critics and art historians alongside total foreigners, and such a mixture allows readers to obtain a better perspective. Block says: “My first encounter with Turkish artists took place in Istanbul in 1991. I got invited to a seminar on Beuys and it turned out I was to share a table with Hüseyin Alptekin, who at the time lived in Ankara, we hit it off straight away and remained friends until his sudden death 2 years ago. The only Turkish artist I had known before this conference was Sarksis, who lived in Paris and we happened to collaborate on a few projects. He was the one
who gave me contacts for several female Turkish artists: Ayse Erkmen, Gülsün Karamustafa and Füsün Onur. After meeting them and seeing their works for the first time I’d been extremely impressed and moved, to the extent that I went back to Istanbul the following year. Soon I was convinced I needed to showcase these electrifying works back at home. It was a time when I was still employed by DAAD, with the Berlin artists programme, and I managed to get Ayse Erkmen an exhibition in Berlin, she was the first one to come.” Berlin seemed like a natural choice because “this is a city with a very large Turkish community. It has precincts dominated by Turkish shops, restaurants and workshops. Berlin is home for numerous writers, poets, film directors, musicians and visual artists. Their background is diverse, depending on the generation they come from. The older ones left Turkey for political reasons, especially those who came from Kurdistan. Their number is quite high. There are others, who simply wanted to leave Istanbul for another big city and Berlin became attractive after the Wall was torn down, and the country got united in 1990. Due to the various grants from German high schools and universities, there is also a high rate of students of artistic faculties, who decided to settle here after their graduation, not forgetting those who were actually born here.” One thing is indisputable, Tanas is a must-see for anyone with an interest in contemporary art. René Block also runs a small gallery on one of the Danish islands (http://www.44moen.dk/). In a former garage space – internationally renowned artists present their works, but that’s a story for another issue.
Cabinets with the copies of the works of artists in Edition Block. Photo: Marta Smolińska
THE MUSEUM OF MODERN ART, KAMAKURA -The site of condensing Japan’s history from samurai to its reconstruction after the war
Located 50 km south west of Tokyo, Kamakura is a historical city which wants to be registered as Japan’s 18th World Heritage Site. From 1192 to 1333, Kamakura was the capital of Japan and, even today, the city centre is always crowded with many tourists and children on school trips.
Shinya Watanabe The Museum of Modern Art, Kamakura is located in the heart of Kamakura. Opened in 1951, the Museum of Modern Art, Kamakura is Japan’s first modern art museum, and even the 3rd oldest modern art museum in the world, following the opening of MoMA in New York and Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, the eastern wing of Palais de Tokyo. In addition, the building designed by Junzo Sakakura is globally know as a masterpiece of Japanese modern architecture and, in 1999, was chosen as one of the best 20 examples of architecture in Japan by DOCOMOMO. Since this is an old building, there are some inconveniences, such as the lack of elevator etc. However, it perfectly matches the historical scenery of the Tsurugaoka Hachiman Shrine of Kamakura, with this building being full of charm. However, because of Kanagawa Prefecture’s emergency financial control, the closing of the Museum of Modern Art, Kamakura is now under discussion. The museum stands on the site of the Tsurugaoka Hachiman Shrine, but the lease for the land expires in 2016. The lease, written together with the shrine, clearly states that the lease period ends on March 31, 2016, and the land needs to be returned as vacant land. The prefecture owns the building and the shrine owns the land, but the prefecture will not request the renewal of the contract, so the closing of the museum has already been determined. --During the time of confusion after the defeat of World War II, the Museum of Modern Art, Kamakura was opened in 1951 to “try to brighten the hearts of the people with arts and culture”, in the territory of the Tsurugaoka Hachiman Shrine. Since part of the Tsurugaoka Hachiman Shrine was state-owned land, it had been occupied by the U.S. Military after the end of war. Then, as a result of the San Francisco Peace Treaty of the same year, state-owned land was sold, therefore the Tsurugaoka Hachiman Shrine provided the land to the Kanagawa Prefecture. The architect Junzo Sakakura designed the museum using steel, but the steel he wanted was actually in short supply, so he brought similar steels close to his original plan from the U.S. military bases in Yokosuka, which was constructed by Mabuchi The Museum of Modern Art, Kamakura. Photo: S. Watanabe’s archive
Kensetsu under Sakakura’s design. Then he recalculated the design, and built the museum in the city of Kamakura. This place shows a condensed history of Japan such as when the shogun Minamoto no Yoritomo opened Japan’s first samurai government in 1192, and then the defeat of Japan in World War II, and the following occupation of the U.S. Military, and subsequently Japan’s independence and its reconstruction. Right after the opening of the museum, there was no budget for the collection, so it only held exhibitions. Having exhibited actively, the museum won the trust both of artists and collectors, and gradually gained some budget to build its own collection. Mainly consisting of Japanese modern art, such as Yoga painting, Japanese painting, prints and photography, the collection of 10,000 artworks, with such works as Kishida Ryusei’s “Dojo Figure (Reiko statue)” and Shunsuke Matsumoto’s “Standing Figure”, is one of the largest in a public museum in Japan. Currently, Kanagawa Prefectural Museum of Art has three exhibition venues, the Museum of Modern Art, Kamakura, Kamakura Annex and the Museum of Modern Art, Hayama, and each of these buildings organizes different exhibitions. --After graduating from Tokyo Imperial University’s (now Tokyo University) Department of Art History, the architect Sakakura Junzo (1901-1969) left for France, and studied architecture under Le Corbusier. Winning the competition from five architects, Sakakura’s Museum of Modern Art, Kamakura, is still small – only two stories of reinforced concrete, and the total floor area of 1,575 square metres – but it had a significant impact on Japan’s architectural scene during the confusion after the defeat of war. Nicknamed the “square white box”, the main part of the building is on the second floor, and the first floor is Le Corbusier-style modern architecture supported by stilts. In the square courtyard in the heart of the museum, Isamu Noguchi’s stone Kokeshi statue stands facing the pond. In the opening year of 1951, Isamu Noguchi enjoyed the life of a newly-wed in Kamakura, together with his wife Yoshiko Yamaguchi, known as Li Xianglan, a Chinaborn Japanese actress who appeared in Japanese war propaganda films. Together with the master of earthenware Kitaoji Rosanjin, Noguchi made many pottery items in Kamakura. A couple of these
Kokeshis (traditional Japanese dolls, also known as the origin of Matryoshka dolls) represent the figure of a man turning his hands on a woman’s waist, and may symbolize Noguchi and Li Xianglan themselves. Inside the Heike pond, Antony Gormley’s iron sculpture “Insider VII” stands, showing the contrast with Noguchi’s works. The building of the museum stands in harmony with the surrounding nature, and from the piers, such as the ones floating on the pond, we can enjoy foliage. The pond named Heike was made in 1182 by Hojo Masako, the wife of shogun Minamoto Yoritomo, and this Heike pond is the west side of two ponds, which are facing east and west. By having the name of the Genji (Minamoto) family on the east, the direction of the sunrise, she wished for the prosperity of the Minamoto family, and placing their rival’s name, Heike, on the lake to the west, the direction of the sunset, she prayed for their extinction. In 1937, when Sakakura designed the Japan Pavilion in Paris Expo, which won the Grand Prix in the building sector, he used the corner of Le Corbusier’s studio. When Le Corbusier visited Japan to build the National Museum of Western Art in Tokyo, Corbusier stood for a while in the square garden of the museum in Kamakura, which was built by his disciple. Under the support of Sakakura and other Japanese students, such as Kunio Maekawa and Yoshizaka Takamasa, Le Corbusier’s National Museum of Western Art in Tokyo, built in 1957, has an atrium space, which is similar to the one in Kamakura, in its dimension of height and width. In contrast with the Museum of Modern Art, Kamakura, which will be closed in the near future, Tokyo’s National Museum of Western Art has been defined as Japan’s important cultural property, and just like the city of Kamakura, it has been waiting to be appointed as Japan’s 18th World Heritage site. More than 60 years have passed since its opening and, of course, the building is becoming old and damaged, but by all means, why don’t we protect this precious building, as a symbol of modern Japan? Any small and modest exhibition is fine, but I hope the museum can continue to function and host exhibitions which can fit in this tiny, but priceless space.
The Museum of Modern Art, Kamakura. Photo: S. Watanabeâ€™s archive
CONTEMPORARY ART IN THE “COUNTRY WITHOUT A GALLERY”, THAT IS BELARUS Krzysztof Stanisławski
To introduce the topic and the nature of cultural life, or just life, in Belarus, a country lying in Europe, our close neighbour, yet exotic, ruled by a satrap, where everything is apparently normal, but many of the actions and simple gestures are recognized as policies, sometimes involuntarily, I will use an anecdote told by a Belarusian interpreter relating his adventure in a bus in Minsk: “One evening I was returning by trolleybus with a girl, talking, maybe a little too loud, in Belarusian. The vehicle was full. Our behaviour met a response of three passengers: an old lady, almost crying, said: ‘Son, you have preserved our speech and I myself have almost forgotten it’. ‘It is unfortunate that your parents were shot before you were born’, said a guy in middle age while getting out, and finally, an elderly gentleman whispered in my ear: ‘I’m also against Lukashenko.’ And we were only talking about love”.1 Because of the closure of the country during the Soviet period, which still lasts today actually, Belarusian art and new artistic groups emerged only in the era of perestroika, in the late 80s and 90s. Neo-expressionist design, visual acuity, combining media, which are typical features of trans avant-garde, in Belarus merged with surrealism, the poetic atmosphere of the spirit of Chagall, who comes from Vitebsk, after all. Belarusian artists act and operate on the margins of the official artistic life, creating the last semi-legal art functioning independently in a totalitarian system. A presentation of this independent, operating on the margins, but still officially sanctioned as it is funded by the state, Belarusian art took place at the 54th Venice Biennale in 2011. The exhibition was located in the newest, still overhauled, part of Arsenale, Arsenale Nuovissimo, across the central basin of the former military shipyard. It so happened that it was a little out of the way, beyond the water, which required a boat crossing, where some of the most interesting exhibitions of Biennale 2011 took place. Not only the Belarusian pavilion, but also that of South Africa, and the panorama of young Italian art. The pavilion of Belarus, presenting the project entitled Kodex was one of the most interesting national exhibitions of the Biennale, thus, the debut should be regarded as very successful, directing the attention of the global art market to the country ruled by Alexander Lukashenko, who called himself bat’ka, but not completely enslaved. 1 Statement at the conference Joint Polish-Belarusian Actions, Warsaw, spring 2012.
Artur Klinau, “The Lord’s Supper”, installation, straw, own technique. The Republic of Belarus Pavilion, 54th Venice Biennale, 2011. Photo: K. Stanisławski’s archive
In the centre of the pavilion, an excellent installation of straw, painted golden and entitled The Last Supper, by Arthur Klinau was presented. The straw Supper was the central object of Belarusian exposure, but its strongest point consisted of paintings by Victor Petrov – expressive, very sharp images painted with red paint. The huge canvas by Petrov was placed at the entrance, and at the front of the pavilion there was – also red – a sculpture by Kanstantsin Kastsiuschenki – dramatically spread, bloody arms and twisted hands. Like a silent scream, a sculptural protest against oppression. Although the official organizer of the pavilion was the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Belarus, Mikhail Barazna, the curator and, primarily, the artists themselves made sure that it was an independent art exhibition2, at the same time attractive and 2 Many artists and critics have spoken about the level of independence of the pavilion. As you might guess, in the official media the pavilion was hailed as a great success and almost a miracle, while independent environments generally denied it any value. The most interesting voice in this case seems to me to be a discussion entitled “Artists are still there. Magdalena Linkowska talks with Monika Szewczyk and Andrei Dureiko about the situation of Belarusian contemporary art”, kulturaenter.pl, and reports from the Biennale published in a special issue of pARTisan, 2011, no. 15. The end of the interview given by Klinau in this issue seems particularly relevant to me: “From the beginning, I was convinced that the Belarusian pavilion of Venice Biennale, in addition to positive reports of the state press, would receive a lot of criticism from independent experts. But I would like to say to all
versatile, interesting, though less extensive than the – by definition independent, as it was prepared by a curator and institution from outside Belarus – exhibition Opening the Door? Belarusian Art Today, presented at the Vilnius Centre for Contemporary Art in 2010, and transferred to the Warsaw Zachęta in the summer of 2011. Why? Because Kestutis Kuizinas’ exhibition (the director of the Centre) was prepared according to the largely political scenario: in an enslaved country only art acting against the regime is valid, politically ambiguous, or the art of forced outlaws, equally unambiguous. We saw curatorial agitation against the political situation, but not serving the fair presentation of art. Kuizinas made an exhibition for artists who need promotion, because they live in an enslaved country. They need it not just on condition that they practice political art, but because they are great. And all this in spite of Lukashenko’s cultural political commissars and curators, declaring ‘opening the door’, but with a question mark. Belarussians in Belarus, as much as Belarussians in Germany, Poland, Belgium, and the Netherlands, need possibly neutral artistic promotion. Because Belarusian art is unique. Still, I also do realise that a lot would have to change so that the works of artists working the ‘offended’: do not worry! All of us will be there! Just let us not destroy the embryo at the very beginning. Let us calmly analyse what was done in the wrong way and start to prepare for the next biennial” (interview conducted by Anastasia Rusiecka, p. 34).
outside the country could find their place in the Belarusian pavilion in Venice. When Ukraine presented its national pavilion for the first time at the 49th Biennale in 2001, there were military tents set up near the main entrance to the Biennale Gardens. A loud entrée: lively music, a lot of vodka, the ubiquitous sunflowers. In fact, very unleavened beginnings, but memorable. From that moment, Ukrainian art started to exist in the international art consciousness. And its presence is continuous, ever-growing and increasingly attractive. There were a few Belarusian ‘approaches’ to participate in the Biennale. The Minister or Deputy Minister of Culture of Belarus defiantly claimed, at the opening of the pavilion in 2011, that Belarusian art had already been noticed and awarded at Venice Biennale, when in 1948 the award for graphics was given to Marc Chagall. Then again, Andrei Dureika in an interview magnified the share of another outstanding Belarusian artist, Leon Tarasewicz, in the Biennale in 2001 – in the Polish pavilion. To add to all this, there was an exhibition organized by the Italian curator Enzo Fornaro in 2005.3 And in 2009 The exhibition, listed in the official directory 51 of the Biennale as the national participation of Belarus, took place in Galleria della Libreria Mondadori in San Marco, so in the very heart of Venice. Nine artists participated in it: Vladimir Tsesler and Sergey Voichenko (1955–2004), Leonid Khobotov, Ruslan Vashkevich, Valery Shkarubo, Igor Tishin, Andrei Zadorine, Natalya Zaloznaya and Izrail Basov (1918–1994). More on this topic – see the interview with Vashkevich in this book, and the main directory
there was an official preparation of a Belarusian pavilion for the Venetian Biennale, except that the opening of the exhibition took place… in Minsk.4 Is it really during Venice Biennale 2011 that Belarusian art finally entered the international stage and maybe the same will happen as happened in the case of Ukrainian art? To the first question I will answer definitely, yes. It was a turning point and, in addition, a very successful debut. To the second question, however, I have to answer, no. In the current system in Belarus there is no place yet for systematic and independent international promotion, because there is no institution that would have to deal with it and, above all, there is no will of promotion. In Ukraine, there was a system of private art galleries (incidentally, also promoting Belarussians), there were independent centres for contemporary art, curators and, above all, collectors 51 La Biennale de Venezia, International Art Exhibition. Participating Countries. Collateral Events, vol.II , Marsilio, Venice, 2005, pp. 94–97. In addition to the pavilion commissioner, Enzo Fornaro, curators Larissa Michnevic and Natalia Sarangovic are listed. 4 The exhibition entitled Belarusian pavilion of Venice Biennale (and the Italian directory La Biennale di Venezia il Padiglione Bielorusso put on the cover) was opened at the National Exhibition Centre BelExpo in Minsk in June 2009. The group of 28 artists included: Alexei Lunev, Arthur Klinau, Alexander Nekrashevich, Uladzimir Parfianok, Igor Savchenko, Sergei Shabohin, Antonina Slobodchikova, Mihail Gulin and Kanstantsin Kastsiuchenka. It was coordinated by Ruslan Vashkevich, the curator was Lisaveta Mikhalczuk. By the way, part of the exhibition was to appear in Venice and efforts on this matter, though unfortunately in vain, were made by the Cracow group Strupek (more: http:// contemporarybelarus.wordpress.com/tag/niezalezny-pawilonbialorusi-na-biennale-w-wenecji).
Mihail Gulin, “Untitled (triptych)”, mixed media, 2009. Photo: K. Stanisławski’s archive
Alexei Lunev, “Meat”, video stills, 2010. Photo: K. Stanisławski’s archive
The phenomenon of independent Belarusian art occurred in a wider range only around 1992, with the founding of the Gallery Sixth Line. Almost all the ‘independent’ artists of Minsk and throughout Belarus focused around this place. Belarusians read about western art and new trends in the Polish Projekt and Sztuka. Both these magazines played an important role in education. Young Belarusian artists could see new painting, to a large extent trans avant-garde, in original Italian, German, American, but also Polish versions. Our artists representing New expression, such as Zdzisław Nitka, were well known and respected here. New painting, known mainly from Sztuka, showed new horizons and daring innovations. Young Belarussians could see with their own eyes new pictures at the Biennale and the Painting Triennale in Vilnius, where the works of Scandinavian or Polish artists sometimes appeared.
The REVISION group (Andrei Dureika, Janna Grak, Andrei Loginov, Maxim Tyminko, Maxim Wakultschik), “Giotto di Bondone”, from the series “Your Favorites”, C-print, plexiglas, aluminum, 2008. Photo: K. Stanisławski’s archive
and sponsors worked, with Viktor Pinchuk as an example. It is true that he is the son-in-law of Leonid Kuchma, the post-communist oligarch, but at the same time he is the owner of a large collection of native art, the owner of a private art centre with a great international program and, finally, a longterm sponsor of the Ukrainian pavilion at the Palazzo Papadopoli, not in the hallway of the theatre archive of Arsenale Nuovissimo. Much will depend on the next Biennale exhibitions and the degree of their independence. It is a matter of the future of Belarusian art. But it is not only the future that matters, it is worth remembering the past, at least the recent past, when new Belarusian art was born. Arthur Klinau is aware of that. He said: “The biggest threat to Belarus is not power or politics. The biggest threat is the loss of sovereignty and independence, and culture is the only guarantor of independence. Therefore, cultural projects are the most strategic projects for Belarus.”5 Arthur releases monographs of key Belarusian artists. He has published four so far, the fifth is soon to come and more than 20 volumes are scheduled. This will be a critical encyclopaedia which consolidates facts, something which is sorely lacking. 5 Artur Klinau speaking at the Conference Joint Polish-Belarusian Actions, Warsaw, spring 2012.
However, to a large extent, the Belarus trans avant-garde was an autogenous phenomenon, which was, indeed, one of the main features of this trend. Therefore, talking about secondariness, the imitation of Poles, Lithuanians and Belarusians in relation to arte cifra or Neue wilde does not make much sense, as it relates only to the specific dates beginning these trends, specific exhibitions, etc., 10 or even 15 years later than the first ‘wild’ exhibitions in the West. However, we must not forget that these are just dates. The art of the Soviet Union countries did not appear on the international circuit and had no chance of direct confrontation, for example, during joint exhibitions, festivals, biennials etc. Apart from officially promoted artists, most often representing conservative, traditional socialist realist tendencies, young, independent, non-realist artists had no chance of obtaining a passport and travelling abroad so that they might imitate the fashionable trends after returning. Besides, it was not pure expressionism, but rather a conglomerate of different trends, considered as avant-garde just because they moved away from socialist realism, but not having much in common with avant-garde. Therefore, in young formists’ paintings, elements of surrealism, symbolism and abstraction may be found, creating along with the manner of expressive treatment of painting matter, a very original Belarusian mix, in fact, stylistically dissimilar to western trans avant-gardes. The history of the independent art groups Forma and M-Art is very sad, but predictable in the face of the cultural policy of a non-democratic state, which after the thaw of perestroika, decided to deal with
Ruslan Vashkevich, “Portrait of a Man in Red Turban”, color photography, 2009. Photo: K. Stanisławski’s archive
Ruslan Vashkevich, “Richter Scale”, 8 paintings, oil on canvas, 2010. Photo: K. Stanisławski’s archive
dishevelled artists and restore the old, social realist, or at least realistic order in national arts. Some formists and M-artists migrated in the 90s through Poland and Russia to London, Berlin and Tel Aviv. Interestingly, after 15–20 years, some of them have returned to Belarus. Several members of the group have died. A few continued their artistic activity, but changed their style to more commercial work, helping them to sell their work and earn a living. Arthur Klinau, a prominent artist of all arts: a painter, a photographer, an installation author, a sculptor, a writer, a screenwriter and film production designer, an editor and publisher of the magazine pARTizan characterized the situation of art in Belarus in this way: “Belarusian contemporary art today is a community of ‘authors’ for whom, 20 years since the collapse of the Soviet Union, there has been no art scene. Therefore, in order to survive in the reality with no need of, for example, a painter, an author is forced to choose a guerilla strategy of existence: despite hostile, unfavourable conditions for their business they need to stay alive, using all possible
means. So, one must be the gallery, the exhibition space, the curator, the manager and the salesman for themselves. On the one hand, the situation of a ‘country without a gallery’ is convenient for the state: stagnation in culture causes stagnation in society. For years, the state sponsored the Soviet model of culture, blocking any attempt for new initiatives. Of course, the lack of a gallery led to a lack of any other elements of the infrastructure: curators (who had no place to work), exhibitions (because there were no curators), or critics (who did not have anything to write about). As in the Soviet days, culture in Belarus is divided into ‘official’ and ‘unofficial’. On the one hand, the Belarusian state speaks about “supporting art in all its forms”. However, in contrast to the ‘official’ culture of the Soviet Union times, the Belarus ideologically correct art does not play a comparably significant role in the country today. The Soviet system of power needed people of culture who created decorations in the performance of “universal happiness and social justice”. For faithful service, painters were granted housing, bonuses and referrals to health clinics
etc. In the 90s, the new system no longer needed these authors, so de facto the ‘official’ culture as well as the independent culture, was abandoned. The only difference being that, due to existing trends and inertia, the ‘official’ culture continues to receive government grants (to organize exhibitions, open-air painting, there are programs to support talented people, scholarships barely enough for buying canvas and paint). Despite such adverse conditions, Belarusian contemporary art, thanks to the enthusiasm of the authors and some social initiatives, still lives actively and continues to grow. Just as in the Soviet period, this process takes place in the artistic underground of Belarus.”6 In the country with ‘no gallery’, as Klinau puts it, there are many exhibition institutions. There are several museums of art, including contemporary art centres, a dozen, and probably dozens of, shops with paintings and other works of art. All of these institutions are located in the stately buildings, some in soc-classical style, as palaces, employing hundreds, or maybe more, people and create a so-called official art scene. As in the Soviet times, these are places where exhibitions of the following artists are organized: 1. Academy Graduates; 2. Members of the Union of Artists; 3. Artists accepted by the authorities, that is, the winners of state and federal awards. Anyone interested reports the desire to present their work in a particular institution and waits for their turn. Well, normal art bureaucracy of the Soviet-style. Until recently, until the late 1980s, and probably later too, also cultivated in Poland and other socialist countries, as well as in all Soviet republics. In the country “without a gallery” together with hundreds of “official” exhibition institutions, there are actually only two ‘unofficial’ galleries and it is thanks to them that independent artists feel that once something may change and all is going to be “normal”.
the gallery, she carries out the work that should be performed by a contemporary art centre or centre for Belarusian art. CoCAin deals with the presentation of centres and museums of contemporary art in Europe and the world. It presents beautiful, designed by top architects, buildings in Germany, Poland, Turkey, etc. Often one of many such institutions in their home countries, often some of the most interesting, important ones well worth noticing. And in Belarus, forgotten by Europe and the world, the best, most important and most noteworthy exhibition facility is located in the former bottle collection point. And it is also beautiful. The second major independent gallery in the country ‘without a gallery’ is located on the second floor of a soc-office building of the 70s. Possibly once a factory, a public storage; today a place of private shops and commercial offices, of emerging ‘private initiative’. And a photo gallery, NOVA, engaging in an activity of which many art centres could be proud. Exhibitions, lectures, workshops, competitions, professional website monitoring of the whole photographic life in the country, also in English. In Poland, there is not one such wellfunctioning institution, and probably in many other ‘free’ countries as well. This place, too, is beautiful, though no famous architect designed it, it has no guaranteed funding and it runs thanks to the perseverance and passion of one man – an outstanding photographer Vladimir Parfianok. Two galleries in such a big country as Belarus? Perhaps outside Minsk, two more could be found, but I doubt it. But let us not forget that Belarus is the country ‘without a gallery’…
The first one is the Gallery Y (Y with a Belarusian u – to be found in MS Word Insert Symbol), operating in a single-storey pavilion, which for decades served as a collection point for glass containers. Until now, individuals who wanted to give up empty vodka bottles found their way there. The gallery is led by Walentyna Kisieleva, a curator and art critic, a friend of artists trying, against all odds, not to go bankrupt and organize interesting exhibitions, as well as participation of the gallery in international events, such as the Art Vilnius fair. Walentyna is a personinstitution, helping in dealing, offering professionally designed dossiers of artists. In the office part of 6 Arthur Klinau, “Official culture and ‘guerilla’ strategy”, pARTisan, 2012, no. 18.
“GANGNAM STYLE” Benjamin Fallon
Last summer was the summer of ‘Gangnam Style’ the international hit that propelled the already ‘big in Korea’ musician Psy into global stardom. The song itself is a critique of the pretensions of the young rich in the Gangnam district south of the Han river in Seoul, characterized by their identification with the easy signifiers of wealth, such as Louis Vuitton and equestrian pursuits. The implicit positioning and cultural reference of the song was lost as it ‘went viral’, quickly becoming the most watched video in YouTube’s short history, at the time of writing it has so far racked up a massive 1,677,115,782 views for just the original, let alone the various other versions and re-uploads. People seemed drawn to its catchiness, insistent beats and accompanying over produced and incredible video, featuring a relatively simple dance that is still seen being practiced by children in the streets of Europe. This song acted as the soundtrack to my experience last August as I had the good fortune to spend a month in South Korea, whilst taking part in the 4th Gwangju Biennial International Curator Course alongside 23 other international curators. We spent a month visiting artists and institutions primarily in the Jeolla region whilst having visits from international artists and curators working on the biennial. The Biennial itself has an interesting history given its initiation as a memorial to the 1980 Gwangju Uprising, in which up to 165 people lost their lives in the protest for democracy against the Chun Doo-hwan regime. Due to its relation to this event, it holds a place in the local population’s hearts and minds that seems unthinkable from a European context, the first few editions attracting upwards of a million visitors and daily national broadcasts. For many locals their English is limited to ‘biennale’, in one particularly notable event I took my clothes to the laundry and handed them over to a man who just kept on repeating biennale and when I returned the next day to collect them, it was the same. Gwangju is earmarked to be the centre of Korean culture with a giant cultural centre currently under construction in the centre, sometimes proving an obstacle to movement between different areas of the city. Firstly, I would like to quickly point to Alternative Space Pool, an institution, in a residential area in the north of Seoul, that has a long history of exploring the politics of South Korea. Whilst there, the ‘Sound of the State’ exhibition, the first part of an ongoing project looking at the legacies of the 1972 October Yushin in which President Park Chung-hee assumed dictatorial powers, was held. The exhibition focused on the sensual experience of life under this regime, with the work of Yangachi, ‘A Night of Burning Bone
and Skin’, presenting a claustrophobic run through an unidentified pitch black forest, with details becoming fleetingly illuminated from a flashlight coming from the same location as the camera. It leaves you with a sense of ill-ease and the sense of a complete narrative always being just out of grasp. Leeum desires to be, as an artistic and cultural root, the centre of Asian art, and desires to be a leader for the future. Website mission statement The second institution I would like to mention is the Leeum Samsung Museum of Modern Art, an undeniably impressive and bombastic building, based on the slopes of Namsan, from which one can survey the city below. In the wake of the Cold War and the revolutions of 1989, the former Soviet states were suddenly left with a shortfall of ‘official’ institutions. Over the past 20 years, the ‘West’ has integrated the ‘East’ by reproducing extant institutional models, with art becoming an increasingly important way for countries to position themselves through the construction of mega-museums designed by a small number of Starchitects showing the most ‘free’ art forms. This is co-extensive with the globalising flows of capital making the owners of Samsung, the Lee family, one of the richest families in the world and thus able to establish this museum in their name. The Leeum seems unique in its architectural manifestation. Seemingly unable to decide on one Starchitect, the Lee family went for 3 of the biggest with separate wings built by Rem Koolhaas, Mario Botta and Jean Nouvel. The museum has three separate spaces with different functions, Museum 1 designed by Botta shows their collection of Korean antiquities, Museum 2 designed by Nouvel holds the collection of modern and contemporary, Korean and International art and, finally, the Koolhaas designed Samsung Child Education & Culture Center. This holds temporary exhibitions, educational programmes and extends out to a sculpture park, at the time of our visit featuring the now ubiquitous Louise Bourgeios Spiders (I will resist the joke about webs). Here, I will focus on Museum 2 and how the collection is both constructed and displayed and how it points towards some of the problems that seem immanent to the project of this museum. The Leeum typifies the shift from earlier models of patronage in which wealthy individuals would previously aid the work of museums through the support of professionals, the donation of personal collections and the construction of new spaces for art, to the spread of institutions started directly by the rich to serve as little more than monuments to their wealth, or as convenient receptacles for
tax breaks. This has been a particular problem in my current base of Stockholm with a proliferation, seemingly without end, of private institutions providing safe programming subject to taste and whim, all the while providing an easy let-out for governments to secede from the thorny issue of public funding of culture as the private sector are proving they can do the job. A peculiar dyschronia haunts the displays within Museum 2, apparently International (for International read Euro-American) Modernity ends in 1969 with Josef Albers paying homage to the square, however Korean Modernity is seemingly still in flux or very recently ended with the work here taking us up to 2010. It gets far more confusing when it comes to the contemporary (always a problematic term) going back to 1965 with Warhol and Stella (Stella at this point arguably as modernist as Albers). Geographically, it also becomes confusing with the artists and works one expects to encounter in such a museum Hirst’s post-fordist pills, a laconic and seductive Koon’s egg and Richter with his out of focus candles and a smeared abstract, however, alongside these is the work of a set of Korean artists who have found fame in a more international art world, such as Lee Ufan, Lee Bul, Kim Sooja and Haegue Yang. The display seems to miss a trick to look at the development of Korean modernity as part of the wider flows of what was happening in culture spatially and temporally, instead separating Korean Modern Art to its own floor, seemingly suggesting it is only worthy of inclusion in a broader narrative once it is subject to International (once again EuroAmerican) attention. An avowedly anti-curatorial approach is taken with these displays, perhaps making it an odd place to take a group of curators, leaving one with the impression of the collection as a treasure chest for the spectacular rather than a toolbox from which we might start to unpick and understand the complex flows of modernity and living in the world together. An object is rarely exhausted by its commodity status, being able to hold multiple potentially conflicting values at once. This to me is the core function of museums, to pull out these tensions and make them productive, however, in common with a number of museums, what seems to happen in the Leeum is a peculiar flattening of objects to mere receptacles of exchange value. It leaves you with the question of why artists are so suspicious of curators when presented with this as the alternative?
DEPENDENT ON WHAT THERE IS Jerzy Olek
Every generalization is necessarily simplification, however, it seems to me that what comes below conveys the essence with great probability. The subject matter is the mental and cultural difference between the West and the East. In European culture, an outward-looking attitude, one that is open to the world, is predominant, while in the Far East it tends to be directed inward, to be self-absorbed. This has repercussions in the process of creation and is reflected in art. In Europe and in the United States, mostly new phenomena are developed in the artistic sphere, they are brought into being ex nihilo. In Japan, the creative act usually involves discovery and indication.
Numerous diverse symptoms of such an attitude can be observed in the realm of new media, which are dominated by photography. Akira Komoto is one of the most interesting artists active in this domain; he is a painter, a graphic artist and a photographer for whom it is the creative process rather than the ensuing image that matters. He composes what can be termed as still lifes of found objects in open space. Together with the ground, they constitute a canvas on which the painting act takes place. He gives the title “Seeing” to all his works, by which he
Yasu Suzuka, A torii at Ise Jingu Shrine at the time of the winter solstice, 2004. Photo: J. Olek’s archive
Yasu Suzuka, Horyu-ji Temple, 2008. Photo: J. Olek’s archive.
wishes to emphasize the deliberate illusiveness of the images he creates. On selected objects found in the foreground of the scenery (planks, branches, stones), Komoto paints the fragments of landscape they obscure. As a consequence, the landscape that is visible in the background of the photograph in miniature is imposed upon the objects arranged in front of the lens. One of the major aspects of his artistic practice is subversive interference in future works of art by means of colours of the images of nature. He explains: If we compare the blue colour of the sky with the blue colour of paint, the difference in quality will make us see the spatiality and depth of the former and the flatness and surface character of the latter, as well as the transparency of the sky and the unevenness and coarseness of paint. Colour photographs of these two kinds of blue blur the difference, and their homogeneity makes them seem to permeate. As a result, differences between naturalness and artificiality, between what the eye of the artist discovered in the immediate surrounding and what he created becomes indistinct. Naoya Yoshikawa is another artist working in nature and with nature. He paints tree trunks and leaves with light. He uses the flash of his camera to draft his expressive pictographs on trees, changing filters
from blue to green or red. Mysterious figures are thus put onto the “canvas” of nature. With blue, red or orange light he brings out secret signs from the muddle of boughs and the thicket of leaves: ideograms known only to himself or recognised ones, precisely calligraphed in the woods when the dawn only begins to illuminate details. Originating in old culture, the contemplative attitude of contemporary artists from the Far East towards nature conditions, the way they employ technology in the process of individual examination and creative interpretation of nature. It is neutral in respect to motif. Means used in artistic practice exclusively serve to sharpen human senses, intensifying the reception of the virtues of nature. Technology does not replace nature; it is not an object of artistic penetration, either. As the Japanese believe, it is as “unnecessary” as any object of art that has no value itself. It is nothing more than a transmitter. Yasu Suzuki’s method of choosing motifs for photographs is characteristic. He uses camera obscura amongst others. Yet it is I ching that determines where and when the next pinhole is going to be. This declared Taoist trusts wands
photographic set staged by the artist, it is Morimura who plays their roles, carefully reconstructing the scenes and choosing costumes that bring to mind the perfectionism of Dutch illusionistic painting. He can be Marlena Dietrich or Marilyn Monroe, or van Gogh from the self-portrait without the ear.
Akira Komoto, “seeing 90-10”, chromogenic print, 1990. Photo: J. Olek’s archive
Most Japanese artists, like the Dutch ones centuries ago, tend to have a particular specialisation. Some of them photograph open sea, changing the way they do it every now and then without losing the intriguing nature of the images, others take pictures of tunnels, symbolizing life. Methodicalness is also discernible in the way they work. Masaru Nakamoto is an artist who depicts, step by step, the place where he happens to find himself with the determination of a geodesist. He systematically
and their indications. He is intrigued by peculiar mysteriousness, which is an immanent feature of photography. A spectacular expression of this are multi-portrait icons created in Naples. Looking into the lens, each person portrayed in the picture is holding a Polaroid portrait of another person who is, in turn, showing a photograph of the previous model, and so on. An apparently endless sequence of images develops into infinity, rendering it illegible. The infinity of time is the main concern of Hiroshi Yamazaki’s work in the domain of photography and film. His sun, moon or stars mark their routes in open space, which are completely different from their actual movements. The common feature of the presented examples of various approaches is that they use what there is, naturally in different fashions. This is true also for Japanese staged photography. One of its eminent exponents is Yasumasa Morimura. He draws inspiration from old paintings and totems of popular culture. These totems include e.g. film stills, showing cinema stars in well-known scenes. At the
Akira Komoto, “seeing 81-11”, chromogenic print, 1981. Photo: J. Olek’s archive
registers the space around him, upon which he delicately inscribes his own shadow, and creates large format mosaics of stills, like a geographer transferring a fragment of the globe onto a map. Observing the work of eminent artists of Japanese photography, one concludes that it is conditioned by the ethos of precision and determination. This visual dependence on other beings is especially conspicuous in this domain. The simplicity of employed means and clearness of expression, which is frequently very aesthetically refined – consistent with cultural tradition that reaches back to the principles of Zen – are also its dominant features. Akira Komoto, “seeing 90-24”, chromogenic print, 1993. Photo: J. Olek’s archive
Naoya Yoshikawa, “Memories of Forest”, Photo: J. Olek’s archive
SEARCHING FOR EURASIA Towards the Unity of Europe and Asia. An introduction to the project of the Japanese artist Shinya Watanabe. Tim Warrwick
Shinya Watanabe is a Japanese born and Berlin based independent art curator with long international experience (i.e. Japan, NY, Basel, Berlin). In his most recent project he focuses on the concept of Eurasia in the field of the contemporary art after World War II, with special attention to the artistic activities of two central figures of the 60s and 70s – Nam June Paik and Joseph Beuys. The central part of this trans-continental fieldwork project is a trip, which aims to verify the dream of Joseph Beuys and Nam June Paik, considering Europe and Asia as one continental culture of “EurAsia”. In this sense, the notion of Eurasia is not equal with the common understanding of a solely geographical sphere, but tries to constitute its not it’s cultural sense. Joseph Beuys and Nam June Paik’s lifelong collaborative art project “Eurasia” has been a mystery, since understanding of that work requires lots of research in different languages in various cultural regions, and there is no literature on it. However, thanks to the development of media and the result of globalization, it is possible now to talk about Eur-Asia, and it has also become necessary. The Japanese researcher – in his own words – “analyzes not only Beuys and Paik’s pioneering activity in ‘Eur-Asia’, starting from Beuys’s Eurasia Siberian Symphony in 1963 and Paik’s Guadalcanal Requiem in 1976, but also tries to analyze what they tried to achieve but left incomplete. (…) Subsequently – he wrote – I would like to connect these missing links pertaining to Eur-Asia, by
Shinya Watanabe. Photo: Shinya Watanabe’s archive
Shinya Watanabe, project “Eurasia”, map, 2013. Photo: Shinya Watanabe’s archive
demonstrating the spreading influence of Buddhism both from and toward Europe and Asia.” Shinya Watanabe seems to be confident that the concepts of the East and the West are merely imaginary, and each has influenced the other in their development. However, he is trying to point out his need to understand how the continuity of linguistic, religious, and musical connections exists in Eurasia. This investigation of different countries closes the curatorial research of the artistic concept itself. Watanabe wants to experience the conceptual space between Berlin and Tokyo, to build his own curatorial conception. This summer he will go the way station by station, land by land. First, he will depart from Berlin, and go to the Crimean Peninsula of Ukraine where Joseph Beuys said that his bomber crashed. Then he will visit some Silk Road cities, including Samarkand, and go to Irkutsk in Russia. Then he will continue along the “Steppe Road” of Siberia and travel east through Mongolia and China, and then go to the Korean Peninsula by ferry, and visit the Nam June Paik Art Center in Seoul. In the end he will go back to his home country, Japan, by ferry. This aim seems to be deeply connected with the era of globalization. In his opinion we are facing the end of modernity, and even experiencing a shift of civilization. Searching for this cultural change is the biggest motivation of his self-engagement. In that sense the road between continents turns into the way of recognition of the link between them. He believes that this field work will emphasize the great common assets of humankind, and will illuminate our future after the end of modernity. That goal seems to be a big issue. We are supporting him in this challenge!
MAKE ART NOT WAR Orders of Ribbons, 15.7.2013 - 21.7.2013, Taipei Artist Village, Taiwan Cassandra Naji
Exhibitions in artist villages are somewhat distinct from art as an institutional show-and-tell. Of course, an artist village is an institution of sort; but it is not an institution. The artist village defines itself on its creative deconsecration of art space and the dislocation of art world etiquette from the act of experiencing art. As the Artist Village in Taipei, Taiwan, puts it, an artist village is no less than “a space without national borders that transcends the restrictions and frameworks of regional cultures and political conditions.” This vote for the rejection of socio-cultural mores made Taipei Artist Village (TAV) a fitting stage for “Orders of Ribbons” (15.7-21.7 2013), a collaborative exhibition from artist Max Skorwider and curator Mateusz Bieczyński. Mounted as part of TAV’s artist residency program, which promotes fluid creative exchange between international and Taiwanese artists, the exhibition promised to explore “the deconstruction of social myths” and “the potential of artistic collaboration as a tool for humanitarian resistance”. Rather than obscure these weighty, not to say worthy, concepts behind a veil of playfulness, “Orders of Ribbons” augmented their seriousness by selecting war as the vehicle through which to pursue its social critique. Inspired by a childhood replete with the imagery of Poland’s civil war, Skorwider reappropriated the ribbon band, a military decoration for good behaviour, turning the emblems of rank and honour into a series of graphic artworks. In dislocating these symbols from their military context the artist intended to lay bare the “nonsense of war” and, ultimately, to set in
Max Skorwider, “Orders of Ribbons” project, exhibition 15.07.2013–21.07.2013, Taipei Artist Village, Taiwan. Photo: M. Skorwider’s archive
Max Skorwider, “Orders of Ribbons” project, exhibition 15.07.2013–21.07.2013, Taipei Artist Village, Taiwan. Photo: M. Skorwider’s archive
motion a philosophical consideration of semiological uncertainty and moral relativism. If these concepts sound taxing, there is a reason: they are. The works themselves, on the other hand, were pure simplicity. The coloured rectangles of ribbon band were transposed into a series of graphic prints, performing a ‘contextual translation’ from military sign to artwork. The visual result of this context-slip was a collection of abstract works in which art, not war, was valorized. During the ribbon bars’ contextual translation a sort of alchemy took place, and the conventions of visual communication were turned on their head. Emblematic of this transformation was a piece showing the colours of the Inter-Allied Victory Medal from the First World War. Once one of the most commonly awarded military honours, adopted by Belgium, Brazil, Cuba, France, Greece, Italy, Portugal, Romania, Siam, the Union of South Africa and the USA, the intervening century has transmogrified the design into the rainbow flag of gay pride. Hung on the gallery wall as a graphic, the work becomes the symbol of sexual autonomy rather than bravery in battle, exposing the mutability of conventional sign systems. The graphic works were in mute communication with a stuffed, uniformed mannequin at the centre of the space. Limbless and with only a bare light bulb for a head, the figure harked back to the “Erste Dada Messe”, the First Dada Exhibition of 1920. In that Berlin show, there was the phantom of a policeman hanging in the corner, also with a light bulb instead of a head. This uncanny figure was a statement, says
Bieczyński, “directed against Prussian bureaucracy after the First World War, against following orders without thinking, like an automaton.” This firmly European art historical reference finds contextual relevance, according to Skorwider and Bieczyński, in the East Asian politics of today: in Japan’s recent resumption of official military activity, in North Korea’s wholesale aestheticisation of war, and in the power dynamic between China and Taiwan. The global commonalities of militarism worldwide were emphasised in “Orders of Ribbons” by a slideshow with a looped soundtrack, installed in an auxiliary room. A projector flickered over 100 quickfire images of military generals from around the globe; but what struck the viewer was not their differences but the similarities, as braided uniforms became sinister in their very uniformity. The overbearing aestheticisation of war was drummed along by an unbearable jackboot soundtrack. Redolent of the relentless commands barked at armies, the installation captured the obvious association of the exhibition title. But “Orders of Ribbons” also nodded homophonically to the aesthetic order of the works on show and to the fact that ‘orders’ are the source of ribbons. This exposure of the multiplicity of meaning in even the most innocuous of sign systems strengthened the exhibition’s assertion that, no matter how convention may try, communication can never be fully appropriated or controlled. Within the interpretive possibilities of the title lay fresh possibilities for creation as a tool of human resistance, as a means to make art not war.
A building of Taipei Fine Arts Museum, architect: Kao Er-Pan, 1983, view from the east. Night shot. Photo: Mateusz M. Bieczyński
CoCA In… Review of Contemporary Art Centres and Museums quarterly PUBLISHER: Centre of Contemporary Art “Znaki Czasu” in Toruń ul. Wały gen. Sikorskiego 13, 87-100 Toruń, Poland Editorial office address: ul. Wały gen. Sikorskiego 13, 87-100 Toruń, Poland tel.: 692 393 567, 795 141 678 e-mail: email@example.com Editorial board: Malina Barcikowska, Mateusz Bieczyński (Issue Editor), Natalia Cieślak, Dobrila Denegri, Marta Kołacz, Jacek Kasprzycki, Anna Kompanowska, Piotr Lisowski, Paweł Łubowski (Editor-in-Chief), Sławomir Marzec, Marta Smolińska, Krzysztof Stanisławski, Jerzy Olek, Aleksandra Mosiołek Graphic design: Max Skorwider (Art Director), Paweł Łubowski, Wojciech Kuberski Collaborators: Christine Coquillat (Paris), Magdalena Durda, Daria Kołacka (Basel), Roman Kubicki, Zuzanna Mannke (Essen), Anna Markowska, Olga Sienko (London), Tadeusz Sawa-Borysławski, Grzegorz Sztabiński, Miško Šuvaković (Belgrade) Translations: Monika Ujma, Maciej Pokornowski Proofreading: Ian Corkill, Paweł Falkowski Editorial board reserves the right to shorten articles and correspondence, and to give them titles. Unsolicited materials will not be returned. Editorial board is not responsible for the content of advertisements. Advertisements and promotion: Natalia Drzewoszewska e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Subscription: e-mail: email@example.com Printed by: ARTiS Poligrafia s.c. ul. Granitowa 7/9, 87-100 Toruń Partner: ISSN 2299-6893
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CoCAin... 03 Third issue of CoCAin… Review of Contemporary Art Centres and Museums