Asia Pacific Triennial: Navigating new futures


For almost three decades, QAGOMA’s landmark exhibition series, the Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art (APT) has focused on the art of one of the most socially and culturally diverse regions of the world. Throughout this geographic expanse, the contexts in which art practices emerge are constantly changing in tandem with social and political conditions.

RELATED (Part 2): APT10: New futures imagined

Currently, this change is happening with unprecedented speed and dynamism. The tenth edition of APT looks towards the future of art and the contemporary conditions we face in the world together. The exhibition reveals artists rethinking relationships locally and globally, reimagining cultural knowledge and practices to fluidly meet evolving circumstances, and giving vision to new worlds and futures in the face of fragility and uncertainty.

Gordon Hookey , Waanyi people, Australia b. 1961 / MURRILAND! 2017 / Oil on canvas / 210 x 1000 cm / Gifted by the citizens of the Gold Coast to future generations 2019 / Collection: HOTA Gallery, Gold Coast / © Gordon Allan Hookey/Copyright Agency, 2021

Within its broader contingent of 69 projects by some 150 artists, APT10 features four co-curated sections that draw together multiple practitioners. These encompass indigenous futurisms from Taiwan; the story songs of the Uramat people of East New Britain; historical and contemporary exchanges between Yolngu and Macassan communities in north-east Arnhem Land and southern Sulawesi; and a celebration of the strength and diversity of artistic expression in the islands and atolls of northern Oceania. The Australian Centre of Asian and Pacific Art (ACAPA), the triennial’s research arm, provides the framework for initiatives that further broaden the community involved in the APT in focused and meaningful ways. The ACAPA Pacifika Community Engagement project, co-created with a group of ten dynamic local representatives, specifically platforms the knowledge and values of Pacific communities in south-east Queensland. In addition, APT10 has played host to the inaugural Creative New Zealand Pacific Curator Residency (Australia) with Auckland-based artist and curator Natasha Matila-Smith, and also includes learning initiatives driven by artist-in-residence Brian Fuata.

Brian Fuata, Aotearoa New Zealand/Australia b.1978 / Performance documentation of filming of Errantucation (mist opportunities) 2021 / Performance improvisations filmed at QAGOMA on 23 June, 31 August and 30 September 2021: three-channel HD video, 16:9, 15 minutes, colour, sound / Commissioned for APT10. Purchased 2021 with funds from the Jennifer Taylor Bequest through the Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art Foundation / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art / © Brian Fuata / Photograph: Chloë Callistemon © QAGOMA
Lee Paje, The Philippines b.1980 / The Stories that weren’t told 2019 / Oil on copper mounted on wood / 243.84 x 300cm / Purchased 2021 with funds from Terry and Mary Peabody and Mary-Jeanne Hutchinson through the Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art Foundation / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art / © Lee Paje

Presented throughout the entirety of the Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) and the central spaces of the Queensland Art Gallery (QAG), APT10 is staged with an ambition of scale and richness of materiality, while continuing to explore ideas around what constitutes contemporary art in the region. The vast majority of its latest edition consists of new works and — while the exhibition doesn’t seek to explore a singular thematic premise — commonalities and dialogues begin to manifest as artists represent their ideas and cultures and respond to their contemporary situations.

Mayur Vayeda, b.1992 and Tushar Vayeda b.1987, Warli people, India / Dhartari: The creation of the world (detail) 2021 / Water based colour and cow dung on cloth / 18 parts: 148 x 3162cm (overall) / Commissioned for APT10. Purchased 2021 with funds from Ashby Utting Foundation through the Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art Foundation / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art / © Mayur and Tushar Vayeda

The future is now a more urgent subject than ever; in response, artists in APT10 position future thinking around diverse voices and possibilities. Critical to new perspectives are artists examining their cultural knowledge, practices and histories for current and emerging generations. An epically-scaled painting from Waanyi artist Gordon Hookey’s ‘MURRILAND!’ series (illustrated) will be shown for the first time in APT10. It paints a broad story of Australia’s creation and history on the lands in and around where APT10 takes place, raising questions of how, who and for what purpose such histories were written. Other questions of our perception of history manifest in Lee Paje’s re-visioning of creation stories (illustrated) across a series of interlinked oil paintings on copper, where gender and race are no longer the frames used to understand history and identity. Also drawing on stories of creation are indigenous Warli brothers Mayur and Tushar Vayeda, from the village of Ganjad, India, (illustrated) who apply the distinct techniques of Warli painting to illustrate their creation story at a scale and level of detail unprecedented in the centuries-old tradition of Warli painting, across a series of paintings more than 30 metres in length.

Subash Thebe Limbu, Yakthung people, Nepal/United Kingdom b.1981 / NINGWASUM (still, detail) 2020–21 / Single-channel video: 16:9, colour, sound, 40 minutes (approx.) / Purchased 2021. Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art Foundation / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art / © Subash Thebe Limbu

These rewritings are also central to ideas of indigenous futurism as artists draw on materials, techniques and knowledge for new social conditions and broad audiences, conjuring ways in which cultures carry agency ahead. In a cinematic science-fiction inspired video filmed at the foothills of the Himalayas in Nepal, Subash Thebe Limbu (illustrated), for example, has developed his work around imagining a future that gives indigenous people ‘agency to imagine and carry out thought experiments and see themselves in the future practising Indigenous knowledge, ideas along with science and technology’.1 The sentiment similarly resonates with the ‘indigenous punk’ contributions of Amis choreographer Fangas Nayaw (illustrated). While noting that time is not linear, but rather composed of multiple concentric circles, Nayaw proposes a ‘code of action’ based on the condition that the future will be better than the past.2

Tarun Nagesh is Curatorial Manager, Asian and Pacific Art, QAGOMA;
Reuben Keehan is Curator, Contemporary Asian Art, QAGOMA; and
Ruth McDougall is Curator, Pacific Art, QAGOMA.
Part 1: This is an edited extract from the QAGOMA publication The 10th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art

1 Subash Thebe Limbu, ‘Adivasi Futurism’ (unpublished essay), 2020.
2 Fangas Nayaw, artist statement supplied to the authors, May 2020.

RELATED (Part 2): APT10: New futures imagined

Fangas Nayaw, Amis people, Taiwan b.1987 / La XXX punk 2021 / Four-channel video: 16:9, 30 minutes, colour, sound / © Fangas Nayaw / Image courtesy: The artist and Taiwan Indigenous Peoples Cultural Development Centre

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On display in ‘The 10th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art’ at the Queensland Art Gallery and Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane from 4 December 2021 to 26 April 2022