press release

Migration: Speaking Nearby
A project by the Goethe-Institut in collaboration with the Asia Culture Center and Asia Culture Institute
November 23, 2019–February 23, 2020

Migration: Speaking Nearby, an exhibition organized in collaboration by the Asia Culture Center/Asia Culture Institute and the Goethe-Institut Korea, marks the final journey in the “Migration Narratives in East and Southeast Asia” project, sharing the outcomes of an effort launched as an initiative by the Goethe-Institut and continued from 2018. Staged as part of “ACC PRISM,” an annual exhibition project since ACC’s opening with a focus on exchange and cooperation with various culture and arts institutions in Korea and overseas, the exhibition is significant as an attempt to approach Asian history, society, and culture from a new perspective through the general theme of “migration,” which has emerged as a major contemporary global issue.

Movements and exchanges of people and cultures have become routine in today’s globalized society. Transnational migrations pose a challenge to the “nation-state” system and concepts such as boundaries, identity, belonging, civil rights, divisions of “us” and “them,” and representational methods that are established upon it. At a global level, migration has operated as a key driving force for social and cultural transformation, amplifying both its diversity and its complexity. Yet a contradictory set of circumstances exists behind today’s migrations: even as they happen at scales and rates never before seen in human history, border controls and restrictions on people’s movements are being intensified. How are we to perceive and understand the different facets and circumstances of migration, or the resulting social and cultural transformation, diversity, and complexity? If we are to understand that images possess influence and power not only on the ways in which migration appears but also how it is understood and addressed, then how might we approach and discuss the topic of migration through visual arts? What is the relationship between art and migration, and how do they interact?

Starting from these questions, the project “Migration Narratives in East and Southeast Asia” and the exhibition Migration: Speaking Nearby project were designed and developed in conjunction with nine curators active in nine different Asian cities (Seoul, Gwangju, Beijing, Hong Kong, Ulaanbaatar, Taipei, Singapore, Bangkok, and Jakarta), as well as 21 artists/artist groups invited by them and various other collaborators. Individual projects proposed by the each of them were developed in an open and multilayered process of interaction and relationship-forming through seminars and workshops in Korea and Germany and small-scale exhibitions, group exhibitions, and discussions in Beijing, Ulaanbaatar, and Hong Kong. Sharing the various new works created through individual projects along with existing works by some of the participating artists and artist groups, the exhibition suggests different perspectives and approaches to the multilayered and complex aspects and circumstances of migration, with a focus on East and Southeast Asia.

The English-language title of the exhibition, Speaking Nearby, was borrowed from an expression used in an interview by the filmmaker, writer, composer, and scholar Trinh T. Minh-Ha. According to Minh-Ha, “speaking nearby” sets itself apart from “speaking about”; it refers to an indirect form of speaking that does not objectify topics and subjects but reflects upon itself and is capable of approaching topics and subjects from up close. The concept, which reflects a complex consideration of Minh-Ha’s cinematic representation, is introduced into the exhibition as a key concept encompassing the curators’ and artists’ different perspectives, methodologies, and attitudes regarding the topic of migration. In that sense, the exhibition posits its different works of art as an open-ended, multilayered, and polyphonic way of “speaking nearby” about migration—an open-ended and polyphonic form of speaking nearby that we hope is carried on and spread elsewhere through audience engagement.

Nomintuya Baasankhuu, Enoch Cheng, Meiya Cheng, Soyean Goak, Haeju Kim, Penwadee Nophaket Manont, Shabbir Hussain Mustafa, Julia Sarisetiati, Xia Yanguo

Jee-Ae Lim / Byambanyam Urtnasan, Tuguldur Munkh-Ochir, Munkhbaatar Surenjav(Bodikhuu), Enkhbat Natsagdorj / Ikhbayar Urchuud / Narandulam Altantsetseg, Turbold Saran / Genevieve Quick / SHIMURAbros / Jen Liu / Ming Wong / Enoch Cheng / Mixrice / Ayoung Kim / Wang Chong / Tao Hui / Cheng Jen Pei / PULANG-PERGI Project Team: Teguh Safarizal, Riza Syahrial, Ube Dwi Suryasumirat, Deasy Elsara, Julia Sarisetiati, Ary Sendy, Nissal Nur Afryansah, Liemena Sapriya Putra, Budi Mulia, Gusti Enda Pratama / Indo K-Work Project Team: Julia Sarisetiati, Ary Sendy, Liemena Sapriya Putra, Yoppie Adhijaya, Muhammad Fatchurofi / Eisa Jocson / Jun Yang / Pathompon “Mont” Tesprateep / Pius Sigit Kuncoro / Penwadee Nophaket Manont (Rai.D Collective)

Hosted by Asia Culture Center
Co-organized by Asia Culture Institute, Goethe-Institut Korea