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Heteroglossia (On Yokohama Triennale)

Inviting the Indian artist trio Raqs Media Collective as its artistic director, the 2020 edition of Yokohama Triennale resonates with a diversification of voices. The selection of 67 artists and collectives displays a firm step away from the Euro-American centric legacy and towards the grounding of a postcolonial courtyard. The gesture demonstrates the awareness of the ongoing heated discussion around identity politics all over the world, from gender to nationality, highlighting the current anti-Chinese sentiment and Black Lives Matters movement that followed the spread of COVID-19. Such an intention is especially clear when compared with many art/cultural/touristic triennales prevailing in Japan in recent years, which often choose to isolate themselves from these discussions and feature an overwhelming percentage of established western artists next to local artists.

This postcolonial courtyard gives each voice a position and advocates autodidacticism and luminosity (two of the five keywords proposed by RMC, the other three being friendship, care, and toxicity) which are by definition about indirect perseverance. With a number of works devoted to a historical or ethnographic approach, there are so many stories to tell, from generations’ endeavor in South Africa (Ke Sale Teng (I am still here), Lebohang Kganye, 2017) to an ordinary Japanese man’s work life between Japan and Sri Lanka (A mound of shells, Iwama Asako, 2020). Soulful narratives could be immediately accompanied by techno-nostalgia, like Park Chan-kyong’s film about a Buddhist quest in a radioactive world versus Elias Sime’s tableaux-like pieces from the Tightrope series and the Ants and Ceramicists series; or Sato Masaharu’s sentimental observation towards the end of his life versus Oscar Santillan’s relic-like sculptures Spacecraft (Venus). The inevitable discrepancies and distractions reveal themselves when the highly diversified voices in various languages and agendas come together—some yelling, some whispering, some with higher pitches and some lower… An exciting assemblage with little hope for convergence. Consequently, some of the softer lights run the risk of being dimmed by the surroundings, drowned in the crowdedness. Such may be the ‘cruelty’ of equality.

Ke Sale Teng (I am still here), Lebohang Kganye, 2017

A mound of shells, Iwama Asako, 2020

Belated Bosal, Park Chan-kyong, 2019

Tightrope: From The Belly of The Earth 1, Elias Sime, 2020 Tightrope (10): While Observing, Elias Sime, 2018

Spacecraft (Venus), Oscar Santillan, 2018

Dr. Reaper, Sato Masaharu, 2018


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