Tangled Unity: New Histories in Film and Video from Southeast Asia
Curated by Michael Janssen
The landforms that comprise Southeast Asia are as topographically diverse as the societies specific to them. Located at the gateway between two oceans, centuries of maritime passage and global trade have made this subsection of the world’s largest continent a diverse religious and political nexus.Yet it is removed enough by nautical distance and continental edge to have developed enduring sensibilities that remain discrete from the influences arising out of each cardinal direction.
The artists showcased in Tangled Unity: New Histories in Film and Video from Southeast Asia dedicate their primary focus to the modern plights of this complex legacy. Via the camera’s lens—and that of their own backgrounds—the artists reframe the cultural, governmental, and even material contexts of contemporary life in this ancient region. Their works address social (and spiritual) trauma, expose power dynamics, destabilize gender norms, bunk nationalism, and celebrate the splendor of existence often by blending documentary approaches with fictional narratives and experimental structures.
With the moving image, the artists snare the elusive temporal dimension of their investigations, which hinge circumstances of the present to the lasting impact of the past. The mediums of film and video provide the opportunity to overwrite grand narratives with newly empowered chronologies that trace stories far more intricate and universal than the cursory borderlines on a map. Multichannel installation formats and auxiliary artifacts further layer these critical endeavors by recognizing heterogeneity, simultaneity, and change—conditions that are as inextricable from the history of Southeast Asia as they are from the artworks exhibited herein.
Text: Patrick J. Reed
Installation views: credits Simon Vogel