Making Substance 2022: Finding Maritime Asia 造物谈2022: 寻找海洋亚洲
16 September 2022 – 25 September 2022
2022年 9月 16日 – 2022年 9月 25日
2022年 9月 16日 – 2022年 9月 25日
In 2022, RAM opened a long-term knowledge sharing and discussion platform, "Making Substance," which used the art gallery as an alternative education space to discuss topics less widely discussed in general education and even higher education, and encouraged free expression of views.
We first opened the offline lectures and online content sharing of the "Finding Maritime Asia" series related to the gallery's vision. Unlike continental and national art institutions, RAM developed an ocean vision of contemporary art. In the "Reading Room" project in 2021, through the presentation of a series of bibliographies, we explored the importance of Asia's oceans and islands, enriched the audience's understanding of the role of oceans in human history and culture, and provided interpretation of issues related to power domination, ecological resources, relationships between different groups, and so on. In 2022, we cooperated with scholars, practitioners, and artists who paid attention to this topic to plan a total of six activities. Through the expansion and extension of the three topics of Ocean Imagination and Deep-sea Fear, Maritime Asia in History, and Back to the Field, we explored the image and metaphor shaped by the "ocean," the self of "oceanic Asia," and how the ocean had become a field of human imagination, power, and mobility.
Since January 2022, as the leader of the series of activities of "Finding Maritime Asia," we publicly collected personal memories around the ocean theme. We hoped that these contributions could help to discover the perspectives or themes that were still undiscovered or discussed in the field of maritime Asia, and encouraged everyone to re-establish their ties and fetters with the mysterious creation of the ocean based on their own memories and emotions. During the period from September 16 to 25, 2022 (open from 11:00 to 18:00 every day, closed on Monday, September 19), the third-floor space of the dark blue art museum became the "Maritime Parlor," inviting the audience to come: a series of public education activities took place on the weekend, and there was also a reading room and art works related to activities waiting for everyone to explore. As an extension of the "Maritime Parlor," there were activities and article sharing online. All these contents would turn into a publication in 2023.
“…Not every region and society in Asia needs the notion of ‘Asia’. But in the meantime, some regions in Asia are always in need of this notion. In other words, the use of this notion doesn’t naturally and equally belong to all Asians…”
- Sun Ge
Along the east coast of Eurasia, from the sea of Okhotsk to the sea of Java, and from the sea of Banda to the Arabian Sea, trade networks built on ocean passages collectively form a whole due to monsoons and ocean currents. Fishermen, merchants, sailors, envoys, monks, pirates, navy soldiers, drifters, Tankas (boat people) and travelers, who live on the ocean, have transcended the earlier tributary system and the more recent nation-states, and make up the nodes and diversities of the networks. In a world of shifting and fragmented identities, mobilities, and connections, human beings constantly get in touch with the coastal areas, ships, sea surface or even the depth of the ocean, as to them the sea was simultaneously workplace, home, passage, penitentiary and promise. Shanghai, as an important point in the maritime trade network in Asia, is located on the coast of the East China Sea, borders the bay of Hangzhou to the south, and faces the Kyushu Island of Japan across the sea. It is a convergence point of the Yangtze River and Huangpu River. After the Opium War, the Bund area in Shanghai, where the former Royal Asiatic Society Building is located, was designated as the British concession and later became the beginning point of modern urbanization of the city. On the one hand, it is a witness to the histories of colonization, invasion and resistance in Asia; and on the other, it has become a symbol of Asian futurism.
To search is an act of continuously probing into the ocean. By presenting research and creation showcasing achievements of different periods by different practitioners, we want to share with people the ocean as an ecosystem and as a place where human histories take place, and to cast light on the inner and intricate connections between the sperated continent and islands in Asia. To search is also an initiative we launch to extract nature, diversities and specificities from marine cultures of different regions, in order to enable people to pick up again an old mode of observing and thinking that has been neglected for long.
This series of public educational programme invites scholars, creators and practitioners to share with audience their ideas and works both in-person at the “Maritime Parlor” and online, creating a context for interdisciplinary and region-specific thinking and discussions. Divided into three themes, namely “Deep-Sea Imagination and Fear”, “Maritime Asia in History” and “Back to Waters”, the programme intends to inspire the public’s interests in visual culture and identity of Asian oceans, and to propose a respond to the possibility of transforming apprehension and fear into a community in the changing context of today’s ecological, economic and political environments.
(Text: Sun Jiyuan, Chen Baiqi)