‘Practise Till We Meet’ explores diasporic experiences, the condition of migration, and the challenges and actions taken to create a just life in a new place. Personal and political, traumatic and humorous, it looks across geography and through generations to consider how individual and community perspectives become intertwined with global upheavals.
“For immigrants, understanding how to act in unfamiliar experiences requires practice. By witnessing or even participating in these necessary and emotionally motivated exercises, new perspectives and knowledge of this world open up to all of us.” (Hanlu Zhang, Curator)
The participating artists incorporate approaches such as community engagement, performance, interactivity and social experiment in their works as exercises of connecting and reconnecting.
The work on display includes moving images, installations, photographs, painting and newly commissioned sculpture. The artists and collectives will hold events at esea contemporary’s new Communal Project Space, creating displays which grow and change throughout the exhibition.
Hanlu Zhang is an independent curator, writer, and editor interested in art as social practice. Working closely with artists, her curated exhibitions have delved into the urban practices of Beijing and the politics of public space in ‘Rebel Cities’ (2017), Yang Art Museum, Beijing; discussed labor, sociality and technology in ‘Bicycle Thieves’ (2019), Para Site, Hong Kong; and re-examined faith and spirituality as alternative knowledges in the ‘Up&Coming’ section within Gallery Weekend Beijing (2020). She was on the curatorial team of ‘Cosmopolis #1.5: Enlarged Intelligence’ in Chengdu and ‘Cosmopolis #2: rethinking the human’ at Centre Pompidou, Paris. When working at Guangdong Times Museum as Curator in 2020, Zhang founded Social Practice Lab (SPL), an ongoing project which initiates, supports, and curates socially engaged art projects and trans-disciplinary collaborations. Zhang lives in Guangzhou. She graduated from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago studying art history and theory. She is also a member of Theater 44, a platform exploring collective creativity.
Asia-Art-Activism is an interdisciplinary, intergenerational network of artists, curators, and academics investigating concepts relating to ‘Asia’, ‘art’, and ‘activism’ in the UK. Expanding a conversation around ‘Asia’ as a contested paradigm and the lived transnational narratives of its diasporas, migrant, and resident communities, the network highlights lesser-known accounts of Asian artists and activists in the UK, and questions ESEA invisibility within institutional narratives of British art and politics. Through its multifaceted practice of exhibitions, public programming, social gatherings, and publications, Asia-Art-Activism examines discursive conditions for ESEA artists and activists within a negotiation of decoloniality and solidarity with other protagonists of colour, and aims to develop greater alliances with other artistic and civic movements. It is motivated by the belief that an intersectional and inclusive approach resists reductive identity politics, and that spending time together is a political act of resilience and joy and an opportunity to share different perspectives and methodologies.
Asian Feminist Studio for Art and Research (AFSAR) was founded by Mooni Perry and Hanwen Zhang in 2020 and joined by Eugene Park and Yu'an Huang in 2022, with the aim of establishing connections between contemporary art, scholarly discourse, and activism anchored in (Asian) Feminist thought. The prefix ‘Asian’ evokes ESEA localities to conceptualise a space for engaging in dialogues with diverse partners. Localities are also manifested in diasporic people’s engagement with their place of residence, the land of their heritage, and places beyond. AFSAR constructs a place for archiving contemporary feminist discourse and artistic research. Its online platform serves as a decentralised virtual space that brings together a wide range of practitioners from a variety of disciplines, fostering collective research to develop and support sustainable interactions.
Audrey Albert is a visual artist whose research-led practice enables her to consider and investigate themes of national identity, collective memory, displacement, tradition, and denial. Born in Mauritius with Chagossian origins, Albert is currently based in Manchester. Her major body of work titled Matter Out of Place has been showcased in exhibitions in the UK, France, China, and Mauritius. Albert’s practice is socially engaged and community based. She is also a creative facilitator, hosting photographic workshops around identity, memory, and home. In 2020, Albert created Chagossians of Manchester (CoM), a socially engaged art project by and for the forcefully displaced Chagossian community currently living in Wythenshawe. In 2021, she was selected to be one of the Creative Fellows for the Manchester International Festival. She has also previously worked with Manchester Art Gallery, The Agency, and Contact Theatre, among other institutions and organisations.
Isaac Chong Wai is an artist working between Berlin and Hong Kong. The conceptual, political, and performative qualities of his practice are enacted in his multidisciplinary approach, processing the exigency of societal shifts and global phenomena. He has had solo exhibitions at Zilberman Selected, Istanbul and Una Boccata d’Arte, commissioned by Fondazione Elpis with Galleria Continua, Castiglione di Sicilia (2022); Bilsart, Istanbul (2021); Blindspot Gallery, Hong Kong (2019); Zilberman, Berlin (2019); and Kunstraum München, Munich (2018). His work has been shown at Bundeskunsthalle Bonn and ifa-Galerie Berlin (2022); Germany’s Federal Foreign Office (2021); MMCA, Seoul, Innsbruck Biennial and IFFR, Rotterdam (2020); Museum of Contemporary Art in Taipei and Guangdong Times Museum in Guangzhou (2019); M+ Museum and Para Site in Hong Kong and Times Art Center Berlin (2018); Haus der Kulturen der Welt in Berlin (2017); Moscow Biennale for Young Art in Museum of Moscow (2014). He is a fellow at Kulturakademie Tarabya.
Mimian Hsu descends from Taiwanese immigrants to Costa Rica at the height of diplomatic relations between the two countries in the 1970s, which ended when Costa Rica switched allegiance to China in 2007. Hsu’s life and work are linked to processes of cultural hybridization and acculturation in Latin America. Her work incorporates autobiographic knowledge that appeals to a questioning of identity and the significance of her place in the world. Representation is another central axis of her work, as she explores non-figurative portrayals of herself and her family using performances, installations, and actions. She has exhibited at the Museos del Banco Central, San José and at IEA, Nantes (2022); Times Art Center Berlin (2021); and Museo de Arte y Diseño Contemporáneo, San José (2021), among other institutions. Hsu directed the artist-run space Des Pacio from 2015 to 2017, curating and producing 14 shows for artists from Latin America.
Liu Weiwei lives and works on the outskirts of China's busting cities. Liu’s artistic practice unfolds within public spaces and social events. Select solo exhibitions and projects include ‘Unwelcome Person’, Yell Space, Shanghai (2017); ‘Individual Political Votex’, CACHE, Beijing (2016); ‘a political incident’, Gallery 55, Shanghai (2015); ‘Lost Comrad’, Gallery 55, Shanghai (2014); ‘Still Life’, Chongqing (2013). Select group exhibitions include ‘An Individual as the Society’, Making Space, Guangzhou (2019); ‘Citizen’, Guangzhou (2016); ‘COOPERATION’, Shijiezi Art Museum, Gansu (2015); ‘Landslide’, Xi’an (2015); ‘5+1=6’, Beijing (2014); and ‘Provincial Youth’, Chongqing (2011-2012).
Koki Tanaka’s practice spans video, photography, installations, and interventions in which he renders visible the multiple contexts intrinsic to everyday acts. In his earlier works, Tanaka experimented with ordinary objects to explore possible diversions from daily routines. In his more recent work, Tanaka asks participants to collectively navigate tasks that are in and of themselves out of the ordinary. He documents behaviours that people unconsciously exhibit when facing unusual situations, exploring group dynamics in a micro-society and transitory community. His works have been exhibited internationally, including at the Migros Museum, Zurich (2018); Kunsthaus Graz (2017); Skulptur Projekte Münster (2017); the 57th Venice Biennale (2017); the Liverpool Biennial (2016); VanAbbe Museum, Eindhoven (2014); the 55th Venice Biennale (2013); and at the Gwangju Biennial (2008). He received a special mention for his national participation at the 55th Venice Biennale in 2013, and was Deutsche Bank's "Artist of the Year" in 2015.
I come to meet you. You, my family, our friends, and you who haven't known me yet. Maybe I come a long way, crossing time and space. From another continent, century, or language. Or maybe you’ve just come in to us, from the street, because through the windows it looks like a lot is going on, a lot of practices.
And then we meet. We meet perhaps for the first time, or possibly after a long break. There are many scenarios of meeting. Many thoughts, tons of emotions. This exhibition not only presents, but also creates encounters. We meet for the sake of getting to know each other, aware of a shared violent history (Koki Tanaka); for workshops connecting us to our past homeland (Audrey Albert); for a role-play game session telling migrants’ pasts (Asia-Art-Activism); and for collective performance and balance exercises (Isaac Chong Wai). We meet on an experimental jury panel (Liu Weiwei); at a “proxy conference” (Asian Feminist Studio for Art and Research); or under a sign in a foreign language (Mimian Hsu).
The exhibition ‘Practise Till We Meet’ delves into diasporic experiences and the condition of migration. The multifaceted relationship between politics and migration is among its core inquiries. In different artworks, top-down politics is evident because colonial histories, authoritarian regimes, and geopolitical interests are among the forces much larger than the individual that drive people to seek out an unknown future in an unfamiliar place. In these works, personal desires and family histories become intertwined with political upheavals. On the other hand, bottom-up politics also manifests itself across two galleries. There are efforts to resist and reflect upon oppressive systems, as well as shared experiences of immigrants’ self-organising. Artists, researchers, and activists strive to carve a space for voices from minority communities as well as for larger social justice issues.
As practising new ways is expected from immigrants, it is also deemed necessary in all the encounters taking place in this exhibition. The participating artists incorporate approaches such as community engagement, social experiment, and interactivity in their works as exercises of connecting and reconnecting. Here, we see rehearsals of political actions and other practices in which strangers find common ground or make collective decisions. Some self-educate on topsy-turvy journeys searching for memory and belonging; others practise care, tenderness, and affection, collaboratively forging solid paths in a world in crisis.
Hanlu Zhang, Curator