SWAB PRESENTS THE VIDEO BOX PROGRAM: “GOD SAVE THE AQUA”
This year, Southeast Asia is hosting the Video Box, a space that is being consolidated in Swab Barcelona as a special programme dedicated to the latest proposals in video art.
Six audiovisual projects will be presented, immersed in the paradoxical relationship between tradition and progress, reflecting upon the perspective of the participating countries; Thailand, Singapore, Vietnam, Indonesia and the Philippines.
“God Save the Aqua” takes water as a metaphor for nature confronting the capitalist and anthropocentric dynamics of the contemporary world, and, playing with the slogan popularised by the famous British band Sex Pistols, uses the name of one of the most commercialised water brands in South East Asia “Acqua” a vital need made into a product.
Historically, the culture of Southeast Asia had been closely linked to nature and the ultimate goal of humans was to be in touch and harmony with it. However, in recent times of neoliberal globalization, new paradigms have been imposed in a fast-moving and uncontrolled way that are generating multiple and strange environmental and socio-cultural conflicts: big real estate bubbles, unhealthy and traffic-collapsed cities, privatization of common goods and very high levels of all kinds of pollution.
The respect for nature, the awareness of its power and the humble position of man before it vanishes before the primacy of the human and the corporate, which with a radical change of vision tries to put itself in the center and take power.
In the presence of this, the essence is abandoned to oblivion, water loses its value as a source of life and becomes a speculative good and the creator God is abandoned by his followers who feel that their own land, their own tradition, has been given to a political force instead of a spiritual one.
Pollution, the body removed from oneself, from its nature, merges with the mass, and fantastic, artificial beings fight within this apocalyptic scenario, reclaiming life and primal emotions, such as love, within a world that moves forward rapidly, and asking with a cry for help to give back to nature the power that should never have been taken away from it.
Artist: Nicole Phua
An artwork that questions and explores the search for the purpose of existence in the physical and material world, through the current problem in Bandung of water pollution and scarcity of pure water. Water becomes a metaphor for life, for its cycle and the uncertainty of its scarcity. Essential in life and yet abandoned.
A reflection on the human impact on nature.
Title: Thank you clap
Artist: Fajar Abadi
A social experiment that uses a minibus called Angkot as a stage, through which the viewer is invited to reflect on one of the most popular problems in all of Southeast Asia, traffic, pollution and social difficulties with the means of transport.
Large cities in Indonesia suffer from serious social problems related to traffic congestions, due to a wide range of factors including the lack of developed public transport systems and the fact that vehicle ownership is a symbol of social status. One of the current problems is that public service drivers lack education and civil codes, and that is why many cities do not expand their public transport capacity, including Bangkok, as it has become very badly known among the population.
For this reason, the artist reproduces a public bus where the driver repeats to each user “Thank you for using Angkot” while applauding and offering chocolates. Fajar Abadi generates a dialogue between citizens, established systems and services.
Artist: PURE EVER
1314-Br0ken SUnset is a soft sci-fi archipelagic love story – a forbidden tale between a two out of three of a pluralistic triad. On a fictional island in the Southeast Asian equator in the Archipelago called Sinkie, a forbidden love blossoms. Floating along threads of semi-altered states, the dias(non-binary pronoun) converse, expressing affections and disaffections for a system of complex macro-algae exchange. This piece serves as a prologue for a longer, larger-scaled video work that is a work in progress as of now.
Title: It seems to be
Artist: Dao Tung
up the banyan, the ant climbs
alas, dead-end, futile crawl
up the peach tree, the ant creeps
broken branches, to-and-fro
Through the traditional Vietnamese poem, the artist Dao Tung plays with the spectators’ empathy: letting them decide whether to associate more with the human or the ant, the stick or the hand, and feel the edges of their own circle of darkness. He reflects, like the poem itself, on the mockery of the indecision of the “coming and going”.
Title: Serpents’ Tails
Artist: UuDam Tran Nguyen
From Hindu and Greek mythologies to the Bible and Vietnamese nationalist stories, the inspiration for Snake Tail is multiple. The video begins with the creation of homemade objects and snake animals that are breathed in by the toxic fumes emanating from motorcycle exhausts – reflecting on the concept of “what gives life can also extinguish it”.
In one chamber, a giant elephant inflates and swells up against the floor, walls and ceilings. The pollution, and by extension the environmental disaster, is the elephant ignored in the chamber shaped by Nguyen’s plastic skins. The funny and not-so-funny cartoon inhales and almost explodes with a poison that remains shapeless and invisible to the casual eye in Saigon, where the motorcycles of more than 7 million almost equal the number of its inhabitants.
The piece plays with different scenarios, such as roofs, fields surrounded by motorcycles where these animals come to life from toxicity creating a scenario between beautiful and tragic. Through a mythological work created by the artist he will create a metaphor where beasts fight among themselves and finally come after all of us, leaving nothing but carbon footprints.
Artist: Weixin Quek Chong
In this work, the artist explores through aesthetics, touch and sensoriality as a form of expression the language of the body and the social symbolism in it. Fragile bodies are joined together by supporting each other, creating the social mass. We are and we are others.
The oppressions/depressions/pressure the form into inner and outer forms. Everything grows, mutates, adapts, evolves.
The video presented combines the movements of the feet under the latex with fourteen lines extracted and recombined from the poet Sappho. Mixing the spectrum of desire and longing with a cadence of laborious breathing and insomnia that counteracts the sounds of ASMR from the depths of the sea.
Title: Future Faith
Artist: Ivan Despi
This art piece revises Future Faith, part of an old series that was exhibited 9 years ago, in 2011, at Pablo Gallery.
Future Faith reflects on the loss of faith, from the artist’s personal experience of disappointment or estrangement from religious institutions. This concept is manifested in the work through the artist’s dreams, where a religious idol covered in decadence is revealed.
Although the conviction in a supreme being is still there, the structure of worship is in doubt. The artist wants to explore what happens after the loss of faith. As traditional belief systems erode, the lack of an entity to put your faith and trust in will cause anxiety. Out of necessity, the artist believes that a person will create something to believe in. Something to fill the void. Sometimes, they may become another idol of another belief system, sometimes, another person entirely, but most of the time, they turn out to be themselves. In 2020, the loss of faith has extended not only into religious institutions, but also into the government. In the age of a pandemic, structures that society should have trusted are collapsing. What is stewardship for a church that seeks to restart religious congregations for donations? What is leadership for a government that is selling off its own land and people?
As people move away from their faith in these systems, they create their own system to rely on. And this gives rise to a system made up of themselves. Who is your god now? What do you believe in now? What can you trust in times of need?
Ivan Despi invites the viewer to reflect through this work on a social, theological, political and personal level.
Artist: Wantanee Siripattananuntakul
Artwork I: ‘JA, JA, JA, JA, NE, NE, NE’,
Artwork II: “EVERYONE IS…”,
Artwork III: “BEUYS AND A COYOTE : THE SILENT RELATIONSHIP”,
VER Gallery presents the Beuys Project (African Grey Parrot) by Wantanee Siripattananuntakul, collecting 3 videos that show the long term collaboration between Wantanee and “Beuys”, an African Grey Parrot from its beginning in 2013 until now.
The name “Beuys” belongs not only to the pioneer of 20th art century, but also to the name of the parrot. Wantanee dedicated his time every day to create a link between the artist and the parrot. The three selected works are the videos that most represent the concept of the Beuys project. The first two, with spoken sentences by Beuys, and his latest work “BEUYS AND A COYOTE : THE SILENT RELATIONSHIP” emphasize this year and the years of intimate relationship between Wantanee and Beuys, not only teaching him to speak but trusting each other without any means of verbal communication.
From the human-centered point of view, man believes that he is the most significant entity in the universe. He thinks like a hunter, controlling other things and nature. Does man really have the power? Or is it just false consciousness?
The artist invites us to reflect on whether man has really imposed his power as a being over nature, depriving other beings of their freedom. Through this project, the artist reflects on the absolute freedom of being, which does not depend on the ability to act or not to act, but on the ability to say the unspeakable.