ISSUE 4 Curatorial Consciousness in the Times of Post-Nationalism
Pathways and Challenges: Art History in the Context of Global Contemporary Art
The proliferation of contemporary art in Taiwan since the late 1990s has come hand in hand with the development of artistic infrastructure of every stripe: the solidifying institutions of Taiwan’s various biennials, a subsidy system that encourages a high-degree of transnational collaboration, the public sector’s insistence that art museums serve wide demographics, the democratization of artistic practice, and various policies mobilizing the arts as a means of cultural diplomacy. This has led to a repositioning of curatorial practice. From the outside, curatorial practice is seen as an intermediary of international collaboration, while within the contemporary art, it is perceived as an agent of cultural innovation and artistic democratization. These dimensions may seem to complement each other, yet, as a matter of fact, they are often at risk of coming into conflict.
As with other Asian countries that gained their independence at the end of World War II––such as South Korea, Singapore, and Malaysia––the Taiwanese government’s agenda has included the writing of a national art history and the creation of museums for national art. In such enterprises, art history is not simply a strand of historiography. Works of art have come to play crucial roles in defining a national Taiwanese art history. Unfortunately, Taiwanese art historians and curators still belong to two separate camps.
The Symposium “Asian Art History in the 21st Century”, held in Williamstown, MA in 2007, advocated revisiting the conventional paradigms of artistic practice as a means to grant sui generis recognition to the categories of Asian Art and Modern Asian Art.1 Even if we put aside the problematic notion of “Asia” as a popularly commodified symbol, the issue as to whether Asia can be construed as a homogeneous entity in regards to the production or history of art is still surrounded by a haze of doubt and suspicion.2 The very methodology of art history has been evolving; the discipline once centered around classical antiquity, but this has shifted to its current focus on the early 20th century. As a result, art historical research has encountered unprecedented challenges in regards to the conception of history, the formation of knowledge, methods of research, and the very scope of the discipline. The traditional notion of art history as constituted by styles and imagery has now been exploded and given over to political, sociological and ideological concerns.

1 Vishakha N. Desai, ed., Asian Art History in the 21st Century (Williamstown, MA: Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, 2007).

2 The 2018 Kuandu Biennale: Seven Questions for Asia was intended exactly to deconstruct the concept of “Asia” by revolving around the issues such as colonization/decolonization, utopia/dystopia, centre/periphery, radical/conservative, left/right wings, linguistic subject, and visions for the future.

The Conservatism and Authoritarianism of the First-generation Taiwanese Painters and Their Impacts on the Post-war Western Painting in Taiwan writtenby Xiou-Xiong Wang. (Image Courtesy of Taipei Fine Arts Museum)

As contemporary art celebrates high mobility and circulation, the writing of a regional art history has come to emphasize the dynamism of regional contemporary art.3 Apart from unearthing the unsaid, the unseen, and the forgotten in a quest to present a coherent narrative, these new art historical texts are increasingly expected to market and promote regional contemporary art as well.
One such example of this kind of compound mission is the Dansaekhwa exhibition held in Seoul in 2012, in which a pertinent English monograph was deployed in tandem with the Gwangju Biennale. International visitors were drawn to visit the 2012 Gwangju Biennale, and then were seamlessly led onward to Seoul for the Dansaekhwa exhibition. As far as these international visitors were concerned, nothing was more hospitable than an English monograph on “the comprehensive history of Dansaekhwa.”4
Language barriers and uncertain links between the art market and the West may explain why this type of regional artistic practice has not yet formed a “center of cognition” within general art history.5 In recent years, some Western institutions have exhibited post-war Asian art with zest, showing that they aspire to understand their own post-war art from a more internationalized and refreshingly transnational perspective. However, such practice is not so much an attempt to reconstruct regional art history as it is a Western modernist understanding of locality, which seeks to reveal variants of modern art in Asia. Within the scope of “Art and Its Global History”, one may also promote “en passant” works of art, which bear testimony to art history through their eclectic mix of international styles and anthropological gazes.
Contemplating a Taiwanese art history is one thing; tackling it by reference to Asian art history is quite another. Either approach is only partially valid. Undoubtedly, there are two challenges confronting art historians here: (1) how can we arrive at a more ambitious historiographical methodology, which goes beyond anthropological field surveys of artistic practice that tend to downplay the role of art; and (2) how can we compose a modern counter-history of contemporary art that is both novel and supranational. It is this duality that renders the task at hand extremely challenging.

Art history’s global turn has by no means been a boon for non-Western territories. One must remain vigilant as to its underlying premises: (1) strategies for normalizing difference; (2) the prospect of art history as a parochial discipline with aspirations for global relevance; and (3) art history’s internal entanglements with European national consciousness and colonialism. Global art history to some degree represents the total triumph of the dark side of globalization, a homogenization of world culture.6 Many critics have however pointed to the fact that “statehood” has continually been brought up as a subject for discussion in regional contemporary art.

The methodology of a colonialist art history has been found floundering in the post-colonial era. Writings on regional or local art histories do not merely orient themselves towards critiques of Western art history. Early Taiwanese art criticism has always been a force to be reckoned with. Lin Xing-yue’s book Forty Years of Taiwanese Fine Arts for example (published by the Independence Evening Post, which was founded after the lifting of press restrictions after the end of martial law) did not mince words in its faithful descriptions of inter-generational controversies. Xie Li-fa, in the preface to the second edition of his book The Art Movement History of Taiwan under the Japanese Colonial Rule, expressed his awareness of and reflection on historiography. Xiou-Xiong Wang, in his essay entitled The Conservatism and Authoritarianism of the First-generation Taiwanese Painters and Their Impacts on the Post-war Western Painting in Taiwan, lambasted the authoritarianism reflected in Taiwanese artistic practice after the end of World War II.7

3 In a forum with the author at the Taiwan Annual, Tzu-Chieh Jian mentioned that the Taiwan Contemporary Art Archives (TCAA) established by the Association of the Visual Arts in Taiwan (AVAT) may be the place where Taiwanese art history can be written. His directorial philosophy behind the TCAA revealed his attempt to treat it as the historiographic engineering of Taiwanese contemporary art: “It has been five years since the TCAA’s preparation to date. According to its underlying philosophy, the TCAA is a strategic product designed more or less for the purpose of making up the deficiencies in the means and conditions for external connections. On the other hand, the category-based structure of the TCAA was gradually filled up with contents, which indicates not only that the developmental course of the TCAA per se constituted a piece of history worth rumination, but also that the wider issues it addresses certainly correspond to a specific piece of history of Taiwanese contemporary art—based on the acknowledgement of this fact, the history of the TCAA per se and the greater history to which it corresponds have indubitably become a key point when we are envisaging the future of the TCAA. However, arts involve more than facts, which is why we chose to name our forum in a more dynamic, organic way: An Imagined History.” See https://www.facebook.com/events/台灣當代一年展/藝術講座從資料庫到一段想像的歷史/1329418883862222 (retrieved on 30 Apr. 2020).
4 Joan Kee: Contemporary Korean Art-Tansaekhwa and the Emergency of Method, Univ Of Minnesota Press, 2013.
5 Joan Kee and Miwako Tezuka, “Dialogue: How Was History Written?” in Bijutsutecho, Special Issue, (Spring 2016), traditional Chinese version, p. 85.

Chika Okeke-Agulu: Globalization, Art History, and the Specter of Difference, in

 Alexander Dumbadze,Suzanne Hudson ed.: Contemporary Art-1989 to the Present, p.447

7 Xing-Yue Lin: Forty Years of Taiwanese Fine Arts , Taipei, Independence Evening Post , 1987. Li-Fa Xie:The History of the Taiwanese Art Movements during the Japanese Occupation , Artist Publishers,5th edition, 1998. Xiou-Xiong Wang, “The Conservatism and Authoritarianism of the First-generation Taiwanese Painters and Their Impacts on the Post-war Western Painting in Taiwan,” in A Discussion of the Historical Development of Taiwan’s Art (Taipei: National Museum of History, 1995), pp. 174-179.

In addition to the writing of local art history, Taiwan’s art historical practice in the 1990s clearly articulated deep concerns and high expectation for contemporary art, and even directed fierce criticism towards established institutions. The 1996 Taipei Biennial, The Quest for Identity, was an exhibition on Taiwanese art’s subjectivity, which drifted astray of the mainstream of internationalist biennials. Full of vitality and value, the exhibition exacted a holistic view and attempted to confront history and the present. Such an effort absolutely deserves our re-evaluation.

It is heartening to see momentum towards the production of discourse along the axis of curatorial practice. Chiang Po-Shin’s article The Contemporariness of Material: An Investigation Centred around the ‘Exhibition of the École de Seoul’ not only traces a path of Taiwan’s exhibition history, but is also an example of Inter-Asia studies and the mobility of art. In addition, if the crisis of art history rooted in colonialist concepts was believed to give birth to visual studies, we may as well argue that Goldsmiths’ College, a leading institution for curatorial education, has established a new curatorial paradigm. Moreover, ALTERing NATIVism by TheCube Project Space, Nobuo Takamori’s recent curatorial practice, and Lee UFan as a node in the 2019 Asian Art Biennale all served as alternatives to the thus-far description-based discipline of art history. As with the biennales in Havana, Dakar, Johannesburg, Istanbul and Gwangju, these attempts can also be construed as pioneering initiatives against the dominance of Western art history. The challenge we must take up today is to simultaneously consider all regions, nations, religions and global contingencies when engaging in debates concerning issues of history of Asian or Taiwanese art. The formal language of the exhibition indeed makes it possible for us to meet this challenge.

In a keynote speech entitled What is the Curatorial Function? at the Curators’ Intensive Taipei 19, David Teh stated his intention to “address particularities of the curatorial function in the region, setting aside some [Western] professional assumptions which have not historically attended the role in this geography, looking instead to the curator’s ambivalent relationships to state power, bureaucratic labour, and authorship. Such structural questions may have been deferred while Asian curators sought to consolidate their profession on an equal footing with the nomadic, visionary taste-makers of the international art system. But as that system’s centre of gravity shifts in our direction, they cannot be put off any longer.”7
7 http://curatorsintensive.tw/david-teh
Of course, in my opinion, the key to tackling these questions lies not so much in withdrawing from curatorial practice as in revisiting the very place in which curatorial function was generated, namely the thriving art system. We must face up to all political contentions therein and once again turn exhibitions into a realm for curatorial discourse. Or to put it another way, even though curatorial practices tends towards the tastes of the international art system, they cannot escape the political debates endemic in local societies and the implicit art histories contained within them.
1 Vishakha N. Desai, ed., Asian Art History in the 21st Century (Williamstown, MA: Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, 2007).
2 The 2018 Kuandu Biennale: Seven Questions for Asia was intended exactly to deconstruct the concept of “Asia” by revolving around the issues such as colonization/decolonization, utopia/dystopia, centre/periphery, radical/conservative, left/right wings, linguistic subject, and visions for the future.
3 1 Vishakha N. Desai, ed., Asian Art History in the 21st Century, Williamstown, MA: Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, 2007. 2 2018關渡雙年展「亞洲的七個提問」就是從殖民與解殖、烏托邦與惡托邦、中心與邊緣、激進與保守、左右派、語言主體、以及對於未來性的設想,解構「亞洲」概念。 3 視盟的台灣當代藝術資料庫,簡子傑在花博當代一年展與筆者的討論講座「藝術講座|從資料庫到一段想像的歷史」中,也提出這是否會是書寫台灣藝術史的地方。活動說明,指出策畫人之一的簡子傑對於資料庫作為台灣當代藝術歷史化工程的企圖:「從籌劃至今,『台灣當代藝術資料庫』已經歷了五年時間,原本的設置理念,多少是基於國內當代藝術發展欠缺向外連結的管道與條件,因而產生的策略性產物。另一方面,隨著這個以創作類型為骨架的資料庫逐漸被填入了內容,不僅資料庫本身的發展進程也足以形成一段有待反思的小歷史,資料庫本身所涉及的廣泛議題,實則也必然對應著一段關於台灣當代藝術的發展歷史——基於對事實的肯定,關於這個資料庫自身的小歷史,與其所對應的這種較大的歷史,無疑地,是我們開始去思考資料庫的未來時一個不能被忽略的重點,但藝術涉及的畢竟不只於事實,也因此,我們讓這個講座指向一種較為動態有機的方向,一段想像的歷史。」網址:https://www.facebook.com/events/台灣當代一年展/藝術講座從資料庫到一段想像的歷史/1329418883862222/(2020/4/30載入)。 4 Joan Kee, Contemporary Korean Art: Tansaekhwa and the Urgency of Method, University of Minnesota Press, 2013. 5 奇廷泫、手塚美和子,〈歷史是怎樣寫成的?〉,《美術手帖》國際版・春季特別號「亞洲藝術風起時」,2016,頁85。 6 林惺嶽,《台灣美術風雲40年》,台北:自立晚報,1987。謝里法,《日據時代台灣美術運動史》,第五版,台北:藝術家出版社,1998。王秀雄,〈台灣第一代西畫家的保守與權威主義暨其對台灣戰後西畫的影響〉,《台灣美術發展史論》,台北:國立歷史博物館,1995。 7 鄭大衛(David TEH),「Curator’s Intensive Taipei 19 當代策展的新挑戰—國際論壇青年策展工作坊」主題演講,《ART WAVE》,網址:http://curatorsintensive.tw/david-teh/ (2020/4/30載入)。 8 Vishakha N. Desai, ed., Asian Art History in the 21st Century (Williamstown, MA: Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, 2007). 9 The 2018 Kuandu Biennale: Seven Questions for Asia was intended exactly to deconstruct the concept of “Asia” by revolving around the issues such as colonization/decolonization, utopia/dystopia, centre/periphery, radical/conservative, left/right wings, linguistic subject, and visions for the future. 10 In a forum with the author at the Taiwan Annual, Tzu-Chieh Jian mentioned that the Taiwan Contemporary Art Archives (TCAA) established by the Association of the Visual Arts in Taiwan (AVAT) may be the place where Taiwanese art history can be written. His directorial philosophy behind the TCAA revealed his attempt to treat it as the historiographic engineering of Taiwanese contemporary art: “It has been five years since the TCAA’s preparation to date. According to its underlying philosophy, the TCAA is a strategic product designed more or less for the purpose of making up the deficiencies in the means and conditions for external connections. On the other hand, the category-based structure of the TCAA was gradually filled up with contents, which indicates not only that the developmental course of the TCAA per se constituted a piece of history worth rumination, but also that the wider issues it addresses certainly correspond to a specific piece of history of Taiwanese contemporary art—based on the acknowledgement of this fact, the history of the TCAA per se and the greater history to which it corresponds have indubitably become a key point when we are envisaging the future of the TCAA. However, arts involve more than facts, which is why we chose to name our forum in a more dynamic, organic way: An Imagined History.” See https://www.facebook.com/events/台灣當代一年展/藝術講座從資料庫到一段想像的歷史/1329418883862222 (retrieved on 30 Apr. 2020). 11 Joan Kee: Contemporary Korean Art-Tansaekhwa and the Emergency of Method, Univ Of Minnesota Press, 2013. 12 Joan Kee and Miwako Tezuka, “Dialogue: How Was History Written?” in Bijutsutecho, Special Issue, (Spring 2016), traditional Chinese version, p. 85. 13 Xing-Yue Lin: Forty Years of Taiwanese Fine Arts , Taipei, Independence Evening Post , 1987. Li-Fa Xie:The History of the Taiwanese Art Movements during the Japanese Occupation , Artist Publishers,5th edition, 1998. Xiou-Xiong Wang, “The Conservatism and Authoritarianism of the First-generation Taiwanese Painters and Their Impacts on the Post-war Western Painting in Taiwan,” in A Discussion of the Historical Development of Taiwan’s Art (Taipei: National Museum of History, 1995), pp. 174-179. 14 http://curatorsintensive.tw/david-teh/
4 Joan Kee: Contemporary Korean Art-Tansaekhwa and the Emergency of Method, Univ Of Minnesota Press, 2013.
5 Joan Kee and Miwako Tezuka, “Dialogue: How Was History Written?” in Bijutsutecho, Special Issue, (Spring 2016), traditional Chinese version, p. 85.

6 Xing-Yue Lin: Forty Years of Taiwanese Fine Arts, Taipei, Independence Evening Post , 1987. Li-Fa Xie:The History of the Taiwanese Art Movements during the Japanese Occupation , Artist Publishers,5th edition, 1998. Xiou-Xiong Wang, “The Conservatism and Authoritarianism of the First-generation Taiwanese Painters and Their Impacts on the Post-war Western Painting in Taiwan,” in A Discussion of the Historical Development of Taiwan’s Art (Taipei: National Museum of History, 1995), pp. 174-179.

7 http://curatorsintensive.tw/david-teh

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Author
Jau-Lan Guo is an associate professor of modern and contemporary art, theories of art history, and curatorial practice at the Taipei National University of the Arts. Her doctoral dissertation specifically addressed the question as to how American art criticism formulated an anti-modernist version of post-modern art theory by interpreting Robert Rauschenberg and Neo-Dada in the 1960s. Her recent curatorial project  “On the Passage of a Few People through a Rather Brief Moment in Time”, co-curated with Michael Lin and Lee Ambrozy(安靜)  explores the possibilities of exhibition-making as art historiography.
Archive
Archive

Issue 4 Curatorial Consciousness in the Times of Post-Nationalism
Editorial /​ Curatorial Consciousness in the Times of Post-Nationalism Manray Hsu
When Kacalisian Culture Meets the Vertical City: Contemporary Art from Greater Sandimen Manray Hsu
Pathways and Challenges: Art History in the Context of Global Contemporary Art Jau-Lan Guo
Curating Commemoration: Conditions of Political Choreography, a Performance Exhibition in Retrospect Sophie Goltz

Issue 3 Curating Performativity
Editorial /​ Curating Performativity I-wen Chang
Choreographing Exhibitions: Performative Curatorgraphy in Taiwan I-wen Chang
Living and Working Together in the Now Normal: Visual Arts and Co. at Bangkok Art and Culture Centre Pawit Mahasarinand
The Curatorial as A Praxis of Disobedience Miya Yoshida

Issue 2 Curators' Living Rooms
Editorial /​ Curators' Living Rooms Sandy Hsiu-chih Lo
Extended Living Room: Space and Conversation ruangrupa(Ade Darmawan, Mirwan Andan)
Freeing the Weights of the Habitual Raqs Media Collective
Curating Topography Sandy Hsiu-chih Lo

Issue 1 Curatography
Editorial /​ One Step Forward, Two Steps Backward Hongjohn Lin
What is Curatography? Hongjohn Lin
Les fleurs américaines Yoann Gourmel, Elodie Royer​
There are No Blank Slates Eileen Legaspi Ramirez​
Issue 4 Curatorial Consciousness in the Times of Post-Nationalism

Issue 3 Curating Performativity

Issue 2 Curators' Living Rooms

Issue 1 Curatography