Embedded South(s) is an online exhibition of moving images by artists (short-film, documentary and video art) that provides a window onto particular shared realities within an embedded south – such a context imbued with a set of attitudes and beliefs that integrally interweave, respond and cling to particular mutual experience and value (the word ‘embedded’ being also a reference to film where images are strung together and contained). By context it refers to communities previously colonized, understanding that their forced and voluntary journeys of migration today contribute to vast mobile diaspora whose tales disturb the assumption of a ‘south’ as mere geographical or economic coordinates.
This online exhibition engages 29 perspectives concerning South Asia, SouthEast Asia, Latin America and Africa, via 32 works, screened over the course of four consecutive evenings, from 3-6 November 2016. Each evening is curated according to a particular theme (explained further on), each theme being central to ‘Conscious Realities’, the overarching endeavor that embraces this online exhibition as but one of numerous programs organised by San Art over the course of the last three years.
Initiated by San Art in 2013, ‘Conscious Realities’ is composed of predominantly discursive encounters carried out through lectures, workshops, exhibitions and an artist-in-residency program in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Inviting artists, journalists, musicians, urban planners, filmmakers, curators, historians, theorists, poets and scientists from the ‘Global South’ to engage the central themes of the endeavor with San Art’s local artistic and cultural community. Each guest challenged the understanding of locality, of time, of space, of participants relation to History, expanding the concept of ‘regionality’(1), bringing differing reference points to what was ordinarily circulating Vietnam’s official cultural agenda, offering an alternative narrative to dominant propagandist or neocolonial mandate instituted by government and diplomatic entities (Goethe Institute, Alliance Francaise among others).
So why ‘Global South’? In 2013, San Art felt it more politically correct a term to use than the outdated ‘Third World’ or ‘developing countries’ label; it seemed fitting socio-economically in its grouping of geographies less developed, for it was considered one way to better understand other cultural contexts as akin to its own – politically fragile, spiritually in-repair, socially traumatized and economically struggling.
However over the course of spending time with the many varied intelligence throughout ‘Conscious Realities’, who were incredibly patient and generous with the participants’ lack of familiarity, San Art learnt/were reminded of how critical it is to use words and perceptions carefully and wisely. It became utterly clear that this notion of a ‘Global’ South only served to re-emphasize the have-nots against the haves; that such a dualism was not at all in the spirit of the project which sought to reveal multiple mutuality and reliance in motion (2).
Thus ‘Embedded South(s)’, in its very naming, celebrates the physical, philosophical and collaborative trajectories of artists whose work challenges the presumption of identity, ritual, custom and belief in its existence, value and relevance today. It highlights the tension in sustaining traditional ways of cultural life in the face of industrializing societies; it reveals the ongoing trauma of being spoken for and categorized, not only from colonial residual habits but also the military regimes left in its wake; it highlights the abuse of power in taking abundance of resource for granted, revealing the fragility between the privileged elite and the struggling resource-dependent – and it does so by giving each evening’s screening the central thematic of ‘Conscious Realities’, namely ‘Mythology’, ‘Social Science and Collective Memory’ and ‘Materiality’.
It is important to share that ‘Embedded South(s)’ is a collection of stories curated initially for a hopeful public audience in Vietnam. However due to complicated and restrictive government regulations on film and foreign content, we, the curators, decided that rather than let this defeat our motivations, we would find alternate means of sharing.
Thus ‘Embedded South(s)’ became an online exhibition, with the added and much desired ability to significantly increase our audiences by seeking like-minded communities across this ‘south(s)’ to co-host the event. From Jaffna to São Paulo, from Mumbai to Manila, from Phnom Penh to Cali to Kampala and more; we are ever grateful to these independent and grass-root organizations who all too well identify and celebrate the motivations and thematics of this ‘Embedded South(s)’.
The curators wish to thank the following artists, individuals and organizations whose help and support have made this project possible; Artists: Bani Abidi; Fernando Arias; Kannan Arunasalam; Sammy Baloji/ Lazara Rosell Albear; Tiffany Chung; Bakary Diallo; Andrew Esiebo/Annalisa Butticci; Shanaka Galagoda; Ayrson Heráclito; Sasha Huber; Claudia Joskowicz; Amar Kanwar; Mikhail Karikis; Jompet Kuswidananto; Dinh Q Le; Giovanna Miralles; Nguyen Huong Tra; Nguyen Thi Thanh Mai; Nguyen Trinh Thi; David-Douglas Masamuna Ntimasiemi; Phan Thao Nguyen; Renata Padovan; Chulayarnnon Siriphol; Sutthirat Supaparinya; Kidlat Tahimik; Tran Luong; Truong Cong Tung; Vandy Rattana; The San Art Team: Dương Mạnh Hùng, Đặng Thị Nhã, Đỗ Thị Ngọc Trâm, Lê Xuân Hồng Nhung, Nguyễn Bích Trà, Nhật Q. Võ, Tuyến Bùi; Chou Lê, tikiubi, Nguyễn Hoàng Thiên Ngân; and Sharmini Pereira (Sri Lanka Archive of Contemporary Art, Architecture and Design, Jaffna); Nalini Malani; Prateek Raja (Experimenta, Kolkata); Maria Abegail Lara; Tyler Rollins, New York; Estelle Lacaille; Gerges Senga; Mariam Kone; Natalia Trebik; Nguyễn Quốc Thành; Gesyada Annisa Namora Siregar; Norberto Roldan and Merv Espina (Green Papaya, Manila); Erin Gleeson and Ben Ve (Sa Sa Bassac, Phnom Penh); Sumeshwar Sharma and Yogesh Barve (Clarkhouse Intitiative, Mumbai); Sally Mizrachi (Lugar a Dudas, Cali); Ana Paula Vargas (Videobrasil, Sao Paulo); Teesa Bahana (32 Degrees East, Kampala); Shireen Seno (Los Otros, Manila); Marika Constantino (98B); Haymann Oo (New Zero Art Space, Yangon)
© Zoe Butt, Uyen Le & Gabriela Salgado, 2016
The full curatorial text is available in our e-brochure, downloadable here
(1) Referring to ‘regionalism’ – the theory or practice of regional rather than central systems of administration or economic, cultural, or political affiliation.
(2) For further reading, see Thomas Hylland Eriksen ‘What’s wrong with the Global North and the Global South?’ http://gssc.uni-koeln.de/node/454