As an institution central to Asian contemporary art, the MMCA has been organizing the Asia Project focusing on Asian contemporary art since 2017. The exhibition How Little You Know About Me (7 April–8 July 2018), held as the first edition of this project, proposed Asia as more than a geological identity and as a new and critical perspective on the world.
Deploying the concept of “family” to represent social solidarity, this year’s second-edition exhibition Looking for Another Family presents Asia as a public platform on which to discuss and share diverse issues concerning the Asian territory. In this scheme, the museum serves as an open space for discussion, gathering people of all generations and socioeconomic statuses for artists and audiences to envision “another form of a family”—a fluid platform for empathy and solidarity.
Featured in this exhibition are 15 teams of artists from eight Asian countries—Korea, China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines—who depart from contemplation on their own identities to explore wider realms of consciousness: their own communities, societies, countries, and eventually, the world. The artists also offer opportunities for viewers to involve themselves in active communication not only through artworks comprising performances, photographs, and videos, but also through workshops in the forms of a snack cart, farming, an investment booth, a music video screening, a newsroom, and a roundtable discussion.
Gallery 5 inspects aspects of individuals within communal groups, shedding light on the confines of a social system run by dichotomous logic and their impact on the human body and mind. Kang Seung Lee (Korea) sets up a lounge-style bookstore under the title Imaginaries of the Future, documenting the past, present, and future of the Korean LGBTQ community through installation and drawing. Through a series of photographs, Tandia Permadi (Indonesia) talks about his inner conflict associated with the gender role assigned to him by his family. Centering on shamanistic performances, Dew Kim (Korea) discusses issues of queerness and gender along with the concepts of transhuman and posthuman through a K-pop–style music video. Born in Korea and raised in Japan, artist Jong YuGyong contemplates through the Letter of a private the military service duty imposed on him by South Korea in light of his sense of belonging to neither Japan nor South or North Koreas. Ni Hao (Taiwan) presents a sculptural recorder shaped like tangled tree roots to make a statement about the biased music education centering on Western instruments. Atsushi Watanabe (Japan) puts on a performance of demolishing a concrete house as a representation of his experience as a hikikomori (a socially reclusive person who lives in seclusion) and the process of his recovery. Eisa Jocson (Philippines) presents Superwoman KTV, karaoke room inviting the audience to sing and dance along to the songs of The Filipino Superwoman Band, the lyrics of which describe the emotional labor required of female workers. RESBAK, a collective group of Filipino artists, and South Ho Siu Nam (Hong Kong) present videos and photos exposing the horrors of state violence while Isaac Chong Wai (Hong Kong) presents One Sound of the Futures, a video performance involving 240 people in Hong Kong, Wuhan (China), and Gwangju (Korea).
The works displayed in the communal space in the hallway and Gallery Madang talk about “another family,” a place where empathy and solidarity begin to form as a way to find solutions to the problems addressed in the works in Gallery 5. As a collaboration project, 98B COLLABoratory, HUB Make Lab, and KANTINA (Philippines) co-present Turo-Turo (meaning “to teach” in English), sharing food and thoughts around a snack cafeteria to propose casual discussion and alliance. Jatiwangi Art Factory (Indonesia) and Budnamugage (Korea)’s collaboration project On the Way to Investment makes the form of an investment booth, inviting visitors to discuss and question the capitalist view of land—the basic condition for life—as an investment item. YeeI-Lann joins a small resident community in Sabah, Malaysia, to weave the community’s historical memories and ironies into a large-scale woolen work using traditional handcraft techniques. Feminist Designer Social Club (FDSC) presents FDSC News, introducing female designers based in Korea and their activities.
Finally, featured in Gallery 6 is Obsessions, a video piece by Wang Tuo (China). This piece observes the history of a symbolic building in central Beijing built in the 1950s from the perspective of an architect under hypnosis, portraying the futility of an ideal that was believed to last unchanged.
The project Looking for another family seeks to suggest alternatives to traditional ideas of economic or technological efficiency by exploring new concepts of ‘family’; expanding the word beyond its traditional definition, where it is primarily used to emphasize biological or/and marital relationships, and in doing so dealing with the importance of addressing a problem from diverse perspectives based on the different experiences and values of individuals. During this time of global uncertainty, the world seems vulnerable to the dangers of isolation and conflict. Looking for Another Family suggests that these threats have always been there, invisible but active, and encourages us to look at them in a more explicit manner. By reflecting upon what we can learn from the unveiling of previously unseen tensions, the exhibition seeks to explore the possibility of 'another family,' with whom we can share emotions and search for solutions to urgent issues, repositioning the term in order to experiment with generating a sense of social solidarity.
The exhibition starts with a focus on the self, exploring identity and the roles imposed on individuals by society, and expands to examine the connections between much larger structures such as societies, nations, and the world. The public space in the hallway and Gallery Madang, which can be found upon exiting the exhibition, are designed as a platform to further discussion around the issues raised by the artworks and to build emotional solidarity. With these missions at the heart of the show, various supplementary events have been organized to expand the audience experience beyond the exhibition, and to create a more active platform for discussing and empathizing with the central themes of each work of art. These events, including interactive workshops, roundtables, performances, a newsroom, a farm, an real estate investment briefing, film screenings, and karaoke take place over the three-month period of the exhibition, encouraging the audience to more actively engage with the artworks. Through the program of events we explore alternative concepts of family and the possibility of new solidarity based upon empathy.
In the face of many different issues, it is often hard to find the answer to the question of 'what's next?' While it may be impossible to find a single clear definition or solution to the problems present in our societies, this exhibition posits that empathy and understanding of each other through the formation of lasting relationships are the power and energy that can further fruitful discussions. Against this backdrop, we set the museum as a space for anyone to gather and discuss these ideas freely, regardless of age or socio-economic class. The other ‘family' that we imagine through this project ruptures rigid and fixed frameworks and presents a flexible platform for empathy and solidarity.