Swab presents the Video Box program 2023

Swab presents the Video Box program 2023. HOME/LAND: RECENT MOVING IMAGES FROM SOUTHEAST ASIA


We are pleased to present Video Box, the special non-profit program that gives visibility to video art projects created in territories with a developing cultural fabric, and which in this edition is curated by Taiwanese curator Alfonse Chiu. It is focused on Southeast Asia through of 8 artists who work on the concept of border, creating an artistic dialogue across the limits established by colonialism in these territories. In addition to the fair program, we have arranged a special screening of 4 short films at the Zumzeig cinema with the curator presence. 


Southeast Asia is a recent invention—a name given afar that marks it as a site of extraction, of colonial dreams coming true. The people of Southeast Asia never did see themselves as Southeast Asians until now, when geopolitical boundaries become effective technologies of identification. Before, they were of their own names, own kins, own kingdoms, who leave with the trade winds from the Northeast down to the Southwest, amongst islands and the continent. HOME/LAND presents snapshots of recent moments that see the flow of land and body in Southeast Asia as an extension of capital and as a marker for the changing relationship with nature, society, and the universe that the nations of Southeast Asia have. Drawing a line of sight—and comparison—between migrations, extractions, and the future, this moving image programme reflects on the strange terrains of Southeast Asia and its stranger journey as an unfamiliar homeland. 


Swab 2023 Film Still Earth Land Sky And Sea As Palimpsest 1

Zarina Muhammad + Zachary Chan
Land, Sky and Sea as Palimpsest, 2021


In addition to the video program at the fair, we’re hosting a special viewing session at Zumzeig Cinema. During this session, attendees can watch 4 short films by the artists Russel Morton, Phạm Ngọc Lân, Tiyan Baker y Nadiah Bamadhaj.

Wednesday 4th October, 7pm
Tickets available here

At the end of the screening there will be a Q&A with the curator Alfonse Chiu.

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Saudade, 2019
Russell Morton (Singapore)

Saudade is an aural and visual archive narrated entirely in Kristang—a creole language that emerged in 16th century Portuguese colonial Malacca. The film reimagines rituals and choreography characteristic of early Eurasian kampongs in three acts: a song and dance of the Jinkli Nona, a scene between a shrimp fisherman and his wife, and a cross-cultural encounter with the Malay ghost orang minyak. 

The Story of Ones, 2011
Phạm Ngọc Lân (Vietnam)

Utilizing the banality of Vietnamese state radio broadcasts, The Story of Ones gives a face and a sense of place to the unseen and offers a personal counterpoint to the officially sanctioned.

Mouthbreather, 2023
Tiyan Baker (Australia / Malaysia)

In Tiyan Baker’s mouthbreather, we witness the world from behind the artist’s teeth as she walks across her Ancestral lands and mouths, breathes, calls forth and gives form to a buried language. Mouthbreather explores the possibilities of language revival nd how language shapes and changes our relationship to land and ways of knowing the world.

Terpesona dengan Kegelisahan, 2022
Nadiah Bamadhaj (Malaysia)

Social media is a channel for various spectacles that reveal the representation of power through the language of images and videos. Nadiah Bamadhaj created her video after watching a ‘militaristic ritual’ (known as TNI yells) that went viral on social media. For Nadiah, the yells have to do with a nationalistic spirit displayed through a hyper-masculinity that arouses fear.


We talk to Alfonse Chiu

Alfonse Chiu (Singapore/Taipei) is a writer, artist, and curator working at the intersection of text, space, and the moving image. Their practice investigates imaginaries of capital and ideologies as shaped by media infrastructures and networked economies to contemplate possible futures for bodies, society, and the environment. They are the founder of the Centre for Urban Mythologies (CUM), a critical research and artistic platform exploring the tropes and narratives of the urban condition to propose larger situated critiques of capitalism and Anthropocene positioned from the Global South.

Alfonse Chiu Image Courtesy Rokukyo 1

As a curator, what do you think makes Swab special or different as a fair?

Being a human-scaled art fair that have consistently spotlit emerging and experimental artistic practices for almost two decades, I think what makes Swab special is its accessibility and nimbleness. Navigating the terrains of artistic production and discourse that have shifted dramatically in recent years due to technological and geopolitical reasons, Swab is anchored to both its physical context of Barcelona and its commitment to find connectivity between Spain, the Hispanosphere, and beyond, which makes it a fertile ground to grow new ideas, communities, and ecologies beyond the standard paradigm of the West Europe/North America art fair and biennial circuit. As a curator, this promise of what can come forth is most exciting!

What artistic or curatorial trends do you think will be established in the coming years?

While I hesitate to predict or forecast, my personal inclination is to hope that in the coming years, following in the spirits of the recently concluded documenta fifteen, the 59th Venice Biennale, and the ongoing 18th Venice Architecture Biennale: The Laboratory of the Future, we will see a greater focus on creative practices from the Global South that are actively and critically reacting to the impacts of the current political and economic regime on local and hyper-local contexts. Through works that re-centre the possibilities of artists, architects, activists, and other practitioners functioning as public intellectuals that can tackle the complexity of late capitalism from within, we may find networks and solidarities for collective solutions to the urgent distributed challenges of living in a time of intensifying violences and volatilities, without losing sight of the care, joy, and love embedded within how we will and shall live together.

From a more material and practical perspective, I imagine that practices and histories of new and expanded media will gain greater institutional footholds as digital ecologies mature and cross-fertilisation occur increasingly between practitioners that work between different scales and environments of technology, politics, and cultures. While some people may consider us in a post-COVID era, the revelation of the global reliance on screen-based media for communication and creation during the worst of the pandemic times have definitely resulted in massive shifts in how we think about, organise, and present certain forms of creative works, and this is something that I think will persist.

– What are you interested in seeing or discovering at the fair in this new edition?

I am most interested in seeing works by emerging practitioners and presentations by emerging galleries and art spaces that excavate under-explored narratives of history and explore the unseen affects and stories hidden within the everyday. I am also curious about artistic ecosystems of production and circulation within different forms of regionality such as Ibero-America and the Mediterranean, and how they can link up with the regions I am more presently active in.

– In which projects or with which artists are you working now? What topics concern you in your research lately?

Right now, I am busy with researching and preparing for my inaugural edition of SeaShorts Film Festival as programme director. A pan-Southeast Asian festival exploring short-form moving image cultures, SeaShorts is slated to take place in Q4 2023 and I am very excited about new possibilities of working from an expanded perspective of what short films can be, and what forms of knowledge- and history-making can emerge from a media archaeological approach to film culture. In addition to this, I am also working on my personal artistic practice, a few curatorial projects slated for the coming year, as well as conducting preliminary research for my forthcoming graduate studies at the Yale School of Architecture.

Within the scope of my my current research, which approaches art, architecture, and cinema from the lens of what I call ‘critical visual culture’, I am interested in investigating how infrastructure, landscape, and capital are interlinked to form a kind of media that propagate and manifest specific political and economic imaginaries within neoliberal ideology. A big part of this research takes place under an umbrella project called THERMOTROPICANA that uses the properties of heat and wetness as a metaphor for capital movement within and without the tropical belt. This is something I have been developing for the past couple of years through the Centre for Urban Mythologies (CUM), an artistic and critical research platform I founded in 2020, which I also aim to expand in activities and collaborators.

How would you define your curatorial practice?

As an organiser and editor who entered the nebulous world of ‘curatorial practice’ somewhat incidentally, I would say that my approach to exhibition- and programme-making is rooted in a very tentacular and critical way of reflecting on the ways we exist within the systems, networks, and structures that we are in. I was first trained as a film critic before I studied to become an arts manager, and then I worked actively as an academic researcher between architecture and media studies and also as a cultural journalist—I did not follow a linear path and branched out like a slime mold solving a maze, and this somewhat eclectic approach has taught me to think transversally and address blindspots. Instead of approaching artistic fields with formal and genealogical classifications such as dance, painting, and architecture, I revert to a more meta vocabulary—for example, bodies, movements, representations, and spaces—to get at the core of their powers and effects.

Geographically, my work has traditionally been situated between East Asia (Taiwan) where I was born and Southeast Asia (Singapore) where I was raised, and it is this experience of having to negotiate actively between different ideas of Asia within Asia itself that has defined my own sense of political economy and geoculture, and informed my curiosity for all the different Asias that can and will exist—sometimes outside of Asia even.