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‘Re-Imagining Asia’ show
Jaishri Abichandani, Subodh Gupta, Shezad Dawood, and Rashid Rana are among the prominent artists featured at ‘Re-Imagining Asia’, besides prominent names, such as Michael Joo, Kimsooja, Sun K Kwak, Miao Xiaochun, Ujino Muneteru, Takako Saito, and Zhao Xiangyuan, among others.

This major international show includes paintings, photography, film, sculpture and installations by some of the world's most prolific contemporary artists. They experiment with traditional forms and new media. It is not the artists’ origins, which are relevant for the show, but only their focus on the continent as a space for the imagination.

The spectrum of artists ranges from Chinese artists such as Zhang Dali, the Thai artist Rirkrit Tiravanija, born in Buenos Aires and works in New York, and the Germans Johannes Kahrs and Andreas Gursky. Curated by Shaheen Merali and Wu Hung for Berlin’s Haus der Kulturen der Welt in collaboration with The New Art Gallery Walsall, the exhibit is supported by The Henry Moore Foundation.

Together, the two curators produced the much-praised exhibition About Beauty (2005) and China – Between the Past and the Future (2006 at the House of World Cultures in Berlin and a section of the Gwangju Biennale in South Korea in 2006. In their Curatorial Statement they write: ‘These days, the cultural business is completely globalized. However, art often loses its contour in international exhibition practice, and without context it is depoliticized. Can Asian art be re-contextualized? Which visual languages and traditions is Asian art taking up?’

Wu Hung is Professor at Chicago’s Center for the Art of East Asia, and Shaheen Merali, a division head at the House of World Cultures that presents non European cultures, engaging them in a public discourse with European cultures. The program focuses on the contemporary arts and current developments. It gives priority to projects that explore the possibilities of both intercultural co-operation and its presentation. Projects are developed and presented in close co-operation with international experts, curators and artists.

The exhibit looks to explore the meaning and relevance of the contemporary Asian art in the 21st century, within a wider context of globalization, increasing migration, leading to a truly global world. A curatorial note mentions: “The continent has always been an endlessly inspiring source of images as well as a screen for our projections. For a long time, however, only the Western view of a more-or-less Far East was accepted. How can we see Asia differently? Today, Asia is experiencing a cultural awakening. From Bahrain to Beijing, new museums and art biennials are appearing.”

‘Re-Imagining Asia’ looks to examine the way new images of Asia appear in contemporary art. No matter whether the subject matter is the Kuwait stock exchange, street scenes in mega-cities, pop imagery from comics, or models of Tiananmen Square, the works selected evolve new, heterogeneous ways of perceiving the world, which transcend the polarities of local: global; traditional: modern.

Installations, photographs and objects form the focal point of the exhibit. Although the materials and motives fall back on traditions, the practices are absolutely contemporary. The participating artists all express their disquiet about the system, invoke suffering and love, Irony and enthusiasm go hand in hand, and new connections are established between contemporary and traditional phenomena. Re-Imagining Asia discovers its perspectives in these spaces of the imagination.

Rashid Rana addresses socio-political through ironic juxtapositions. His creations oscillate between the micro and the macro; he conceives a composite image arranged from thousands of miniaturized photos, depicting varied themes. Born in Mumbai, Jaishri Abichandani immigrated to Queens at 14. An accomplished curator-artist, her recent ‘Reconciliations’ series at the Queens Museum of Art, reflect her artistic strategies that use images from the Internet and create seamless digital collages.

Subodh Gupta’s personal journey, from semi-rural country to the capital city, could be an allegory of the India of today, where village life is swiftly giving place to the culture of the capitalist megalopolis. Taking an ironic swipe at Capitalism's materialist ethic, Gupta nonetheless portrays the social and economic aspirations of rural communities and lower class Indians with an affectionate compassion.