tokyo

FX Harsono, Voice Without a Voice Sign, 1993–94, silk screen on canvas, wooden stools, stamps. Installation view, National Art Center, Tokyo, 2017.

“Sunshower: Contemporary Art from Southeast Asia, 1980s to Now”

National Art Center and Mori Art Museum

FX Harsono, Voice Without a Voice Sign, 1993–94, silk screen on canvas, wooden stools, stamps. Installation view, National Art Center, Tokyo, 2017.

AT “SUNSHOWER,” pomp and circumstance matter. Organized to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the exhibition brings together some 190 works by eighty-six artists, spread across the Mori Art Museum and the National Art Center in Tokyo. Advertised as the “largest-ever” show of contemporary Southeast Asian art, “Sunshower” announces Japan’s commitment to Southeast Asia, if not its centrality to the region’s artistic fortunes—and fraught histories.

A state-backed project of this scale—and its celebratory rhetoric—is bound to provoke skepticism. What does it mean for Japan, a wealthy ex-colonial power, to tell the story of one of its former territories? Who benefits from this narrative of the region, and from an organization of artworks and cultural materials that is as compelling as it is ultimately

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