• Forum 1

Artistic Interventions: Histories, Cartographies and Politics in Asia

The Artistic Intervention Forum will focus on the fundamental concepts of time and space in the construction of knowledge of and from Asia. While area studies continue the endeavors of knowledge production, its inevitably intricate connections with national histories and geographies are increasingly foregrounded. Knowledge of Asia is still very much constructed by temporal narratives as vigorously and imaginatively as by spatial fixations: in other words, by their histories and geographies. Given that national histories are often deeply entrenched in authoritative discourses that maintain the imagined boundaries of the nation-state, and thereby erase or silence other possible histories and geographies, Prasenjit Duara’s call to rescue history – and geography, we add – from the nation remains as urgent as ever.

We think of the arts, the role of artists, artist-activists and artist run spaces, as a potential rescue tool, capable of moving beyond traditional paradigms of Western scientific representation. This forum questions how artistic practices can help reimagine both time and space in the context of Asia, when put into an intimate dialogue with area studies and related methodologies and disciplines, such as anthropology, art history, cultural studies and so on. The alleged “rise of Asia” feeds into different nationalisms in the region and beyond, making such reimaginations even more urgent. Its dependency on a meta-discourse on development and modernity are resonances of concepts that are deeply entrenched in social Darwinism, making this discourse on “the rise of Asia” all the more complicated, especially in its denial of human complexity and a human craving for aesthetic and political aspirations. The forum will probe into artistic and activist practices that proffer alternate histories, as well as processes that present different mappings of the world, the country or the city; these will be put in dialogue with area studies knowledge production that also seeks to destabilize existing cartographies and historical accounts. A transnational and diasporic remapping of Asia, in conjunction with exploring its multiple histories, holds the potential to question if not undermine emerging nationalisms and prevailing reifications of the idea of “national cultures.”

The forum aims to connect the issue of time as narrated in not one but multiple histories with the issue of space as articulated through the construction and negotiation of boundaries, both real and fictitious, and explore the politics of such artistic and academic practices. It would also contribute to enrich our narrowly defined objectivist notion of historical narrative by reconsidering lived intimate experiences, memories, traumas, fantasies, alienations, and joys—other modes of being, as Bliss Cua Lim puts it, myriad “immiscible temporalities.” In other words, a dialogue between art and area studies may also open up an affective world, or a world of affects, as theorized by Spinoza, Deleuze, and Berlant, among others, a world that currently by and large falls outside the dominant paradigms of knowledge and representation.

The Forum brings together a number of scholars and artists attached to established institutions of higher education (University of Amsterdam, University of Southern California, California College of the Arts, Hong Kong Baptist University) as well as art organizations (Asia Art Archive in Hong Kong, San Art in Vietnam, and Asia Cultural Council in New York and Hong Kong). It will consist into two separate – yet closely sequenced events: a workshop/ conference, where papers and art projects will be presented and discussed; a roundtable whose methodological and programmatic recommendations are expected to result from interactive discussions by a number of selected artists and scholars.  The articulation between the conference/workshop and the roundtable is meant to enable the conveners to identify hitherto unknown substantive participants for the latter event through the conference/workshop call for abstract papers.

Background image courtesy of Tiffany Chung.