The Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo, the National Museum of Art in Osaka, Singapore Art Museum and QAGOMA have collaborated to produce ‘Time of others’ — an exhibition of artworks drawn from all four museum collections and shown alongside loans and new works. Here, we expand on time as a useful device for considering other cultures and social systems.
As its title suggests, time figures prominently across ‘Time of others’. It is most visible in On Kawara’s iconic ‘date’ paintings, which both record the passage of time and fix its moments, in Heman Chong’s 1001 calendars from future dates both near and far, and in the 24 ticking clocks in Bruce Quek’s bracing installation The Hall of Mirrors 2015. But it is also present in Danh Vo’s 2.2.1861 (2009–ongoing), whose date is about all that will be interpretable to the man handcopying a letter written in a language he cannot understand; as the timespan of the existence of an effaced manifestation of the intersection of historical and social contexts in Saleh Husein’s installation Arabian Party 2013; or as a terrible force in Vandy Rattana’s MONOLOGUE 2013, where the year 1978 manifests itself in the death of a family member in Khmer Rouge-era Cambodia. And it mediates a range of historical narratives: the nineteenth-century geological exploration of Japan; deceit and treason in the Malayan independence movement; conditions in Okinawa at the end of the Pacific War.
‘Time of others’ is a group exhibition produced as a collaboration between four of the Asia Pacific region’s leading institutions for collecting and exhibiting contemporary art: the Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo; the National Museum of Art, Osaka; Singapore Art Museum; and QAGOMA. Its title derives from the Japanese tanin no jikan, indicating the simple courtesy of respecting other people’s time. Time is something experienced both individually and collectively; encompassing diverse simultaneous existences, it offers a fascinating device for thinking through encounters between people, cultures and social systems.
The project emerged from conversations between curators based at each museum, and sought to deepen this dialogue while profiling the role of public institutions in representing and sustaining cultural practices in the region. Given the distinct contexts across which ‘Time of others’ would be staged — East and West Japan, the city-state of Singapore, and the urbanised east coast of Australia — it was determined that the exhibition’s structure would be somewhat fluid, with artists and works dropping in and out of the project as it moved between venues, with consideration of local audiences, conditions and artistic programs. In all, 25 artists have been involved in ‘Time of others’, with holdings drawn from the collections of all four museums shown alongside loans and new works by invited artists. The Brisbane version of the show is its fourth and final edition, having already toured to Tokyo, Osaka and Singapore in 2015 and 2016.
Attention to the geographical context of the venues and audiences for ‘Time of others’ extends to the choice of artists, works and themes. The Asia Pacific is a concept that defies easy definition. The notion of a discreet, homogenous continental or maritime unity is foreign to the region. Endeavours to define geographical borders or identity systems of cultural affinities have therefore been invariably based on political agendas and ideological assumptions. Attempts to enforce such systems have, at various times, created psychic fault lines that remain active today, especially when it comes to histories of conflict and repression. While such traumas remain unresolved, the geopolitical conditions of the regions are ever shifting. Engendering both opportunity and disparity at cultural and economic levels, globalisation has accelerated internal contradictions within the Asia Pacific: while the region arguably remains as unacceptable ‘other’ to itself, it is also home to expanding markets and potential political allies.
With respect to this juncture, ‘Time of others’ focuses on the question of how difference and otherness are constructed, maintained or challenged in contemporary Asian and Pacific societies today. ‘Otherness’, here, is considered to operate not along racial, sexual, class or religious lines, where the recognition of difference would revolve around simply representing the subordinated other. Rather, it is posited as a potentiality that operates within individuals and communities, which might enable them to think beyond fixed identities, enabling an ethic of sharing — a politics not of identity, but of assemblage. In this sense otherness, rather than a force of division, can be a source of renewal that may yet allow us to establish genuine understanding through the recognition of difference in its various dimensions.
For all of the darker historical moments touched on in ‘Time of others’, there is an abiding sense of hope for reconciliation and renewal. This is expressed in gestures such as the melody that can be shared by anyone for any reason created in Lim Minouk’s International Calling Frequency 2011, a riotous archival installation that fictionalises a 1970s punk rock band popular in Indonesia and Queensland in ruangrupa’s The Kuda 2012, or the beautiful potential with which any encounter between cultures is pregnant in Jonathan Jones’s light installation lumination fall weave 2006. But is also encapsulated in a comment by the Martinican poet Édouard Glissant quoted by exhibition co‑curator Che Kyongfa in the exhibition’s beautifully designed catalogue: ‘I can change through exchange with the other, without losing or diluting my sense of self’.
The exhibition is organised by the Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art, the Japan Foundation Asia Center, Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo, National Museum of Art, Osaka, and the Singapore Art Museum.