FROG KINGEarly Autumn, 1977, spray paint on paper, 38 × 29 cm. Copyright the artist. Courtesy 10 Chancery Lane Gallery, Hong Kong.

Elemental Forces

Also available in:  Chinese

While governments big and small seem to be treading water, writhing in the muck of infighting, the art world is busy and active, creating changes in perception in the lives of those whom it reaches. In ArtAsiaPacific’s March/April issue, we look at the varied ways in which artists have reconciled fundamental beliefs from the past with the material world of the present, prodding—sometimes even predicting—what tomorrow’s world offers.

Our cover Feature chronicles the life and work of Kwok Mang-Ho (also known as Frog King), whose early experimentation in performance and installation art in the 1970s informed a generation of contemporary Hong Kong artists. AAP managing editor Ysabelle Cheung explains that the 70-year-old artist, who was active in the heady New York art scene of the 1980s, and later represented Hong Kong in the 54th Venice Biennale in 2011, projects a bifurcated identity. On one hand, his alter ego, the lovable and accessible Frog King, bursts forth with color and song; on the other, he is the manic, fire-eating Kwok, setting toys and plastic pipes alight or cracking the shells of dozens of eggs, leaving them to rot and release their sulphuric perfume.

In the second Feature, AAP editor-at-large HG Masters examines the work of Jerusalem-based Jumana Emil Abboud, whose excursions across the West Bank in search of water sees her summoning djinn and ghouls from traditional Palestinian folklore. Through reimaginings of these mythical creatures in performances and paintings, Abboud reflects on the question of ownership of occupied lands and the traditions that are tied to specific locations. She explained to Masters, “I have realized more recently that what sets the Palestine fairy tales apart from the Brothers Grimm or Russian folktales, is that there’s a true connection to an actual place . . . Our oral history is what connects us to being Palestinian and to the land.”

This issue also marks the introduction of two special Features, both developed as part of AAP’s 25th anniversary in 2018. The first delves into the magazine’s archives to compile a carefully edited selection of articles and images that encapsulate the social, political and cultural climates throughout AAP’s history, from the proliferation of censorship in Thai contemporary art in the 1990s to creative responses to the Iraq War in the 2000s. The second is a visual portfolio of five up-and-coming artists on our radar, whose practices in one way or another explore the concept of modernization: Inas Halabi, the Karrabing Film Collective, Kim Heecheon, Andrew Luk and Genevieve Chua.

Rounding out the Features, Hong Kong art professor and conceptualist Ho Siu Kee speaks to rising star Debe Sham about her community-based art interventions in New Haven Green public park—known as a refuge for the homeless in the Connecticut university town—during her recent Yale-China Arts Fellowship, for Inside Burger Collection.

To mark the dizzying month of art events in March, from the 21st Biennale of Sydney to Art Basel Hong Kong, we profile six collectors and art patrons from across Asia, Australia and Europe, each with their own collecting philosophy or personal quirks. Désiré Feuerle, who opened The Feuerle Collection in a World War II telecommunications bunker in Berlin in 2016, recalls collecting antique toy horses, keys and coffeepots as a teenager, which developed into his current obsession with classical and contemporary works. Sydney’s Penelope Seidler, who transformed homes and public spaces in Australia through her and her late husband’s work in design and architecture, discusses her love for Modern and Aboriginal art and support for educational and cultural institutions. Collector-couple Andrew Ruff and Ling Ling Zou, in Shanghai, discuss their acquisition of works by Chinese contemporary artists, including Zeng Fanzhi and Ding Yi. In Hong Kong, shutterbug Douglas So opens up his F11 Foto Museum to reveal his collection of vintage photographs by masters of the 20th century, photobooks and Leica cameras. Malaysia’s Pakhruddin Sulaiman explains how, from the 1990s, his and his late wife’s interest in contemporary art was buoyed by the young artists creating radical work about politics and society in the country. And Jam Acuzar, founder of Bellas Artes Projects in Bataan, invites artists from around the world to far-flung islands of the Philippines to create new works free from the pressures of the art market.

In Essays, AAP’s Taiwan desk editor David Frazier ruminates on the impact and message behind Xu Bing’s first feature-length film, Dragonfly Eyes (2017), a harbinger of our technology-driven future compiled from more than 10,000 hours of CCTV footage. Contributor Cleo Roberts heads to Manila to report on the interconnected activities of artist-run, nonprofit organizations such as 98B Collaboratory and Green Papaya Art Projects, which are sustained by crowd-sourced donations and support.

In One on One, Biennale of Sydney participant Brook Andrew reads the work of Jimmie Durham as a manifesto for society’s self-destructive tendencies, describing in particular Smashing (2004), in which Durham methodically breaks man-made objects with a prehistoric stone stool. In The Point, Berlin-based Christine Sun Kim discusses her multiple identities as an Asian mother, artist and most importantly, a Deaf person who communicates with the world via American Sign Language as well as through her art. Reaksmey Yean’s Dispatch, from Phnom Penh, argues for more varied streams for culture—whether museums or small spaces for experimentation—that could help provide alternative narratives for the country, beyond the horrors of the Khmer Rouge regime and the ancient legacy of Angkor Wat. 

Finally, in Where I Work, we visit the Ramallah studio of Palestinian artist Jawad al-Malhi, who since the 1980s has depicted the largely anonymous residents of the Shuafat refugee camp in his paintings and sculptures. The mostly self-taught al-Malhi was born in the camp, which was established in 1965 in occupied East Jerusalem. Initially, he was compelled to capture the life there and the possible changes that seemed almost within reach during the early 1990s. Although the work now shows us how very little has changed since then, it serves a purpose in recognizing the increasingly forgotten reality of these residents’ daily struggles, who often have no control over their conditions, but who wish to connect with the outside world, just as those outside might wish to connect with them.

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