The public forum of the Asia Cultural Co-operation Forum 2006 started here Thursday with speakers from different countries and regions sharing their views on the engagement and institutional diversity of contemporary art.
Speaking at the forum, Deputy Director of the Humanities Research Center of Australia National University Caroline Turner said that the Asia-Pacific region has a long and rich history of art creation and many networks now exist in the region for debate and dialogue gives rise to possibilities for the development of a new language of contemporary art.
When talking about the promotion of contemporary art, Turner pointed out that museums and cultural spaces are critical platforms for cross-cultural interaction. They have played an important part in interpreting culture and also in meeting the social and cultural needs of communities.
Art and cultural practice are also important to communities. Since the power of art is to mirror the inspirations and values of humanity, Turner said that contemporary art can help communities negotiate global and local societal changes and define new futures.
"A key role for cultural workers is to articulate to audiences the relationship of art to contemporary society and to local communities," Turner said, adding that one of the challenges for cultural workers is to negotiate with sensitivity the complex links between traditional art and contemporary art.
Director of Hong Kong Hanart T. Z. Gallery Johnson Chang explained the situation of Hong Kong and stressed that simply providing a venue for presentation hardly suffices for cultural mediation. "The crucial thing is interpretation," he said, one needs to interpret for an international audience but not fall short of addressing Asia's aspirations on its own terms.
As suggested by Chang, the finest art-world example of how Hong Kong can function as a cultural meeting place can be found in a newly established non-profit making foundation -- the Asia Art Archive, which serves as a professional need, providing up-to-date information on Asian contemporary art non-discriminately.
Chang said the greatest service an organization such as the Asia Art Archive provides is as an independent platform of endorsement. It can become an arbiter of taste through the combined and concerted efforts of international experts; also, it can buttress creativity and provide an intellectual vision beyond national boundaries and immediate commercial interest, he added.
When dealing with the issue about institutional diversity of contemporary art, Artistic Director of 2006 Gwangju Biennial of Korea Kim Hoong-hee said that one of the new cultural phenomena witnessed in contemporary Asia since the 1990s is the emergence and the burgeoning of alternative institutions such as alternative art spaces and biennials.
Asian alternative spaces, like those in Korea, are along with their efforts to re-map Asia in the world of contemporary art, endeavoring to create a new identity by expanding the "Asian effect" into a new cosmopolitanism," said Kim.
Taking Korean alternative art spaces as an example, Kim said that they boosted new generation artists and transformed the landscape of Korean art world. They are gaining forces and becoming mainstreams. And through international networking, the spaces function as a conduit for spreading the Korean wave of visual art.
A multifaceted art project in the Chinese mainland -- the Long March presents contemporary art in a different form. It acts as a platform to build connections between the artistic community and public venues as well as that between the local and the international; its programming includes exhibitions, lectures, publishing, international artist residencies, art consulting services and some other activities.
Founder and Director of Long March Project Lu Jie said that art education forms a substantial branch of the Long March programming in reaching out to the public. This includes interaction and dialogue with community groups regarding contemporary art, as well as bringing art outside of the borders of traditional art spaces, for example, converting a passenger train into an "art car" and moving exhibition.
Lu said that such activities seek to reevaluate the folk aesthetic symbols found throughout people's daily lives, and explore the types of explanations and practices they can provide for contemporary art.
The Asia Cultural Co-operation Forum 2006 with the theme of "Asian Arts, Culture and Modernity" was organized by the Home Affairs Bureau of the Hong Kong government and was kicked off on Nov. 8.
The five-day forum features a Chinese delegations' meeting and an Asian cultural ministers' meeting and a series of 12 open forums.