The 4th Fukuoka Asian Art Triennale

LIVE and LET LIVE: Creators of Tomorrow
2009.9.5 – 11.23
Fukuoka Asian Art Museum and surrounding area

by Iwakiri Mio

The curtain has now closed on the fourth Fukuoka Asian Art Triennale (FT). It would be fair to say the true worth of this exhibition – with its well-established format of inviting a sizeable contingent of artists to Fukuoka and running a jam-packed, highly organized art exchange program involving the local community, in addition to the usual display of artworks – only becomes fully apparent once it is over. As well as additional displays of records and art from the exchange programs run during the show, in an initiative by a local elementary school the Museum even hosted a mini exhibition dubbed the ‘Atago Triennale’ in which children copied their favorite works from the FT; all in all making for a vibrant, upbeat event.

An army of participants donned Cambodian Leang Seckon’s 90m-long work Makara and paraded through nearby streets and a shopping mall.
Courtesy Fukuoka Asian Art Museum

This kind of very local enthusiasm is in my view the most appealing feature of the FT. Here is a show that refuses to lounge about in the museum galleries, but is perpetually on the go, energetically evolving. A particularly impressive product of this Triennale’s art exchange program was Cambodian Leang Seckon’s 90m-long Makara, a serpent that took over two months to complete with the help of local volunteers, and was paraded around the surrounding shopping precinct as part of the Triennale opening. Other intriguing art exchange offerings included Nomura Makoto’s Concert of Bathwater of bathtime rhythms staged at a public bathhouse and also from Japan, AHA! who assembled and screened 8mm films of households remaining in the traditional heart of the city, in the process shedding light on some fascinating local history.

Nomura Makoto’s Concert of Bathwater 31 October 2009. Word has it the steam from the baths and the enthusiasm of the participants made the final performance a hot one indeed.
Courtesy Fukuoka Asian Art Museum

Wong Hoy Cheong Doghole 2009

That Asia is home to a mixture of multiple contemporaneities is a message conveyed also by previous FTs, but the exhibition plan chosen in competition for this FT really did visualize this particularly well. At Reizenso, an external venue suffused with that ambience typical of old apartment blocks, Singaporean Wong Hoy Cheong’s new work offered a powerful presentation of memories from the Pacific War, in a new form befitting the present day.

General opinion has it that the international status of Asian contemporary art has changed dramatically in the last few years. Plus one senses that naturally, the Fukuoka Asian Art Museum is under pressure to revise its own standpoint and direction. An approach that also attempts to embrace the applied arts, and a methodology that builds exhibitions on fieldwork, are indeed important and must be maintained, but one suspects the Museum does need to be more cognizant of current conditions. In that sense, this FT did come across favorably as flinging open its gates and making an earnest attempt to accept new realities. There are glimpses of pride in having played a role – quite apart from trends in the art market – in building the foundations of the current Asian art boom. This being the case, it was no bad thing to have so-called international stars like Cai Guo-Qiang, Navin Rawanchaikul, Suboth Gupta, Michael Lin and Huang Yong Ping adding glamour to the show. The dynamism of the exhibition would have been particularly impossible to achieve in the absence of the works by these artists.

Huang Yong Ping Python 2000
Collection of Guy & Myriam Ullens Foundation, Switzerland
Photo: Imamura Kaoru, Courtesy Fukuoka Asian Art Museum

Personally, I did find it surprising that someone such as Yao Chung-han of Taiwan, in a sense very much an artist’s artist, was selected for this ‘exhibition for the local community’, and was impressed by the broadmindedness of the Museum in commissioning him for the closing performance. I wonder if those who were there when he employed his body and light to produce thunderous tones heard him knock on the door of tomorrow.

Live performance by Yao Chung-han using fluorescent lights. Behind him is Asai Yusuke’s Doro-e (Earth painting): One Tree Forest (Father’s Tree) 2009

ART iT Photo report: The 4th Fukuoka Asian Art Triennale 1
ART iT Photo report: The 4th Fukuoka Asian Art Triennale 2

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