Art and Social Activism in Southeast Asia: Stealing Public Space

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Moderator: Michèle Oshima, Independent Creative Consultant

This panel consisted of artists and cultural practitioners in Southeast Asia who locally and globally engage issues of environment, indigeneity, community formation and sustainability and the expansion of civil society.

The primary objective of the panel was to foster a dialogue about socially and politically engaged contemporary art practices in formerly colonized and relatively young Southeast Asian nations whose citizens continue to grapple with nebulous identities, cultural boundaries, tradition and modernity. The panelists shared how, through their practices, artists move from the private sphere to encroach on public spheres. They presented a combination of projects and artworks that highlighted various types of interventions and socially engaged methodologies in different contexts and discussed their audiences’ receptions to them. Topics included environmental issues, indigeneity, community formation and sustainability; as well as historicity, individual and collective agency, cultural bankruptcy, alternative exhibition models and the culture and aesthetics of violence in Southeast Asia.

The panel was made up of women who take on multiple roles as artists, educators, curators and cultural activists. Aptly, they embrace multi-disciplinary approaches to their practices, which are inherently culturally interactive, performative and often engaging on grassroots community levels.