C.J. Wan-ling Wee Seminar, “The Exhibitionary Imagination and the Urban Asian Modern,” with Rey Chow

Date: Thursday, February 23, 2012 - 1:30pm - 3:30pm
Location: FHI Garage - C105, Bay 4, 1st Floor, Smith Warehouse
Co-sponsored by Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, and the FHI.
Students and faculty are invited to engage with Professor C.J. Wan-ling Wee, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore in a seminar entitled, “The Exhibitionary Imagination and the Urban Asian Modern.” Professor Rey Chow will be a discussant. Readings available following sign-up.
Recent years have seen cultural criticism examining world or global cities, through which the flows of capital are facilitated. The achievements of East and Southeast Asian state-driven urbanisation that hopes to compete with the Western metropole, and the urban cultures that have developed, have a place in the curatorial practices that helped into “existence” an entity called contemporary Asian art. The independent curatorial work—the exhibitionary imagination—of the French-Chinese Hou Hanru represents pioneering attempts to showcase what can be called the cultures of “New Asian Cities.” He is known particularly for the 1997-99 touring exhibition Cities on the Move: Urban Chaos and Global Change—East Asian Art, Architecture and Film Now, co-curated with Hans-Ulrich Obrist. Cities made spectacularly visible Asian architects and artists, and sought to display Asian urbanism in the context of economic and cultural globalisation; it asserted that East Asia is now a world region with significant alternative modern-urban identities that are part of and yet “resists” the Euro- American modern. The phenomenon of independent curation that had become significant from the 1980s enabled Hou, with other Asian curators, to join a transnational curatorium which brought into display the contemporary and contemporary art from East and Southeast Asia; and they enter the cultural scene simultaneously as natives and cosmopolitans to ask if the contemporary is a continuing (but critical and strategic) modernity still able to allude to hope, despite capitalist reifications—or whether the contemporary is the “trace of the fallout” (as art historian Patrick Flores puts it) from an exploding capitalist modernity. The seminar enquires as to how a critical East Asian contemporary has been imagined and how Hou made more specific this curatorial framework for the 2000 Shanghai Biennale (“Shanghai Spirit: A Special Modernity”), now regarded being a notable test case for freedom and internationalism for culture in China, and an indication that Shanghai could become a force in the international world of culture.