ENTANG WIHARSO, Upside Down Temple, 2010, oil and acrylic on linen, 300 × 600 cm. Courtesy Arndt, Berlin.

Extending Boundaries

Also available in:  Chinese  Arabic

One of the defining qualities of contemporary art is its ability and desire to push boundaries. For some artists, this takes the form of innovating in their chosen practice or medium, while for others it entails challenging the status quo or social taboos—épater le bourgeois. In the March/April issue of ArtAsiaPacific, we look at ways in which artists are stretching perceptions and, by extension, broadening the world around us. 

For our cover feature, Bali-based Neo-Geo artist Ashley Bickerton sits down with Indonesia’s Entang Wiharso, whose paintings and sculptural installations weave narratives of personal and political struggle with magical realism. Together, they hash out what it means to be an artist linked to tradition, history and a stylistic heritage, while also trying to break new ground and, perhaps more importantly, to avoid being exoticized or co-opted by the market. 

From New Delhi, AAP contributing editor Jyoti Dhar introduces the elegant photographic work of Dayanita Singh. Dhar looks at the ways Singh’s practice has evolved, exploring her wide range of subject matter (eunuchs, chairs, industrial landscapes) and the experimental modes of display (accordion books and “mobile museums”) that have allowed her to question the expectations of photography as both medium and art form. 

We also revisit the career of one of the founding members of the Stars Group, Chinese artist Ma Desheng, known for his stark, black-and-white woodblock prints that illustrate the struggles of the everyday worker during the Cultural Revolution, for his involvement with the influential dissident magazine Jintian, and for his later ink paintings, created during his self-imposed exile in France. AAP contributing editor Andrew Cohen reveals that Ma was an important catalyst for change during the Beijing Spring of 1978–79, respected and revered by his avant-garde artistic peers. 

In this issue, we also conclude our “20/20” series, a yearlong project to mark AAP’s 20th anniversary. Four contributors look back at individual artists, and the projects that have marked significant moments in their practice. Nicholas Thomas, director and curator of the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology at Cambridge University, recalls his first encounter with the painting Kulukakina (After Experiencing Something Miraculous, Withdraw) (2004) by Niue artist John Pule. From Manila, artist and curator Ringo Bunoan reflects on the influential work of the late Roberto Chabet, the father of Philippine conceptual art. Editor-at-large HG Masters speaks with Lamia Joreige about her documentary video Here and Perhaps Elsewhere (2003), which investigates disappearance and memory in the aftermath of the Lebanese Civil War. And, finally, Indonesia desk editor Hendro Wiyanto revisits Christine Ay Tjoe’s installation series “Lama Sabakhtani Club” (2009–11), a stark examination of spiritual faith and its relationship with pain. 

In Profiles, Joyce Beckenstein visits the respected art historian and former president and chief executive of Asia Society Vishakha Desai in her Long Island home, where they discuss the global reception of modern and contemporary Asian art. Isabella E. Hughes heads over to the Abu Dhabi studio of Tarek al-Ghoussein to discover the latest works in his “K-Files” photography series (2013– ), which was first seen in the Kuwait Pavilion at last year’s Venice Biennale, while Stephanie Bailey explains how the videos and installations by Dagestan’s rising young star Taus Makhacheva—often depicting the country’s mountainous terrain—act as “love letters” to her native land. 

We continue the issue’s theme for our Essays section through an appraisal of ongoing artistic collaborations. Kevin Jones tries to pin down the tongue-in-cheek practice of the artist collective GCC, modeled after the intergovernmental Gulf Cooperation Council, discussing their mixed reception in the Gulf as well as their often confounding work, which mimics the region’s ceremonial excess. Chin-Chin Yap introduces the burgeoning field of hacker art, a Dadaist mix of art, activism and hijinks, wherein the highest honor is to receive a cease-and-desist letter. From Seoul, Liz Park contemplates Geumcheon Mrs., a largely self-taught artist group comprised of middle-aged housewives, or ajumma, and explains how their activities, which range from organizing drawing lessons and making short films to running free cafés where they discuss their art projects with visitors, reflect changing social relations in modern-day Korea. 

For this issue’s Where I Work, managing editor John Jervis travels to New Delhi and drops in on Subodh Gupta, whose work with pots and pans and other objects of vernacular Indian life has achieved a broad international appeal. Dispatch takes us to Dubai on the eve of the Art Dubai fair, which is finally starting to spawn a mix of cultural activities across the city. In One on One, Haroon Mirza explains his longstanding admiration for outsider artist Alan Kane’s work, while, for The Point, Hong Kong’s Leung Chi Wo reflects on the state of art education, past and present, in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. 

Wrapping up the issue, New York attorney Daniel Brooks, who represented French photographer Patrick Cariou in the high-profile copyright case against noted American artist Richard Prince, explains how the verdict in Prince’s favor undermines the incentive to create original art, especially in cases when mechanically reproducible work such as photography is appropriated. To herald an artwork as “transformative” is usually the highest of praise, indicative of contemporary art’s astonishing ability to reform and restore, but perhaps, as Brooks illustrates, we are still struggling to determine just what does, and does not, allow us to look at the world anew.