Installation and New Media Art
The very question of whether photography is or is not an art is essentially a misleading one. Although photography generates works that can be called art - it requires subjectivity, it can lie, it gives aesthetic pleasure - photography is not, to begin with, an art form at all. Like language, it is a medium in which works of art (among other things) are made.
- Susan Sontag, on photography
When Louis Daguerre took a picture of a passerby of a Parisian street in 1838, using a silver and chalk based mixture to focus light on to a copper plate, little did he know this was an act to revolutionize the face of human history, and the interpretation of art as we know it now. The early daguerreotype evolved into film photography, then moving cinema, and finally the astonishing digital technology of the twenty-first century; permitting new concepts of visual aesthetics never dreamt of before by the Old Masters and Impressionists.
Within this specially curated section, a line-up of empowering new media works demonstrates the true multi-disciplinary potential and vision of young artists working in Asia today. Photographers such as Agan Harahap (Lot 1632) and Wawi Navarroza (Lot 1633); 'scanography' artist Angki Purbandono (Lot 1636); and video artists Tromarama (Lot 1634) all premise their works upon the final film or digital product which articulates their artistic intent within a single tangible object. Other more process-oriented artists such as Maria Taniguchi (Lot 1637) and Melati Suryodarmo (Lot 1635) use video as a means rather than an end; to form the nucleus of a complete experiential installation, or as documentation of a performing act.
On the other end of the spectrum, but equally challenging the boundaries of visual art, are the artists working in non-conventional sculpture and conceptual forms, such as Yason Banal (Lot 1638) whose artistic method is less about tangible structures than an interrogation of minimalism. Eko Nugroho's pair of monumental bronzes (Lot 1521) arise from his visions of a future technology-based dystopic world. Cast larger than life, as viewers we are forced to confront the reality-sized permutations of humanity and test our own reactions accordingly.
The rapidly increasing appreciation and practice of installation, conceptual art, and new media enables the construction of a new visual code and way of thinking. As viewers, we relocate from being mere spectators to audience-participants in one of the greatest aesthetic and intellectual movements of our current age.
Born in 1969 in Solo, Indonesia, Melati Suryodarmo divides time between Germany and Solo, Indonesia where she works in performance, video, installation and conceptual photography. My Fingers are the Triggers was first performed as a six hours durational performance art piece at the Le Generatuer in Paris during the annual festival, Nuit Blanche. The work evokes an extremely powerful image of the artist sprawled on the floor and mainly contorted in a multitude of different poses and is inspired by what the artist has described as the 'psychological pressure and emotional disorder that influence the physical resistance, endurance and reflect personal habits'. In the work, Suryodarmo's ten fingers are connected to black rubber strings attached to the ceiling. She then moves in a circumscribed, concentrated manner that examines how the body and its nerves interact with the environment. Everyday physical motions are infused with an absurdity of deliberation and suffused with an intensity not experienced in daily life.
An Important Pioneering Private Collection of Southeast Asian Art
"Southeast Asia is where we live and work. It's a world of porous borders and cultures that often meld into one another - at times seamlessly and at other times quite jarringly. Separately, there are also strong external influences from China, India, Europe and North America. This has made a 'reading' of Southeast Asian culture and its artistic practices so rich and rewarding."
One of the most satisfying facets of collecting is being able to play a trailblazing role in establishing the breadth and essential identity of a particular category of art. The ability to collect is made even more satisfying and fulfilling when one is able not only to trace the development of art and its histories but also to play a part in shaping its development.
This season, Christie's is proud to present the first part of An Important Pioneering Private Collection of Southeast Asian Art. The second part of the collection will follow in Christie's Spring 2012 sales in Hong Kong.
This collection has been built by two collectors whose commitment and passionate engagement with Southeast Asian art began since the mid-1980s and continues unabated today. In collecting, they began to be personally immersed in the living cultures of the region. Of paramount importance to the two collectors from the earliest days of their collecting has been the idea that art should have a living engagement with the immediate world of the artist. "Social conditions in Southeast Asia remains dire today by any measure and contemporary art that does not acknowledge this is lying," says one of them. Works that elucidate the values, trends and directions of society and human life hold the greatest appeal for the two of them.
The collection stands out for the clarity of its vision and visual coherence. The vast majority of works in the collection eschew the conceptual and the abstract and focuses on the humanist. Highlights of the collection include the rare-to-market sculptural works of Indonesian artist Eko Nugroho's Its All About Coalition (Lot 1521), first produced as a commission for the National Museum of Singapore; Phuan Thai Meng's The Road To... (Lot 1524), one of the most iconic paintings of urbane 21st century Malaysian art; Indonesian painter's Jumaldi Alfi's Fake (Lot 1525) from his critically-celebrated Blackboard series; performance artist Melati Suryodarmo's durational performance, My Fingers are the Triggers (Lot 1635); and Thai Natee Utarit's early compelling installation of landscape paintings, Truth and Ambitions (Lot 1523). Christie's is privileged to witness the sale of some of the most outstanding and momentous art works from the region that bear testament to Southeast Asian artists' perspectives on society and life.
As the collectors readily acknowledge, "the marketplace has never been our guide to how we buy". They eschew "crowd-pleasers" and "art as decoration" for works of a different vein that are stimulating, provocative and which generally command ambiguous attention in the market. Yet, this does not mean their collection is wholly contrarian to mainstream taste. Many of the works and artists they have collected are sought after by the mainstream market. Often, their acquisitions have been made from being in a position of privileged access to artists' primary markets before the artists have captured the attention of the market. The collection has been built with foresight and distinction and can be acknowledged as one of the first collection to unite the diverse strands of artistic expression that exists in different parts of Southeast Asia.