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An evolved culture of self-organized and artist-initiated projects exist in Vietnam. These projects typically function within energetic but circumstantially fragile contexts with unpredictable futures. Uncommon Pursuits: A Temporary School for Emergent Curators in Southeast Asia has been organized as a result of questions of how best to systematically address the needs of local artists and begin to build and consolidate local, regional and international conversations, platforms and exchanges.

Contemporary curatorial practices run a range of activities in exhibition-making, programming, and discursive projects within an expanding field of publishing. All emerge from research and writing. To date, regional training in curatorial work has been slight, with a concentration in Singapore, while curatorial programmes in Europe and North America proliferate. Furthermore, there is a growing cultural and academic concern with decolonial art histories, histories of contemporary art, and intra-Asia networks. These concerns are usually discussed under the metaphor of the Global South.

Uncommon Pursuits acknowledges and links these insights. The school was developed out of initial research by the curator Qinyi Lim, a curator at the National Gallery Singapore, who identified ambiguity and anxiety in Vietnam in regard to the figure of the curator and the processes of writing and curating ‘contemporary art.’ The school addresses these concerns by shaping a particular contemporaneity to curatorial practice – what it means to work now – and introduces skills based on an expansive understanding of curatorial practice.

Applications are restricted to nationals of Southeast Asian countries. The course is held in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Successful participants who live outside of Ho Chi Minh City will receive a subsidy for their travel and accommodation, to be reimbursed upon course completion.

Participants are required to submit a finalized curatorial proposal within 8 weeks of completion. These proposals will be used in a planned publication about Uncommon Pursuits. Further, Sàn Art will maintain a dialogue with all participants and aim to support the realisation of these proposals in the near future.

Please view the programme FAQs for more information.


Uncommon Pursuits comprises 4 sessions. Each session is 4 days,
3 days of lectures and workshops and 1 reflective day.


Curating Art in the
Contemporary World

Gerardo Mosquera 20 July - 23 July

Art biennales proliferated around the world from the mid-1990s, compounding critical questions of art’s ‘internationalization’ that were already burgeoning. More recently, we are witnessing the rise of the ‘Art Fair Age.’ What are the contexts and histories of such phenomena? How do both intersect? The Havana Biennial began in 1984 and initially created a new, truly international, “other” space for art from manifold contemporary practices. The biennial also undertook a critique of modernity and confronted mainstream canons and hierarchies. Has this legacy been sufficiently addressed, and how might we now imagine significance in and for a post-Cold War world?

The promises and limits of internationalized art circuits and critical questions of globalization are explored but looking outwards from—and not towards—the Global South. Many questions are at stake. Is art turning more rich and complex or is it being simplified by the necessary degree of standardization that a transcultural, international communication requires? Is difference being communicated and negotiated or just converted into a self-complacent taxonomy? What is the role and impact of the market?

This session ultimately addresses new epistemological grounds for artistic discourses, delving into the need for more decentralized museum procedures and an understanding of their complex interaction with global markets, circuits and collections. Here questions of how to recognize and cultivate different publics are also forcefully raised.


Education, Writing, Editing

Clare Butcher 24 July - 27 July

The word ‘essayer’ derives from ‘essay’ and refers to a process of trying, weighing, meandering and unfolding. How might we think this in regard to the discursive lives of art exhibitions? The past, present and future of exhibitions is by nature essayistic: constructed not only through lengthy catalogues, press releases, critical reviews and interviews, but also gossip, skewed memories and embodied experiences.

This session considers the histories of exhibitions and their publications as forms of knowledge. What of the archive, or rather “anarchive,” which captures or lets slip the many ephemeral experiences generated by encounters with exhibitions? What critical precepts need to be prioritized, from history, location or theory? How or what audience is to be shaped or addressed? And what speculative allowances can we make for the disobedient gaps, holes and the missing parts of an unfolding process?

This session approaches these questions and will also focus on facets of a case study of the 2nd Johannesburg Biennale entitled Trade Routes: History and Geography in 1997. The complexities and collapse of this historical exhibition invite an essayistic reading of rootedness, scale and effect, inviting us to reimagine the forms of research and writing demanded from the diverse contexts of producing and consuming curatorial knowledge.


Research Practices

Brian Curtin
Nigel Power
Simon Soon 31 July - 3 August

The term ‘research’ has become common currency among the range of practitioners under the rubric of ‘contemporary art.’ The term has a history in this context and carries certain implications: a break with conventionalized approaches to art history, the use of rationalized methods and a pursuit of exceptionally new insights. Such can be readily recognized in recent studies in Asian art histories and the move away from problematic categories such as ‘world art.’ However, empiricism and the appropriation of other disciplinary procedures carries challenges for those working with visual and material cultures. Is it possible to shape distinct methodologies for this work?

This session explores this question by focusing on the practical production of research questions, examining extant research methodologies and speculating on innovative approaches. Suspending discursive separations of theory and empiricism, the session also considers the politics of how and what knowledge is produced.


Thinking through Curating

Nuraini Juliastuti
Zoe Butt 7 August - 10 August

The practice of a curating contemporary art covers a diverse set of expectations and requirements: engagement with artist[s] and audiences; and managing tangible and intangible processes such as the writing of interpretative text and organizing space and display.

Playing with the linguistic root of ‘curate,’ contemporary curators regularly ask “How do we care?” Most are typically required to work across both familiar and unfamiliar contexts and sites, as if the practice of a curator is already understood as mobile and uncertain.

This session explores curatorial practice—its inherent possibilities—outside established institutional contexts, or beyond the extant structure of a museum or a gallery. Raising practical and theoretical questions about responsibilities behind purposes and objectives, ethical issues are inevitably provoked because traditional forms of exchange and consumption are rendered anew.

Beyond stereotypical institutional contexts, what histories do contemporary curatorial praxis evolve? In fragile social contexts, what roles does or can the curator assume?



    Art educator from Zimbabwe, who cooks as part of her practice.


    Artistic Director of The Factory Contemporary Arts Centre in Saigon.


    Director and Curator of Sàn Art.


    Co-founder of KUNCI Cultural Studies Center in Yogyakarta, Indonesia.


    Independent curator, critic, art historian, and writer.


    Chair of MfA Visual Communication at King Mongkut’s University of Technology Thonburi in Thailand.


    Senior lecturer at the University of Malaya in Kuala Lumpur.


Uncommon Pursuits is open to Southeast Asian nationals who possess 1- 2 years of organizational experience in the visual arts. The programme is held in Ho Chi Minh City from 20 July to 10 August 2018. Participants are required to be present in Ho Chi Minh City no later than 19 July and all sessions in the programme are mandatory. Please view our FAQs for more information on subsidies for travel and accommodation for those based outside of Ho Chi Minh City.

To apply, please prepare (in Vietnamese or English):

1. A recent CV (no images needed) and;
2. A 500 word statement outlining a curatorial project that demonstrates your interest in ‘contemporary art’, broadly construed, and how you think you and your project will benefit from this programme. This curatorial project will be developed over the course. Participants are required to submit a finalized curatorial proposal within 8 weeks of completion. These proposals will be used in a planned publication about Uncommon Pursuits. Further, Sàn Art will maintain a dialogue with all participants and aim to support the realisation of these proposals in the near future.

Please combine the above into 1 single file (doc, docx or pdf) and email it to hello@san-art.org
and titled Application: Uncommon Pursuits

Deadline for Application is 16 June 2018, 11:59pm (GMT+7)
Successful candidates will be notified from 25 June 2018.
The course begins on 20 July 2018.
Should you have any inquiries please email us via hello@san-art.org and titled
Inquiry: Uncommon Pursuits



Director and Curator of Sàn Art.


Artistic Director of Six Space, an independent platform
for art, education and community projects in Hanoi.


Curator and Artistic Director of Jim Thompson Art Center
in Bangkok.


Artist and co-founder of Sàn Art.


Director and Curator of Post Vidai, an art collection based in Saigon and Geneva, and member of the collective Art Labor in Saigon.


I don’t have any experience in curating, can I apply?
All applicants are required to hold 1-2 years of organizational experience in the arts (please specify in your CV), demonstrate a particular interest in contemporary art and have a project in mind that can benefit from curatorial training.

My English is not good, can I apply?
Uncommon Pursuits is taught through English at the standard of an international BA. Translation and tutorial assistance is available throughout the course, but for the participants’ benefit (e.g. for class discussion), it is important to possess adequate English skills.

I am an artist, not a curator or art organizer, can I apply?
Yes, so long as you satisfy the above requirements.

Is there any age restriction to applying?

I will have to miss one week of the programme, is it ok?
No. We require full commitment.

Is there any fee to participate?
No. The course is free of charge for all successful candidates.

Does San Art offer certification on completion of
the programme?

What if I don’t understand aspects of the programme OR how it relate to my practice OR how to do homework? Is there any assistance during the class?
Tutorials with lecturers and Sàn Art staff are possible on request.

I’m not in Ho Chi Minh City, would I have to cover my costs of traveling to and living in Ho Chi Minh City?
Participants from outside Ho Chi Minh City will receive a subsidy for their travel and accommodation to participate in the course. Specifically:

• Participant from Vietnam: $150 for return flight and $100 for accommodation.
• Participant from Southeast Asia: $200 for return flight and $100 for accommodation
• All other expenses (visa, stipend, etc….) are borne by the participant.

This subsidy will be reimbursed to the candidate(s) upon course completion.

What do the organizers expect from participants after the programme?
That you can begin to hone the curatorial project you brought to the programme to a professional degree. Participants are required to submit a finalized curatorial proposal within 8 weeks of completion. These proposals will be used in a planned publication about Uncommon Pursuits. Further, Sàn Art will maintain a dialogue with all participants and aim to support the realisation of these proposals in the near future.