Issue 4, May 2018

Letter from the Editor

 

Deliver on your promises

It’s good advice, though I’m not exactly offering it but, rather, self-committing to an adherence to it, as best I can, as much as I might be able to, as much as—honestly, and opportunistically—I might need to. I hope you can too, for my sake as much as yours. That’s the thing about expectations, once they’ve been raised: transitory satisfaction or grievance are the only cheques that can be cashed when this particular IOU comes good. Neither are healthy for you, the latter especially so. Avoid it if you can. Granted, no one appreciates a raw deal, yet there are better applications of attention and exhaustion of energy than an audit of life’s balance sheet in a futile attempt to discover if it falls in or against your favour. Besides, as any good banker will tell you, it’s advisable to keep an essential portion—and here I transpose material wealth for the accumulation of one’s inner life—in reserve, even if some bankers don’t do that anymore.

When it comes to artists, artistic promise, promises artists make, promises made to artists and the breaking of all of these, there stands a particularly memorable instance of bright lights real time confession. ‘Ha, ha ha. Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?’ lamented Johnny Rotten after an especially shambolic rendition of The Sex Pistols’ anthem No Fun on a cold night in 1978. Has there ever been a rawer moment of collective witness of an individual artist’s apprehension of his raw deal? But that was a long time ago, right? We are surely now more circumspect of answered prayers over unanswered ones, of promises kept and delivered—emphatically, via shock and awe lest the point be lost on fellow partisans and opponents alike—over and above any talk of overdue commitments. Perhaps artists do nothing in so far as they deliver on the promise of potential—their own, their culture’s, their present, and the intertwined destiny of all three spheres of influence, as a realpolitik hawk might put it.

What could be more present, more NOW, than one of the world’s great megacities asserting its entry into the global biennale circuit? Aziz Sohail, a son of Karachi, turns his gaze towards his perpetually shifting and endlessly complex city to provide an historical context for ‘KB17’, the inaugural Karachi Biennale that opened in October last year. Taking three sites—a cinema, library and bookshop—which, as he proposes, ‘transition and exist between realms of the colonial, modernity and the present contemporary through different registers’, Aziz’s witnessing from afar acts as ‘a good example of how the city of Karachi as a site becomes a witness for pasts, commenting on the present but also imagining futures.’

Looking back in order to apprehend the future, Judy Annear lends her thoughts and senses, attuned by a close engagement with art from Japan over many decades, to Japanorama: A New Vision on Art Since 1970, an encyclopaedic exhibition produced by the Centre Pompidou-Metz. Taking as her focus the contributions of Yasumasa Morimura and Dumb Type, Judy’s insight peels back a layer or two by asking how Japan and France have been entwined culturally since 1868, noting that since THEN ‘the avalanche of manners and meanings went both ways: Impressionism, Japonisme, Art Nouveau, traditional architectures, modern design, experimental dance, Hokusai, manga, anime, Comme des Garçons, sushi, Hello Kitty, classic French food.’

Over in Papua New Guinea, on various stops along the Okuk ‘Highlands’ Highway, Eric Bridgeman generously offers entry into his life in Kudjip, Jiwaka Province. Accompanied by remarkable photographs, Eric’s contribution chronicles a recent time in the artist’s life where he realised his ambition of creating a working studio that, before long, ‘became a club house, or Haus Man, and was bursting with creativity.’ Eric’s artistic experiments in shield painting alongside a group of men from his family and community coincided with the nation’s federal elections, proving a fascinating charged atmosphere for renewal on many fronts. Meanwhile, Mitiana Arbon spent time on the island of Upolu to learn from Manamea Art Studio, an artists’ collective that ‘shows an ongoing concern and conversation with deeper social enquiries of contemporary relationships with the fa’asamoa, Samoan culture and way of being.’ As a young scholar and recent recipient of 4A’s Emerging Writer’s Program, Mitiana details Manamea’s desire to MAKE a difference to Samoa’s artistic community, in turn proving ‘the potential of artists and creative practitioners engaging and interrogating perceptions of cultural fixity remains salient for the present generation of artists, scholars and creative practitioners in the region.’

Earlier in the year, Con Gerakaris sat down to TALK with Lee Kun-Yong during his visit to Sydney to present his work and perform in 4A’s recent exhibition, Equal Area. ‘Performance art is difficult’, contends the writer as the veteran artist, ever wary of society’s straight-jacketed categorising strictures since his experience as a young man in 1970s Korea— ‘a confluence of martial law and the establishment of international diplomatic relations resulted in a volatile society of experimental art practice, kidnappings, abuse and disco music’, as Gerakaris puts it—nimbly reserves his own path in life, art and conversation.

Rounding out this issue, Mikala Tai trekked a path to Tokyo and New York as two significant presentations of art from Southeast Asia were undertaken by museums whose host nations have emphatically shaped the region. Enthralled by what she was able to SEE in Sunshine: Contemporary Art from Southeast Asia 1980s to Now at Tokyo’s National Art Center and Mori Museum alongside After Darkness: Southeast Asian Art in the Wake of History at New York’s Asia Society Museum, Mikala surmises that when it comes to the task of understanding such a diverse and dynamic region, ‘the mediation of such massive historic shifts through the lens of the individual makes the viewer complicit in their experience.’

John Lydon returned to the stage not long after, of course, only this time he came ready to deliver on his promise. The times suited him because second time round his audience could not but be complicit in his art. Who will suit our own? And will you join in? I will if you do. Promise.

Public image you got what you wanted
The public image belongs to me
It’s my entrance, my own creation
My grand finale, my goodbye

Best, and less

Pedro de Almeida
Editor, 4A Papers

Witnessing from afar: making sense of the Karachi Biennale

Aziz Sohail   Reflections and futures How does one begin to tell...

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Special beings: Yasumasa Morimura and Dumb Type in Metz

Judy Annear   I On 24 February 2018, 150 years after the...

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Wait man kam (White man is coming)

Eric Bridgeman      My name is Yuriyal Awari Muka. I am...

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O ai a’u? (Who am I?): love and art at Manamea Art Studio

Mitiana Arbon   Like a tree, a culture is forever growing new...

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One step after another: a conversation with Lee Kun-Yong

Con Gerakaris     Performance art is difficult, and difficult to document—photography...

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Narratives thwarted: Tokyo and New York take on art from Southeast Asia

Mikala Tai     There is a sense of interminable temporality for...

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