The Primacy of Exhibitionary Discourses: Contemporaneity in Southeast Asian Art, 1992 – 2002

Category - essays and articles

by Seng Yu Jin –

Attempts to locate contemporary art within historical frames have gained urgency in the past decade. This is especially so as we behold contemporary art making its way into institutions such as museums and their collections, auction houses, and the academia as a subject of study. Yet our understanding of what contemporary art is, when aligned along historical perspectives propelled by theories and methodologies, remains elusive. Part of the difficulty in locating this art within historical frames springs from the nature of its practices , as they do not (a) conform to significant coherent movements, and (b) deal with dominant mediums, materials, and processes. In these matters we encounter a profound absence of art historical frameworks and criterion with which to organise and structure our understanding of the contemporary in art.

The vexing and apparent resistance of contemporary art to historicisation is also played out in Southeast Asia. The challenges to those who are involved with contemporary Southeast Asian art as a field are exacerbated by a struggle to attain critical levels of discursive density necessary for engendering new ways of understanding it. The Comparative Contemporaries anthology project, for instance, which collects texts on Southeast Asian art was cited by Patrick Flores when mapping contemporaneity as a self-reflexive awareness and criticality of present conditions in art, with affiliations and affinities that are transient. The brief of Comparative Contemporaries states that “what has not kept pace with the exhibition of contemporary art from Southeast Asia is the art criticism about it… this body of writing remains largely un-collated, insufficiently analysed, and poorly distributed”.1 Two issues are brought to the fore. The first is the proliferation of exhibitions of contemporary Southeast Asian art in comparison to the paucity of discourse on it, leading to the impression that the exhibition is a significant medium in which this art is displayed, accessed, and interpreted discursively. The second, hence, is to unpack the multifarious nature of exhibitions as discursive sites, connected to a constellation of forces bound by institutional, curatorial, scholarly, state and supranational interests, which are manifested in the exhibition as a medium for display, discursive site and for the reception of artworks – all of which have been largely unremarked.2

This paper examines the exhibition as a prime framer of the history of the contemporary in Southeast Asia, in the region, over a span of ten years (1992 to 2002). Such a span of time signals the emergence of exhibitions on and about contemporary Southeast Asian art as distinct conceptual categories and destinations. Earlier, the region was submerged in larger encompassing rubrics such as Asia and the Asia Pacific. The focus of this paper is not on the display of artworks or on artworks themselves but on texts regarded as distinct bodies of writing produced for the purpose of exhibitions that I term as exhibitionary discourse, which is seen separately from discourse produced from academia. In this respect, the exhibitionary discourse includes the curatorial text that frames the exhibition, as well as other writings related to the curatorial objectives of the exhibition. Exhibitionary discourse is a discursive site wherein academia and museology overlap. The provision of explanations for artworks selected for display in the exhibition also conforms to exhibition discourses in which they engage with selected themes and issues pertinent to the exhibition. This account is a preliminary survey of exhibitionary discourses on the contemporary in Southeast Asian art, paving the way for further scholarship on this topic.

Exhibitions on contemporary art in Southeast Asia emerged in the 1990s; as phenomena they deserve closer scrutiny. Flores cites art historian and curator, Apinan Poshyananda, who outlined how contemporary art in Asia, emerging in the 1990s through exhibitions, was represented and projected along the themes of: (a) Asian Identity, diversity and convergence; (b) binary opposites and the exotic other; (c) the old and the new; (d) migration and diaspora; (e) race, ethnicity, religion, gender; (f) authenticity and appropriation.3 Such representations in Asia hint at how the contemporary in Southeast Asian art would be represented in the region and how to think about it discursively.4 Unpacking the exhibitionary discourse is one way in which the history of exhibitions of art in this region can be understood. This is especially so as there is scant or no writing on the contemporary from academia. This situation has arisen, in part, from the relative lack of interest in art history in the region’s universities.5 Academic journals on Southeast Asia such as the Kyoto Review of Southeast Asian Studies published by the Centre of Southeast Asian Studies, Kyoto University in 1965, the Journal of Southeast Asian History produced by the then University of Singapore in 1960, as well as programmes offering Southeast Asian Studies at the Chualalongkorn University, although exceptional, rarely focus on art history.6 Other journals such as Philippine Studies (Ateneo de Manila University) and the Thai Khadi Journal (Thammasat University) specialise in particular disciplines focused on the study of particular countries. T.K. Sabapathy summarises the production and circulation of discourse on Southeast Asian art from academia, before the new millennia, as desultory.7

The focus on exhibitions as the prime framers of historicising contemporary art in Southeast Asia stems from their emergence and proliferation in the 1990s, originating both from within and without the region. Three such exhibitions spring to mind, namely: New Art from Southeast Asia in 1992 (Japan), Modernity and Beyond: Themes in Southeast Asian Art in 1996 (Singapore), and 36 Ideas from Asia: Contemporary Southeast Asian Art (Association of Southeast Asian Nations, hereafter ASEAN).8 They have been selected as forerunners of exhibitions on contemporary art that are specific to this region in the 1990s, and along the following three perspectives: from Japan as an outsider looking in, from Singapore looking at the region from within, and from ASEAN, as a regional institutional endeavour seeking to promote economic and political cooperation in the region while attempting to foster regionalism through culture. More importantly, these three exhibitions employ different curatorial premises and frames in their exhibitionary discourses for proposing (a) ‘the new’ through the ethnographic; (b) the ‘beyond’ by looking into a postcolonial future framed by shared themes that bind the region; and (c) the conceptual by locating an understanding of the contemporary in the artist as an individual.9

An Ethnographic Turn: ‘The New Art’ from Southeast Asia

Emphatic proclamations of the ‘new’, mark the inauguration of exhibitions with specific interests in appraising contemporaneity in Southeast Asian art discursively. The New Art from Southeast Asia exhibition, organised by The Japan Foundation (ASEAN Cultural Centre), the Tokyo Metropolitan Government and the Tokyo Metropolitan Culture Foundation in 1992, is a landmark exposition in this light. It travelled to the Fukuoka Art Museum, the Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art and the Kirin Plaza Osaka in Japan. Such interests in the region were concomitant with the founding of the ASEAN Cultural Centre under the Japan Foundation, established in 1990; it registered a significant manifestation of Japan’s interest in the region with a mission to introduce its contemporary art to Japan.10

Precedents for displaying works from Southeast Asia are traced to three Asian Art Shows organised by the Fukuoka Art Museum; they sparked enough public interest in and initiated research on Southeast Asian contemporary art.11 The New Art from Southeast Asia exhibition was a large project, marking the first conscious attempt to survey and appraise contemporary art from Southeast Asia as a region. Nakamura Hideki, an art historian, Masahiro Ushiroshoji, a curator from the Fukuoka Art Museum, and Tani Arata, an art critic and commissioner for the Japanese pavilion in the Venice Biennale in 1982 and 1984 and co-curator this exhibition, contributed an essay each in the accompanying publication. New Art from Southeast Asia had a big impact on the Japanese public and their imagination of Southeast Asia. It signalled a shift in interest from the West towards Asia in Japan, generally.12 The 1990s witnessed increasing Japanese cultural exports to markets in East and Southeast Asia, most notably its music industry that trebled in volume and value from 5.5 billion yen in 1988 to 14.6 billion yen in 2002.13 Increased economic trade and cultural exchanges coupled with shifts in Japanese public and government policies, and attitudes towards Asia, formed the geopolitical backdrops for mounting the New Art from Southeast Asia exhibition.

The choice of the designation ‘New Art’ over contemporary or postmodern art that was current in the 1990s, is significant. Nakamura Hideki’s essay, titled The Self Awareness of Human Beings in Flux, sets the tone for the exhibition. He begins by saying that “In the final decade of the twentieth century, the world is experiencing major changes, as events that upset established notions occur in every region of the globe. The trends in East and Southeast Asia, including dynamic economic growth, represent one of the most noteworthy changes. In the face of new realities, we cannot expect to continue forever to measure Asia in terms of outworn standards”.14 The standards that Hideki alludes to are Euroamerican criteria and frameworks which ‘New Art’ transcends. Masahiro Ushiroshoji echoes Nakamura’s claims when he remarks that “the changes in the art scene in Southeast Asia, namely, the appearance of a new subject (i.e. changing society), new forms of art (i.e. installation and performance), and the materials (i.e. familiar ones from daily life), come from the desire of artists to engage with societies in which they live and the real world surrounding them”.15 ‘New Art’ is synonymous with how artists in this region were dealing with contemporaneity, while engaging with conditions of change in societies and artistic practices.

History is evoked in explaining New Art in Southeast Asia. Hideki historicises Southeast Asian art neatly:

To put it simply, a generation that adhered to folk traditions was succeeded by one receptive to Western Modernism. Now that the depths of folk culture and the legacy of Western Modernism are taken for granted as a spiritual foundation, a third generation that is trying to forge its own identity is rapidly coming to the fore’.16

According to Hideki, the second generation of modernist Southeast Asian artists had hybridised folk culture and ‘Western Modernism’ or internationalism; as issues they were observed and discussed by various writers in the three earlier Asian Art Shows. The “third generation” is the subject of this exhibition, marked by studies of how this generation of artists shifted its preoccupations towards the self and to exploring its own cultural identities. It was therefore historical continuities of ‘New Art’ with tradition and the folk that defined the interests of artists in Southeast Asia making’ New Art’. This was reaffirmed by Ushiroshoji who declared that “when Southeast Asian artists took up that difficult challenge, they tried to anchor themselves firmly within the unique and fertile traditions of Southeast Asia”.17

While history explained the impulses of ‘New Art’ in the region, it was the ethnographic , evoked through the folk and traditions of this region that shored up the story of this exhibition. Tani Arata’s ‘Toward an Asian School of Contemporary Art’ challenged the linear conception of time, replacing it with a conception of time in Southeast Asia that was primeval, cyclical, and even mythical. For Arata:

In spite of having stimulated by ‘linear time’ and the modern West and metaphors of progress and development,’ the motifs are not limited to them, but also deal with primeval time that continues to exist. Such motifs include the god of fertility Buroru, who emerges from the squashed belly of a naked inverted figure in Agnes Arellano’s work. This is a metaphor for the will of the people, who occupy ‘living’ time that exists in myth and experience. It may also express resistance to linear time.18

His observation of how “the Postmodern movement began scarcely without any time-lag behind Europe, the United States and Japan” whereby both Modernism and Postmodernism occurred simultaneously, was also a condition that shaped the art history of this region, challenging the linear concept of time and replacing it with ‘primeval time’ that exists in the mystical.19 These proclamations of the primeval, the mystical and the mythical, mark an ethnographic turn, a return to ethnic traditions as wellsprings from which the new from this region distinguished itself as new art.

Beyond the Domains of the Modern

Homi Bhabha describes the state of losing one’s way amidst the shifting grounds of identity in which once stable paradigms of morality and tradition have been negotiated and re-negotiated incessantly in an attempt to locate grounds and space that are stable enough for the establishment of a new cultural identity, as “the beyond”.20 1996 was the year that the Singapore Art Museum (SAM) officially opened with its inaugural exhibition, Modernity and Beyond: Themes in Southeast Asian Art.21

While the exhibition adopted a thematic approach the texts in the catalogue were country specific.22 The six themes allowed for the exhibition to transcend nation-state boundaries, permitting the exploration of relationships, connections and ruptures in the art history of Southeast Asia as a region.23 Sabapathy states in the introduction of the exhibition’s publication that the thematic approach to Modernity and Beyond served to “underscore and enliven studies of modern art and artistic practices in Southeast Asia, as well as tendencies which are cast beyond the domains of the modern”.24 The themes of the exhibition had to do with nationalism, modernity, the real, mythology, self and the other, and urbanisation, slipping between the modern and ‘the beyond’, anchoring the exhibitionary discourse in historical contexts particular to the region while opening up speculative entry points into the future leading to the contemporary in Southeast Asian art. Besides the “modest yet significant mark [that] has been registered”25 by this exhibition in transcending national boundaries that have characterised art writing in Southeast Asia, the prospect of the ‘beyond’ in the exhibition title warrants closer scrutiny. Attention has to be paid to how the term ‘beyond’ has gained currency in postcolonial art discourse in the 1990s and to how it is further advanced by the theme, “Beyond the Future”, which was chosen for the 3rd Asia-Pacific Triennial (APT) in 1999.

What exactly is this new space termed as “the beyond”? Was it intended as a designation, or was it mere coincidence that both the 3rd APT and SAM’s inaugural show employed it in their respective exhibitionary discourses? Thomas McEvilley’s fourth phase of identity provides an understanding of the meteoric rise of the word “beyond” in postcolonial discourse. He provides a point of entry into such a domain in his discussion of identity-formation by positing a fourth phase in which constructions of identity assume elevated registers. Accordingly, postcolonial artists in the fourth phase of identity “want to get beyond26 questions of identity and difference, and to move into the future”.27 The word “beyond” thus alludes to the future where artists, now that they are much more secure with their own identities28 that have been shaped by complex, multitude of factors, “approach the future not with a determination to recohere around a long-lost identity, but with a feeling that that identity (along with the identity of the colonizer) is a thing of the past, and that the future holds new, more interesting identifies for all”.29 This echoes Homi Bhabha’s interest in a new space that he designated as “the beyond”, whereby a new cultural identity can take root. The emphasis on the future also signalled a desire to come to terms with colonialism, to get beyond questions of a “pure” identity conceived to resist the hegemonic West, thus indicating symptoms that mark gradual shifts towards McEvilley’s fourth (and final) phase, for identity.30

The Conceptual Turn: 36 Ideas from Asia

36 Ideas from Asia: Contemporary South-East Asian Art was conceived as a travelling exhibition in 2002-2003 under the auspices of ASEAN. It sought to present contemporary Southeast Asian art to audiences in Europe. Sabapathy explains in the ‘Curatorial Introduction’, that the exposition was underlined by a conscious curatorial effort to re-map Southeast Asian artistically, “as a region to be undertaken along perspectives proposed by individual artists”.31 Such a call signals a possible alternative approach, employing individual artists as microcosms that engage with, and are acted upon by an increasingly globalised world, in which the larger macrocosm, patterns and trends can then emerge if we explore these interactions intelligently. The title of the exhibition was unpacked by Sabapathy and deserves attention. The number 36 in the title denoted the number of artists featured in the exhibition while “ideas” called “attention to the conceptual aspects in the work”.32

Curatorially conceptualised in late 1999, when Southeast Asia was perceived as “in the throes of political, economic and social crisis,”33 Kwok Kian Chow, then Director of the Singapore Art Museum explained 36 Ideas34 by making references to a popular song titled DiobokObok which, in the Javanese vernacular, “alluded to stirred waters and agitated conditions in a tank, causing the fish within to be unsettled and disoriented”.35DiobokObok as the working title for 36 Ideas was intentionally designed to capture “poignantly a sense of the tumultuous times and the dramatic events [the Asian Financial Crisis] in Southeast Asia in the last years of the latter millennium” with strong allusions to local meanings manifested in the use of an Indonesian idiom to frame the exhibition.36 The need to map realities of Southeast Asia was also correspondingly articulated by Choo Whatt Bin, the chairman of the ASEAN COCI (Committee on Culture and Information), (Singapore) when he recognised that:

Southeast Asia has witnessed dramatic events in recent years. The regional crisis [1997 Asian Economic crisis] was also a catalyst that stirred up dormant sentiments of political, social and cultural tensions, occasioning dramatic turns of event on political and civil fronts in its wake. The histories and current realities of the countries in the region are reflected in the art histories and the contemporary practices of Southeast Asian artists. The ASEAN COCI, proposes to register the varying nature of contemporary art in the region and to surface the concerns of contemporary artists in the region to an international audience.37

ASEAN exhibitions sponsored by the COCI in the past had constructed peaceful, beautiful, and untroubled narratives of art in Southeast Asia, framed by nation-state boundaries. 36 Ideas marked a departure from these by charting new maps that sought to trace the contours of current realities facing the region; realities appraised as simmering with tensions, differences, discontinuities and heterogeneity from regional rather than national perspectives. Even as, Sabapathy points out, the ensuing exhibitionary discourses, wrapped by the polite formalities of cultural diplomacy, continue to manifest themselves.38 Two other writers, Niranjan Rajah and Patrick Flores, contributed essays to the exhibitionary discourse and they deserve close attention.

The underlying premise for this occasion and the exhibitionary discourse may be cast in the following terms: that artists and art works are progenitors of ideas for contemporaneity in Southeast Asian art or that artists and artworks are progenitors of ideas for apprehending contemporaneity in the region’s art. Patrick Flores’s essay, ‘Homespun Worldwide: Colonialism as Critical Inheritance’, surveys the terrains of contemporary art in Southeast Asia, revealing the continuing threads of coloniality that collide and combine in a contingent present. For instance, the aesthetic concept of perspective, as a principal mode of organising spatiality institutionalised in Southeast Asia by art academies modelled after the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, was resisted by Soe Naing in his painting titled Village People; in it, the surface is flattened in a “primitive” manner, shaped by tendencies in folk art. Closer scrutiny of the artworks reveals how aesthetic properties such as space, form and colour are not simply derived from Euroamerican ideals. The return to conceptual aspects in artworks in 36 Ideas privileges ideas consisting of local worldviews and philosophies that particularise contemporary art in Southeast Asia. Artists such as Soeung Vannara and Phy Chan Than conceptualise culture as nature, by tapping into spiritual worlds in which nature, rituals, spirits and culture are integrated and entwined.

Niranjan Rajah, in his essay, historicises modern and contemporary art in Southeast Asia by tracing the impulses of modernisms in the various nation-states. In each instance, the impulses are shaped by communism, nationalism, social reform and ethnicity, and directed towards forging regional, global and transnational perspectives in art. He locates these conceptual devices in the works by artists in the exhibition. These devices are also historically contingent and form a history of ideas that frame contemporary art making in Southeast Asia. Niranjan Rajah emphasises “transnational arenas”39 that go beyond national narratives; he calls for Southeast Asian art to engage with the “cultural challenges posed by globalization and the new suzerainty”, entailing the development of new approaches.40

36 Ideas marked a beginning of a real attempt to forward new approaches and methods for curating and thinking about the region’s art and artists, departing from earlier notions and claims of Southeast Asia art as a fixed category. For Niranjan Rajah, the conceptual in the exhibitionary discourse is employed as a device for historicising the contemporary in Southeast Asian art; it enables him to locate art’s sources in the local, in the region’s spiritual and natural worlds of artists. The conceptual is the entry point through which one cultivates domains for deep engagements with the contemporary by dealing with the very ideas that embody artworks and by stepping beyond a superficial understanding of them.

Contemporaneity in Southeast Asian Art: The Ethnographic, Thematic and Conceptual

The span of ten years, 1992 to 2002, is formative for exhibitionary discourses on the contemporary in Southeast Asian art. The making of these exhibitions gave rise to particular discourses that proposed the ethnographic, thematic and the conceptual terrains for mapping and developing the contemporary as a discursive field in art. The shift towards the conceptual in 36 Ideas makes possible a provision of theories and concepts on art, requisite for this region.

Much of what is written on Southeast Asian art springs from exhibitionary discourses, initiated by museums, art institutions and galleries that offer critical but fragmented narratives of the region’s art. Art exhibitions remain the primary mode for constructing the region’s art; they are invariably driven by diverse agendas. These endeavours construct trajectories that survey the region and its artistic productions. The issues of region and region-ness are engaged with in varying degrees of success by these exhibitions as sites of discourse. Exhibitionary discourses on the contemporary, produced from within and without, are never exclusionary. More often than not, scholars from within the region are active participants in the shaping and mapping of Southeast Asian art outside the region; conversely, scholars from outside the region are vitally involved in developing discourses within it. The constant slippages within exhibitionary discourses of contemporary Southeast Asian art, whereby they bleed into other fields such as Asian art, Asia-Pacific art and Euroamerican art, enrich and deepen knowledge on art, providing further possibilities for exploring notions of the region and region-ness across these cartographies.

Note on the writer

Seng Yu Jin is currently a lecturer in the Faculty of Fine Arts, LASALLE College of the Fine Arts. He was a senior curator, heading the Southeast Asia Gallery, at The National Art Gallery, Singapore. He has curated exhibitions such as From Words to Pictures: Art During the Emergency and co-curated Masriadi: Black is My Last Weapon, FX Harsono; Testimonies and Cheong Soo Pieng: Bridging Worlds. His research interests are on exhibitions as sites of discourse and artist collectives.

This essay was originally published in the exhibition catalogue of Intersecting Histories: Contemporary Turns in Southeast Asian Art. Seng Yu Jin teaches in the MA in Asian Art Histories Programme.


  1. Comparative Contemporaries- A Web Anthology Project was a project initiated by art critic, Lee Weng Choy; it began with a one day symposium and two days of workshops titled, Comparatives Contemporary, and was organised by The Substation in 2012. The web anthology on Southeast Asian art will commence in late 2012. Please refer to the website for more details.
  2. Sabapathy,T.K., ‘Regarding Exhibitions’ in The Artists Village: 20 Years On (Singapore: The Singapore Art Museum, 2008), p. 7. Sabapathy calls for reviewers to focus not only on the texts produced by exhibitions but also on exhibition displays.
  3. Apinan Poshyananda, ‘Contemporary Southeast Asian Art in the New World Disorder’ (Computer printout, Eugene Tan, Southeast Asian Studies Summer Institute, 29 June, 1999).
  4. For an insightful account of the history of curation in Southeast Asia, refer to Patrick D. Flores, Past Peripheral: Curation in Southeast Asia (Singapore: NUS Museum, 2008), p. 65.
  5. Sabapathy,T.K., Road to Nowhere: The Quick Rise and the Long Fall of Art History in Singapore (Singapore: The National Institute of Education, 2010).
  6. The Journal of Southeast Asian History was renamed the Southeast Asian Studies in the 1970s.
  7. In the last decade, the following art journals on Southeast Asian art have appeared: Sinlapkorn (Fine Arts from the Ministry of Arts, Thailand), SentAp! (Malaysia) and C-arts (Indonesia). Academic publications on Southeast Asian art have surfaced only recently. Patrick Flores and Joan Kee Ed., ‘Third Text: Critical Perspectives on Contemporary Art and Culture, Volume 25, Issue 4, July 2011; and Nora A. Taylor and Boreth Ly, Eds, Modern and Contemporary Southeast Asian Art (USA: Cornell Southeast Asia Program Publications, 2012).
  8. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) was established on 8th August 1967. Its founding members were Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand. ASEAN’s membership later expanded to include Brunei Darussalam (1984), Vietnam (1995), Laos (1997), Myanmar (1997) and Cambodia (1999). It is politically and culturally diverse. ASEAN serves as a platform to facilitate dialogue and cooperation between its members.
  9. Other exhibitions that included contemporary Southeast Asian art under rubrics such as Asia and Asia Pacific are: the Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art in 1993 (Australia), the 4th Asian Art Show in 1994 (Japan); they have been excluded as this paper focuses on how contemporary art on Southeast Asia was imagined discursively through exhibitionary discourses specifically centred on this region. However, how the conceptual category of Southeast Asia as a contingent category is mediated in other exhibitions adopting different geographical parameters deserves scholarly attention but remains outside the scope of this paper.
  10. The ASEAN Cultural Centre was expanded into the Asia Cultural Centre in 1995 to mark the 50th anniversary of the end of the Second World War. Interview with Ms. Yasuko Furuich, 5 August 2010 at the Japan Foundation, Tokyo.
  11. The Fukuoka Asian Art Shows began with the 1979-80 Asian Artists Exhibition/Contemporary Asian Art Show, followed by the 2nd Asian Art Show that was held in 1985. The 3rd Asian Art Show was organised in 1989. The 4th and final Asian Art Show took place in 1994 before it was replaced by the Fukuoka Asian Art Triennial in 1999, marking the opening of the Fukuoka Asian Art Museum. It was also no coincidence that the mayor of Fukuoka City helmed all three Asian Art Shows organised by the Fukuoka Art Museum from 1979 to 1989. The Asian Art Shows provided platforms and a ‘gateway to Asia’ for the building of political and economic ties through art, at a time when Japan’s trade with Asia was becoming increasingly significant, with Japan at the centre.
  12. Interview with Ms. Yasuko Furuich, 5 August 2010 at the Japan Foundation, Tokyo.
  13. Nissim Otmazgin, Japanese Government Support for Cultural Export, the Kyoto Review, Centre of Southeast Asian Studies, October 2003, Issue 3.
  14. Nakamura Hideki, ‘The Self Awareness of Human Beings in Flux’ in New Art from Southeast Asia 1992 (Tokyo: Japan Foundation, 1992), p. 13.
  15. Masahiro Ushiroshoji, ‘The Labyrinthine Search for Self-Identity – The Art of Southeast Asia from the 1980s to 1990s’ in New Art from Southeast Asia 1992 (Tokyo: Japan Foundation, 1992), p.21
  16. Ibid.
  17. Ibid.
  18. Tani Arata‘ Toward an Asian School of Contemporary Art’ in New Art from Southeast Asia 1992 (Tokyo: Japan Foundation, 1992), p. 104.
  19. Ibid.
  20. Homi Bhabha ‘Beyond the Pale: Art in the Age of Multicultural Translation. Figurations for an Alternative Consciousness,” in Cultural Diversity in the Arts: Art, Art Politics, and the Face Lift of Europe, ed. R. Lavrijsen (Amsterdam: K.I.T. Publications, 1993), p. 32.
  21. The Singapore Art Museum was inaugurated with two exhibitions, namely, Modernity and Beyond: Themes in Southeast Asian Art and A Century of Singapore Art.
  22. The essays in the Modernity and Beyond: Themes in Southeast Asian Art include: ‘Glimpses into Art in Brunei Darussalam’ by Danielle C.W.M. Poppel, ‘From National Identity to the Self: Themes in Modern Indonesian Art’ by Joanna Lee, ‘Thematic Approaches to Malaysian Art History’ by T.K. Sabapathy, ‘Some Aspects of Nationalism and Internationalism in Philippine Art’ by Ahmad Mashadi, ‘Brief Notes on Traditionalism in Modern Thai Art’ by Ahmad Mashadi, and ‘A Preliminary Thematic Survey of Vietnamese Contemporary Art’ by Susie Koay.
  23. The six themes are: 1. Nationalism, Revolution and the Idea of the Modern 2. Traditions of the Real 3. Modes of Abstraction 4. Mythology and Religion: Traditions and Tension; The Self and the Other; and 6. Urbanism and Popular Culture.
  24. Sabapathy, T.K., ‘Introduction’, in Modernity and Beyond, p. 7.
  25. Ibid., pp. 7-9.
  26. Emphasis added.
  27. Thomas McEvilley, Fusion: West African Artists at the Venice Biennale (New York: Prestal Pub, 1993), p. 11.
  28. This is in comparison to the state of identity during the first decades after the Second World War in which many of the postcolonial countries, newly independent began to move into McEvilley’s third phase of identity.
  29. Ibid.
  30. In McEvilley, Fusion: West African Artists at the Venice Biennale, the fourth phase of identity is based on an acceptance of one’s identity as a mosaic of cultural influences that stems from not one source, whether Asian, African or Western, but from a multitude of sources, thus suggesting both syncretism and eclecticism.
  31. Sabapathy, T.K., ‘Thoughts on an International Exhibition on Southeast Asian Contemporary Art’, 36 ideas from Asia: Contemporary South-East Asian Art (Singapore: Singapore Art Museum, 2002), unpaginated.
  32. Ibid.
  33. Kwok Kian Chow, ‘Message’, 36 ideas from Asia: Contemporary South-East Asian Art (Singapore: Singapore Art Museum, 2002), p. 10. Kwok is currently the Senior Advisor to The National Art Gallery, Singapore.
  34. The Singapore Art Museum, together with the National Heritage Board was tasked with both the project management and art direction of the exhibition. See 36 ideas from Asia: Contemporary South-East Asian Art (Singapore: Singapore Art Museum, 2002), p. 124.
  35. Ibid., p. 10.
  36. Ibid.
  37. Choo Whatt Bin, ‘Message’, 36 ideas from Asia: Contemporary South-East Asian Art (Singapore: Singapore Art Museum, 2002), p. 8.
  38. Sabapathy, ‘Curatorial Introduction’, unpaginated.
  39. Niranjan Rajah, “Towards a Southeast Asian Paradigm: From Distinct National Modernisms to an Integrated Regional Arena for Art,” 36 ideas from Asia: Contemporary South-East Asian Art (Singapore: Singapore Art Museum, 2002), p. 32.
  40. Ibid, p. 35.