Editor’s Letter: Bodily Material
By Elaine W. Ng
Whether through sight, sound, or textures, humans are always receiving sensory data and reacting. The way we think of ourselves, however, is sometimes less fundamental or elemental, while many contemporary artists have worked to draw our intimate and personal associations or attachments to sensations.
Exploring the abject and extreme limitations of our bodies as physical and emotional entities is artist Mire Lee. Our cover Feature is a conversation between Lee and curator Billy Tang, director of the Hong Kong nonprofit Para Site. In their wide-ranging discussion, Lee deconstructs the motifs and materials she used for her clay-dripping, animalistic installations in “Black Sun,” her latest exhibition at the New Museum in New York. Their conversation ranges from the artist’s fondness for “stupid” machines to the subcultural communities that inspire her imagining different forms and modes of functioning for bodies.
In our second Feature, ArtAsiaPacific caught up with sound artist Tarek Atoui after his performance at the opening of the 14th Gwangju Biennale in April, and ahead of his upcoming new exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Australia, in Sydney in September. The Lebanese-born artist reflects on his engagement with the visual, tactile, and aural aspects of sound, the process of instrument-making, and how sound shapes our perception of reality.
For Inside Burger Collection, curators Elisa R. Linn and Lennart Wolff reflect on the creative output of pioneering German media artist KP Brehmer (1938–1997), active from the 1960s through to the 1990s, whose credo was how to sharpen viewers’ attention to “ideological constructs, fabricated narratives, and biases woven into [. . .] the particles of consumer societies’ omnipresent smog of technical images.”
Rounding off the Features section with three Up Close articles, we get intimate perspectives on a sound installation by Corinne de San Jose, constructed during an island-residency in the Philippines; a portrait by Korean painter Yooyun Yang at a recent show in London; and a delicately observed cut-newspaper work by Hong Kong artist Elvis Yip Kin Bon.
This issue’s two Profiles look at artists with established exhibition histories. Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, curator Yutong Shi surveys the sustainability-minded practice of Hudson Valley-based artist Jean Shin, whose works look at the impacts of industry and climate change on our natural environment. A second Profile, by Manila-based writer Portia Placino, revisits the life and practice of Jose “Bogie” Tence Ruiz, whose works span political cartoons to expressionist canvases and large-scale installations. In Essays, art lawyer Ryan Su examines the recent United States Supreme Court decision in favor of the photographer Lynn Goldsmith against the Andy Warhol Foundation over the late artist’s use of a portrait of the musician Prince in one of his iconic silkscreens, and its implications for the concept of “fair use” in the arts. Writing from Manila, Dondie Casanova reflects on recent installations and videos that attempt to capture the spirit of local communities and their gathering places that are increasingly threatened by development.
Elsewhere in the issue, for One on One, painter Jin Meyerson reflects on his relationship to veteran Korean artist Park Seo-Bo after the two were recently in a New York exhibition together. In Dispatch, film and media art curator Li Zhenhua reflects on the contemporary art world in Zurich, where he finds many seemingly autonomous scenes happening simultaneously in the small, cordial Swiss city. For The Point, we hear from pioneering Indonesian contemporary artist FX Harsono about the long legacy of artists working on sociopolitical issues in the context of Indonesia’s progression to a more democratic society.
Our Reviews span the recent posthumous Pacita Abad retrospective held at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis to a survey of video art from Southeast Asia at the National Gallery in Singapore, along with museum and gallery shows from Japan to Hong Kong and London. Finally, for our Where I Work, Seoul-based curator Valentina Buzzi visited the Paris studio of leading Korean artist Lee Bae, who works with charcoal in both two- and three-dimensional formats. His brush paintings recall classic ink art, while in New York’s Channel Gardens he installed a seven-meter-tall stack of charcoal, Issu du Feu (2023), an eerily totemic structure in a year of mass fires and soaring temperatures. For Buzzi, the artist helps illuminate our precarious, precious existence between gesture and stillness, life and fire.