Opening March 26. at 7 pm

March 26. - April 13. : days of production

Extra opening hours
Weds - Fri, 4 - 7pm
Sat - Sun, 2 - 6pm

The End of Travelling (Trip to Asiatown and Back)

Heman Chong / Isabelle Cornaro




[ Introduction ]
"The End of Travelling" (Trip to Asiatown and Back) is a video-documentary investigating the impact of globalisation on Asian contemporary art.

We are trying to understand the meaning of the increasing interest in Asian artists with European curators, namely with the importance of the political in their works, their attitudes concerning their country's art history and relationships with international markets. Finally, we want to question the significance of the strong presence of Asian students in European art colleges.

The video-documentary comprises of interviews with several established artists, conducted during a trip to Asia in November 2001 as well as footage filmed in the different capital cities where they reside.

[ Origins ]
The origins of this video-documentary is based on the relooking of the ideas and process behind the travelling exhibition "Cities on the Move". Curated by Hou Hanru and Hans-Ulrich Obrist, the exhibition was first proposed for the 100th Anniversary show at the Vienna Secession in 1997 and was subsequently installed in various museums in London, Helsinki, Bordeaux, Copenhagen, New York, before making a stop in Bangkok, where it was deconstructed and placed all over the city.

The central themes of urban chaos in art, architecture and film were the main paradigms of this massive project. It was essentially a show that focussed on the varied practices that existed in contemporary artistic practices in Asia. The basis of the travelling show structure was to enable the next exhibition to be an extension of previous exhibitions. The purpose of the curators was to suggest a scene in Asia that is perpetually on the move.

While "Cities on the Move" travelled, exhibitions presenting young Asian artists flourished everywhere in Europe. Exhibitions that functioned as reflections on cultural exchange, migration, globalisation and other similar current themes became very popular with both audiences and museums. Among others "Paris pour escale" curated by Hou Hanru and Evelyne Jouanneau at the ARC (Paris, 1998) and "Next Generation" curated by Michel Nuridsay at the "Passage de Retz" (Paris, 2001).

Similarly, there has been a sharp increase of mega-exhibitions, art fairs and biennales of contemporary art organised by countries or cities as an act to claim status as international cultural centers. Each event shows the same desire to present a wide panorama of contemporary creations made by artists from the largest spectrum of countries and backgrounds.
Drawing from this point, the subject of the documentary surfaces: to observe and reflect on the influence of globalisation on artists' production from Asia as well as the growing importance of the Asian art scene in Europe.

[ Work Process ]
We have attempted to retain and develop several ideas from "Cities on the Move" that has allowed us to work towards a precise working process. First of all, we interviewed many artists who had participated in the exhibition: Wong Hoy Cheong, Ken Lum, Heri Dono, etc; as well as the 2 curators and Rem Koolhaas, who was the principal exhibition architect who worked on the installment in the Hayward Gallery in London.

The theme of urban chaos and of the city remained to be the main essential context for our contemporary creation: how cities are investigated by artists and transformed by them, how its future shape is influenced by the works and issues arising from contemporary art, and in which proportion museums and galleries attempt to evolve into spaces of production rather than just merely a site for consumption.

Responding to the crucial issues of cultural exchange, globalisation and migrations, we have decided to embark on a road movie - a process of temporary migration while realising the various images and interviews with the artists.

[ Work structure and shape ]
We have chosen to articulate the video-documentary via an alternation of images captured in different capital cities (Paris, London, Singapore, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Yogyakarta) and edited to form a discourse facilitated with voice-overs. This itinerary which draws a geographic map of these different places of the contemporary creations that exist in time is punctuated by meetings/interviews with artists who live and work in these capital cities : Lee Wen, Heri Dono, Wong Hoy Cheong, Ken Lum, are widely invited in the Biennales and international mega-exhibitions (Kwangju, Havana, Venice, etc) and European and Asian galleries.

The interviews trigger the issues concerning the nature and form of their works, which primarily focuses on the importance of the political. For example, the concept of migration is explored with Ken Lum, a Canadian artist who is ethnically chinese, discussing his friendship with Chen Zhen, a Chinese artist emigrant in Paris. Through this interview, various questions and problems of identity were raised.

We have chosen to adapt a theory defined by Rem Koolhaas as a structure for the editing of the video-documentary: A City of Exacerbated Difference : "A city that does not imply the stability of a definitive configuration because each part is fixed, unstable and in a state of perpetual mutual adjustment defining themselves in relation to all other parts." "...what counts for the COED is not the methodical creation of the ideal, but the opportunistic exploitation of flukes, accidents and imperfections." Through this, we have employed images from several different sources-- sequences from travelling in the cities, clips from previous works, and others out of the context of the documentary which is included to form new meanings (e.g. Sequences from television, digital stills, etc).

The usage of very different and contemporary media is voluntary. It is relative to the essential role of media in the phenomenon of the reduction of distances (a simultaneous access of mass information).

In fact, in a global world where distances are annihilated, frontiers are dissolving, cultural differences are becoming more and more important. They have transformed into a major political and economical issue, as they are potentially disappearing.

Heman Chong / Isabelle Cornaro
© 2002

[ Review ]

"It is this critique then, of retinalized difference, of the Other induced to an image stereotype that is palatable and digestible, that two or three practitioners who are showing here at the Transmediale 3.0, Heman Chong and Isabelle Cornaro, for example, in their project, The End of Travelling, which is so suggestive of Michel Houellebecq's Platform, which concerns travel. Travelling the world to find that it is the same all round. Both these artists come together in this project The End of Travelling to examine what it is to produce today, in which the production of the self can only be acceptable to the optical system of the museum art gallery, that sees what it terms of Identity-Nation-Tribe category. How then to carry out a critique of multiculturalism when multiculturalism has been debased into an aesthetic notion of the Other as a retinalized entity?"

Sarat Maharaj (Cultural Theorist / Co-curator, Documenta11)
"Keynote Address: Art Acts Global, Transmediale 3.0,
Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin, 1 Feb 2003"



[ Public Exhibitions/Screenings Chart ]

01 : Work-in-progress 01: January 2002
"WIP2002", The Royal College of Art, London

02 : Installation 01, Group : : June 2002
"The Show 2002", The Royal College of Art, London

03 : Screening 01, Group : September 2002
"Single Screen : Video Art from Asia",
Nikolaj Contemporary Art Center, Copenhagen

04 : Installation 02, Solo : October 2002
"The End of Travelling (Trip to Asiatown and Back)",
The Substation, Singapore

05 : Work-in-progress 02 : January 2003
"Open Studios 2003", Künstlerhaus Bethanien, Berlin

06 : Screening 02 : February 2003
"Transmediale 03", Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin

07 : Screening 03 : February 2003
"VIDEOPROGRAMME2003", Earl Lu Gallery, Singapore

08 : Installation 03, Group : March 2003
"The President's Young Talent Exhibition",
The Singapore Art Museum, Singapore

09 : Installation 04, Solo : April 2003
"The End of Travelling (Trip to Asiatown and Back)",
Sparwasser, Berlin

10 : Installation 04, Group (Pending) : August 2003
"36 Ideas from Asia", Tokyo


Special Thanks to :
Boris Kremer / Künstlerhaus Bethanien
Katharyn Peh / National Arts Council Singapore
Matthew Ngui
Dr C.J. Wee Wan-Ling
David Cross
Jon Wozencroft
The Substation Crew
Hanson Ho / H55
Tom Haines / m2c
Lise Nellemann / Sparwasser
Délégation aux Arts Plastiques, France

All who were interviewed in this work process