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David Teh: Auteur-Bureaucrat? The Curatorial Function in Asia

Online Lecture26 January 2021, 14:00online
Tai-an chashitsu in Myokian, Kyoto, Japan, photo: Culture Relics Foundation, Tokyo.Tai-an chashitsu in Myokian, Kyoto, Japan, photo: Culture Relics Foundation, Tokyo.

If contemporary art is a ‘global’ phenomenon, curators have been key protagonists in its globalisation and its emerging history. Yet the terms ‘curatorial’ and ‘contemporary’ are far from universal and still too rarely scrutinized. What defines the curatorial function and how does that differ from one time or place to another? In this lecture, David Teh will challenge some common assumptions about the role, assumptions which do not match the reality of curatorial practice in Asia. He will sketch a discontinuous history of the curatorial function, characterised by ambivalent relations to state power and bureaucracy, to art history, and to modernity itself. Such considerations may have been deferred while Asian curators sought an equal footing with the globetrotting taste-makers of the international art system. But as that system’s centre of gravity shifts towards Asia, they should not be put off any longer.

David Teh is a writer, curator and Associate Professor at the National University of Singapore. His research spans art history, critical and cultural theory with an emphasis on Southeast Asian modern and contemporary art. His curatorial projects include Unreal Asia (55. Internationale Kurzfilmtage Oberhausen, 2009); Video Vortex #7 (Yogyakarta, 2011); TRANSMISSION (Jim Thompson Art Center, Bangkok, 2014); Misfits: Pages from a Loose-leaf Modernity (Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin, 2017) and Returns (12th Gwangju Biennale, 2018). He is currently co-curating the 17th Istanbul Biennial (with Ute Meta Bauer and Amar Kanwar). Teh's writings have appeared in Third Text, Afterall, ARTMargins, Theory Culture & Society and Artforum. His book Thai Art: Currencies of the Contemporary was published in 2017 by MIT Press and he was co-editor (with David Morris) of Artist-to-Artist: Independent Art Festivals in Chiang Mai 1992-98 (2018) for Afterall's Exhibition Histories series.

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The lecture will be held in English language.

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