No Country: Contemporary Art for South and Southeast Asia at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum

No Country: Contemporary Art for South and Southeast Asia at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum

From February 22 through May 22, 2013, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York presented No Country: Contemporary Art for South and Southeast Asia, the inaugural exhibition of the Guggenheim UBS MAP Global Art Initiative. The New York presentation featured work by 22 artists and collectives representing some of the most compelling and innovative voices in South and Southeast Asia. Focused on the region’s shifting spectrum of creative practices, the exhibition traced networks of intellectual exchange and influence, and considered the various impacts of ethno-nationalism, colonization, and globalization on national identity. The exhibition featured painting, sculpture, photography, video, work on paper, and installation, the majority of which was on view in the United States for the first time. Following its presentation in New York, the exhibition traveled to Asia Society Hong Kong Center and Singapore’s Centre for Contemporary Art (CCA), a national research centre of the Nanyang Technological University (NTU).

Artists participating include: Bani Abidi, Reza AfisinaKhadim AliPoklong Anading, Aung Myint, Shilpa Gupta, Ho Tzu Nyen, Amar Kanwar, Vincent Leong, Tayeba Begum Lipi, Tuan Andrew NguyenThe Otolith Group, The Propeller Group, Araya Rasdjarmrearnsook, Navin Rawanchaikul, Norberto RoldanArin Dwihartanto Sunaryo, Tang Da Wu, Tran Luong, Truong Tan, Wah Nu and Tun Win Aung, and Wong Hoy Cheong.

The No Country exhibition was intended as a dialogic, rather than representative, platform, with the artworks being the starting point for reflection and dialogue about the region. Extending the dialogue beyond the exhibition, more than twenty artists, filmmakers, curators, writers, and critics shared their perspectives on the region in the form of writing, audio, and video. As curator June Yap stated, “The idea is to present the region as a project that is not merely of the region, but for the region.”

Discover the inspiration behind No Country and find out how the exhibition explores ideas of nation and community through June Yap’s essay. Download: e-book | interactive PDF

Learn more about the artists through pages featuring each artist, accompanied by images of their works and other resources.

Find out more about the exhibition and its themes by watching Guggenheim UBS MAP videos, listening to our audio playlists, or searching through our digital library with the interactive MAP Navigator.

Read, watch, listen to, and discuss essays, stories, and interviews by more than twenty artists, filmmakers, curators, writers, and critics. MAP’s blogs also highlight exhibitions, programs, initiative news, and related events.

Education and Public Programs

“Storytelling and Art with Khadim Ali,” Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, April 2013

“Storytelling and Art with Khadim Ali,” Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, April 2013. Photo: Tanya Ahmed

In the spring of 2013, the Guggenheim Museum held educational and contextual programs in conjunction with the exhibition No Country: Contemporary Art for South and Southeast Asia. Over the course of the 14-week show, the Guggenheim held school and family interactive tours, artist workshops and tours for the visually impaired, family workshops, film screenings, artist talks, and a symposium. Highlights:

  • Artist Khadim Ali led a series of programs inspired by his work and the Shahnameh (Book of kings), a Persian epic poem. For a family workshop, Ali combined storytelling and art making to encourage children to create personal responses. Ali’s Mind’s Eye workshop for the blind and people who have low vision focused on storytelling and cultural and familial heritage.
  • In addition to films and video works in the exhibition, weekly documentary and narrative films were screened at the Guggenheim, presenting nuanced views of South and Southeast Asia. Learn more (PDF) about the films presented.
  • A special one-time screening of Wajma (An Afghan Love Story), Barmak Akram’s most recent film, was followed by a conversation with the filmmaker, independent curator Leeza Ahmady, and artist Mariam Ghani.
  • During the first day of the two-day symposium “No Country: Regarding South & Southeast Asia,” artist Wong Hoy Cheong’s Doghole (2010) was screened at the Guggenheim Museum. Afterward, curator June Yap moderated an in-depth discussion with audience members in New York and the artist, who resides in Malaysia and participated via Skype. 
  • Held at the Queens Museum, the second part of the No Country: Regarding South and Southeast Asia symposium featured presentations and discussions of contemporary art practice in South and Southeast Asia, the differences between multiculturalism and globalization, and the rethinking of art history in the wake of emergent geopolitical boundaries. Speakers included independent curator Gridthiya Gaweewong; Alexandra Monroe, Samsung Senior Curator, Asian Art, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum; independent curator and publisher Sharmini Pereira; artist collective The Propeller Group; academic Nora Taylor; and Guggenheim UBS MAP Curator, South and Southeast Asia, June Yap.

From the Curator:

No Country: Contemporary Art for South and Southeast Asia is the first exhibition of a multiyear initiative, conceived by the Guggenheim in collaboration with UBS, which charts contemporary art and creative activity across three geographic regions. Featuring recent acquisitions in painting, sculpture, video, film, work on paper, and installation, it attempts to engage critically with the region on its own terms. No Country proposes a reevaluation of the region and its countries based on its cultural relationships, influences, affinities, and negotiations. It offers a glimpse into the region’s diverse contemporary art practices, and presents the possibility of understanding its countries as greater than the contents of their political and geographical boundaries.

Challenging romanticized perceptions of the region, the artworks in No Country lay bare a complex set of conditions that resulted from the rise and fall of kingdoms and empires, and which bear the historical traces of colonization and the often-traumatic birth of nations. These works explore universal themes of national identity and community, cultural knowledge, power, and faith. The exhibition’s title—drawn from the opening line of the W. B. Yeats poem “Sailing to Byzantium” (1928) that is referenced in the title of Cormac McCarthy’s 2005 novel No Country for Old Men—alludes to this transformative journey, one which eludes simple delineation.

—June Yap, Guggenheim UBS MAP Curator, South and Southeast Asia

Resource Guides

Teacher Guide Online and PDF
This Resource Guide focuses on five artists whose work was included in No Country: Contemporary Art for South and Southeast Asia at the Guggenheim Museum. The exhibition provided an opportunity for students to learn how contemporary artists address the issues and concerns of our time.

Family Guide (PDF)
This Family Guide is designed for children and adults to use together as they discover more about the art that is being produced by contemporary artists across South and Southeast Asia.