Sunday, February 3, 2008

2007 Asian Art Biennial

Recently I received a catalogue from the 2007 Asian Art Biennial, which opened in October 2007 at the National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts. It closes on February 24. My connection with the event is through my piece Dissonant Particles; it is on the DVD Video by Numbers from the Melbourne-based group Tape Projects, and this DVD was shown at the Biennial. Unfortunately I didn’t get to visit the Biennial.

I found the catalogue (in Chinese and English) impressive, and I imagine that actually being there would have been overwhelming. Judging from the catalogue, there was a mixture of old and new media and also a mixture of old and new influences. Some of the works refer to traditional Chinese or Korean art (and one to Da Vinci’s Last Supper), others to globalisation, the proliferation of digital technology, and in particular urbanisation. Australia has long had only a minority of its population in rural areas (41% in 1901, dropping to just 12% in 1996, according to one set of figures). For Asia the big movement off the land is happening now: the landmark where more than half the world’s population lives in cities has either just been reached or is just about to be, according to various estimates.

According to the catalogue, most of the artists in the Biennial were from Taiwan, mainland China or Korea, with a sprinkling from other countries, including a small group from Australia. Apart from the Video by Numbers DVD, there was an interactive installation entitled Split Reel by Jason Bond, Benjamin Ducroz, Michael Prior and Tarwin Stroh-Spijer, and a performance (I think, not just a DVD playing) by Robin Fox. Robin is the man of the moment in Australian sound-and-image art, and appears on the Synchresis DVD commented on here. Australian ambivalence as to how much we are part of Asia will no doubt continue, but links like those through the Biennial can only be good.