A group exhibition co-presented by the National Museum of Art, Osaka and Singapore Art Museum titled They Do Not Understand Each Other is currently on view at Tai Kwun’s art galleries in JC Contemporary.
Taking its name from an artwork in the exhibition by Japanese artist Tsubasa Kato, They Do Not Understand Each Other brings together commissions and artworks from the collections of the National Museum of Art, Osaka (NMAO), and the Singapore Art Museum (SAM) — two institutions that have built extensive national collections of contemporary art within their regions — which revolve around the theme of the exchange of culture. The exhibition features works in various media such as videos, mixed-media works, paintings, sculptures, textiles, stories, performances, kinetic installations and photography and presents two new commissioned pieces and 23 artworks from the existing collections of NMAO and SAM. The selection of artists hail from Singapore, Japan, Malaysia, South Korea, Thailand, Vietnam, Philippines, Puerto Rico and beyond, bringing diverse and unique perspectives on representation and cultural exchange.
This is a unique chance to see some of the most contemporary works of these two major Asian museums. Taking the idea of understanding and collaboration as a foundation, the exhibition also shows how much intangible artworks like photography, video and performance entered important institutions and are now seen as an essential part of our cultural heritage. – Tobias Berger, Head of Art at Tai Kwun
If culture is shown through representation, then cultural exchange is naturally based upon understanding. Thus, through this exhibition, viewers are able to appreciate cultural exchange in various forms and intensities; Tai Kwun explains it as speaking “to boundaries, borders, gaps, spaces, surfaces, interfaces, and divisions that exist because of – for lack of a better word – an unevenness in encounters between individuals, peoples and things”. Curator of NAMO, Yuka Uematsu, agrees with, “cultural exchange is not about perfect understanding, but rather opening up a dialogue via unique perspectives”.
This is shown through the title piece — also named They Do Not Understand Each Other — is a performance artwork that takes place on Tsushima islands, an archipelago that lies between Japan and Korea. Here, two figures are seen carrying out a simple task together while not being able to understand the others’ native language. The piece delineates the success achieved through the cooperation of the artist and his Korean counterpart attributed not only to their mutual patience and good humour, but also to an understanding that transcends language. The artists appear as mediators in acting to intercede and reconcile disparate cultures, helping us to understand each other better.
They Do Not Understand Each Other is curated by Yuka Uematsu, Curator at the National Museum of Art, Osaka and Dr. June Yap, Director of Curatorial, Collections and Programmes at Singapore Art Museum. It is currently on view until September 13.