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M+ opens its first interdisciplinary exhibition to explore Southeast Asia
Installation view ew of In Search of Southeast Asia through the M+ Collection. Courtesy of the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority.

HONG KONG.- M+, Hong Kong’s museum of twentieth and twenty-first-century visual culture in the West Kowloon Cultural District, announces In Search of Southeast Asia through the M+ Collections, which is be presented at the M+ Pavilion from 22 June until 30 September 2018. This ambitious and tightly curated exhibition includes seventy works by twenty-eight artists, architects, and designers from nine Southeast Asian countries, plus Hong Kong, the Netherlands, Sri Lanka, and the United States.

The exhibition is the museum’s first to address a particular geography, in this case Southeast Asia. Exploring the historical and cultural complexities of the region through an interdisciplinary lens and a transnational framework employed by M+ for its curatorial approach, the exhibition gives special attention to layered conditions of place. While topographic, climatic, political, linguistic, and religious affinities do exist across Southeast Asia, its porous borders have created a deep sense of cultural heterogeneity and fluidity. By featuring works from the fields of design and architecture, moving image, and visual art, the exhibition uses the museum’s growing multidisciplinary holdings to shed light on the diverse and wide-ranging cultural practices within the region over the last half-century.

Suhanya Raffel, Executive Director of M+, emphasises the importance of this exhibition in refining a voice for the museum that speaks from Hong Kong: ‘With this exhibition, M+ presents diverse readings of Southeast Asia through our collections, further articulating who we are as a museum and how we strengthen our grounding in Hong Kong. In Search of Southeast Asia through the M+ Collections is an important opportunity for us to develop connections between cultural production in Hong Kong and wider Asia. It also demonstrates M+’s commitment to visual culture as a methodology, by presenting positions and perspectives that are derived from multiple disciplines.’

In Search of Southeast Asia through the M+ Collections is co-curated by Pauline J. Yao, Lead Curator, Visual Art, and Shirley Surya, Associate Curator, Design and Architecture. The emphatically interdisciplinary exhibition includes contemporary works of art and design as well as historical archival materials and architectural models. These are grouped into three themes:

• ‘Conditions of Place’ features work by artists, architects, and designers that addresses specific local conditions, such as historical origins, climate, topography, vernacular materials, and urban environments. Highlights include material related to a project in Bali by Sri Lankan architect Geoffrey Bawa; models and drawings by Malaysian architect Ken Yeang, Ho Chi Minh City-based Vo Trong Nghia Architects, and Singapore-based WOHA Architects; a large-scale bamboo installation by Cambodian artist Sopheap Pich; a film—exhibited in Hong Kong for the first time— by Vietnamese collective The Propeller Group; and an outdoor piece by Indonesian visual artist Eko Nugroho.

• ‘States and Powers’ shows how power—exercised through colonial imperialism, nation-building efforts, and contemporary statecraft—can both invigorate and limit cultural expression. Archival material documenting two of the most prolific architectural practices in British Malaya—Booty, Edwards & Partners (later BEP Akitek) and Malayan Architects Co-partnership (later Architects Team 3)—is featured prominently, as is work by contemporary artists Charles Lim from Singapore and Kiri Dalena from the Philippines.

• ‘Transnational Flows’ investigates global flows of people and ideas within and beyond Southeast Asia. Works presented in this section include a video installation by Thai artist Rirkrit Tiravanija and moving image works by Myanmar-born Taiwanese filmmaker Midi Z and Thai artist Araya Rasdjarmrearnsook, alongside archival material documenting American architect Buckminster Fuller’s engagement with Southeast Asia and projects by renowned Thai architect Sumet Jumsai and Singapore-based graphic designer Theseus Chan.

In Search of Southeast Asia through the M+ Collections represents design and architecture, moving image, and visual art practices from Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. Material by artists and designers who work outside the region, including two Hong Kong artists, is also presented. The exhibition features work by: anothermountainman (Stanley Wong), Architects Team 3 (formerly Malayan Architects Copartnership) / Lim Chong Keat, Geoffrey Bawa, BEP Akitek (formerly Booty, Edwards & Partners) / Kington Loo, Chun Kaifeng, Kiri Dalena, Simryn Gill, Sumet Jumsai, Zai Kuning, Charles Lim, Midi Z, Eko Nugroho, the Office indochinois du tourisme, the Official Tourist Information Bureau of the Dutch East Indies, Pratchaya Phinthong, Sopheap Pich, Bas Princen, The Propeller Group, Araya Rasdjarmrearnsook, Paul Rudolph, Wilson Shieh Ka-ho, T. R. Hamzah & Yeang / Ken Yeang, Hans Tan, Maria Taniguchi, Rirkrit Tiravanija, Vo Trong Nghia Architects, WOHA Architects, and WORK / Theseus Chan.

Curators Pauline J. Yao and Shirley Surya explain their approach: ‘Given that Southeast Asia is one of the most diverse and fascinating regions in the world, we wanted to honour its vast assortment of cultural expressions by concentrating on isolated moments, individual perspectives, and underrepresented microhistories, rather than any overarching narrative or unified perspective. Through the three thematic sections, the exhibition takes the viewer through the divergent, as well as shared, ways artists and designers respond to the multivalent conditions of where they are and how they look at the world.’

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