Coffee, Cigarettes and Pad Thai
Coffee, Cigarettes and Pad Thai:
Contemporary Art in Southeast Asia
28 June - 27 July, 2008
Curator: Eugene Tan
Alvin Zafra, Poklong Anading, Louie Cordero, Ho Tzu Nyen, Winner Jumalon, Jane Lee, Donna Ong, Nippan Oranniwesna, Ana Prvacki, Pomtaweesak Ramsakul, Handiwirman Saputra, Manit Sriwanichpoom, Richard Streitmatter- Tran, Agus Suwage, Titarubi, Tintin Wulia, Wong Hoy Cheong
This exhibition aims to explore the state of contemporary art practice in Southeast Asia within the context of post-colonialism and globalisation. Coffee, cigarettes and Pad Thai can be seen as metaphors for Southeast Asia's relationship to the West.
The region is one of the top coffee producers in the world, through countries such as Vietnam and Indonesia. Yet, the coffee that is produced by these countries are often re-packaged by corporations in the West and introduced back to the region as lifestyle products, by multinational corporations such as Starbucks. Similarly, for cigarettes, of which Southeast Asia is also a major producer, the West has become aware of the health hazards of smoking and are attempting to reduce its consumption in its societies by banning advertising, among other measures. But in Southeast Asia, advertising by cigarette companies, owned by the West, is still widespread and the region is seen as one of the strong markets for cigarette consumption. While coffee and cigarettes highlight the economic relationship between Southeast Asia and the West, Pad Thai highlights the superficial perception that the West has about the region.
With the growing popularity of Thai food in the West, Pad Thai has become a popular and widely available dish in trendy Thai restaurants in American and European cities. This has had the effect where people in the West feel that they have an understanding of the region, through their engagement with the cuisine. Ironically, Pad Thai is also one of the earliest ways in which contemporary art from the region was introduced to the West, particularly through the work of Thai artist Rikrit Tiravanija, whose relational works in the early 1990s involved him cooking Pad Thai for visitors to his exhibition. Tiravanija has recently, also became the first Southeast Asian artist to have a solo exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum in New York, having won the Hugo Boss Prize in 2006. The popular dish of Pad Thai has therefore come to perform an important cultural role for Southeast Asia. This exhibition, therefore, serves to highlight how artists from the region are engaging in their own ways with these issues of globalisation that Southeast Asia finds itself in. In particular, it aims to examine the how this is being done through the diverse practices of the artists and within the context of their specific environments.
The Gleaners and the Ghillies (Construction). 2008. 120 x 80 cm. C-print. Edition 1 of 3.
My latest series of photographs, The Gleaners and the Ghillies, has been included in this exhibition. If you are in Taiwan, please do have a visit!