Making Substance 2022: Finding Maritime Asia

Making Substance 2022: Finding Maritime Asia

Rockbund Art Museum

September 25, 2022
Making Substance 2022: Finding Maritime Asia
Educational event series
September 16–25, 2022
Rockbund Art Museum
20 Huqiu Road
Instagram / Weibo / Facebook

Being a long-term educational program, “Making Substance” will focus on one particular topic each year, which will include (but not limited to) ethics at work, environment and sustainability, AI and politics of life, and feminism; and we will invite scholars, practitioners and artists with shared interests as guest curators.  The first edition of “Making Substance” is entitled “Finding Maritime Asia”, which will be presented both online and in-person. Different from art institutes with continental or national visions as they tend to suffer the backfire of being “too big to fall”, Rockbund Art Museum is developing an oceanic vision towards contemporary art. We invite two marine researchers, Sun Jiyuan and Chen Baiqi, to co-curate the programme. 

“…Not every region and society in Asia needs the notion of ‘Asia’. But in the meantime, some regions in Asia are always in need of this notion. In other words, the use of this notion doesn’t naturally and equally belong to all Asians…” ——Sun Ge

Along the east coast of Eurasia, from the sea of Okhotsk to Java Sea, and from Banda Sea to the Arabian Sea, trade networks built on ocean passages collectively form a whole due to monsoons and ocean currents. Fishermen, merchants, sailors, envoys, monks, pirates, navy soldiers, drifters, Tankas (boat people) and travelers, who live on the ocean, have transcended the earlier tributary system and the more recent nation-states, and make up the nodes and diversities of the networks. In a world of shifting and fragmented identities, mobilities, and connections, human beings constantly get in touch with the coastal areas, ships, sea surface or even the depth of the ocean, as to them the sea was simultaneously workplace, home, passage, penitentiary and promise. Shanghai, as an important point in the maritime trade network in Asia, is located on the coast of the East China Sea, borders the bay of Hangzhou to the south, and faces the Kyushu Island of Japan across the sea. It is a convergence point of the Yangtze River and Huangpu River. After the Opium War, the Bund area in Shanghai, where the former Royal Asiatic Society Building is located, was designated as the British concession and later became the beginning point of modern urbanization of the city. On the one hand, it is a witness to the histories of colonization, invasion and resistance in Asia; and on the other, it has become a symbol of Asian futurism.

To search is an act of continuously probing into the ocean. By presenting research and creation showcasing achievements of different periods by different practitioners, we want to share with people the ocean as an ecosystem and as a place where human histories take place, and to cast light on the inner and intricate connections between the separated continent and islands in Asia. To search is also an initiative we launch to extract nature, diversities and specificities from marine cultures of different regions, in order to enable people to pick up again an old mode of observing and thinking that has been neglected for long.

This series of public educational programme invites scholars, creators and practitioners to share with audience their ideas and works both in-person at the “Maritime Parlor” and online, creating a context for interdisciplinary and region-specific thinking and discussions. Divided into three themes, namely “Deep-Sea Imagination and Fear”, “Maritime Asia in History” and “Back to Waters”, the programme intends to inspire the public’s interests in visual culture and identity of Asian oceans, and to propose a respond to the possibility of transforming apprehension and fear into a community in the changing context of today’s ecological, economic and political environments.

Text: Sun Jiyuan, Chen Baiqi

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Rockbund Art Museum
September 25, 2022

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