Curated by Jitish Kallat, 'Likewise' juxtaposes work by artists who have lived and worked within the vast Asian continent since the 1990s. Often working far apart geographically, they've worked closely in spirit as 'generational cohorts' addressing collective social and political histories that define a broad historical moment in addition to an array of hot-button issues that define their individual world views and practices.
Curated by JITISH KALLAT
The articulation of the world through the format of an art work often presents a spectrum of interpretive adventures similar to those of cartography where the classic conundrum is in decoding the geodic shape of planet Earth. The surface of the Earth, curved and floating in three-dimensional space, must be represented in two dimensions as a flat surface to make a map. This feat of conversion through projections is achieved by a stimulating mix of imagination, science, technology, aesthetics and symbolism to finally render it in a readable, portable and printable form.
In many ways the process of art is the process of finding utterances that best register truths; finding the means to classify and arrange ideas captured from a complex ever-changing world into coherent systems of meaning. We live in a world where, as the author David Brooks describes, "Information can now travel 15,000 miles in an instant. But the most important part of information's journey is the last few inches — the space between a person's eyes or ears and the various regions of the brain." It is indeed in those few inches of space, refracted through the prism of the artist's inherited religious, cultural and social orientation, as well as his/her geographic location on the globe, that the congested inflow of information and experiences gets contested, differentiated and re-scaled into the format of the art work.
"Likewise" will present works of 18-20 artists of Asian origin, most of who live and work in several parts of Asia. The geographic framework here isn't a rigid super-imposition but simply a focusing device. We are at a moment when the whole of humanity is briskly being incorporated into a webbed world system and the globe is simultaneously being reshaped by new political, economic and cultural alignments. Asia, forming a third of the world's land mass and two-thirds of its population, is pretty much the advance guard of global transformation hinging heavily on changing demographic and economic trends, as well as the altered power equations in the world. The continent is hugely heterogeneous from a linguistic or political perspective; just as there are languages that have little or no family resemblance with each other there are liberal democracies sharing borders with military dictatorships and monarchies. There are territories with multiple claimants and on-going freedom struggles while others fight to shake off the legacy of 20th century imperialism.
"Likewise" will attempt to neither present a case for Asian-ness, nor will it set out to unpack artistic difference across the vast continent. Instead the works of the artists in "Likewise" will be placed next to each other like that of 'generational cohorts'; individuals working actively in the nineties and after, sharing a broad historical moment and an array of hot buttons that define their world-view and practice. The collective social and political histories vary greatly across the continent. For instance, the rapid wealth creation of the Asian Tigers (South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore) after the World War II is comparable to the climate of economic optimism seen in India now, so many decades later. But collectively within the art-world the nineties was a period when the art scene in Asia began to interact within itself, with no mediation from a Western Center. Fresh attempts were made to look at the art history of the region with the 1st Fukuoka Asian Art Triennale, the Asia Pacific Triennale in Brisbane, artist-run initiatives such as Khoj in India, Vasl in Pakistan and Teertha in Sri Lanka etc. becoming key spaces of dialogue. Of course, two decades later we see that the Asian art scene has become a speculator's hub and an auctioneer's laboratory; and with at least 6 Biennales and 5 art fairs in the month of September alone, Asia has become a necessary stop in the jetlagged world of transnational art tourism.
A parting word about the title: "Likewise" is used adverbially to mean both 'similarly' and 'also'; provocatively playing with the exhausted discussion on similarity and difference. Placed within double-quotation marks, the word not only gets highlighted and gains an added layer of emphasis but the title also becomes a spoken word uttered conversationally like a scant reciprocal greeting within an encounter.
"Nice to meet you"… "Likewise.