For this exhibition, ten artists have been commissioned to produce new works especially for the Asian Culture Center. In their works, these artists reflect on the meaning of “modernity” in Asia. The breathtaking speed of economic and technological modernization in recent decades has overshadowed deep-seated conflicts that derive from the earlier periods – from pre-modern times, from the era Western colonialism, and the subsequent period of the creation of modern nation-states and from the Cold War, which, arguably, has not come to an end especially in Korea.
Since the early days of Western colonialism, modernity proceeds everywhere by technologies of mapping and classification. It conquers the world as a map and by turning everything into data. Today, through digital technology, it is no longer only the territory, the landscape and all things that are mapped and classified, but all of life.
Beyond the divisions of nationality and historical conflict, what connects “Asia” today? The coming of “modernity” and of modern state order has been a process of great violence and suffering. Many forms of life are being destroyed. Aside from modern science and technology, the state and economy have been the main engines of modernization, such that we can only think of our identities today in relation to both. But the memory of past violence and suffering is deeply inscribed into the collective psyche, but often in conflict with such official history and idenity. In order to overcome the divisions of national identity, and to critically reflect and understand the processes of modernization on a larger scale, it is important to develop new forms of historical narration.
The artists in this exhibition tell alternative histories of Asian modernities. The artworks here find images for histories told from below the official state narratives, which connect people beyond the borders created by violent conflict. And they are histories that bring together ancient myth with our contemporary times, creating new imaginaries of the old and the new.