Mapping Asia

Asia Art Archive

12 May 2014 to 29 August 2014 

The exhibition “Mapping Asia” is a unique response to one of the most frequently posed questions at Hong Kong’s Asia Art Archive: How is “Asia” defined? “Mapping Asia” takes up the conundrum from diverse vantage points, from artworks, performances, and talks, as well as materials from the archive.

Boundaries are fluid, culturally and physically. A newspaper clipping from November 14, 2013—“The World’s Newest Island” from the South China Morning Post—reports on the creation of a new landmass off the coast of Pakistan. The troubled legacy of partition, meanwhile, is referenced in Naeem Mohaiemen’s Kazi in Nomansland, 2009, which comprises stacks of postage stamps issued by India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh depicting poet and activist Kazi Narul Islam, each country competing to claim him as its own.

A display of Han through Yuan dynasty ceramics bearing Islamic and Roman stylistic influences complement Francisco Camacho’s film A Parallel Narrative, 2014, which examines early links between China and pre–Hispanic America. Predating even the celebrated voyages of adventurer Zheng He, the film postulates the location of Fousang, first visited by the monk Hui Shen in the seventh century.

In deft shorthand for the persistent debates surrounding Orientalism, the exhibition includes the song “Getting to Know You” in a scene from The King and I (1956). While the clip ends with a clumsy exchange between Anna Leonowens and the King of Siam over slavery and Abraham Lincoln, Anna’s primly catchy song reminds us that, after all, Asia is a continent we’re still “getting to know.”


This review was first published in the online version of Artforum, July 2014.