Conferences, Symposiums & Talks

Cultural Precarities: Reading Independent Art Collectives and Cultural Networks in Asia



8 – 13 March 2021



LASALLE College of the Arts, together with the International Institute of Asian Studies and KUNCI Study Forum and Collective, is organising an In Situ Graduate School (ISGS) in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, which deals with current developments in art networks in Asia.

We invite artists, social sciences and humanities graduate students (doctoral and research master's), independent researchers, cultural practitioners and 'artivists' to deliberate on the various intersections of artistic practice and networks and to foster dialogue on the emergence of independent cultural networks in Asia.

Cultural networks and artist collectives are increasingly becoming key nodal points for cultural, social, creative and political intersections in Asia. Long established as a system of cultural and social enterprise for the nurturing of counter-cultural discourse (Guerilla Girls, Fluxus), self-help networks (ELIA, ENCATC, CILECT), artist collectives and cultural networks, have remained discrete and independent of each other.

Recent trends in Asia, however, reveal that cultural networks and artist collectives symbiotically meet and inform each other. Networks in Asia are a composite of artist collectives, local/national institutional/inter-governmental agencies and foreign agency led initiatives. Networks such as the Mekong Cultural Hub, Cambodia and Taiwan (MCH); West Heavens, China and Hong Kong; Asia-Pacific Network for Culture, Education and Research, Singapore (ANCER); KUNCI Study Forum and Collective, Indonesia (KUNCI); Tokyo Performing Arts Meeting, Japan (TPAM), to name a few, demonstrate an increasing need to develop an inclusive methodology of work between artists and their communities.

Moreover, artist collectives such as Taring Padi (Indonesia), Vertical Submarine (Singapore) and Jiandyin (Thailand) among others, function as cultural intermediaries engaging with communities, governments or government-linked agencies to advocate for cultural inclusivity in economic and social development and to facilitate artist mobility across other networks and collectives.

This ISGS calls for the necessary and vital understanding of ‘flow’ between networks and within networks, their short-lived, ‘precarious’ character, and above all, their situatedness within communities. Participants will exchange and deliberate on the following:

  • What are the features of contemporary networks in Asia (and beyond) and how do they express emerging artistic practices?
  • Do networks cultivate a unique aesthetics for art practitioners?
  • To what extent do independent art collectives offer an alternative framework for social, economic and political engagement?
  • Can collectives be thought of as substitutes to established institutions (e.g. museums, galleries, universities) or as complementary partners?
  • Is a critical theorisation of networks and collectives plausible outside of the professional and applied work of arts and cultural management?

This ISGS aims to establish a critical reading of current developments in art networks in Asia thereby contributing to a body of emerging works. ‘Conversations’ with artists and cultural activists will be a key method of inquiry for the participants, so as to develop an appreciation of the complex inter-relatedness between art, history and politics.

In addition to lectures, participants will be encouraged to conduct group projects and undertake field trips to critical sites in Yogyakarta. At the end of the ISGS, participants will make final presentations responding to the theme and questions raised in this study.

Venka Purushothaman (LASALLE College of the Arts, Singapore), Dev Nath Pathak (South Asian University, India), Chen Yun (Curator and Researcher, China) and Syafiatudina (KUNCI, Indonesia) will convene the ISGS with a series of studies in practice, using the environment of the city of Yogyakarta and its rural surroundings where many Indonesian networks and collectives are located. Participants will be exposed to a range of artists, local art spaces and sites of cultural engagement to test their methods and practices, enabling them to undergo a critique of their personal research projects in this field. The conveners and participants will function as co-learners to develop new paradigms to appreciate the developing field.

Applications are welcome from artists, social sciences and humanities graduate students (doctoral and research master's), independent researchers, cultural practitioners and 'artivists'. Application deadline: 1 July 2020.

For more details on eligibility criteria and applications, visit the ISGS website.