Cover: Sawangwongse Yawnghwe, The Myanmar Peace Industrial Complex Ⅲ (detail), 2017. Oil on linen, 301  x  630  cm. Photo: Natasha Harth, Queensland Art Gallery / Gallery of Modern Art (QAGOMA). Courtesy
the artist and QAGOMA.

May/June 2020

ArtAsiaPacific

May 1, 2020


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Covid-19 is radically upending how we live, think, and see. The pandemic has forced us to acknowledge aspects of the world’s existing social, economic, scientific, and cultural systems that we often overlook—from how we ship masks around the globe to how we care for our most vulnerable. As we attempt to mend our shattered economies and social systems, it’s worth asking: what have we neglected in the past? Perhaps we can find guidance in the practices of artists who have long asked themselves this very question.

Our cover artist, Sawangwongse Yawnghwe, has dedicated his career to preserving the cultural memories of the Shan people in Myanmar. Building on his family archives, he portrays, in paintings and installations, the history of his people, who are persecuted by the Burmese government and overlooked by the international community. For instance, curator Kerstin Winking describes Yawnghwe’s painting The Myanmar Peace Industrial Complex (2017) as a “satirical peace plan” that lampoons how state agents tasked with conflict resolution miss the obvious: “Peace cannot be achieved without the people caught up in conflict.”

The late Carlos Villa (1936–2013) likewise understood marginality. A second-generation Filipino immigrant born in San Francisco, he advocated for gender, racial, and ethnic diversity in the cultural canon of the United States as an artist, curator, and educator. In the issue's second Feature, curator Lian Ladia and AAP managing editor Chloe Chu probe the cultural, historical, and personal references in Villa's work, which asks us to contemplate the power of community as xenophobia flares around the world.

The erasure of certain narratives is similarly the focus of the works discussed in the Up Close section, which includes Yhonnie Scarce and Edition Office’s architectural installation In Absence (2019); Wang Tuo’s film Symptomatic Silence of Complicit Forgetting (2019); and Sun Yuan and Peng Yu’s installation Free Biographies (2018–19).

Also in Features, Inside Burger Collection brings together three takes on artist Brie Ruais’s process-driven ceramic sculptures, written by curators Frauke V. Josenhans and Jodi Throckmorton, as well as artist Martha Tuttle. For Profiles, Brisbane desk editor Tim Walsh spoke with artist Ruth Buchanan, who investigates representation in cultural institutions. Contributor David Willis visited MAIIAM Museum in Chiang Mai and spoke with founder Eric Booth about his aims to “redistribute cultural capital away from the center of power toward the margins.” And in Macau, businesswoman Pansy Ho is imagining the potential of the former Portuguese colony to be not just a mecca for gamblers but for artists and creative professionals.

Elsewhere in the issue, Maria Taniguchi reflects on the influence that both Felix Gonzalez-Torres and Judy Freya Sibayan had on her works. Kadist’s curator of Asia programs Shona Mei Findlay files a Dispatch from San Francisco, where the vibrant and diverse history of the city is under threat due to gentrification. For Where I Work, Michael Young visited the Shanghai studio of new-media artist Lu Yang, whose video games and animations revolve around the nature of consciousness and the limits of the human body. Finally, for The Point, Beirut desk editor Nadia Christidi looks at how the climate crisis will shift our collective understanding of knowledge production.

Although we commissioned many of the articles before Covid-19 became a global crisis, the issues discussed in this issue take on an added urgency now. If we hope to address existential threats such as climate change and the coronavirus, perhaps we need to start with reassessing our history before falling into old patterns of the present.

A digital edition of the full AAP 118 May/June issue is now available for purchase on ZinioGoogle PlayiTunes, and Magzter.