CUT09: figure/ New Photography from Southeast Asia

New Photography from Southeast Asia

VWFA KL 4-21 Feb
VWFA SG 29 April - 17 May 
Manila Contemporary 18 Jul - 8 Aug 

CUT began in 2008 as a groundbreaking survey of new photography from Southeast Asia. It marks a watershed in photography exhibition in the region by giving an insight into the tremendous possibilities of an important medium so far overlooked in the local mainstream. This year's CUT exhibition highlights new works by regional artists in which exploration of the figure is central to their photographic practice. 

Artists featured in CUT09 are on the forefront of highlighting the problematics of representation in photography. Instead of subscribing to the belief that identity is a fixed and stable given, their subjects often defy easy catergorisation. These figures stand defiant against the cookie-cutter images of our contemporary environment, offering a window into and mirror of alternative reinvestments of the body as a site on which notions of selfhood (both individual or collective) are questioned, contested and at times, revised.

Photographs featured in CUT09 can be examined through a number of critical lens:

Cultural Body

Culture writ large through the body underscores the received customs and values, which shape a collective identity shared by a group of people and how it is performed and narrated by its players. The earliest photographs of the region and its people served an imperial appetite for ethnological knowledge. Many of its subjects were often dressed in native attires, made to act out a local identity in front of the colonialist camera that fixed its subject as unchanging and one-dimensional. How do artists today use photography to complicate the way we understand ourselves through photographic representation? More importantly, how do artists negotiate with the diverse religious and cultural traditions in Southeast Asia while coming to terms with the different legacy of colonialism? 

Radical Identities

Late eighties radical politics, allied to the emergence of queer and post human studies, have challenged the problematic Enlightenment belief that the body is subservient to the rational human mind. Artistic practice that emerges from this interpretative tenor draw our attention to the fluid and shifting boundaries of the body, stimulated by unconscious desires and drives that do not necessarily adhere to what was traditionally thought of as humanistic principles. Gender identity, post-human forms, human-bestial correlation, spatial cognition of the body, are some of the topics explored by photographers in CUT09. How are they achieved through photographic means?

Contemporary Figure

In more recent times, beauty of the human form explored in mainstream photography is increasingly flattened, often tailored to the demands of mass-produced cultural consumption, serving the spectacle generated through commercial advertising. Artists who have resisted this narrow definition of beauty have continued to expand upon the aesthetics of the human form. What are the kinds of subject that are being explored? Could post-production techniques such as cropping, lighting, digital manipulation create new aesthetic forms? Is the contemporary figure in Southeast Asia influenced by local or culturally specific aesthetics? If so, to what end and for what purpose?

CUT09 hopes to present a sophisticated range of responses by artist photographers in the region who seek to complicate what we know of ourselves and our society, arguing that photography, no longer a tool for mere documentation, has become an increasingly important and relevant medium to provoke thought on contemporary issues.

Featuring works of:

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