A proposal by Qinyi Lim
Taking its name from the work by Benedict Anderson, The New World Disorder aims to explore these gaps and silences through the practice of young contemporary artists from Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia. Through the lens of a mix of contemporary art mediums, these discourses are made pliable, fluid and open to speculative discussions. While the exhibition may seem to explore themes geopolitically-centred on these three countries, The New World Disorder is actually conceived as a platform for debate and discussion on themes that can be expanded, flexed and elaborated upon outside Southeast Asia.
The creation of Southeast Asia as a geopolitical entity was an entirely pragmatic move on the part of the British and American government during the Pacific Theatre of War. Taking China and India as key geographic reference points, the early scholars of the region conceded that it formed neither political nor cultural entity but rather acted as a cartographical representation of the colonial interests in the region. Since then, historiographies have been constructed in order to facilitate the legitimacy of these new nation states that emerged in the 50s and 60s.
Over the last half-decade, the anxieties of these nation states that perpetuate through the search for national identity and ethnicity has long been salient and reiterated across the short span of post-independence narratives over the last 50 years in Southeast Asia. The fascination with such subjects has been speculated to allude to the weakening of the ideological powers in the region and also due to the fact that such subjects are modern and contemporary imaginings of deep historical memories and traditional communities. Though early narratives dealt with the individual construct of each individual country and concentrated on creating myths of origins for nation building exercises, recent scholarship of the region by Clifford Geertz, Ben Anderson and Aihwa Ong has since embarked on problematising the gaps left by the conventional and dealing with the pluralities of Southeast Asia .
While these discourses may seemed isolated within their own spheres, similar attitudes have been seen to take to contemporary practice in the region. For example in the case of Singapore, such narratives have come to reflect on the governmental strategies employed which in turn created conditions that propelled younger generation artist to re-examine all that had been hitherto assumed as given, including issues relating to the nature of art, and questions regarding the self. However, these observations cannot be strictly restricted geographically to Singapore and neither should it be seen as strictly binary or adversarial to the notion of nation states but seen as a way of negotiating gaps left by singular discursive narratives.
Artist talk sessions will allow the artists to present their current practice and past works to the audience. The talks will be structured as a 30-40 minute presentation by the individual artists followed by a Q&A session from the audience.
Panel discussions will be created as platforms for inter-disciplinary readings on the selected themes relating to contemporary Southeast Asia. Two researchers, scholars and students from various education institutes will be invited to participate as panel discussants together with some of the artists.
Qinyi Lim currently lives in Singapore, where she works as Assistant Curator for the National University of Singapore Museum. Before that, she was an Assistant Curator at Singapore Art Museum from 2005-2007. She has just graduated this year from the National University of Singapore with an MA in Southeast Asian Studies and she holds a BA in Art History from the University of Queensland, Australia. Her past exhibitions include Telah Terbit: Out Now (2006), And The Difference Is: The Independence Project (2008), and Curating Lab: 100 objects (Remixed) (2009).