For the inaugural International Orange Photo Festival that will take place from 22 to 29 October 2010 at Changsha, Hunan Province, I have been invited to present a small overview of contemporary photography from Southeast Asia (ASEAN). This is the first time that a diverse range of contemporary photographic practices originating from the region will be seen within the same setting in China. Rather than following the spin of some curators and gallery owners in claiming that only Photoshop work or conceptual photography can be deemed “Art”, I have made an attempt to acknowledge the egalitarian nature of the medium by bouncing off different kinds of work in this selection.
The featured artists are guided by their spirit of independence, choosing to produce work, first and foremost, as a personal endeavour to investigate or reflect upon specific concerns that are close at heart. For them, photography has become a strategy of encountering their environment.
Nge Lay (Myanmar)
The Relevancy of Restricted Things (2010)
Created in a remote part of Myanmar where her partner has come from, Nge Lay crosses the genre of performance, photography and participatory art in this work, incorporating details of her personal life while referencing the fact that in this village, most of the men spend a lot of time away from home in order to eke a living. Nge Lay investigates this truncated idea of home in her work.
Aye Ko (Myanmar)
Transfixed Look (2010)
Rooted in his personal experiences in Myanmar, Aye Ko extends his performance art-based practice into photography and reflects upon the untamed nature of human beings.
Khvay Samnang (Cambodia)
Wedding (2009 – )
Khvay Samnang articulates his desire to look beyond the cliché images of Cambodian weddings with this body of photographs that is infused with honesty and humour.
Souliya Phoumivong (Laos)
Big World (2010)
Souliya Phoumivong shares his experience of participating in a Tokyo residency through the vantage point of a small plasticine figurine. This is a continuation of his work with the figurine in Vientiane.
Lâm Hiếu Thuận (Vietnam)
Built before the Vietnam War, the government apartments in Saigon will eventually be replaced by new flats. With a medium-format camera, Lâm Hiếu Thuận roams the corridors of the apartments, recording the lives of the residents in this common space.
Nguyễn Tường Linh (Vietnam)
Jobless Café (2006 – 08)
Nguyễn Tường Linh is like a collector, taking portraits of people who would while away several hours each day at his neighbourhood’s roadside café. He was jobless then and thought that these people were jobless as well. That is why he titled the work as such. The roadside café is a great leveller of class and status.
Jes Aznar (The Philippines)
Fragile (2008 – )
With media outlets fixated by the violence of Mindanao, Jes Aznar enters this grey area for most Filipino peoples to unravel the back-story of this decades-long conflict.
Estan Cabigas (The Philippines)
A Ritual of Faith (2009)
As part of his long-term enquiry into Philippine Catholicism, Estan Cabigas brings alive the colours of the self-flagellation ritual at Infanta, Quezon Province.
MM Yu (The Philippines)
Thoughts Collected, Recollected (1997 – )
Using photography as an archaeological tool, MM Yu walks through her country, taking photographs of common objects that have become uncommon. In this sense, the world is like a gallery with curious “installations”.
Kamthorn Paowattanasuk (Thailand)
Eastern Wind (2005-07)
Triggered by the passing of his father, Kamthorn Paowattanasuk pays tribute to his family with this attempt at photographic poetry, incorporating old family photos, X-ray scans and portraits that he made at home.
Paul Kadarisman (Indonesia)
Paul Kadarisman’s work is an encounter between the National Monument, a highly politicized space in Jakarta, and his friends, young creative professionals who seem unaffected by the fall of Suharto in 1998. In this interaction, the legacy of 1998 has been reinforced—Kadarisman and his friends now have the freedom to lead their own lives.
K Azril Ismail (Malaysia)
Pudu Jail’s Graffiti: Aesthetics Beyond the Walls (2002 – 03)
K Azril Ismail photographed the Pudu Jail, gravitating towards the graffiti drawings and writings on the prison walls. In his work, this “sacred” space for “violent” men is rich, complex and open to personal dialogues.
Tan Chee Hon (Malaysia)
Nostalgia (2007 – 10)
Working with a second-hand Yashica Mat-124G in which the lens has fogged but the focusing still works, Tan Chee Hon cross processes his images to achieve unexpected, imperfect and surrealistic photographs of these little “accidents” that he chanced upon in Kuala Lumpur.
Charles Lim (Singapore)
Survivors (2008 – )
In his Photoshop tableaux, Charles Lim considers the masks and façades that we have made to conceal or disguise a less-than-desirable reality.
Chua Chye Teck (Singapore)
Paradise (2006 – )
Chua Chye Teck salvages the temporary sites made and sometimes discarded by people. These are the transient landmarks of Singapore.
[All images courtesy of the respective photographers.]