No Country: Contemporary Art for South and Southeast Asia

No Country: Contemporary Art for South and Southeast Asia

No Country: Contemporary Art for South and Southeast Asia is the first exhibition of a multi-year 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