Recently APT7 – the seventh Asia-Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art – opened at GOMA and the Queensland Art Gallery in Brisbane. Billed as a “forward-thinking approach to questions of geography, history and culture and how these questions are explored through the work of contemporary artists“, it features works by 75 artists from Australia and 26 countries in Australia’s nearby orbit – although somehow, countries once considered as part of the Middle East (such as Afghanistan and Iran) now find themselves as part of Asia as well, in APT7.
Perhaps this is what’s meant by “a forward-thinking approach to questions of geography”? Maybe next time there’ll be works by indigenous artists from the US, as it at least borders the Pacific. Or maybe it doesn’t really matter where the artist’s from, in this globalized, interconnected world, as long as there’s something that connects the chosen works – however tenuously – to the curatorial panel’s (often vague) theme/s?
One always approaches such events with a mixture of excitement and trepidation. Perhaps there really will be something that gets the juices flowing. Something so beautiful, or so thought-provoking, or so funny, or so moving, that you come out the other end and say “F**k me. That was amazing!” or “Wow, I wish I’d made that”. But the downside of such thrill-seeking, fed by having seen so much work this year, is that one needs a stronger fix of the new to get really aroused.
There’s lots of great work at GOMA (I’m yet to see the works in QAG), but, ten days after viewing it, I’m struggling to recall much of what I saw.
There was an elegant drawing by Iranian/German artist Parastou Forouhar, that used Farsi script applied over walls and floor, reminding me of a Japanese woodblock of cherry blossom.
Lorraine Connelly-Northey (Australia) showed some of her beautiful dillybags* – now scaled up – made of various forms of rusted wire salvaged from outback rubbish dumps. These pieces work as much as drawings as sculptures.
Raqib Shaw (Kashmir/England) had some intricate and beautifully-worked paintings whose surfaces, finished in enamel and stained glass paint topped with glitter and even Swarovski crystals, simultaneously evoked both exquisite Indian or Persian miniatures and those glittery kitsch paintings on black velvet that came out of Hong Kong workshops back in the 80s. They stand a long viewing, both for the virtuosity of the workmanship and the complex stories they tell.
The work that most excited me was Tadasu Takamine’s large multimedia work Fukushima Esperanto 2012. Placed below eye-level in some kind of pit, it has a range of objects and pieces of text that are progressively lit up by roving comet-shaped bands of light. It has a surreal quality, and I’m not sure I fully understood it, but I’d love to see it again – I suspect it’s one of those works that offers more every time it’s viewed.
Curators have a hard job, especially with shows like these, to balance the historical focus of the event with the changes occurring in art production in the region, and in its geographical and social makeup. Go see for yourself, and let me know your thoughts about the selection of works.
* Commercial interest alert – I’m part-owner (through an art-collecting group) of a small Connelly-Northey work