Arts & Learning reveals its 2014 theme as transnationalism

The The Wall and The Book, Pamela Kember, Asia Art Archive Hong Kong, 2009

The The Wall and The Book, Pamela Kember, Asia Art Archive Hong Kong, 2009

Arts & Learning reveals its 2014 theme as transnationalism

13 January 2014

By Pamela Kember

The theme of transnationalism will form the basis of a year-long arts and learning programme at Asia House explored through an ambitious series of talks, readings, and screenings.

To engage in a discourse on transnationalism is to articulate how the arts have the capacity to touch and mobilise people.

It is crucial in encouraging dialogue on experimental Asian culture, from literature to film, food, music to performance, and in exploring the implications for those interested in knowing how to look at the arts of Asia anew.

It is key to demystifying the cliché ridden Western hegemony by showing the importance of striving towards non-Western narratives, especially those experienced through the eyes of Asia’s diasporic communities, including artists living locally in the UK as well as what transnationalism means to young British Asians today.

The concept of transnationalism also refers to the increasing trans-border relations that affect identities, commerce and ideologies, reintroduced across national boundaries, nation states and around the globe articulating, reflecting the state of existence of a number of diasporic individuals and communities, constantly crossing borders, cultures and languages.

There is also a feeling of ‘home’, being where we are now – rather than where we come from – the concept of which will form part of a major conference we are planning at Asia House later this year.

Our first transnational event in January takes dance as its medium of expression, through ethnomusicologist and choreographer Menaka PP Bora’s highly engaging and interdisciplinary approach to movement, connecting cultures and artefacts.

From her engagement with Sanskrit manuscripts found in the Bodleian Library at Oxford, to her interest in reviving centuries old traditional Indian dance, Menaka blends research and practice to perform an innovative repertoire with her Sattriya Dance Theatre on  21 January.

Bringing artists closer to the public is our ambition for the newly-formed emerging Artists in Residence scheme throughout 2014.  The Artist in Residence for the early part of the year is Japanese-born London-based multimedia artist Eiko Soga.

She will articulate her transcultural experience through a number of encounters with her environment here at Asia House, and in particular with the library, to express her interest in language, translation, mistranslation and collective memory.

For the sociologist Manuel Castells, our understanding of self and of social identity forms an opposing force to the ‘net’ where we encounter what he coined a ‘space of flows’ – global information networks – that create our sense of belonging locally and globally, whilst also shaping our concept of memory, and at times, creating a sense of rootlessness.

The ARTiculations series emerges from a long-term interest in conversations between artists, curators, filmmakers and performers.

I took up my first interview whilst programming the arts for Radio Television Hong Kong, when I met with artist Ai Wei Wei in Beijing in 1998 (he had returned from the USA five years earlier) having been introduced to him at his printing works.

Pamela Kember Head Arts and Learning

Pamela Kember
Head of Arts and Learning

Even at that early stage, his hopes for younger generations of artists in China was to open up a dialogue with Western modern and contemporary art, by including essays, interviews and articles in printed form within his own published books.

I still have the set of his illustrated Black Cover, White Cover and Grey Cover Books that he gave to me in the street outside just before turning his back to return inside.

That is how I came to admire his position as disseminator of vital information and communicator of curatorial ideas on visual art practices within China; speaking as the voice of emerging practitioners alongside other artists such as Xu Bing, Zeng Xiao Jun, and another noteworthy curator and art critic, Li Xianting who articulated some of the key concepts defining art from China today.

ARTiculations at Asia House commence on 25 February with myself being in conversation with the innovative, documentary filmmaker, Sophie Fiennes, after we screen her most recent film, Liu Xiadong: Half Street, in collaboration with the Beijing-based artist.

Liu Xiadong spent a six-week residency in London last year, and during this period he began interacting with residents, and those working in local pubs and cafes, painting some of their portraits which  were then shown in an exhibition at London’s Lisson Gallery.

The Arts and Learning programme also aims to develop greater interaction and exchange between the different contemporary identities and cultures of Asia in the age of globalisation here in London.

We look forward to sharing conversations and to generating new networks for artistic and cultural programming at Asia House over the coming year, by producing a dialogue amongst cultural practitioners both in Britain and internationally.


Pamela Kember
Head Arts and Learning