Guggenheim-funded No Country not just a West vs East duality, says curator June Yap

What was the guiding thought behind curating this exhibition?

The vision is very broad but if you look at the region alone, it too is extensive and would be meaningless if it was superficially represented. On the one hand, I was looking at how we would represent ourselves, to challenge the idea of representing ourselves to people outside of the region. And on the other hand, there was also us trying to understand each other within the region because sometimes our own understanding is quite incomplete.

Is there one work that’s sparked a lot of discussion?

We have one work by the Bangladeshi artist, Tayeba Begum Lipi, and it’s the structure of the bed but made of razor blades. What was very interesting when we first showed that work was how people were extremely attracted to it. People want to touch it even though it’s so dangerous. You’re thinking, “Look, it’s a razor blade. You don’t go out and grab razor blades on a day-to-day basis, so why are you trying to do that now?” It fascinates me that people try to interact with it when they’re not supposed to be interacting with it.

Two huge Western institutions that brought this project to life. Any personal thoughts on that?

Having gone through the project and met with the people involved, the engagement is quite wholehearted. I think it’s easy to read it as Western versus Eastern but our experiences are not defined in such isolation. It’s a bit of a knee-jerk reaction to look at it in such duality but at the same time I kind of understand where that’s coming from. But when we use the word “for” [in the title], it’s very deliberate. It’s not a show that one side wants to see or that one side wants to present to the other. “For” is a preposition of engagement and reciprocity and that’s what I felt needed to be reflected in the project itself. It really was about building that relationship and in the process of developing that, there is giving and taking and that to me is the answer for that duality.

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