Scene / Asia: Movements Toward Active Spectatorship

In many Asian countries including Japan, the social value of art critics is not yet fully recognized. The reason for this may go well beyond the quality and quantity of critical work produced in these countries. It is possible to argue that since the process of critically assessing art is in essence an imported culture from the West, the practice is not taking root in Asian countries. For this reason, in Scene /Asia, we want to take one step back and start from physically developing spaces for active spectatorship, even before discussing the individual critical texts. We want to change the current situation in which art criticism is more or less synonymous with art bashing or personal charge towards the author. We want to develop an audience space that enables the participants to, at least, enjoy the critical procedure as a necessary task for reflecting on arts and society.

Scene / Asia is a dynamic platform for enabling active interaction with multiple scenes in Asia: both the performance scenes and the sociocultural sites in Asia. In order to understand the artwork fully, we need to have a shared understanding of respective societies. By assessing the political, religious, economical and all other socially-related issues in respective Asian regions, we would deepen the contextual understanding of the art works: why the work was created from that specific cultural soil. To this end, we have, firstly, formed a pan-Asian curatorial team consisting of members from five regions (Japan, Korea, China, Singapore, Taiwan).

Each partner will online curate body-based and socially engaged contemporary art (performing arts and performance art) according to our annual theme, and, on bi-monthly basis, introduce them as our “annual curation” to the readers of our website. Secondly, in our “annual symposium”, in which all members of Scene / Asia, guest speakers, as well as interested audience members would congregate, we would be expanding the themes that derives from the annual curation. Lastly, we will conduct a three-year research in South East Asian countries — those regions definitely in need for cultivating art criticism — and produce intriguing articles from the visits. We wish that, through these activities, the audience/readers of Scene / Asia will gradually, rather than drastically, accumulate knowledge towards contemporary Asian performing/perfomance art as well as the respective societies.

In order for art criticism to take room in Asian countries, all agents, who are one way or another related to art, need to shift the basic understanding of its practice. That is, we should realize that art critics is not an elitist and recondite communication that could only be established between certain artists and specialists; but rather, that it is an cultural apparatus that could equally be used by artists, critics and audiences to grasp a better understanding of contemporary society. Through the various projects in Scenee /Asia, we wish to realize the latter vision: a space in which all participants could appreciate art criticism as a productive tool for dissecting society.

Curatorial Team
Chief Director: Kyoko Iwaki
Ruijun Shen (China)
William Andrews, Natsuko Odate, Rieko Suzuki, Chiaki Soma (Japan)
Haeju Kim, Hyun-Suk Seo (Korea)
Jason Wee(Singapore)
Jow-Jiun Gong, Fang-Tze Hsu (Taiwan)