‘I'm not telling that story. We've heard it, we've all heard all about all the sticks and spears and swords, the things to bash and poke and hit with, the long, hard things, but we have not heard about the thing to put things in, the container for the thing contained. That is a new story.’
‘The Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction,’ Ursula K. Le Guin
QueerAsias: Virtualising Cartographies is a playlist of audio, moving image and VR works, and a live online performance, commissioned for the London, Asia, Art, Worlds conference (27 May to 25 June 2021). QueerAsias explores the possibilities of other types of stories – those that, through queer digital narratives of memory, fantasy and desire, defy the logics of space-time and social conventions. Feminist science-fiction writer Ursula K. Le Guin describes eschewing the rigid forms of power and violence that often thrust forward heteronormative heroic narratives, to privilege instead the receptacle – the object that exists in order to hold its contents. Le Guin visualises her container as an amorphous but resilient, humble and ubiquitous multi-use carrier bag, which reshapes itself repeatedly to hold different substances.
Framed by our multiple screens, nevertheless, the voluminous expanse of the digital realm similarly presents infinite possibilities for the reimagining of complex postcolonial, diaspora and multi-contextual queer subjectivities and relational connections across historical and geographical contexts. While London as site has played a significant part in the development of their artistic practices, with the artists having either attended art schools or established their artistic portfolios in the capital, the six artists featured in QueerAsias connect across Asian diaspora lived experiences, memories and imaginaries to Canada, Pakistan, Philippines, Singapore and Hong Kong, and share queer experiences of displacement and belonging, along with an urge to create new liberatory manifestations of queer desire. This sense of yearning is accentuated by our contemporary experiences of hyperconnectivity – an interplay of presence and absence made acute in a time where global travel and social restrictions have normalised the experiences of containment and isolation.
The playlist begins with Sin Wai Kin (fka Victoria Sin)’s Carrier Bag Music, a series inspired by Le Guin, a non-linear seductive and seemingly limitless soundscape of literary and musical motifs that can be experienced looped, and where the listener is invited to traverse seamlessly from imaginary realm to realm. Yarli Allison and Yin Lo’s In Virtual Return We (can’t) Dehaunt invites the viewer to enter and explore a virtual reality collage landscape of photography and neon palette drawings, while listening to interviews of queer childhood memories of home, to reconstruct a domestic spatiality of a British Hong Kong that no longer exists. Working across digital modes allows a teleportation across historical, contemporary and fictionalised time and space. Allison and Lo’s A Very Educational Bubble Tea Audio Porn carries the listener from the personal listings of Craigslist to a bubble tea shop in London’s Chinatown into the throes of an erotic queer kink encounter. Abdullah Qureshi’s Cruising: Other Ways of Love offers an enigmatic audio-visual journey traced through tantalisingly obscured and enticing glimpses of memory, fantasy and fictional characters from the paintings of Pakistani artist, Anwar Saeed, breaching the pictorial frame onto a shooting set. Joel Tan’s experimental radio piece, Strange Day’s Journey transports the listener through the visceral experiences of fear and separation at airports, the despairing grief of lonely spaces, and the moist entanglements of tropical mangroves and thumping nightclubs. His companion piece, Joyful Noise, reflects on the liminal spaces of freedom, faith and pleasure through a carnivalesque array of musical segments including gospel singing, pop tracks and club tracks. The digital programme is accompanied by a podcast discussion and culminates with Sam Reynolds’ euphoric live digital performance of his cabaret lip syncing hit Spell, which will be presented on the penultimate evening of the conference.
The playlist offers a guided dive into these dizzyingly rich realms with their deep undercurrents of desire, but the works may also be explored in different configurations and as independent works, accessed via the QueerAsias website. You, the listener and viewer, may decide – and tell your own new story.
Explore the playlist here.
Curatorial text by Annie Jael Kwan
Abdullah Qureshi is a Pakistani-born artist, curator, and educator. Within his practice, he is interested in using painting, filmmaking, and methodologies of collaboration and organization to address personal histories, traumatic pasts, and sexuality. Through his on-going doctoral project, ‘Mythological Migrations: Imagining Queer Muslim Utopias’, he examines formations of queer identity and resistance in Muslim migratory contexts. Qureshi's work has been exhibited internationally and he has held numerous positions at cultural and educational institutions. In 2017, Qureshi received the Art and International Cooperation fellowship at Zurich University of the Arts, and in 2018, a research fellowship at the Center for Arts, Design, and Social Research, Boston. In 2019, he joined the Center for Feminist Research, York University, Toronto as a visiting researcher, and is currently a doctoral candidate, supported by Kone Foundation, at Aalto University in Finland.
Annie Jael Kwan is an independent curator and researcher whose exhibition-making, programming, publication and teaching practice is located at the intersection of contemporary art, art history and cultural activism, with interest in archives, histories, feminist, queer and alternative knowledges, collective practices, and solidarity. As Director of Something Human, a curatorial initiative, she has presented live art projects across the UK and Europe, and launched the pioneering Southeast Asia Performance Collection (SAPC) with over 27000 digital items that represent 50 artists from the region at the Live Art Development Agency during the 2017 M.A.P. (Movement x Archive x Performance) project.
In 2018 she curated UnAuthorised Medium, an exhibition and programme exploring artistic responses to archives with artists working in/relation to Southeast Asia for Framer Framed, Netherlands, and in 2019, she co-curated Archive-in-Residence ‘Southeast Asia Performance Collection’ exhibition and the Pathways of Performativity in Contemporary Southeast Asian Art symposium at the Haus der Kunst in Munich, Germany; and ‘Being Present’ a live performance programme in response to the exhibition Speech Acts: Reflection-Imagination-Repetition at the Manchester Art Gallery; and the subsequent digital adaptation for the Paul Mellon Centre’s British Art Studies Issue 13.
She leads Asia-Art-Activism (AAA), a research network that has presented an active public programme of presentations, talks, workshops, mini-residences and festivals that challenge and complicate notions of ‘Asia’. She was the co-editor of Southeast of Now: Directions in Contemporary and Modern Art in Asia’s guest issue: Archives, and contributes writing to various publications including ArtReview and Art Asia Pacific. She is a recipient of a Diverse Actions Leadership Award 2019.
Joel Tan is a playwright and performer based between London and Singapore. His work has received acclaim for its incisive and lyrical interrogation of life in Singapore and beyond, and for situating contemporary Asian stories in a global context. He also works in creative non-fiction, film, and audio. As a dramaturg, Joel has worked with visual artists, dancers, and exhibition-makers. He is one half of the podcast, T42, a chat-show about popular culture, science, the arts, and life in Singapore.
Sam Reynolds is a Filipinx-Irish-British live artist, alternative cabaret performer, host and producer based in London.
Using humour, pop culture, and popular forms such as contemporary dance, physical comedy, striptease, and the queer performance tradition of lip-syncing, he creates accessible and theatrical social commentary exploring themes such as race, queerness, identity, and vulnerability.
Sam has performed across the UK with both Duckie and Carnesky, won Striptease Artist of the Year at the twenty-first Sexual Freedom Awards, and was Nominated by Mark Whitelaw for the Arts Foundation Fellowship at the twenty-fifth Arts Foundation Anniversary Awards.
He made his international show debut in The Miss Behave Gameshow at Darwin Festival in Australia after performing in the show at Underbelly Festival's Spiegeltent at London’s Southbank Centre, and he produced the London tour of Nights at the Circus, a theatre collaboration between disabled and non-disabled artists exploring sex, desire and violence, presented by director Fauve Alice and Spare Tyre.
Sam was awarded funding from Arts Council England and the British Council's Artists' International Development Fund, and worked with Pineapple Lab in Manila, where he performed throughout Fringe Manila and led queer performance workshops called the (T)werkshops. He has since led (T)werkshops in Taipei, while resident at 酸屋 | Acid House in Taiwan-UK art exchange program Artists Home Swap.
In 2020, Sam joined Asia-Art-Activism and presented a video in AAA’s online programme Till We Meet Again IRL. In 2021, he closed the first edition of RUMAH’s monthly online event Welcome to My Crying Party.
Sin Wai Kin (fka Victoria Sin) is an artist using speculative fiction within performance, moving image, writing and print to interrupt normative processes of desire, identification, and objectification. Drawing from close personal encounters of looking and wanting, their work presents heavily constructed fantasy narratives on the often unsettling experience of the physical within the social body.
In 2020, Sin Wai Kin (b. 1991, Toronto, CA) opened the solo exhibition Narrative Reflections on Looking at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Zagreb, Croatia. In 2021, the artist will be included in the touring exhibition British Art Show 9. Recent selected group exhibitions included Age of You curated by Shumon Basar, Douglas Copeland & Hans Ulrich Obrist, Jameel Arts Centre, Dubai (2021), Together, M HKA, Antwerp, Belgium (2020), MORE, MORE, MORE, Tank, Shanghai, China (2020), Transformer: A Rebirth of Wonder, curated by Jefferson Hack, 180 The Strand, London, UK (2019), La vie des choses, MOMENTA Biennale de l’Image, Montreal, QC, Canada (2019) Kiss My Genders, Hayward Gallery, London, UK (2019), Display, Dortmunder Kunstverein, Dortmund, Germany (2019), BCE, Whitechapel Gallery, London, UK (2019) and DRAG, Hayward Gallery, London, UK (2018). The artist has performed at Frac Lorraine, Metz, France; Serpentine Galleries, London, UK; Whitechapel Gallery, London, UK Hayward Gallery, London, UK; ICA, London, UK Palais de Tokyo, Paris, France and as part of the 58th Venice Biennial, Venice, Italy. Their 2016–2019 project Dream Babes explored science and speculative fiction as a productive strategy of queer resistance, which included multiple publications as well as a range of live programming and events across several UK venues. Sin Wai Kin lives and works in London, UK.
Yarli and Yin are Europe-based multidisciplinary artists and writers who combine their skills that voices queer identities of diasporic Asians in the European context. Queerness, diaspora, sexuality, the body, gendered gaze, and technology are their main themes.
The duo has been working on various projects shown in galleries and international film festivals since 2018. Their first collaboration short film Elephant the Allison was screened in pornfilm festivals including Berlin, Vienna and London. Later on, commissioned by Asia-Art-Activism with Something Human, the two produced audio work A Very Educational Bubble Tea Audio Porn, illustrating sexual encounters of a non-binary ‘dom’ and a ‘sub’ in Chinatown (aired via SOAS University Radio, 2019). The same year, Yarli invited Yin to collaborate for a multi-channel work In Virtual Return We (Can’t) Dehaunt, supported by Hong Kong Arts Development Council and Canada Council for the Arts. It was exhibited in Videotage Hong Kong, 2020, and touring digitally.
Yin is a writer whose works address queer sexualities, identity, desire, migration as well as diaspora in modern times. Published work: short story collection Yung Yung (Hong Kong, 2019).
Yarli is a mixed-media artist, graduated from the Slade School of Fine Arts, University College London (2017). Selected exhibitions in 2021 include at the ICA (London), Catalyst Arts (Belfast), LINZ FMR biennial (Linz), and FACT (Liverpool).