Last week, staff at the museum were fortunate to have guest curator of Phantoms of Asia Mami Kataoka present to us on the themes of the exhibition.
While spirituality is a core part of this show, Mami invited us to approach it from another perspective, saying that we could think of Phantoms as being all about light and space.
Bronze hand mirror, China, Western Han dynasty, (206 BCE - 9 CE)
Mami showed us some examples of works from the Light and Space movement that resonate with works in this show. But the most fascinating part for me was a more literal example. Filipino artist Poklong Anading creates arresting photographs by having people hold a small hand mirror in front of their face; a flash of light, reflected by the mirror, obscures the face and transforms the image. In a piece of curation that strikes me as both whimsical and utterly inspired, also included in the exhibition are some Chinese hand mirrors from the museum’s collection, polished to regain their reflective properties. While the creator of the bronze mirror pictured probably wasn’t thinking about identity and transformation, it is such an object that enabled Anading to create compelling works exploring those themes.
Mami’s reference to light and space has given me a new entry point for thinking about these works. I know next to nothing of Asian contemporary art, but she reminded me that we are free to make our own connections: through time and space, across cultures, and between art and everyday objects. We hope you have the opportunity to do the same.
© Poklong Anading, 2011; Courtesy Galerie Zimmermann Kratochwill, Graz, Austria.