Past Events

London, Asia, Art, Worlds conference: Thinking from Asia

Conference, Lecture – Yeewan Koon, Patrick Flores, Amrita Dhallu, Farida Batool, Sehr Jalil, Stephanie Bailey, John Tain

  • 25 June 2021
  • 12:00 – 4:00 pm
  • This event is part of London, Asia, Art, Worlds, a multi-part programme of online events taking place in May and June 2021. It is envisioned as a murmuration, a series of interconnected papers, conversations, performances and interventions.
  • Zoom Webinar

The Thinking from Asia panel rejects the epistemological bias of Asian studies, which thinks about Asia, to think from Asia, using conceptual frames and tools that emerge out of Asia, often in dialogue with regions beyond Asia.

Chair: Yeewan Koon (Associate Professor and Chair of the Fine Arts Department, University of Hong Kong)

12.00-12.15 Welcome & Introductions

12.15-13.00 Keynote Paper: Patrick Flores (Professor of Art Studies, Department of Art Studies, University of the Philippines), ‘Aroundness, Awareness: To Rework Art Out of Asia’

13.00-13.15 Discussion and Questions

13.15-13.30 Break

13.30-13.35 Welcome back/Introductions

13.35-13.50 Amrita Dhallu (Curator and Researcher), ‘Subcontinentment: Diasporas, Futurisms, Worldbuilding’

13.50-14.05 Farida Batool (Independent Artist, Researcher and Educationist) and Sehr Jalil (Visual Artist, Researcher, Writer and a PhD Candidate), ‘Contesting Public(s) and Art Education in Pakistan’

14.05-14.20 Stephanie Bailey (Editor-in-Chief, Ocula Magazine), ‘Thinking Through Empire from Asia: An Object Lesson’

14.20-14.45 Discussion & Questions

14.45-15.15 Break

15.15-16.00 Conference wrap-up discussion with Hammad Nasar, John Tain, Ming Tiampo and Sarah Victoria Turner

Paper Abstracts

Patrick Flores

What does it mean to index the world as coming out of Asia? The presentation revisits the question of location (‘out of’) as simultaneously a question of facture, or a rework, a migration of parts. It taps into the conceptual resources of the Philippine word kalibutan, which signifies at once cosmos and cognition. It is remarkable for a term to reference the conjuncture of locus and reflection, but also of the universe and the unknowing. Worth revisiting as well in the same vein are assessments of theory on Asia in terms of ‘inter-Asia’ and ‘Asian place’ and cognate aspirations in the fields of music, sports, and scouting in which the avant-garde in the sixties and collecting during the Pacific War come in contact. Within this constellation, the talk will speak to the various scales of worldliness as evoked by the papers for the session via the formations of the fair, the public, and the diaspora.

Amrita Dhallu

Subcontinentment, a term coined Himali Singh Soin, is a portmanteau of subcontinent and contentment, forming the basis of the artist’s manifesto for a South Asian futurism. Using Subcontinentment as a framework, this paper will explore how a futurist aesthetic expression has been embraced by diasporic artists in order to re-imagine ancestral lineages across space and time.

Subcontinentment unfolds over moments both present and absent. It is an alternative archive that prompts us to rethink our understanding of time. It calls on us to listen and communicate with other life forms so that we can become better ancestors for our future descendants. It presents an emerging generation of South Asian storytellers the ability to speculate and build new worlds, shaping the geo-poetic connection between London, Asia and the diasporic space beyond.

The practices brought together by this research embrace new artistic technologies in order to create an embodied experience of transgressing different boundaries – between geopolitical borders, personal and collective identities, human and non-human, and life and death. This movement seeks to disrupt conventional notions of remembrance, particularly through sonic and digital realms, to produce new archival forms of diasporic testimony.

Farida Batool and Sehr Jalil

Being rooted in almost two hundred years of a colonised past has historized the present and its ways of making meaning embedded within classical art appreciation in Pakistan. This paper aims to excavate newer art histories and its making in contemporary Pakistani art through a deeper reflection on interdisciplinary, collaborative and self-practice examples that are urgent to the political, social and cultural atmosphere by examining selective case studies of artistic, theoretical, academic practices and the becoming of the Awami Art Collective (public art practitioners), and the need for art in public space to generate a collaborative and subversive engagement with society.

Both researchers are core members of the Awami Art Collective, and have been involved in teaching and designing cultural and art theory/history courses at NCA. By examining closely the experience of engaging with the public through public art projects and making sense of historical accounts in an academic institution like NCA, the researchers will introspect into a research dialogue to develop a nuanced framework for reading art history embedded within the socio-cultural fabric of Pakistan and to question how do alternate spaces (both within theoretical and public realm) dismantle, decolonize narratives in South Asia.

Stephanie Bailey

This paper, which explores the art fair as a site where legacies of colonialism converge, is situated between two propositions outlined by ‘London, Asia’: ‘Thinking through Empire: Imperial Histories, Object Lessons’ and ‘Thinking from Asia’. It focuses on Art Basel Hong Kong by tracing the fair’s origins back to Art Basel’s 1970 European inception, and connecting its evolution as a global brand with a historical precursor: London’s 1851 Great Exhibition of Works and Industry of All Nations. Regarded as the first World’s Fair, the 1851 Great Exhibition instrumentalised culture to assert the British Empire’s ambitions to consolidate a unified global economy over which it presided, producing racial and national hierarchies in the process.

This history, which links to the biennale’s evolution, feeds into an art fair like Art Basel: a world-making space whose format, historically enmeshed in complex geopolitics of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, has been adopted by post-colonial contexts such as Dubai to assert non-aligned, post-western positions today. In this frame, Art Basel Hong Kong occupies a peculiar position as a western-branded, Asian fair – mirrored by the former British colony that hosts the event, now navigating re-assimilation into China, whose 2008 Olympic Games slogan, 'One World, One Dream’, echoes many a global superpower’s ambitions.

This study is somewhat personal, insofar as I am a Hong Kong-born Eurasian who finds in the art fair’s contradictory frame a reflection of my own entangled origins as a product of empire, and a lens through which to explore possible trajectories of decolonisation.

London, Asia, Art, Worlds is convened by:

Hammad Nasar, Senior Research Fellow, Paul Mellon Centre
Ming Tiampo, Professor, Art History, and Institute for Comparative Studies in Literature, Art and Culture, Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada
Sarah Victoria Turner, Deputy Director for Research, Paul Mellon Centre

Image caption: Himali Singh Soin, we are opposite like that, film still, 2019. Digital image courtesy of Himali Singh Soin


Thinking from Asia

Papers from Yeewan Koon, Patrick Flores, Amrita Dhallu, Farida Batool, Sehr Jalil, Stephanie Bailey, and John Tain.

About the speakers

  • Yeewan Koon headshot.

    Yeewan Koon is associate professor and Chair of the Fine Arts Department at the University of Hong Kong. Her publications include Nara Yoshitomo (2020), A Chinese Canton? Painting the Local in Export Art (2018) and A Defiant Brush: Su Renshan and the Politics of Painting in 19th Century Guangdong (2014). She is the recipient of research awards including a Fulbright Senior Fellowship, American Council of Learned Scholars, and visiting scholarships at Cambridge University and Columbia University. Koon also works in the contemporary art field as independent curator. In 2014, she was guest curator of It Begins with Metamorphosis: Xu Bing at the Asia Society, Hong Kong Centre, and was one of the selected curators for the 12th Gwangju Biennale, 2018. She is currently working on an exhibition of Hong Kong art, So ong, thanks again for the fish, in Helsinki, June 2021.

  • Patrick Flores headshot.

    Patrick Flores is Professor of Art Studies at the Department of Art Studies at the University of the Philippines, which he chaired from 1997 to 2003, and Curator of the Vargas Museum in Manila. He is the Director of the Philippine Contemporary Art Network. He was one of the curators of Under Construction: New Dimensions in Asian Art in 2000 and the Gwangju Biennale (Position Papers) in 2008. He was a Visiting Fellow at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. in 1999 and an Asian Public Intellectuals Fellow in 2004. Among his publications are Painting History: Revisions in Philippine Colonial Art (1999); Remarkable Collection: Art, History, and the National Museum (2006); and Past Peripheral: Curation in Southeast Asia (2008). He was a grantee of the Asian Cultural Council (2010). He co-edited the Southeast Asian issue with Joan Kee for Third Text (2011). He convened in 2013 on behalf of the Clark Institute and the Department of Art Studies of the University of the Philippines the conference ‘Histories of Art History in Southeast Asia’ in Manila. He was a Guest Scholar of the Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles in 2014. He curated an exhibition of contemporary art from Southeast Asia and Southeast Europe titled South by Southeast and the Philippine Pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 2015. He was the Artistic Director of Singapore Biennale 2019 and is the Curator of the Taiwan Pavilion for Venice Biennale in 2022.

  • Amrita Dhallu head-and-shoulders.

    Amrita Dhallu is a curator and researcher based in London. She provides support structures for emerging British artists through commissioning, editorial projects, creating artistic networks and intergenerational learning spaces. Her current research examines care, healing and ethno-futurist discourse within arts education, exhibition-making and professional development for artists. She is the lead artist of Camden Art Centre's 2018-19 PEER FORUM. She currently holds the post of Assistant Curator, International Art at Tate Modern, London, where she is working as part of the curatorial team for the forthcoming Lubaina Himid exhibition and catalogue. She is on the board of a-n and Art Night and is the co-editor, with Priya Jay, of the forthcoming publication that is emerging from STUART, the communal design and publishing platform at iniva.

  • Farida Batool headshot

    Farida Batool is an independent artist, researcher and educationist. She received her Bachelors in Fine Arts from the National College of Arts, Masters by Research in Art History and Theory from the College of Fine Arts at the University of New South Wales, and PhD from the Centre for Media Studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies, London. She has been teaching since 1997 and currently heads the Department of Cultural Studies at National College of Arts, Lahore, and has authored a book, Figure: The Popular and the Political in Pakistan. She was involved in many art projects and community workshops for awareness raising among women communities in several urban and rural areas of Pakistan and also conducted cultural and political dialogue among different communities. She presented papers and presentations at international conferences and workshops. She has exhibited extensively in many international and local solo and prestigious group shows. She is an active member of Awami Art Collective which aims to use art in public spaces to generate a discourse of peaceful co-existence.

  • Sehr Jalil black-and-white headshot

    Sehr Jalil is a visual artist, researcher, writer and a PhD candidate. She obtained her BFA (2006) and MA (Hons) Visual Arts, from the National College of Arts, Lahore. An urge to find mid points between material and surreal, practical and theoretical connects her with diverse media and archive. Doing public art in Lahore as a member of the Awami Art Collective since 2015 further supported this subversion. Most recent curiosities are Indian soldiers in World War II through personal archive, entertainment in times of restraint, memory/archive - and probing stardust scientifically to discover cosmic unity. She is a Lecturer in the department of Cultural Studies at the National College of Arts, Lahore. Jalil has participated in various group shows, art‐research projects and contributed to publications national/international. Her solo show Stray Reflections (2018/19) was curated at the Javed Manzil, house museum of the National poet Allama Iqbal. She presented her co-authored paper 'the sky drew some new lines' on the case studies of Awami Art Collective projects at the URBAN HERITAGE CONFERENCE Simulizi Mijini / Urban Narratives, TU Berlin, March 2017.

  • Stephanie Bailey headshot.

    Stephanie Bailey is editor-in-chief of Ocula Magazine, ART PAPERS contributing editor, managing editor of Podium, the online journal for M+ in Hong Kong, an advisory board member of D’ivan, A Journal of Accounts, and part of the Naked Punch editorial collective. She also writes for Artforum, ArtMonthly, Canvas, and Yishu Journal of Contemporary Chinese Art, and has curated the Art Basel Hong Kong Conversations programme since 2015. Between 2012 and 2017, she was managing and senior editor of Ibraaz.

    Bailey’s research centres on power relations coded into the production and exchange of culture. Essays have appeared in Navigating the Planetary (eds. Hildegund Amanshauser and Kimberly Bradley, VfmK, 2020); Future Imperfect: Contemporary Art Practices and Cultural Institutions in the Middle East (ed. Anthony Downey, Sternberg Press, 2016); The Future is Already Here Tt’s Just Not Evenly Distributed, 20th Biennale of Sydney catalogue (ed. Stephanie Rosenthal, 2016); Armenity, the catalogue for the Armenian Pavilion at the 56th Venice Biennale (ed. Adelina von Furstenburg, Skira, 2015); Happy Hypocrite #8: FRESH HELL (ed. Sophia Al-Maria, Book Works, 2015); Hybridize or Disappear (ed. Joao Laia, Mousse Publishing, 2015); and You Are Here: Art After the Internet (ed. Omar Kholeif, Space/Cornerhouse, 2014).

    Editorial projects include: ‘Children of Empire’, LEAP 37 (February 2016), with contributions from, among others, Walter D. Mignolo and Uzma Rizvi; ‘Geopolitics on the Edge’, a dossier for Art Papers 40:06 (November/December 2016); ‘Non-Aligned Movements’, LEAP 45 (June 2017), with contributions from, among others, Mi You and Vijay Prashad.

  • John Tain stands in front of a projector screen

    John Tain is Head of Research at Asia Art Archive, where he oversees a team based in Hong Kong, New Delhi, and Shanghai. Recent projects include the exhibition Crafting Communities (2020), which looks at the confluence of feminism, crafts, and social practice in the biennial series of Womanifesto events organized in Thailand from 1997 to 2008, and MAHASSA (Modern Art Histories in and across Africa, and South and Southeast Asia, 2019-2020), a collaboration with the Dhaka Art Summit and the Institute for Comparative Modernities at Cornell University. He is an editor for the Exhibition Histories series with Afterall and CCS Bard, the latest volume of which is Uncooperative Contemporaries: Art Exhibitions in Shanghai in 2000, and also an advisor for the upcoming Asia Forum. He was previously a curator for modern and contemporary collections at the Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles.