June 17, 2019 - National Gallery Singapore - Awakenings: Art in Society in Asia 1960s-1990s
June 17, 2019

National Gallery Singapore

Tang Da Wu, They Poach the Rhino, Chop Off His Horn and Make This Drink.

Awakenings: Art in Society in Asia 1960s-1990s
How interactions between artists and society awoke a new consciousness in postwar Asia
June 14–September 15, 2019

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Singapore 178957
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In Asia, the period between the 1960s and 1990s was characterised by ideological confrontations, a rise in nationalism, rapid modernisation, and a wave of democratic movements. Significantly, it also gave birth to a multitude of experimental art practices as artists and the wider public were awakened to the emancipatory power of art to shape and assert their identities. Spotlighting this critical turning point is the latest exhibition at National Gallery Singapore, Awakenings: Art in Society in Asia 1960s-1990s, which will make its Southeast Asian premiere on June 14, 2019, following successful showings in Japan and Korea.

Featuring 142 provocative artworks by more than 100 artists from 12 countries in Asia, the exhibition chronicles one of the region’s most turbulent periods through a transnational artistic lens, with a focus on the radical qualities of experimental practices in Asia. Importantly, Awakenings outlines how artists questioned conventions and challenged those around them to assume new positions of criticality in society.

The exhibition is structured in three sections—Questioning Structures, Artists and the City, and New Solidarities. Artists at that time found intersections between art and activism as they questioned invisible but dominant structures of power in society. They sought to express the struggles felt by the marginalised with the rise of rapid urbanisation and consumer capitalism. Art was relocated into everyday reality and public space to communicate these common ideas among the people. A new awareness of subjectivity and broad criticisms of Western modernism also led to the emergence of various aesthetic experiments and movements that looked to escape the modern concept of "art for art’s sake" and to bridge the gap between art and everyday life. "Awakening," in this case, thus refers to this heightened awareness towards politics, the emergence of new artistic attitudes, and a newfound belief that aesthetic voices could respond to the region’s own geopolitical contexts.

This strong determination to effect change led to redefined boundaries for art in Asia. Artists began to experiment with new technologies and materials to capture local stories, including using their own bodies in performance art, photography and video and incorporating everyday objects into installations. At the same time, new artistic collectives such as the Zero Jigen in Japan, Minjung artists in South Korea, The Artists Village in Singapore and KASIBULAN (Women in Art and Emerging Consciousness) in the Philippines formed around the region, using art as a means of socio-cultural communication, and developing localised responses to some of these shared issues.

The exhibition in Singapore will feature a significant selection of works from Southeast Asia, exploring the intersections of experimental practices in the region, and their social and political contexts, with the rest of Asia and beyond. Tang Da Wu’s seminal work, They Poach the Rhino, Chop Off His Horn and Make This Drink (1989) will be exhibited for the first time since its acquisition by the Gallery. Other major works include Reptiles (1989, remade in 2013) by Huang Yong Ping and Eceng Gondok Berbunga Emas (Water Hyacinth with Golden Roses) (1979, remade in 2017 and 2019) by Siti Adiyati.

Awakenings: Art in Society in Asia 1960s-1990s is co-curated by Seng Yu Jin, Adele Tan, Charmaine Toh and Cheng Jia Yun from National Gallery Singapore; Suzuki Katsuo and Masuda Tomohiro from MOMAT; and Bae Myungji and Ryu Hanseung from MMCA. It will be on show at the Singtel Special Exhibition Gallery of National Gallery Singapore until 15 September 2019.

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