Asia Pacific Triennial: 10 memorable Watermall projects

 

To mark the tenth edition of the ‘Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art’ (APT) — at QAGOMA until 25 April — we look back at all the Gallery’s Watermall installations from 1993 until now — ten memorable Asia Pacific artist projects encompassing almost three decades. 

The Queensland Art Gallery was designed around the Brisbane River and the Watermall within the Gallery runs parallel to the waterway threading its way through the river city. This grand water feature is the Gallery’s most striking feature and a visitor favourite — the perfect backdrop for these spectacular installations. Always surprising, always inviting, what has been your most-loved Asia Pacific Triennial?

APT1 | 17 September 1993 – 5 December 1993

Kamol Phaosavasdi, Thailand b. 1958 / River of the King: Water pollution project one 1993 / Site specific work commissioned 1993 for ‘The First Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art’ (APT1) / Courtesy: Kamol Phaosavasdi
Shigeo Toya, Japan b.1947 / Woods III 1991-92 / Wood, ashes and synthetic polymer paint / 30 pieces: 220 x 30 x 30cm; 220 x 530 x 430cm (installed) / The Kenneth and Yasuko Myer Collection of Contemporary Asian Art. Purchased 1994 with funds from The Myer Foundation and Michael Sidney Myer through the Queensland Art Gallery Foundation and with the assistance of the International Exhibitions Program / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art / © Shigeo Toya

Tradition and Change

‘The First Asia-Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art’ (APT1) focused exclusively on the contemporary art of Asia and the Pacific. Originally intended as the first of three exhibitions in the series, APT1 brought together nearly 200 works by 76 artists from 13 countries and territories, informed by concepts of tradition and change in the region. The overwhelmingly positive international reaction to APT1 paved the way for future major exhibitions of contemporary Asian and Pacific art.

APT2 | 22 September 1996 – 19 January 1997

The Waka Collective featuring (left to right) My grandmother was born on a boat 1996 by Bronwynne Cornish, Pumice from the mountains 1993 by Chris Booth, and Kahukura 1995 by Brett Graham
Brett Graham, New Zealand b.1967 / Kahukura 1995 / Laminated pine / 160 x 220 x 200cm / Collection: Centre Culturel Tjibaou, Noumea / © Brett Graham

The Waka Collective

While the first Triennial looked at bringing the past into the now — ‘The Second Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art’ (APT2) focused on the time at hand. The exhibition concept of ‘present encounters’ meant engaging the immediate present in the works themselves.

The Watermall featured the Waka Collective, a collective of New Zealand/Polynesian artists located within the concept of two wakas (Maori canoes), one containing five men (Chris Booth, Brett Graham, John Pule, Peter Robinson and Ben Webb) and the other six women (Bronwynne Cornish, Judy Millar, Ani O’Neill, Lisa Reihana, Marie Shannon, and Yuk King Tan). Together, they create one Pacific narrative.


APT3 | 9 September 1999 – 26 January 2000

Cai Guo-Qiang, China b.1957 / Bridge Crossing 1999 / Bamboo, rope, rainmaking device, aluminum boat, and laser sensors / Site specific work commissioned 1999 for ‘The Third Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art’ (APT3) / Courtesy: Cai Guo-Qiang

Bridge Crossing

‘Beyond the Future: The Third Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art’ (APT3) emphasised artists whose works cross boundaries between past and future, and between traditional and contemporary life, with many works inviting audience interaction.

Cai Guo-Qiang explored the meeting of cultures with his narrow bamboo suspension bridge Bridge Crossing. Spanning the Watermall, the crossing made you consider whether to back up and make way for the other to cross, or consider how to allow each other to pass, eventually enchanting visitors with a spritz of fine mist who successfully made it past the central meeting point.


APT4 | 12 September 2002 – 27 January 2003

Yayoi Kusama, Japan b.1929 / Narcissus garden 1966/2002 / Stainless steel balls / 2,000 balls (approx.) / Site specific work for ‘The 4th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art’ (APT4). Gift of the artist through the Queensland Art Gallery Foundation 2002 / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art / © Yayoi Kusama, Yayoi Kusama Studio Inc / Photographs: N. Harth © QAGOMA

Narcissus garden

The installation of the Gallery’s Narcissus garden is an incarnation of the reflective work that has held the artist’s attention for many years. Kusama creates a floating carpet of mirrored spheres, the balls reflecting the building’s architecture back onto itself from an infinite number of angles, creating a world that is both trapped and indefinite.

Comprised of approximately 2,000 mirrored balls, the spectacular and mesmerising Narcissus garden was conceived especially for installation in the Watermall during ‘The 4th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art’ (APT4), the work shaped by both the currents and the limits of the water.


APT5 | 2 December 2006 – 27 May 2007

Ai Weiwei, China b.1957 / Boomerang 2006 / Glass lustres, plated steel, electric cables, LED lamps / 700 x 860 x 290cm / Gift of the artist through the Queensland Art Gallery Foundation 2007 / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art / © Ai Weiwei / Photograph: J. Ruckli © QAGOMA
Ai Weiwei, China b.1957 / Pillar through round table 2004-05 / Pair of elmwood half tables assembled into a single table (Qing dynasty 1644- 1911), bisected horizontally by an ironwood pillar (Qing dynasty 1644-1911), on two ironwood pillar fragments / 140 x 656.5 x 123cm (installed) / Purchased 2006. The Queensland Government’s Gallery of Modern Art Acquisitions Fund / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art / © Ai Weiwei / Photograph: N. Harth © QAGOMA

Boomerang

Composed of 270,000 crystal pieces, Boomerang is a site specific work created for ‘The 5th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art’ (APT5), an imposing example of Ai Weiwei’s strategy of working playfully across cultural contexts. Shaped after the iconic Australian Aboriginal throwing tool, this oversized, intensely lit, waterfall-style chandelier fills the soaring space above the Watermall as if it were in a hotel’s grand foyer.

Ai Weiwei has a history of bringing everyday things into art museum settings. He has long acknowledged the influence of early-twentieth-century artist Marcel Duchamp, who famously brought otherwise banal objects into a gallery and declared them art, thereby creating the ‘readymade’. Accordingly, Boomerang takes the chandelier, with its connotations of wealth and opulence, and enlarges it to absurd scale, shaping it into the motif of an object associated with exotic conceptions of Australia.


APT6 | 5 December 2009 – 5 April 2010

Ayaz Jokhio, Pakistan b.1978 / a thousand doors and windows too… 2009 / MDF, wood, aluminium, paint / Site-specific work commissioned 2009 for ‘The 6th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art’ (APT6) / Courtesy: Ayaz Jokhio / Photograph: N. Harth © QAGOMA

a thousand doors and windows too…

Some of the artists in ‘The 6th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art’ (APT6) explored elements of architecture in their work. Ayaz Jokhio’s major architectural Watermall project, entitled a thousand doors and windows too… takes the form of an octagonal building, with each wall containing a mihrab, or niche, which in a mosque points toward Mecca.

The soaring structure takes its inspiration from the verse by Bhittai, the great Sindhi Sufi poet of the late Mughal era. Jokhio considers the work a piece of ‘conceptual architecture’; a physical translation of Bhittai’s expression of the omnipresence of God. As in the Islamic tradition of ‘hidden architecture’, its focus is on an internal, enclosed space, in which the work truly exists ‘only when entered, penetrated and experienced from within’.


APT7 | 8 December 2012 – 14 April 2013

Huang Yong Ping, China/France 1954-2019 / Ressort 2012 / Aluminium, stainless steel / Site-specific work for ‘The 7th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art’ (APT7). Commissioned 2012 with funds from Tim Fairfax AM through the Queensland Art Gallery Foundation / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art / © Estate of Huang Yong Ping / Photographs: M. Sherwood © QAGOMA

Ressort

The Gallery commissioned Ressort by Huang Yong Ping, one of the signature works of ‘The 7th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art’ (APT7). The gigantic aluminium snake skeleton dominated the Watermall as it spiraled 53 metres from the ceiling to the floor, as if coming down from the sky with its skull floating just above the water, metaphorically linking sky and water.

Part of a series of large-scale sculptures that depict a snake or dragon, a central symbol in Chinese culture, as well as in many other countries around the world, the work plays on different interpretations of the snake, from creation and temptation to wisdom and deception.


APT8 | 21 November 2015 – 10 April 2016

Haegue Yang, South Korea/Germany b.1971 / Sol LeWitt Upside Down – Open Modular Cubes (Small), Expanded 958 Times 2015 / Aluminium Venetian blinds, aluminium hanging structure, powder coating, steel wire / 560 x 1052.5 x 562.5 cm / Commissioned for ‘The 8th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art’ (APT8). Purchased 2015 with funds from Tim Fairfax, AC, through the Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art Foundation / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art / © Haegue Yang / Photograph: N. Harth © QAGOMA

Sol LeWitt Upside Down – Open Modular Cubes (Small), Expanded 958 Times

Haegue Yang transforms spaces through light, colour, objects and movement to ensure a constant shift in perception and experience. Sol LeWitt Upside Down Open Modular Cubes (Small), Expanded 958 Times consists of 1,012 white Venetian blinds, arranged into grids and suspended from the Watermall ceiling in an inverted and expanded rendition of the ‘open modular cube’ structures, signature works of American conceptual artist Sol LeWitt (1928-2007). 

Yang appropriates, up-scales and upturns this classic motif. Where LeWitt’s cubes were solid-edged, open-sided and made-to-order from industrial producers, Yang’s are impressionistic, created by arrangements of ready-made household blinds whose overlapping slats may be read as either open or closed, depending on the position of the viewer.


APT9 | 24 November 2018 – 28 April 2019

Donna Ong, Singapore b.1978 / Robert Zhao Renhui, Singapore b.1983 / My forest is not your garden 2015–18 / Mixed media installation / © The artists / Courtesy: The artists, FOST Gallery and ShanghART Gallery / Photograph: N. Harth © QAGOMA

My forest is not your garden

My forest is not your garden is a collaborative installation by Singaporean artists Donna Ong and Robert Zhao Renhui. A critical take on attitudes towards the natural world of the tropics, the installation integrates Ong’s evocative arrangements of artificial flora and tropical exotica titled From the tropics with love  with Zhao’s The Nature Museum, an archival display narrating aspects of Singapore’s natural history, both authentic and fabricated.


APT10 | 4 December 2021 – 25 April 2022

The fibrous souls 2018–21 / Photograph: C. Callistemon © QAGOMA
Kamruzzaman Shadhin, Bangladesh b.1974 / Gidree Bawlee Foundation of Arts Bangladesh, est. 2001; Collaborating artists: Johura Begum, Monowara Begum, Majeda Begum, Fatema Begum (1), Shabnur Begum, Chayna Begum, Fatema Begum (2), Samiron Begum, Shirina Begum, Rekha, Nasima Begum, Shushila Rani, Protima Rani, Akalu Barman / The fibrous souls 2018–21 / Jute, cotton, thread, clay, brass / 70 pots: 40–100cm each (diam.) (approx.) with 70 shikas of various dimensions / Originally commissioned by Samdani Art Foundation / Purchased 2021 with funds from Metamorphic Foundation through the Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art Foundation / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art / © The artists / Photograph: M. Tickle © QAGOMA

The fibrous souls

Over more than 20 years, Kamruzzaman Shadhin has developed new possibilities for contemporary art in Bangladesh, based on the communities of his home village, Balia, in the far north-western state of Thakurgaon. Suspended over the Watermall The fibrous souls is a collaborative installation by Kamruzzaman Shadhin and the Gidree Bawlee Foundation of Arts.

Constructed with 70 giant shikas — embroidered, reticulated bags typically made of jute strings that are tied to an exposed beam — The fibrous souls explores part of Bengal’s colonial history, inspired by the families that followed the railway tracks after the British East India Company established the Eastern Bengal Railway. Working with 13 women from jute-making families to construct the shikas, along with a handful of local craftspeople to create the pots and connecting jute ropes laid out as a map of the historic railway.

APT10

For this landmark tenth edition, the Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art at the Queensland Art Gallery and Gallery of Modern Art looks to the future of art and the world we inhabit together. It’s rich with stories of how to navigate through time and space, reimagine histories and explore connections to culture and place. APT10 includes 69 projects with new and recent work by emerging and established artists and collectives, together comprising more than 150 individuals from 30 countries.


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Featured image detail: Kamruzzaman Shadhin / Gidree Bawlee Foundation of Arts Bangladesh, est. 2001 The fibrous souls 2018–21 

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