Thursday, April 3, 2014

Writing Updates | February - March 2014

A round up of the articles and interviews I've done for Art Radar in the last two months.

News from the art world

INDIA, UK | Tate to work with Indian culture ministry on art initiatives

The Indian Ministry of Culture and UK’s Tate signed an agreement on 6 February 2014 in a bid to collaborate on projects and initiatives related to the modern and contemporary art of both countries. Read more.

AUSTRALIA | Sydney Biennale faces boycott over sponsorship controversy

The 19th Biennale of Sydney faced calls for a boycott due to links with sponsor Transfield, which runs Australian detention centres and asylum services on a for-profit basis. Read more.

CHINA | Christie's opens first Asia-based gallery in Hong Kong

Christie’s expands its reach in Asia by opening its first Asian gallery in Hong Kong, The James Christie Room, targeting the region’s rising art market and affluent collectors. Read more.

QATAR | Qatar announces new artist residence centre amid booming cultural infrastructure

The Qatar Museums Authority (QMA) announces that the former Civil Defence headquarters will soon re-open, housing the programme “Fire Station: Artists in Residence”. Read more.

AUSTRALIA | Melbourne on the global art map with Australia's newest triennial

The National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) announces the new NGV Triennial that will celebrate the best of contemporary international art and design, and will put Melbourne on the global art map. Read more.

Reviews and overviews

SOUTHEAST ASIA | Southeast Asian women in the diaspora - Troubling Borders book review

Troubling Borders, a new anthology of Southeast Asian art and literature, looks at how the Diaspora’s women artists are pushing literal and figurative boundaries. Read more.

CHINA, USA | Chinese artists at Armory Focus 2014 - Alexandre Errera's watch list

Alexandre Errera, Founder and CEO of online platform, reveals to Art Radar his five favourite artists and artworks from the Armory Focus: China section at the Armory Show 2014 in New York. Read more.

AFRICA | 4 West African photographers to know now

Art Radar profiles four West African photographers that are challenging stereotypical representations of their countries, people and culture through art. Read more.

BANGLADESH | South Asia in focus: 5 curated shows at Dhaka Art Summit 2014

Art Radar highlights five curated shows at the 2014 edition of Dhaka Art Summit. Read more.

MALAYSIA | Contemporary Muslim calligraphy debuts in Malaysia

To celebrate its 15th anniversary, Kuala Lumpur’s Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia (IAMM) is displaying its private collection of contemporary Islamic calligraphy publicly for the first time. Read more.

TURKEY | Contemporary visual culture from Turkey and beyond

As part of a series of events for its 10th anniversary, Istanbul Modern presents an exhibition titled “Neighbours – Contemporary Narratives from Turkey and Beyond”, highlighting contemporary art from Turkey and its neighbours. Read more.

USA | Armory Show 2014: China steals the limelight? - media round up

The 2014 Armory fair brought Chinese contemporary art to New York and tried to address the organisational problems of previous years, but did it impress the critics? Read more.

UAE | Central Asia in focus at Art Dubai: Marker 2014

The Marker section of Art Dubai 2014 (at Madinat Jumeirah, Dubai, from 19 to 22 March 2014) featured art from Central Asia and the Caucasus region, curated by the art collective Slavs and Tatars. Read more.

INDIA | 6 artists contemplate freedom in "Waiting for the Wind"

“Waiting for the Wind”, at Kolkata’s Experimenter gallery from 7 March to 26 April 2014, features artists whose videos, installations and images explore issues of militarisation, violence, captivity and freedom. Read more

Features and guides: Delhi

INSERT 2014 | Re-imagining Delhi as a cultural space

INSERT2014: The Sharp Edge of the Global Contemporary, a series of events and exhibitions in New Delhi from 17 January to 28 February 2014 curated by Delhi-based Raqs Media Collective, rethinks the use of galleries and the infrastructure of the city. Read more.

Art Radar Guide | Contemporary art in Delhi

Art Radar’s city guides series continues with tips and suggestions on what to visit for contemporary art and culture in India’s capital, New Delhi. Read more.


IRAQ | In the shadow of war: Photographer Jamal Penjweny on Iraq today

Iraqi photographer and filmmaker Jamal Penjweny speaks to Art Radar about his art projects and the everyday life in Iraq that they portray, a side of the country not often seen in the media. Read more.

INDIA | Indian artist Jayasri Burman on mythology and imagination

Indian artist Jayasri Burman talks to Art Radar about her inspiration from mythology and folk art and merging tradition and modernity in her work. Read more.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Reclaiming the gaze - African photographers

"A photograph is a window and not the view...
                  don't photograph what you see, photograph what you feel."
                                 - Emeka Okereke, photographer

Recently, while researching for an article for Art Radar, I came across a brilliant six-part documentary series on Al Jazeera titled Artscape - The New African Photography. Each of the 25-minute films profiles a photographer from and working in Africa, their journey, experience and project(s).

For a continent that has too long and too often been represented in the global media through a lens that focuses on aspects like poverty and exoticism, more often than not by those who are visitors and who pursue an image that they have been predisposed to find, this is a refreshing look at what's going on in the African art scene. The media also often forgets that Africa comprises of 54 countries, each unique, diverse and very different from the others (I'm not sure you'd see, for example, a documentary series on "European photographers"). Nonetheless, these videos provide an insight into the fascinating projects that these six photographers undertake, as well as their relationship with their art, country, and history.

Mario Macilau is a documentary photographer. Having grown up in poverty, acquiring his first camera through unusual means and pursuing photography with diligence against all odds, he now turns his art to similar social issues: documenting poverty in Mozambique. As with most Indian cities, he describes the ever-widening gap between the ultra rich and extremely poor; as we watch, he photographs the workers at a garbage dump, his compositions finding aesthetic beauty that is a stark contrast - and hence highlights - the hardships of these workers and their situation.

Baudouin Mouanda's project "The Dream" involves women in Congo and later in Dresden being photographed in various scenarios wearing the same wedding dress. I wasn't so convinced by the concept (every woman's dream is to get married and wear a wedding dress) but it was really interesting to watch the progress and reactions, and how Mouanda staged and framed his beautiful shots. George Osodi takes us on the journey of documenting the oil devastation in the Niger delta, his earlier project which made him a known name; and then we travel with him across Nigeria as he photographs royalty and provides an insight into how politics and monarchy go hand in hand in the country.

As with many other professions, it has been doubly hard for women to pursue their passion and elbow their way through the industry. Neo Ntsoma, who became the first woman to win the CNN African Photographer of the Year award in 2004, talks about her experience as a black woman in a South Africa in which Apartheid was still prevalent. She was the first black woman to make it to photography school there. Her early career as a crime photographer earned her the CNN prize but she was more attracted to the positive image of South Africa, and in this film she, along with fellow artists, musicians, designers and DJs, recounts her struggles but also her exhilaration at being a part of the new generation that was able to break the mould and follow their dreams.

Barbara Minishi's project is slightly similar to Mouanda's: it involves a red dress that she takes with her on journeys through Kenya, meeting and photographing women who are making a difference in their society. The dress raises interesting questions throughout the film (is it Kenyan? is it colonial? can you separate the two, can you separate history and identity?) and much of the film is also a discussion on being a woman, especially in a male-dominated profession.

In one of my favourite lines in the video, Minishi and her friend discuss the idea of an independent woman: "do we call men independent? We just assume that they are." Is anyone really independent? Should they be? What does it mean? Is 'independent' meant as a compliment only as far as women are concerned?

In another powerful scene, video and performance artist Ato Malinda, wearing the red dress and with her face painted red, talks about how much freedom women are still denied, and says "I would love to be able to walk in the streets of Nairobi at night." It's amazing and tragic how much can be similar across countries and continents, how some of us are still fighting for the most basic rights.

"I never left Nigeria, I just lived in Europe. I'm a border being. I live in two places all the time". Emeka Okereke proves that photography is a journey, literally, as he and fellow photographers venture on an Invisible Borders road trip across West Africa. They encounter problems but it's not the destination that a photographer maketh; art and beauty can be found amidst obstacles. Okereke is an inspiring teacher, as can be seen in the progress of the young photographer Lilian Novo, who he mentors, but also in the extremely insightful and quotable things he said throughout the film and that I obsessively noted down.

"Everyone has what it takes to make themselves better but you have to understand that you have to move.                                                          
...Movement is the word."
- Emeka Okereke

Saturday, February 8, 2014


the idea of you


            sweet talking
            brain baring

                      second chances.
                      no thirds.
                      though life may plot otherwise

                              pictures. puzzle pieces.
                              songs that torture

                                     haze. identity.
                                     silver linings
                                     are hard work.

ours is a relationship built on words
words written
           unwritten, unspoken

                           i miss you.
                           miss, as in wish you were here
                           miss, as in missing from me

                                        you break, i break
                                        the sound of a heart breaking


tell all your secrets to someone
who'll forget them tomorrow

          one, far away from someone
          two, far away from their thoughts
          three, an afterthought

                    but you are not one half of a whole
                    you are one
                                 "one person in one head"
                                                    you are whole.


Friday, January 31, 2014

Writing updates - Jan 2014

Here are the articles, interviews and features I wrote for Art Radar the past month:

THE PHILIPPINES | Art after the storm: Filipino artists respond to Typhoon Haiyan

A feature on how artists have responded to the devastation caused by the second deadliest typhoon in the Philippines, both philanthropically and in their art practice. I contacted many artists in the Philippines and the Diaspora for their inputs, and the way the community has come together is so inspiring. From fundraising drives and exhibitions to art as therapy and culinary arts in the most stricken areas, to a desire to address issues of death and devastation through art and challenge representations of the Philippines in mainstream media, they've done it all. And this is only the beginning.

BENIN | Sub-Saharan Africa's first contemporary art museum opens in Benin

News from the contemporary art world - Benin's Zinsou Foundation inaugurated the first museum dedicated to contemporary art in sub-Saharan Africa outside of South Africa. Good signs for the growth of art in Africa, where the art market in most regions is still virtually non-existent.

INDIA | India's largest public art project lands at Mumbai airport

“Jaya He” or Glory to India, which is a 3-km ‘art wall’ museum composed of 7000 artworks housed at the Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport’s Terminal 2 in Mumbai, is the biggest art collection at any airport in the world.

CHINA | Dystopia in Beijing: Cao Fei's Haze and Fog - book review

Review of an e-book of critical essays on Cao Fei’s Haze and Fog, a film commissioned by the Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art (CFCCA) in Manchester and shown at the CFCCA from 26 October to 7 December 2013.

SINGAPORE | 10 great artists at Art Stage Singapore 2014 - picture feast

My picks from artists and artworks that galleries sent us that were on display at Art Stage Singapore 2014. Includes lots of interesting and unique media and styles.

SINGAPORE | Art Stage Singapore 2014 builds bridges in Asia? - media round up

A collation of the reactions by media, critics and gallerists to gauge the response to Art Stage Singapore 2014, which introduced a new format and ended on a record sales high.

CHINA | "Beyond official culture": Philip Tinari on Chinese contemporary art - interview

Ullens Center for Contemporary Art’s Director Philip Tinari talks about the upcoming “Armory Focus: China” in New York, curating and censorship in China.

HONG KONG | Art Basel Hong Kong announces first film sector

Details from the art fair have begun to emerge. Art Basel Hong Kong 2014 will include a three-day film programme for the first time, to be curated by multimedia artist Li Zhenhua.

INDIA | Making art accessible: Neha Kirpal on India Art Fair - interview

Founder and Director of India Art Fair Neha Kirpal shares her insights into the Indian art scene and her plans for India Art Fair’s future in this interview. The art fair closed on Sunday, Feb 2, 2014.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The End (or, the one with the Lists 3)

The 31st of December always feels slightly weird. As the final hours of the year draw to a close, I can usually be found reminiscing and recording moments from the year gone by, which usually seems to have sped by and dragged along and I can't decide which. Our notion of chronological time is more than a bit strange, and I'm sure if analysed, it would be the root of many of our problems and worries. It causes us to strike days off calendars, count the heartbeats in a minute, count the minutes in a memory, the memories in a year, impose some semblance of order in our chaotic existence, and believe in all these hopes and expectations and magic that a new year will bring. And, of course, deal with all the clichéd cynical tweets about how it's all codswallop. (Why yes, I have been dying to use 'codswallop' in a sentence).

So, in an attempt to be really unoriginal, here are my favourites among the films (new and old) that I watched this year:
  • Silver Linings Playbook
  • Annie Hall
  • The Perks of Being a Wallflower
    This is a deleted scene from The Perks of Being a Wallflower in which Charlie reads out a poem he came across to his friends on Christmas day. It was one of the most beautiful and moving scenes in the book, so I'm really glad I found this clip even if it didn't make the final cut.
  • Tangled
  • Spirited Away
  • Zelig
  • Before Midnight
    Natalia's monologue from Before Midnight on love, life and all that is ephemeral. I think this scene captures the crux of the entire trilogy. I'm quite sure it was intended as such too, because it can't be a coincidence that it mentions sunrise and sunset :) 
  • Persepolis
  • The Mexican Suitcase
  • The Lunchbox

Aaaand for more clichéd lists, my favourite books from 2013:
  • The Perks of Being a Wallflower - Stephen Chbosky 
  • Bridge to Terabithia - Katherine Peterson 
  • The Restaurant at the End of the Universe - Douglas Adams (and the entire Hitchhiker's series)

  • One Hundred Names - Cecelia Ahern
  •  The Hunger Games trilogy - Suzanne Collins
  • Like Water for Chocolate - Laura Esquivel
  • Slaughterhouse-Five - Kurt Vonnegut
  • The Cuckoo's Calling - J.K. Rowling
  • Blackberry Wine - Joanne Harris

On 1 January 2013, a friend shared this idea on Facebook:

And I thought I'd try it, I suspected I may need it. So I took a little orange notepad and every day, I wrote down the good things, the little things, compliments and songs and things that made me smile. And it was so amazing to read it right now. I was kind of happy to let this year go, but I now realise how special it was, even if that little notepad only presents one side of the story. I'm ringing in the year reading The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick, and I think the book's philosophy of optimism is so powerful, because even a thin silver lining shines through the biggest raincloud. It's stronger.

Happy 2014!

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Writing / editing updates (or, The one with the Lists 2)


The September-November 2013 issue has been our best and most diverse yet, with submissions from all over the world. I'm so proud of how far we've come. I also have a photo feature in this issue.


The new issue of the University of Edinburgh's student-managed anthropology journal, for which I am an Editorial Director, came out last week. The theme was "Death and Resurrection", and the submissions were really interesting. I haven't finished reading it but I edited/proofread the poem "Dead People's Things" by Kathryn Watt, and a paper on rituals for the departed in Georgia and how internal displacement has affected them, and they were great. Read the issue here.


Since November 2013, I've been writing for the lovely Art Radar Asia, for which I'm currently a staff writer. It focuses on Asian contemporary visual art and culture, and I'm really enjoying it and learning so much with every piece I write, in addition to contacting artists and galleries all over the world. You can find all of my articles here, and I'm sharing some below:

SYRIA: Between displacement and dissent: 8 Syrian contemporary artists

This article introduces the work of eight artists from Syria: Ammar al Beik, Ammar Abd Rabbo, Asaad Arabi, Tammam Azzam, Safwan Dahoul, Othman Moussa, Thaier Helal, and Elias Izoli. Researching for this piece was inspiring and humbling, and I was blown away by some of the work. Azzam's "Freedom Graffiti" went viral on social media earlier this year so probably many of us have seen it. During my research I also came across this wonderful Facebook page dedicated to Syrian artists, whether emerging or established, and it's a great resource. Read my complete article here.

BANGKOK: "Currency Crisis": Southeast Asian artists talk money in Bangkok

Introducing the artists, works and themes in the exhibition "Currency Crisis" at Whitespace Gallery in Bangkok. Featured artists are Pisitakun Kuantalang (Thailand), Latthapon Korkiatrakul (Thailand), Pornprasert Yamazaki (Thailand), Green Zeng (Singapore), Sai Hua Kuan (Singapore) and Moe Satt (Myanmar). The exhibition deals with interpretations on the ideology of money and currency. Read the full article here.

NEW YORK: Asian artists on the world stage at New York's Performa 13

An overview of the work of ten artists from Asia who are presenting at this year's Performa 13 in New York, which is New York's only biennial dedicated to live performance art. Read the article here.

INDIA / UK: A constellation of stories: India's Amar Kanwar exhibits in Yorkshire

I really enjoyed writing and researching this. It's about an ongoing exhibition at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park by Amar Kanwar, called The Sovereign Forest + Other Stories, and deals with local communities in Orissa and their struggle against the government and corporations who are trying to take over their land for bauxite mining. Read the article here.

TAIWAN: White Fungus art magazine to go global

The gorgeous, avant garde White Fungus magazine that was born in New Zealand and is now based out of Taiwan signed a deal for worldwide circulation a few weeks ago. This can only mean good things for anyone interested in art. Ron Hanson, the editor, told me a bit about it AND I got a free copy. Yay for job perks! Read the article here.

MISCELLANEOUS: Holiday art gifts: 7 best art books of 2013

Art Radar has been compiling lists and suggestions of artsy stuff to gift art enthusiasts, and this is our pick of the seven more interesting books on art that were released this year, with a little intro to each of them and links to the ones we reviewed earlier this year. Check it out here.

INDIA: Total eclipse: The "Black Sun" across cultures

Overview of the Shezad Dawood and Tom Trevor curated exhibition featuring various Indian and international artists who have dealt with the iconography or metaphor of the 'black sun'. The exhibition is on at Devi Art Gallery in Gurgaon till April 2014. Read the article here.

OMAN / WASHINGTON D.C.: Oman donates $1.8m to the Smithsonian's African art museum

The Sultanate of Oman made the largest donation in the museum's history to go towards new programmes fostering the cultural relationship, common background and art exchanges between the two countries. Read details in the full article here.

INDIA: Translucent: India's first video art festival

India finally has a festival dedicated to video art and how. From December 2013 to February 2014, the festival will screen nearly 50 films at its venue in Goa. Read about some of the participating artists, video art in India, and what video art is all about in my article here.

HONG KONG: Negotiating urban identity: 5 young Hong Kong artists

Through an overview of the five participating artists at Rossi & Rossi Hong Kong's exhibition These Shores, I discuss the themes of rapid commercialisation and urbanisation in Hong Kong, what these have meant for the artistic community and citizens, and how artists have attempted to react to or express it in their work. Read the article here.

VENICE: Okwui Enwezor named first African-director of the Venice Biennale

It seems sort of unbelievable (or maybe not really?) that in the more-than-a-century history of the Venice Biennale, not once has it had an African director. Okwui Enwezor seems like a great choice, he has previously spoken about the nature of the Biennale as pitting nations against each other owing to its pavilion structure and other issues besides; he thinks of nationality as a fluid concept, and I'm sure his vision for the Biennale is going to be really interesting. Read my article here.

UK / CHINA: Oxford's Ashmolean Museum acquires world class collection of Chinese art

The late Prof Michael Sullivan bequeathed his entire collection of modern and contemporary Chinese art, which began nearly 70 years ago, to the University of Oxford's Ashmolean Museum (the first public museum in Britain). Many of these works have never been seen in public and will now be displayed on rotation. Read my article here.

MISCELLANEOUS: Unpacking contemporary art: Ode to Art lecture video

Art historian Jeffrey Say, who teaches at Singapore's LASALLE College of the Arts, gave a lecture on understanding and appreciating contemporary art. It covers the basics of what contemporary art is, and why it invokes such varied reactions. In my article, I summarise and elaborate on some of the points he highlights in the lecture. I learned a LOT from it, and for anyone curious about art in our times, it should be an interesting piece. Read my article here.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

The one with the Lists

I won't lie - this hasn't been a great year.

But recently, I've begun to really put things into perspective. I have a lot - a whole lot - to be thankful for, and even in the times I was low, I haven't forgotten that. But now, with the holidays and cheer and so on, I'm going to try and focus on that even more. For the initial part of 2013, and spells in between, I haven't been the most optimistic person, but I really do know how very lucky I am. So the next few posts, if all goes as planned, are going to be looking up!

But for now, here's my Christmas playlist. Isn't Christmas just the most infectious festival ever? I've been tweeting songs from this playlist one by one to annoy impose Christmas music on people, because it's fun.

1. Christmas Lights - Coldplay
2. Shake up Christmas - Train
3. Let it Snow - Michael Bublé
4. All I want for Christmas is us - Jason Mraz and Tristan Prettyman
5. Mele Kalikimaka - Gianni and Sarah
6. Last Christmas - Wham!
7. Thanks for Christmas - XTC
8. Mistletoe - Colbie Caillat
9. Fairytale of New York - Gianni and Sarah
10. Winter Wonderland - Jason Mraz
11. White Winter Hymnal - Fleet Foxes
12. Phoebe's Holiday Song

13. I feel it in my fingers - Billy Mack
14. Sleigh Ride - Carpenters
15. Overture (Christmas Portrait) - Carpenters
16. Jingle Bell Rock - Walk Off the Earth
17. All I want for Christmas - Michael Bublé
18. It's the most wonderful time of the year - Andy Williams
19. Christmas Day - She & Him
20. Hurra es schneit - Nena

And here are the things I'm grateful for:

1. Parents who let me be a freeloader every time I'm trying to 'find myself'
2. The chance to revisit London and readjust my priorities and attitude
3. Jennifer Lawrence

4. Lots of published work
5. Chocolate, which will be extinct in seven years
6. Humans of New York for affirming my faith in humanity and life lessons and teaching me to be kinder and liking children (in a non-creepy way)
7. Best friends who get my sense of humour; such people are hard to find. Who else can you have these conversations with:
A: So looks like I got past the Cornucopia bloodbath but got taken out by the Careers :(
B: Oh no, the job interview?  
A: So I've had two missed calls from Albania.
B: Voldemort?!
Yeah, okay.

And some resolutions for 2014:

1. Make a serious attempt to be awake in the morning and asleep at night
2. Start hoarding chocolate in preparation for the Apocalypse.
3. Think of more resolutions.
4. TBA