Stealing Public Space examines a methodology of Southeast Asian contemporary art that co-opts different types of public space to engage and empower the public on collective, social issues.
From the 1970s onwards, and more markedly after 1990, Southeast Asian artistic practices have engaged plural audiences in discourses about social issues. To ensure viewership beyond the elite confines of the art gallery; or, when institutional galleries are unreceptive to experimental art, practitioners have found alternative urban locations for their works: the street, shopping-malls, cemeteries, public transport, public housing void decks and walls, disused dwellings, religious buildings, and rooftops.
These installations, performances, sound-pieces, and murals have been created specifically for such unorthodox spaces, where the artists work within a locus’ particular physical and symbolic attributes. Rather than as a mere stylistic endeavour, this site-specificity emerges from necessity, due to the dearth of exhibition venues, as well as a desire to activate art as incursion into public zones, physical, and sometimes intangible. These incursions may not always be tolerated by city officials and authorities.
Curated by Iola Lenzi, Stealing Public Space explores the connection between innovating art languages, the city, and its public and symbolic spaces through historical and newly-commissioned works, several of which invite audience participation. The exhibition features a selection of Southeast Asian artists, including Sutee Kunavichayanont (Thailand), Dinh Q. Le (Vietnam), Lee Wen (Singapore), Restu Ratnaningtyas (Indonesia), Jakkai Siributr (Thailand), Vertical Submarine (Singapore), and Vu Dan Tan (Vietnam). The exhibition postures that public urban space is often a key component of art, with practitioners creating their pieces for urban locales where public visibility, exposure, and response are assured; Sutee Kunavichayanont’s History Class (2000), installed at the foot of Bangkok’s Democracy Monument is one example.
Stealing Public Space is part of The Substation’s 2019/20 programme season, A Public Square.
Opening Reception, Performance, and Artist Panel
14 January, 5pm–9pm
Body to Body (video still), Chaw Ei Thein, 2016. Image courtesy of Min Min Hein