CURATEd BY COSMIN COSTINAS
A beast, a god and a line is woven by connections and circulations of ideas across a geography with Bengal at its core. Commonly called Asia-Pacific, it could also be defined by several other definitions, which the exhibition will explore and untangle. Overlapping and sometimes conflicting or barely discernible beneath the strident layers of contemporaneity and the modern waves of destruction, these worlds are still the pillars of a region that is going through a process of replacing its colonial cartographic coordinates, a process this exhibition proudly serves.
Further on, the project touches some issues marking the current historical moment in this macro-region: the development and spread of politicised religion (jihadist Islam across several countries, fascist Buddhism in Myanmar, Sri Lanka, and Thailand, and Hindu ethno-fascism in India, alongside revivalist Christianity among many indigenous communities and the Philippines), the rise of political populism and loss of faith in liberal-democracy, the negotiation of real or imagined traditional cultures in modern societies, and, circumscribing the previous issues, the various attempts to create parallel narratives to Western modernity.
These issues circulate across South Asia and South East Asia on routes going back to several historical eras: the early Austronesian world that has woven a maritime universe surpassed in scale only by European colonialism, from Hawaii, New Zealand, to Madagascar with Taiwan, Indonesia, Malaysia and Philippines at its core; the great transfer of cultural and religious ideas across South Asia and South East Asia; the trade routes of the Indian Ocean before the European imperial monopoly; and the intellectual and political visions during the anti-colonial struggle and post-colonial nation building, forming the immediate pre-history of the contemporary issues mentioned above.
At the core of the exhibition are works by contemporary artists as well as their visions. However, many of the historical traces and layers are drawn by textiles, which occupy a crucial position in this exhibition, framing its architecture and narrative.
The exhibition will contain several autonomous sections, thematic godowns supporting the trade of ideas and forms: one concentrating more in-depth on several narratives related to textiles, one curated by Shabbir Hussain Mustafa, and one conceived together with Simon Soon and a group of Filipino artisans.