A Common Soil: Anxieties In Asian Art

BY Katrina Kufer / Aug 1 2017 / 14:24 PM

From Hong Kong’s Para Site, 'Soil and Stones, Souls and Songs' will move to Manila to continue a narrative of the connections and tensions in Asian contemporary cultural production

A Common Soil: Anxieties In Asian Art
Image courtesy the artist and Earth Observatory NTU
Sutthirat Supaparinya. When Need Moves the Earth. 2014. Three-channel video installation.

The collaborative efforts of the Kadist Foundation, San Francisco/Paris, the Museum of Contemporary Art and Design, Manila (MCAD), and Para Site Hong Kong, alongside curators Cosmin Costinas and Inti Guerrero, have produced an important travelling exhibition. Looking to Asia, the works of over 30 artists attempt to weave together a series narratives, connections and tensions that run through a land literally held together by soil and stones – a notion from which the title takes its name. The second half of the title, Souls and Songs, builds further upon this, symbolising the cultural and spiritual development around these natural elements.

While an enormous and culturally varied region to tackle under a singular exhibition, a series of art practices, new commissions and works from the Kadist collection, alongside case studies by Yongwoo Lee, Qu Chang and Simon Soon, broach this expanse by looking at milestones in its development. “The unleashing of the forces of the global market in the region has modified the forms of production, labour, landscape and environments, as well as wider societal structures across the continent,” states the curatorial remit. “The anxieties of the new world, and the often competing aspirations of these reshaped societies are in search of new forms of imagining the political, of new ideas meant to give sense and direction to the changing realities.”

The topic is weighty, and many of the ideas conveyed are in opposition to, or outside of, the realm of Western modernity. Creating complex, hybrid ideological projects which are exhibited outside of the West, it is talking to the audience of whom it speaks. The connections between anticolonial struggles, post-colonial rebuilds, and indigenous values in colonised societies, are revealed in relation to China, a large root connection, through neo-Confucianist revivals by the Chinese Communist Party, or post-Cold War environments. Using nationalism as a foundation, the exhibition then broaches effects of the economic and cultural shifts on history, communal mythologies, shifting geopolitical borders and ecological consequences – “a general horizon of anxiety”, asserts MCAD.

It is a broad theme with seemingly insurmountable underlying complexities, which the exhibition strives to address by presenting diverse perspectives through paintings, biomorphic drawings, sculptures, murals, video and archive. As artistic as it is rooted in academia or history, the exhibition exposes the shared sentiments of disparate nations, encouraging viewers to adopt a holistic view of the environment they are in and how it is they got there.

Soil and Stones, Souls and Songs runs 6 September-4 December at the Museum of Contemporary Art and Design, Manila, The Philippines. For more information visit mcadmanila.org.ph

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