Brisbane’s Gallery of Modern Art is unleashing the highly anticipated ninth Asian Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art (APT9) on 24 November until April 2019. More than 80 individuals, collectives and group projects from more than 30 countries will exhibit in this major exhibition, the ninth of the gallery’s flagship exhibition series. Since 1993, the APT series has presented some of the most innovative and significant contemporary art from the region featuring a cross-cultural perspective representing Australia, Asia and Pacific. A testament to multiculturalist, this exhibition shares culturally engaged knowledge surrounding these regions.
Among the 80 exhibitors includes Beijing-based Qiu Zhijie, “one of the most important Chinese artists of his generation and a leading figure in conceptual and new media art globally,” says gallery’s director, Chris Saines. Qui has been commissioned to create a new site-specific work for the upcoming Triennial in the form of large, sculptural forms created from nassa shells known as ‘Tutana’ or ‘Loloi’ by the Gunantuna community of Papua New Guinea. The sculpture towers above visitors as they enter the gallery, symbolising themes of wealth and value. The structures — consisting of thousands of these Tutana shells – are used by the Gunantuna people as a legal currency to buy goods and exchange items within their communities. Additionally, the shells are a crucial aspect of the community’s rites of passage including marriages, initiations and funerals.
Other central artworks include Monica Al Qadiri’s four-sided video installation Diver 2018, another large-scale installation featuring an aquarium in the heart of the gallery. The piece pays tribute to the Persian Gulf which has been culturally displaced due to the oil boom of the last century. Synchronised swimmers elegantly enact their choreographed routines amongst a pearlescent body of water. The director explains that “the work serves a reminder that mining for oil – like the diving for pearls before it – is an industry that will in time, be replaced by another economic force”, whether these economic forces are detrimental or beneficial to our society, remains open to interpretation for the viewer.
Another video installation from Chinese-born artist Cao Fei explores the increasing omnipresence of the robotics industry and how this will impact human behaviour and our industries. In an era of rapidly expanding artificial intelligence, with particular technological transcendence from the Asian continent, Cao’s work presents a unique cultural insight into the impending topic of the ethics surrounding the development of robotics.
APT19 distinguishes itself from other paramount exhibitions with a number of monumental installations across a range of contemporary disciplines that encompass themes of historical, cultural importance that are little known to those who grew up with a Western, or colonial education which predominantly focuses on Western cultures. An example of this is Vuth Lyno’s installation symbolising Cambodian spirit houses retrieved from the now demolished, White Building in Phnom Penh; celebrating the vibrant community of more than 2000 inhabitants that once resided in the emblematic building.
Singapore-based artists Donna Ong and Robert Zhao Renhui alternatively transform one of the gallery’s into a landscape exploring the artifice of nature. The manmade exotica archives Singapore’s natural history through the tropical haven, another country rich with colonial contention that is a somewhat unavoidable topic of discussion amongst Asian artists’ exploring identity.
The free exhibition, now in its 25th year, continues to be an essential platform for the thriving talents of Asian artists’ producing work on the other side of the world. Other exhibiting artists including Vincent Namatjira, Margarent Rarru, Kapulani Landgraf and Idas Losin who contribute to this colossal exhibition showcasing an extraordinary amount of rich content, both historical and contemporary.
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