Chumpon Apisuk, The Touch of Mekong River, 2021. Performance. video, 19:52 minutes
Beijing Inside-Out Art Museum presents The River We Share, From Lancang to Mekong in partnership with the Art Museum of Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts (GAFAM) as the seventh project of the first Trans-Southeast Asia Triennial, from April 29 to July 30, 2023.
This exhibition is based on a long-term study conducted by the curator, Lin Shuchuan, in the Southeast Asian region. In order to determine issues relevant and relatively meaningful to the audience in a complex regional ecosystem, he proposed to choose the Mekong River as a focal point, and went further upstream along the water (e.g. the Lancang River), which highlights the Mekong-Lancang River as an alternative route connecting with the Greater Bay Area to Southeast Asia. Being an important trans-boundary water system in Asia, the Mekong River originates in Zadoi County of Yushu Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in Qinghai Province, China, and stretches across China, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam until reaching the South China Sea in Ho Chi Minh City. It does more than just linking these territories geographically. It also carries with it multiple shared social issues that can be showcased and explored in realms of economy, culture, ethnicity and religions.
Cheng Xinbao, March of the Elephants, 2022. Single-channel color video with sound, 4:21 minutes
Travel restrictions during COVID had created a lot of challenges on the ground, so the participating artists had to travel in two groups along the Lancang River and Mekong River respectively whilst working on their own creations. Lin invited on board a number of Thai artists who either live or used to live in the north of the country and their Chinese counterparts who live and work in Yunnan (more specifically, in Kunming and Xishuangbanna) for this project. In these two separate field trips—one in the upstream basin and one in the downstream one, they came up with their own artistic responses based on locally drawn inspirations. They lived and walked along the Mekong/Lancang River, improvising discussions and creations about the river’s localness. In the meantime, they produced “works” that can go on display, such as videos, images, and texts, which led to the co-existence of documents and artworks in the exhibition space.
Krai Sridee, Terra Incognita, 2021. Installation, dimension variable.
Each river has its complex ecosystem with different natural and cultural resources. Historically, rivers and their adjacent land have been the natural choice for dense human habitation. In the case of trans-boundary rivers, the riparian countries tend to change the rivers’ “shared” property to “private” in order to promote economic development within their own territory. Over-dependence on and over-development of the rivers are hugely detrimental to natural resources and have impacted local ways of life, art and culture. In "The River We Share", we hope to achieve this mobile-but-not-gathered creative collaboration with diverse artistic outputs about the concept of “river” by artists upstream and downstream in a special period of time like this.
Zi Bai, My Mekong, 2008-2020. Photography, dimension variable.
At the Inside-Out Art Museum, an important thread of its programme is to focus on supporting non-commercial art production and thinking, as well as engaging in dynamic curatorial experiments. To this end, we draw on methods of cultural studies and use thematic exhibitions to grasp trending and important cultural, social and intellectual issues of the moment as they happen. We engage with acclaimed scholars from a range of disciplines to confront the issues and be an active participant as we identify appropriate ways to join in the thinking and debates on relevant topics on a global level. As global travel resumes, we should be more humble and more curious to understand each other by opening our hearts and building meaningful connections, so that the cultural and intellectual boundaries will fade away until disappearing altogether. The participating artists of The River We Share know this all too well. Their work in the project demonstrates the potential openness of art thinking that builds on concrete, in-depth local experiences. As it shows, a geographical term is not a telescope or a window, but a shadow of ourselves.
About the Exhibition
Dates: April 29–July 30, 2023
Venue: Beijing Inside-Out Art Museum
Artists: Chumpon Apisuk, Chakkrit Chimnok, Pattree Chimnok, Chang Xiong, Cheng Xinhao, Anucha Hemmala, He Libin, Hong Yan (Qin Hongyan), Narodom Kamenkhetvit, Luo Fei, Li Youjie, Li Yuming, Prasart Niranprasert, Jittima Pholsawek, Krai Sridee, Maliwan Saithong, Vasan Sitthiket, Kitti Treeraj, Xue Tao, Zi Bai, Zheng Hongchang
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Courtesy Beijing Inside-Out Art Museum.