As the West Slept / 2019

Curatorial Statement. Kathleen Ditzig: As The West Slept, the title of the exhibition draws from a phrase, employed by Singaporean intellectual Kishore Mahbubani, to allude to distinct moments in Western history that have obscured the mercurial rise of Asia. Developed specifically for Silver Art Projects in the World Trade Center complex, the exhibition brings together a series of contemporary art works that through displays of bravado examine the geopolitical stakes involved in the rise of ‘Asia’ and the glorification of Asian capitalism—such as we have seen in the phenomenal success of the Hollywood Film Crazy Rich Asians (2018). 

The exhibition features artworks such as: Ho Rui An’s Asia the Unmiraculous (2018), a lecture-performance and video installation that unpacks the racial, geopolitical and cultural

implications of the Asian Miracle2 and the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis as a way to speak to the different histories and complexities of imagining Asia in relation to renewed Asian futurisms brought on by China’s ascendancy as a world power; Erika Tan’s Sensing Obscurity (I,II,III) (2012), a series of videos works based on a performance in Saltram House which imagines “Chinese Chippendales” taking over an English Manor House (now National Trust property); Fyerool Darma’s The Poseur (2019), a video installation that through the aesthetics of the social media story excavates the figure of Munshi Ibrahim Long Fakir Kandu, a East India Company scribe, to point to the legacies of Asian capitalism; and Heman Chong’s Foreign Affairs (2018–), an image of an embassy’s backdoor represented as curtains that points to the quiet national facades of power that structure the globe and the societies we live in. 

Through performances that demonstrate and unpack idioms of prestige and narrative logics derived from the relationship of systems of governance to global markets, the artworks in As the West Slept try to make sense of today’s imaginary of a triumphant Asian future and its attendant stakes. In turn, the art works ask us to re-consider the legacies of the geopolitical shifts we see today and the ways in which we speak about them.


World Trade Centre, Tower 4, New York

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© Erika Tan 2020