March 8th 2014 was the day that an alliance of culture activists in three countries, Japan, Korea and Taiwan, have signed a declaration out on a boat off Tokyo Bay’s international waters. That cold wintry ride is for a serious purpose. That Art workers of these three representative signatory agree that there should be no more political boundaries between countries and thus will lead to less political and geographical conflicts in the region. As artists, they agree that they are not there to oppose any government bodies, but as culture workers, actively provide an alternative voice to the public, that if we dispense with territorial demarcations of national boundaries, and just back to human relationship from near to far, we will be able to reach that higher vision of post WWII United Nation. Nation-state are in fact now, going into regional networking as is the current trend of urban and rural regional governments, collaborating between regional counterparts for ways to revitalization and best serve their citizens, such as evidenced EU and ASEAN regions. While global businesses are going to invest and seek the best talents wherever they are regardless of the national tax boundaries. Global connectivity via virtual portals is the fastest melting pot for us citizens of the world now.
Thus we can see that these artists are not real anarchists nor dreamers, but in fact a far thinking group who propose a better concept for the future direction of our three respective nation’s struggling under current territorial quagmire. The person who initiated this movement is WU Dar Kuen, chief curator at the National Taipei University of the Arts’ Kuan Du Museum. How did he come about this?
His vision is not one off, but clearly based on his curatorial works of recent years. Where he first curatored in Kaohsiong Museum of Fine Arts in 2012, (the politically sensitive and yet important 100th anniversary of the Republic of China) that facing that identity issue of what is really Chinese-ness, that we may see in retrospect and also foresee, a nation with no citizens. a very important concept was born. If each individual feels it unnecessary to identify him or herself with any specific national status, then we just be who we are, and where we live is where we call home that matters!
He curated a wide expanse of artists in the Asian region in this current AAA exhibition, with Tokyo Wondersite as the main organizer and host organizer, and inter-connected parallel exhibits in over ten other galleries and spaces, with art works of by artists of similar mind. These works will raise that awareness of all viewers of the way we are living now and the reality of our social, environmental and political constrains that we need to address that, if humanity is to move forward.
This article is not a review of these works at the exhibit, which are really of top in quality and diversity of views toward the main theme, but to let our readers understand how WU Dar Kuen came to being such a globally visionary curator that can challenge such issues with artistic persuasions.
His artist turn curator started through his various long stays as artist in residencies in many programs from the Nordic Center in Finland in the 90s to ISCP in NYC and various locations, where he met with many other of similar minds living and working together under that same residency of the foreign countries that hosted them. That opportunity of human coexistence gave him a true understanding of other nationalities. That these artists became his ‘global best friends’ on FB and other similar apps, these tools provided him constant connectivity in relationships which melted way the edge of national and cultural divide.
Back home he became that much more aware that he needs to work closely with our contemporary artists in Taiwan for internal networking and collaboration via such spaces as VT Salon where he co-managed thme up to par as the global scen is evolving. Soon he was asked to refer Taiwanese artists to other friends and curators whom he had met and that, in no time, he was asked to be co-curator for various projects and festivals. These has transformed his career as a digital artists of high caliber to a curator of global presence.
But what is most important to note is that without these diverse residency opportunities he will and cannot be who is today. Without the chance of visiting and revisiting his wide network of contacts in the region, he could not pull this off at all. His project is undertaken by Tokyo Wondersite as a new trial project, co- sponsorship by the Taiwan National Culture and arts foundation, for an international curatorial residency project. As an opportunity to establish a bilateral exchanges between Taipei and Tokyo. Without this pilot program that permitted him to have a clear research and investigation period as curatorial residency he would not have been able to reach out towards such a far and wide scope, and with such depth of understanding of his concept by all participating partners.
Similarly, it is worthy of note that it is not his first trip to Tokyo as a resident, but many times, the first time being 2008 where he went as an artist to a three month residency to Tokyo Wondersite program. Tokyo Wondersite has been over a decade, a think tank in support of creative thinkers globally, their mission is quite holistic in respect of the culture worker, is contribution to the city itself in the long run. It is run as part of the city agency with much visionary intentions for the city, under the leadership fo this residency founder / director Mr. Imamura. Creative talents will work hard for their own choice of engagement, and concrete outcomes are not required while support in kind is wide and forthcoming. It is this mutual trust and mutual understanding that makes the project Asian Anarchy Alliance that opened March 8th possible. this sort of development takes time and requires openness and respect from many parties concerned. This is what we should treasure and give thanks, on Wu Dar Kuen’s behalf to both, the National Foundation for this curatorial residency pilot program, and to the Tokyo city government and Tokyo Wondersite for the trust of his artistic vision.
In closing let us restate again the importance of curatorial residencies. The recent opening of other important curators such as TCAC chair person, Cheng Meiya at Queens Museum last fall in New York was also an outcome of her residency as a curator in ISCP NYC, under our Ministry of Culture, and the next coming event this fall, will be that of our senior artist/curator WU Mali after her residency investigation in Hong Kong the past year. They have important message to show to the arts community overseas. As we have remarked repeatedly that residencies are not just for visual artists, but for diverse culture workers of various fields that need support for time to travel, to see, to meet others of like or different minds, and that little outcome should be expected upon immediate return. In proportion, curators are the least supported in many ways, as travel to important events and exhibits are crucial for their professional development. Many have commented that they are hindered by lack of such support to investigative groundwork’s which to many other industry it will be the equivalent of basic papers and conference attendance needed for their R&D for their trade.
If we wish to have higher quality curators to replace or work with international curators we need to support more of these curatorial residencies for our young curators in Taiwan and similarly support those from overseas to come here to do in depth investigations on our current art scene so that our artist do get to go out and beyond those promoted by our MOC exhibition programs or festivals under that auspice. We need diversity of ways to reach beyond, via alternative culture diplomacy for regional and global understanding. AAA as intended by WU Dar Kuen should and can go beyond if supported, to a global arena. Maybe he can try for maybe the next G10 meeting or the Tokyo Olympics?