“Misfits”: Pages from a loose-leaf modernity

“Misfits”: Pages from a loose-leaf modernity

Haus der Kulturen der Welt (HKW)

“Misfits“: Pages from a loose-leaf modernity exhibition view. In the foreground: Tang Chang, Untitled, 1969. Oil on canvas. 98 x 103 cm. Courtesy Thip Sae-Tang. Photo: Laura Fiorio / HKW.

June 18, 2017
“Misfits”: Pages from a loose-leaf modernity
Tang Chang, Rox Lee and Bagyi Aung Soe
April 21–July 3, 2017
Haus der Kulturen der Welt (HKW)
John-Foster-Dulles-Allee 10
10557 Berlin

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Closing Conference: Escape Trajectories: Art History’s Runaways: June 30–July 1 
Haus der Kulturen der Welt (HKW), Berlin 


“Misfits”: Pages from a loose-leaf modernity, curated by David Teh in collaboration with Merv Espina, Yin Ker and Mary Pansanga, is devoted to three singular exemplars of late modernism or proto-contemporary art from Southeast Asia: Tang Chang, Rox Lee and Bagyi Aung Soe. The oeuvres of these three artists, currently at the threshold of art historical canonization, reflect transnational tendencies in a time before the material and economic globalization of modern art. The exhibition and discourse program are part of the long-term project Kanon-Fragen at HKW.

A central proposition of “Misfits”: Pages of a loose-leaf modernity is that modern art’s outsiders can help us to reflect on art history’s biases, limitations and blind spots. Such reflection is not aimed at restoring them to their rightful place in an existing canon, but at a transformative critique of the canon itself. For these figures rarely issued plaintive cries for inclusion from the margins—more often they deliberately rejected the terms of institutional validation, or were indifferent to them. From June 30–July 1, 2017 the exhibition’s closing discourse program Escape Trajectories: Art History’s Runaways will look specifically at the critical contributions of women artists, and those who have shirked the straitjacket of national identification. What do these “fugitive” positions tell us about the visibility and legitimacy brokered by curators, historians, and collecting institutions? What can be learned from these artists’ withdrawals, and from their returns? This dialogical gathering of artists and researchers will explore the fringes, byways and badlands of Asian modern and contemporary art. With contributions by Merv Espina, Arnika Fuhrmann, May Adadol Ingawanij, Yin Ker, Rox Lee, Sohl Lee, Eileen Legaspi-Ramirez, Lani Maestro, Araya Rasdjarmrearnsook, Shabbir Hussain Mustafa, and Reiko Tomii.

HKW’s long-term project Kanon-Fragen engages with the lack of historical narrative characterizing the current retroactive expansion of museum collections. The project revisits existing approaches as well as develops new methods for embedding art history into wider, critical conceptions of cultural history. Neither seeking to consolidate, nor simply to expand or to destroy the idea of a canon, the project series instead puts to the test the protocols of valorization, the critical differences and historical oppositions that make histories of art relevant to the present.

Further events in the Kanon-Fragen series include Bodies of Fact: the archive from Witness to Voice with works by Filipa César, Grada Kilomba, Diana McCarty and Krista Belle Stewart on July 8. This screening and conversation considers institutionalization and positioning as conducted through the regulatory system of the archive and the document. Conakry (2013), a collective film by Filipa César, Grada Kilomba, and Diana McCarty on the one hand and Krista Belle Stewart’s Seraphine, Seraphine (2015) on the other each address in different ways the material and the aesthetic legacies of colonial encounters and decolonization through archival footage. The artists will join curator Denise Ryner for a public conversation about their work.

Moreover, from November 2017 (opening November 2), a large-scale exhibition will investigate the echoes of the global intellectual network created by the CIA-backed Congress for Cultural Freedom. The exhibition delves into the ideological infrastructure, contradictions and foreclosures that have been sustaining the cultural coding of US exceptionalism as well as its consistent and lasting impact on the aesthetic and politics of contemporary art.

Exhibitions and events as part of Kanon-Fragen are conceived by the Department of Visual Arts and Film of HKW headed by Anselm Franke, in curatorial collaborations with Irene Albers, Diedrich Diederichsen, Nida Ghouse, Paz Guevara, Tom Holert, Antonia Majaca, Denise Ryner, David Teh among others.

Haus der Kulturen der Welt is funded by the German Federal Commissioner for Culture and the Media and the German Foreign Ministry.

Press contact:
Anne Maier, Haus der Kulturen der Welt
T +49 (0)30 39787 153/196 / anne.maier [​at​] hkw.de

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Haus der Kulturen der Welt (HKW)
June 18, 2017

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