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  • Christopher R. Inwood

APT 8 _ Writing

The Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art 8 (APT8) is the Queensland Art Gallery and Gallery of Modern Art’s (QAGOMA) eighth instalment of its trademark Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art (APT), which focuses on the contemporary artworks from Asia, the Pacific and Australia since 1993. Through an emphasis on performance in both recent and established art forms, the aim of the 2015-16 installation of APT8 is to allow artists to communicate their personal experiences that are reflective of their localities as well as their collective and personal cultural, social and political ideas.[1] The ‘signature’ artworks Asim Waqif’s All we leave behind are the memories 2015; Min Thein Sung’s Another Realm (horses) 2015; and Hetain Patel’s The Jump Part 1&2 2015 appeal to the aims of APT8 as the works articulate personal ideas and experiences of globalization, class-liberation and the 'infoscape', which collectively discuss key contributors of contemporaneity.

The notion of ‘contemporary’ has been broadly described throughout history as the creation of art in the present with unending progression of the contemporary.[2] Although this understanding is correct by definition, it solely describes contemporary art as being continually time-relative, rather than as a period and an art movement as well. The art historian Terry Smith theorised that there are three ‘core meanings’ of the term ‘contemporary’, which include the ‘immediate’, the ‘contemporaneous’, and the ‘cotemporal’, and it is this understanding of ‘contemporary’ that Smith has defined as ‘contemporaneity’.[3] The ‘immediate’ describes things that appear in the present of an event, depicted or described as it is, was, and in some sense remains, and can be described by Smith’s statement “as I write, as you read”.[4] ‘Contemporaneous’ describes beings and objects that comes into existence concurrently, which question what is communal and what can be individual between self and other, and between separate objects.[5] The core meaning ‘cotemporal’ describes ways of being that are relative to time, and also describes the interaction with beings or objects whose existence preceded contemporaneity.[6] ‘Cotemporal’ questions the increasing interaction between objects and beings that belong to previous time periods, while also highlighting the increasing nonchalance to review such precedents.[7]

In his book What is Contemporary Art?, Smith describes ‘globalization’, ‘class liberation’, and the ‘infoscape’ as the three ‘key contributors’ of contemporary art that regularly interact with the ‘core meanings’ of ‘contemporaneity’. ‘Globalisation’ refers to the exchange of perspectives, knowledge and culture within contemporaneity, and describes the increasing appetite for homogenizing supremacy over cultural variation, and occurs as a result of spreading ‘contemporaneous’ temporalities[8]. ‘Class liberation’ interacts with the accelerating vulnerability of the governing sates, ideologies, and religions and the inequality of individuals, groups, and classes who act upon these vulnerabilities in a ‘cotemporal’ globalizing world.[9] The ‘Infoscape’ relates to the growing pool of information and the ‘immediacy’ in which all ideas, information and images can be communicated to one another through contemporary tools and technologies that are reliant on developments like the internet.[10] Terry Smith’s precise definition of the contemporary as ‘contemporaneity’ provides a framework for this essay and the discussion of ‘signature’ APT8 artworks, highlighting their contribution to contemporary art through the articulation of personal interactions with ‘globalisation’, ‘class liberation’ and the ‘infoscape’.

The Jump part 1 & 2 is a signature piece within APT8, and is 6:32 minute HD hyper-slow-motion, two screen video installation by Hetain Patel that is displayed with an orchestral sounds track (shown in Figure 2). The Jump part 1 & 2 uses the visual depiction of a cultural leap to directly articulate the impact of globalisation on the artist’s personal experiences, and to highlight the importance with which he holds its effect. The emphasis placed on Patel’s personal acceptance of a new culture represents the notion of ‘globalisation’, as it clearly highlights a shift in perspectives, knowledge and culture. The importance of this shift is communicated through the considered curation of the hyper-slow-motion image and orchestral backing track, which heightens and enhances the effect of the video by extending it from a two second leap, into a six minute experience.

The discourse of ‘globalisation’ is directly achieved in Patel’s signature artwork through the integration of his British-Indian heritage with a contemporary global culture,[11] and the disparity between the two cultures is depicted clearly through the juxtaposed perspectives of Part 1 & Part 2. Part 2 displays Patel’s family sitting in traditional Indian attire (symbolic of his cultural heritage) watching Patel in a Spiderman suit leap from the couch. This perspective is juxtaposed by Part 1, which shows Spiderman’s iconic leap that is reminiscent of a Hollywood fantasy blockbuster (symbolic of a global culture). The leap is a consistent element that allows the viewer to visually connect the setting and the cultures of Part 1 and Part 2, and also highlights Patel’s embrace of the integrating nature of ‘globalisation’.[12] Patel’s emphasis on globalisation is strengthened and further illustrated in an interview in which he explains that this leap provided his childhood self with freedom from the racial recognition and vilification that has continued to plague the UK.[13] By articulating the benefits gained from the integration of cultures, Patel’s work facilitates discussion and provides a platform from which viewers can further their own discussion regarding the effects of globalisation with regard to culture in the ‘contemporary’. The Jump is a signature piece within the APT8 exhibition, and through its direct articulation and discussion of the artist’s personal experience with ‘globalisation’, it aligns with the aims of APT8 as well as the broader principles of contemporaneity.

Figure 2

Plan view of The Jump theatre

Author: Christopher R. Inwood

Figure 1

The Jump, Part 2 (2015)

Hetain Patel, United kingdom b. 1980

Two-channel hd video installation, 16:9, colour, sound, ed. of 5

Duration: both videos 6 mins 32 sec

Courtesy: The artist and Chattevjee and Lal, Mumbai

Min Thein Sung’s artwork, ‘Another Realm (horses)’ 2015 is a signature work within the APT8 exhibition, which strongly aligns with notions of contemporaneity. Sung’s piece conveys the effects that economic isolation has had on Myanmar and opens discourse on the effects of geopolitical class structures within a globalised contemporary world. Another Realm (horses) is a hanging sculptural installation of a three-headed toy horse, which is made from large linen, copper wire and aluminium. Sung’s signature piece discusses the trade sanctions that were imposed on Myanmar to further articulate the effect that geopolitical class structures had upon image and representation.[14] The artwork depicts the ‘cotemporal’ nature of processes that develop image and imagination into representation. Sung’s other worldly depiction of a 15 foot toy horse with three heads and eight legs depicts this process of representation which has become twisted and confused.[15] This confusion displayed in Sung’s work highlights the effect that a ‘superior’ geopolitical class had upon Myanmar and its inhabitants in relation to creativity. Sung’s artwork appears to ask the viewer to celebrate the creativity given by Myanmar’s isolation, however it also questions the way in which it was brought about. Sung’s personal experience of Myanmar’s ‘class liberation’ is articulated and discussed within APT8 through his signature piece Another Realm (horses), as the creativity expressed during geopolitical suppression adds to the discussion of ‘class liberation’ within contemporaneity.

Figure 3

Min Thein Sung, Myanmar b.1978 / ‘Another Realm (horses)’ (from ‘Another Realm’ series) 2015 / Linen, copper wire, aluminium, wallpaper / Developed for APT8 / Proposed for the Queensland Art Gallery Collection with funds from the Josephine Ulrick and Win Schubert Diversity Foundation through the Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art Foundation / © The artist

Asim Waqif’s artwork All we leave behind are the memories 2015, is the flagship piece within the APT8 exhibition. Waqif’s artwork is an interactive installation, and rather than the artwork relating directly to the ‘infoscape’, it is the viewer’s interaction and engagement with the work that facilitates an immediate distribution of information and communication. All we leave behind are the memories articulates the exploration of contemporaneity, as it anchors the viewer’s personal existence by allowing them to interact, enact their role, and perform with the art. This interaction is facilitated by the spectacle of Waqif’s three-storey, site-specific, interactive, structural timber installation and its ability to draw crowds.[16] Waqif’s architectural design and interactive engagement with the space enables the contemporary viewer to become a part of his spectacle work, and in turn, encourages the viewer to communicate their personal experience with contemporaneity’s ‘infoscape’.[17] This communication with the ‘infoscape’ occurs as viewers pose for photos in front of the spectacle work, highlighting their existence within the ‘immediate’, ‘contemporaneous’, and ‘cotemporal’(figures 8-10). This interaction and connection to the ‘infoscape’ is also facilitated by Min Thein Sung’s artwork Another Realm (figures 5-7). These images of the viewer’s interaction are uploaded and spread through the ability of an ‘infoscape’ (internet, social media), which in turn extends the information and content of the original works of art and anchors the contemporaneity of the work and ‘relevance’ of the message. This communication with the ‘infoscape’ allows the artist’s articulation of experience within their social and political ideas to be furthered and spread beyond the gallery space. In Waqif’s case his ‘cotemporal’ message of the effects of an increasing nonchalance to review precedents of the built world is overtaken by the immediacy of the viewers experience, which is extended beyond and into the ‘infoscape’.[18] Waqif’s spectacle artwork facilitates the individuals’ ‘cotemporal’ experience with the ‘infoscape’, as the viewer performs with and explores the work, allowing articulation of the experience of contemporaneity’s ‘infoscape’. It is through the ‘infoscape’s’ correlation to the ‘cotemporal’, the ‘immediate’ and the ‘contemporaneous’ that Waqif’s signature artwork aligns with the principles of APT8 and embodies the broader notion of contemporaneity.

Figure 4

Asim Waqif, All we Leave Behind are the Memories 2015