Are you familiar with contemporary art in Southeast Asia? Well, I’ll bet that most people do not have a clear idea of what they are. In this regards, an exhibition entitled “Welcome to the Jungle, contemporary art in Southeast Asia from the collection of the Singapore Art Museum” being held at the Yokohama Museum of Art (April 13 to June 16, 2013) is a wake-up call for new and dynamic art activities in the region.
I visited the Yokohama Museum of Art on June 9 with my wife, which incidentally is only five minutes’ walk from the National Conference Hall where International conference on African development (TICAD V) was recently held from June 1 to 3, attended by 39 heads of state from Africa.
Just a quick review of the art exhibition. Altogether, the works of 25 artists from 8 countries were displayed; citing the museum, these works showed “new artistic practices, styles and cutting edge art expressions”, covering objects, woodblock prints, photo expressions, video presentations and sculptures among others. Why is it called the art of the jungle?
As I understood it, jungle here connoted globalized cities where “diverse peoples, cultures and values coexist”. Two things that struck me the most were colonial influences as depicted in an old image presentation by an artist from Malaysia, and strong religious influences explicitly shown on sculptures of boys.
Another thing that I enjoyed were some parodied images showing Imelda Marcos, infamous for her huge collection of shoes. Since I have
touched on something about the Philippines, where I stayed for four years (from 2004 to 2008) as a JICA expert as part of a Japanese government project, I would like to show you
Pilipino “shoji”(sliding paper door/screen) which is not made of paper but of polished white shell. The photo below shows the birth place of Jose Rizal, the national hero of the Philippines,
and this kind of “shoji” windows.