8th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art

Nationalism can be a dirty word. But shrewdly by celebrating tradition, hybridity and, importantly, change, the artists represented in the Eighth Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art (APT8) fly the flag for pan-Asia.

APT8 takes place across two venues, in the Queensland Art Gallery and in select spaces within the Gallery of Modern Art (QAGOMA). More than 80 artists and performers from over 30 nations will be on view from 21 November to 10 April 2016. The presentation marks its largest geographic footprint to date and celebrates 22 years as the leading platform for Australian, Asia Pacific and now Central Asian art.

With the formidable architecture of QAGOMA we can anticipate scaled up and kinetic installations, and as a poetic undercurrent to this spectacle we are offered theatre on other levels.

One of the focus projects ‘Yumi Danis (We Dance)’ emerged from a creative exchange in Ambrym, Vanuatu. Film programming ‘Pop Islam’ and ‘Filipino Indie’ at the The Australian Cinémathèque hopes to offer viewers more than one line in to experience the distinct cultures. The APT8 opening weekend will parallel a conference to share and analyse the ideas coming out of the creative centres of Vietnam, Kazakhstan, the Philippines, New Zealand, South Korea, Georgia and many more. No comparable event exists in Australia and many of the artists on show cannot be experienced anywhere else in the country.

Many of the artists on show at APT8 are telling stories that relate to their personal and cultural histories – imagining how it was, hoping for what it could be and creating an experience for people to live through in the present.

Practices that focus on the ability of the human form to speak about the body politic are manifested in live performance and video works. Indonesian performance artist Melati Suryodarmo will crush and grind pieces of charcoal over the course of 12 hours in ‘I’m A Ghost in My Own House’ 2012. The material is symbolic of a person’s vitality and in turn the inevitability of our demise.

Emerging from the queer chrysalis of Sydney’s underground club scene, young artists Justin Shoulder and Bhenji Ra draw on the dualities inherent in costume and performance to bring new life to ancestral mythological stories with Filipino roots. Queer rights and nationalism are touchstones for Kyrgyz Republic artists Georgy Mamedov and Oksana Shatalova who use archival material and animations to communicate that the nuances of their Central Asian culture are at risk where Russian language is predominant. Yasumasa Morimura uses his body and the language of art history in his layered self-portraits that are known for thumbing Japan’s sexual, cultural and jingoistic norms.

Two major sculptural installations will be on show from India’s Asim Waqif and Haegue Yang from South Korea. Both artists transform familiar found materials that are part of the cycle of mass production into otherworldly forms. Yang will debut a new major work in the gallery’s iconic Watermall site. Previously her doubly opaque and transparent modernist colour fields made from Venetian blinds have come alive with lights and electric fans to create a multisensory experience not fixed to any time or place other than your encounter.

The dualities of being seen as an outsider where ethnicity and sex are concerned are themes within the work of Rheim Alkadhi. The Baghdad-born artist migrated to the US and views her performative interventions, image and text works, not as personal, but as a platform for a larger conversation about inequity. Poking at the doubleness of what is real and hystericised in contemporary news events, Gabriella Mangano and Silvana Mangano plan to use objects and their own bodies in choreographed interactions to create a sense of timelessness in a large-scale video installation. The pair illustrate the cause and effect of gesture and process – an enquiry which stems from a shared background in drawing.

Berlin-based Singaporean artist Ming Wong inhabits every role in his performance works where he restages films to show the fluidity of identity, and the artifice of trying to portray one’s identity. Using archival material from Australian television of the 1970s, Ming Wong will present a new work partly inspired by the collective memory of Prime Minister Gough Whitlam.

A significant note in the programming is the number of artist groups, who are almost participating in equal part with solo practices. Perhaps, visual communication, while it can be seen as inward looking, is increasingly moving beyond the self and spells changes for the meaning of materiality in art. The Bouillon Group from Georgia address this idea of art as ephemeral and experiential. Their moniker, a clear broth which is made up of a handful of ingredients, is but one element of their satirical commentary on the post-Soviet character of Georgia, multi-faith and conspicuously capitalist. The artists, Natalia Vatsadze, Teimuraz Kartlelishvili, Vladimer Khartishvili, Konstantine Kitiashvili, Ekaterina Ketsbaia and Zurab Kikvadze, perform aerobics to poke fun at the notion that aspiring to piety or power is a cynical kind of self-improvement.

Physically far-reaching, the festival bursts conceptual borders with its focus on new media practices, performance and participation. APT8 features the largest contribution from Australian artists, including: Abdul Abdullah, Brook Andrew, Richard Bell, Juan Davila, Janenne Eaton, Lawrence English, Gunybi Ganambarr, Danie Mellor, Yukultji Napangati, Segar Passi, Christian Thompson and Super Critical Mass (Julian Day and Luke Jaaniste).

APT8 Director Chris Saines has overseen three years of curatorial enquiry with staff “researching new developments in contemporary art, liaising directly with artists and communities in their home countries to discuss new works and projects specifically for this exhibition.” This new territory doesn’t only chart technology-based practices but those steeped in ritual; for example paintings by four artists of the Mongol zurag movement and an Indigenous Indian collective who rephrase pictorial styles for today’s conversation.

APT8 is a forum where articulating the experience of everyday life is avant-garde and the transgressive ideas are commonplace.

8th Asia Pacific Triennial of Comtemporary Art
21 November 2015 – 10 April 2016
Queensland Art Gallery, Gallery of Modern Art
Brisbane, Queensland

Courtesy the artists, TKG + Taipei, Navin Production Co., Stuart Miller, Kali Rolfe Contemporary Art

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