TAASA Review Issues

December 2003

Vol: 12 Issue: 4
Editors: Sandra Forbes & Ann MacArthur

Cover Photo
Stills from the video work Memorial Project Nha Trang, Vietnam, towards the complex – for the courageous, the curious and the cowards, by Jun Nguyen Hatsushiba, Vietnam, 2001. DVD, 13.00 minutes, colour, stereo. Collection Queensland Art Gallery. Curator Rhona Devenport writes about this work on pp.14-15 of this issue.

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Editorial

Sandra Forbes

A number of the articles in this issue of TAASA Review happen to be concerned with the discussion of art works which are not only artistic statements but also powerful statements of belief.

Artist, writer and community worker Carole Douglas provided our lead article, ‘Resurgence: more than an exhibition’. Carole put together Resurgence: stories of an earthquake, the exhibition of craft works from Gujarat which drew unprecedented numbers of visitors to the Manly Art Gallery in Sydney earlier this year. It was not only the colour and beauty of the textiles that drew people in: a strong attraction was also the story behind them, a story of art created out of disaster and despair, by a community in pain but determined to survive. Carole’ s years of work in drawing this exhibition together made it possible for the dreams and hopes of these Indian rural artists to reach out to a wider world, drawing attention to their needs and desires for a better future.

Like the exhibition Resurgence, the play Mavis Goes to Timor brings an understanding that out of the deepest tragedy, life and art continue to emerge. Director and co-writer of Mavis, Angela Chaplin, writes that researching this work was ‘humbling, life changing and exhilarating’. She, co-writer Katherine Thomson and musical director Kavisha Mazella have through story-telling and performance sought to bring audiences some understanding of the lives of the women of East Timor  a country of death, destruction, violence and dashed hopes, yet with so much love and life. The play recently won the Stage Writing Award at the 36th annual Awgies Awards for Guild member Katherine Thomson.

In strong contrast to the vibrant, earthy textiles of Kutch or East Timor, Jun Nguyen-Hatsushiba’s 13-minute video, Memorial Project Nha Trang … is surreal and acqueous (see cover image). It is a memorial to another tragedy, that of the ‘boat people’ who fled Vietnam after the end of the ‘American war’ in 1989. In this work, cyclos represent the boats; filmed under water, the struggle of the machines and their riders to move forward appears graceful, ethereal. The effect is elegiac and moving.

The dramatic message of the works of the Indonesian installation artist Dadang Christanto is more instantly obvious. Dadang has long been a ‘political’ artist, as typified by the titles of early works such as For Those Who Have Been Killed. His major work They Give Evidence, recently purchased by the Art Gallery of New South Wales, is currently on show for the opening of its new Asian Galleries. There is no doubting the power of this political statement. The 16 standing figures of the installation are victims themselves, and the clothing they hold in their arms represents more victims. As Sue Ingram writes, the work is a powerful evocation of the crimes perpetrated on the powerless.

While it’s not all politics in this issue, it is interesting where politics creeps in. For example, political turmoil, wars and their aftermath caused the ancient Buddhist manuscripts discussed by Mark Allon in this issue to come to the attention of Western scholars. The manuscripts found their way to Europe in the 1990s from eastern Afghanistan and northern Pakistan as a result of the upheavals in that region. Research on these scrolls has provided great excitement to Buddhist scholars, an excitement well conveyed by Allon in his most accessible article. As he says, despite their somewhat unhappy provenance, these scrolls have changed current understanding of the development of Buddhist literature.

Elsewhere, this issue of the Review ranges from photography to film, from Japanese swords to Indian paintings. Readers can find out about the little-known Sarawak Museum, in an example of what is intended to be a regular Review ‘column’, Traveller’s Choice (contributions sought, please). We also pat ourselves on the back a bit, with an interesting short report called ‘TAASA’s Knowledge Network’. And we profile two current TAASA Management Committee members, Kerry Nguyen Long and Sabrina Snow, who provided their autobiographies with the help of Joyce Burnard. We think you ought to know who is keeping TAASA on the road.

Table of contents

EDITORIAL COMMENT: POLITICS AND ART  Sandra Forbes

RESURGENCE: MORE THAN AN EXHIBITION  Carole Douglas

INDIAN PAI NTE RS, BRITISH MASTERS COMPANY SCHOOL PAINT ING IN THEW R JOHNSTON COLLECTION  Richard Runnels

NEW BUDDHIST MANUSCRIPTS FROM ANCIENT GANDHARA  Mark Allon

11  ISHIDA AND KAGIYAMA – JAPANESE PHOTOGRAPHERS IN SYDNEY  Judy Annear

12  BENG MELEA, AN ‘ENIGMATIC’ TEMPLE  Milton Osborne

14  IN THE PUBLIC DOMAIN: TOWARDS THE COMPLEX…  Rhana Devenport

16  TRAVELLERS CHOICE: THE SARAWAK MUSEUM  Trevor Vale

17  INDIA AT THE SYDNEY FILM FESTIVA L: NOT ONLY BOLLYWOOD  Jim Masselos

19  TAASA’S KNOWLEDGE NETWORK

20  PRODUCTION NOTES: MAVIS GOES TO TIMOR

21  JAPANESE SWORDS : WEAPONS OR FINE ART?  Barry Thomas

22  WITNESSES FROM INDONESIA  Sue Ingham

23  WHAT’S ON – Compiled by Ann MacArthur

25  TAASA PROFILE: KERRY NGUYEN-LONG

26  TAASA PROFILE: SABRINA SNOW

27  TAASA ACTIVITIES IN SYDNEY AND MELBOURNE

27  TAASA MEMBERS’ DIARY DECEMBER 2003  FEBRUARY 2004

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