Culture and place are intertwined social constituents that everyone relates to differently as they may trigger senses, memories, imagination and emotions in a variety of ways. Experiences tied to culture often have profound effects on how one acquaints with a specific place as meaning is ascribed to it. Similarly, significance is also derived from a place based on what one identifies with as shaped by the individual’s cultural background. In many circumstances, the meanings behind people, culture and place are interdependent on one another, forming a symbiotic relationship.
With increasing mobility due to globalisation, people are now more likely to immerse themselves within a different culture and become more informed about the occurrences around them as they journey to diverse places, and such phenomenon can be paralleled with the idea of a hot pot – a popular household cuisine in Asia that brings people together during reunions or gatherings, during which each member is able to select their favourite ingredients to be cooked within the pot’s boiling soup base. In the process, one is able to share with the other their ingredient selection, which is up to the individual whether to accept or reject it, just like the interactivity between people of different cultures. Such engagements offer opportunities to cultivate appreciation of certain food ingredients and enriching one’s dining experience, resembling how one might accustom to a different culture or place. At the same time, the multitude of ingredients are able to mutually complement, as their richness in taste are enhanced by one another under the same broth and similarly, the broth is able to absorb the essence of these ingredients, culminating into a more luscious soup base, bringing about an excellent metaphor for the fluid process of cultural exchange.
Drawing upon the associations between people, culture and place, and relating it to the concept of a hot pot cuisine, ‘Down the Melting Pot’ will bring audiences down an intercultural journey through the perspectives of young contemporary artists, whom in particular, often welcome the possibilities of forging memories, empathy and meaning with the cultural constructs of a place as they spark the inspirations and impulses to create. With a varied selection of moving image from around the world, including experimental shorts, video art, animation and documentary, the exhibition will highlight the myriad of sensibilities, cogitation and imagination made possible with intercultural exchange between people and people, and between people and place. The diverse works will each express a unique commentary about an individual or collective issue, as inspired by the cultural experience in a specific setting, ranging from the uncertainties of languages, the freedom of the body, the spread of popular media, consumerism and technology, the contemporary impacts of colonialism, to the abstract ideas of reality, relationships and home.
In the age of perpetual cultural shifts, what are some of the issues that prevail and how are they perceived as one seeks the familiar from the outlandish, the romantic from the mundane, and the creative impulse from the hustle and bustle of everyday life? Through the artists’ unique interpretations of their personal encounters with different geographical locations, audiences are encouraged to reflect upon the peculiar symbiotic connections between people, culture and place.
Written by Jaxton Su and Nien-Ting Chen
Art works Description
In this music video, The Internationale, Chulayarnnon performed as many South-East Asian girls in Japanese school uniform, which resemble the girl group idol, AKB48. This kind of girl groups are increasing in popularity to the other countries including Indonesia, Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand and also Taiwan. These South-East Asian girls are singing the song “The Internationale”, which represent political ideology of socialist movement. This is a kind of international relationship and cultural colonialism through soft power and digital pop culture in Asia after World War II until now. “The Internationale” was adapted into rock music by Chinese band, Tang Dynasty, in 1992. Chulayarnnon created this music video when he was an artist in residence at Organhaus Art Space, Chongqing, China in July 2018.
Karel van Laere
Largo is a video artwork based on a performance, in which the artist is mechanically dragged through the Dutch urban and industrial landscape. With a steady pace, his body is moving from left to right, from empty beaches to tourist hotspots and other busy locations in the city. Surrounded by machines and complex systems, the human body is exposed as rather defenseless and vulnerable, in a world that is both hectic and indifferent.
Chuang Chou’s Dream
Butterfly Dream Parable is a philosophical theory told by Chuang-Tzu, who believes that it is impossible for people to accurately distinguish between reality and illusion. When a person thinks that there is a clear difference between reality and illusion, there might actually be underlying problems. The main idea of the story is that Chuang-Tzu dreamed one day that he had become a butterfly. After waking up, he found himself still Chuang-Tzu, so he was confused whether he was a butterfly who became Chuang-Tzu or he was Chuang-Tzu who became a butterfly in his dream. Here, Chuang-Tzu raised a philosophical question - how do people get to know what is real?
Laws of Motion
Two girls have created a world beyond time and space, dancing through the eery halls of an abandoned monastery. The games they play follow a dreamlike logic. Rules are randomly made, ultimately forming and breaking their symbiotic relationship.
The Way to Freedom Square
Dancing in public space is illegal in Iran. Although there are many restrictions on body such as wearing scarf and covering body with long cloth are mandatory for women in public space in Iran, this restriction on free movement imposes strong control on individual bodies in everyday life. The performance ‘The Way to Freedom Square’ explores the border between standing/walking/free movement of body and dancing on the street in Tehran. This performance is navigating the alternative ways for freedom of the body.
Alarm goes off at 8 am, a splash of cold water in the face to wake up. Breakfast, subway, work. Colleagues, wife, kids, home. Go to bed. Loan, mortgage loan, debt delinquency. It was wise that I didn’t let them get a dog. Traffic congestion, nasty weather, don’t forget to get to Auchan. Just let Saturday come. Shopping mall, old friend, couple of beers, kitchen, Monday. It’s just a month before my vacation. I’ll be lying on the lounge, going for breakfast and getting suntan near the pool. All inclusive. Excursion, pyramids or castles, gift shop—actually, it doesn’t matter. Lunch and a couple of free cocktails. The sun is glistening on the sea just as in the travel agency poster. All inclusive. Nice that it’s possible to buy the sunset! But do you really need it when you have TV? Vacation presents a simple narrative about the life, dreams and consumerism culture of ordinary people in search of merriment.
Colonialism and modernity, tropics and the arts. In 1955, Ho Kok Hoe, artist, architect and then-president of the Singapore Art Society made a months-long journey to the UK, Europe and the US. Curatorial legend has it that he brought over 200 pieces of artworks by him and 6 other Singaporean artists. Culminating in the first exhibition of Singaporean art in Europe. Why was it that he had to go? From whence does the anxiety of artists from the periphery stem from? Perhaps it’s the hot and humid environ that some of us hail from? The fertile notion of a wild abundance sorely lacking in thought. Seni recounts this episode of curatorial history. Taking the Malay word seni (the closest Malay word approximating the Western meaning of art) as the premise in the unfolding of the film’s narrative amidst the environ of the tropics.
A one shot self-portrait about 2 engaged young artists, and the shape of their life. Between them there might be some misunderstandings and difficulty in communication, these things happen between any couple which has no significant relation with how much they love each other, it just happens in the everyday life details they live in their home. He might answer her questions which she asked hours or months ago and she might comment on suggestions he said minutes and days ago. Each one answer, comment, and talk in his own mysterious world, which creates temporary cases of misunderstanding in their Home. Home is the place you search to settle down, to get shelter, and be protected from any unwanted outer effects, all these things won’t be found between walls. The real home is the partner who will shelter you anywhere you travel, she is his home and he is hers. Inspired by: René Magritte – David Lynch
A voice says “I would like to make you feel nice and comfortable, and to empty your mind of every single thought...” Thus begins the story, with an invitation to make you fall asleep, in a calm, deep, and peaceful rest, while a chaotic landscape, crowded with people, sets up on the screen. The crowd doesn't seem to have anywhere to go, but they are actually sleeping and they need to dream. Supermarket offers a commentary on contemporary society, touching on how technical-scientific excess and the wasteful consumer culture have already revolutionized our daily lives.
Mao Mao’s Happy Kawaii Friends 2020
Many major events occurred around the artist’s life since the start of 2020. Amongst them, Taiwan’s presidential election and COVID-19 affected him the most. Drawing inspirations from these events in relation to the place that he is currently in, Mao Mao has created a series of visual commentaries in the form of animation.
Language makes me an uncertain person
Two-channel interactive FHD video installation
Darae explores the uncanny space between languages and self to bring out the various uncertainties that confused her life when she was living in Scotland. She expressed it through sound elements and visually lucid Scottish landscapes surrounding her in the two-channel interactive video. The uncertainties are further expressed through the subtle relationship between the audience and video as they interact with its sensor and visual intervals.
Jaxton Su (b. 1988, Singapore) is an independent visual artist and curator. He is also an adjunct lecturer at Nanyang Technological University (NTU). Holding a Master of Fine Art from The Glasgow School of Art, UK and a Bachelor of Fine Arts from NTU, Singapore, Jaxton seeks to coalesce the diverse interrelated experience from his artistic, pedagogical, community-based and curatorial practices, and applying them within meaningful projects that will encourage thoughts, reflection, exchange and discussion. As an independent curator, he is interested in bridging the gaps between current social issues and advocating artists as citizens of agency. Some of his notable endeavours that he has presented internationally include curatorial projects ‘The Unsettled Dust’ – a touring Asian Short Film Festival, ‘Dare you do this? FFFF it!’ – a Taiwan Gangshan Dist Contemporary Art Warehouse International Exchange Program and ‘Power Play’ – a biennial contemporary art festival in Singapore, as well as community-based projects ‘Home is where the heart is - Silver Arts 2019’ and ‘Our Nano World - Edinburgh International Science Festival’..
Nien-Ting Chen (b. 1990, Taipei) is an independent curator and visual artist. She holds a Master of Fine Art from the Glasgow School of Art, United Kingdom and is currently pursuing her PhD in Art at the Liverpool School of Art and Design (LSA, LJMU). She works across cities in both Asia and the United Kingdom, with her research, practice and projects focusing on developing strategies to bring young artists onto the world stage through the exchange, sharing and combination of resources. At the same time, she continues to actualise various interconnected art projects and curatorial works in places such as United Kingdom, South Korea, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, etc., where she hopes to promote and enhance the exposure of Taiwanese arts and cultural scene within the global landscape of contemporary art. Her PhD research delves into the objective analysis and evaluation of how the Chinese has impacted the advancement of Asian contemporary art, particularly in the broad Eastern Asia since the 1990s. By reviewing the retrospective frameworks of Asian contemporary art’s development, she aims to outline the evolution of the contemporary art movement in the last three decades, while drawing links between the cultural, historical, political and geographical development of various regions in Asia.