MISFITS: Pages from a Loose-leaf Modernity

MISFITS: Pages from a Loose-leaf Modernity

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“Misfits”: Pages from a loose-leaf modernity, 2017. Installation view, Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin. © Laura Fiorio / Haus der Kulturen der Welt

Monash University’s Department of Fine Art, in collaboration with NGV, is pleased to present a special lecture by visiting curator and academic Associate Professor David Teh.

"In a canon of global modern art, what will be the place of the non-western modernists? Will they be celebrated as agents of change, for their commitments to universal notions of form, or for articulating specific local or national modernities? What kinds of research will secure their legacy, and who will be responsible for it? As the western museum scrambles to embrace the still expanding cosmos of modern art, revamping its collections in the image of the ‘global,’ a century of worldly art still awaits a worldly art history."

The exhibition Misfits: Pages from a Loose-leaf Modernity, curated by Associate Professor Teh at the Haus der Kulturen der Welt in Berlin last year, comprised art works and archival materials from three artists yet to be absorbed into mainline art historical narratives: the late Sino-Thai artist and poet Tang Chang, the late Burmese modernist Bagyi Aung Soe, and the Filipino comic artist and filmmaker Rox Lee. While certain things link them – non-conformism, modest means, and their distance from art’s markets and institutions – the project resiled from any historical proposition based on their temporal or geographical proximity. Instead, it began with the social and material conditions of their individual (and unconnected) working lives, asking tentatively whether their commonalities may be more than coincidental. All three addressed national publics beyond the preserve of fine art, and a wider world rapidly brought closer by modern technologies and conflicts. Can we understand their respective “inclinations outward” (Flores), without recourse to the universalizing rhetorics of solidarity or Internationalism, without nostalgia for an older regionalism? How might their dawning sense of a planetary politics, of a transcultural heritage, be related to our own grappling with globalization?

David Teh is a curator and Associate Professor at the National University of Singapore, specialising in Southeast Asian contemporary art. His curatorial efforts have included Unreal Asia (55. Internationale Kurzfilmtage Oberhausen, 2009), Video Vortex #7 (Yogyakarta, 2011), TRANSMISSION (Jim Thompson Art Center, Bangkok, 2014), Misfits: Pages from a Loose-leaf Modernity (Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin, 2017) and Returns, a project for the 12th Gwangju Biennale (2018). David’s writings have appeared in journals including Third Text, ARTMargins, Afterall and Theory, Culture and Society. His book Thai Art: Currencies of the Contemporary was recently published by the MIT Press. David is also a director of Future Perfect, a gallery and project platform in Singapore.

Associate Professor Teh’s visit coincides with the 2018 AAANZ conference at RMIT, Melbourne, and is supported by AAANZ, RMIT School of Art and Monash University’s Department of Fine Art, with the Network for Asian Art Research in Australia and New Zealand.

Presented by Monash University’s Department of Fine Art in collaboration with the NGV.