Art Features

An easterly breeze hits Kiasma

Along with China's economic miracle and recent
development in the region as a whole, Asian contemporary art is on the rise as
well. Biennials and art festivals are numerous and ever growing and there's
increasing international interest – enough to constitute something of a boom in
Asian contemporary art. Kiasma's exhibition brings an interesting selection of
works to Helsinki.
”The purpose of this exhibition is not to cover the whole field of contemporary
art in Asia, but rather to present visitors with perspectives on it”, says
senior curator Marja Sakari from




three countries represented in the exhibition are quite different, but they
also share several characteristics, such as mounting pressure for change, vast
population, political conflicts and natural disasters, which cause these
societies to be in a constant state of transformation. There are questions of
how an individual fits into the larger scheme of things. All this in turn is
reflected in the artists' interpretation of their surrounding reality”, Sakari
tells us. Also in common are powerful traditions. Beneath contemporary
political and social preoccupations with global consumer culture and
modernisation, traditional culture and spirituality are present in many of the
works displayed.

a swiftly growing urban expanse afflicted by an enormous population and a
building frenzy which leaves little trace of the city's vernacular history, is
home to two of the artists. Photographer Hu Yang lets us peek inside Shanghai households in
his photo series Shanghai Living,
which features ordinary Shanghainese from all walks of life photographed in
their living spaces with a short interview attached. The series offers a
compelling inside view of the human consequences of recent development in the
city's infrastructure and social fabric. Also hailing from Shanghai is Yang Zhenzhong, who represents a
new generation of Chinese artists who've grown up during China's open
door policy and economic prosperity and are well acquainted with new media and

colonial past and history of 
authoritarian regimes is reflected in works by Yogyakartan artists Heri
Dono and Eko Nugroho, who deal with issues of political pressure and social
control with equally playful yet ambiguous ways. Since the fall of Suharto in
1998 there have been significant changes in Indonesia's political system but
images of oppression and blind faith in authorities are nevertheless vivid in
their art. Many of Dono's installations include puppet-like sculptures with
some robotic features producing sound and movement. The complex installation Political clowns represents his brand of
satire: a series of clown-faces with tubes drip-feeding urine to their heads.

of the most puzzling and fascinating works are by Chinese artist Chen Zhen, who
died in 2000. Zhen moved to Paris
in 1986 and made most of his career in the west. Many of his works contemplate
on broad humanistic themes, but also on Asian art as part of the whole
international sphere of contemporary art. In fact, all the participating
artists are to some degree integrated into the international art world, but
mostly maintain focus on their local Asian realities and often draw on
traditional art forms. The surging popularity of Asian artists calls to
question our entrenched notions of the centre and periphery of contemporary art
in a most welcome manner.


The exhibition Wind from the East – Perspectives on Asian Contemporary Art opens
Feb 17 at Kiasma museum of contemporary art.

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