The Truth of the Wind
The 9th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art in Brisbane

If you want to know what artists are doing in the Asia-Pacific region you don’t have to travel through the whole region. A visit to the 9th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art (APT9) is a much less complicated way of gaining insight into the art scene there. The show is the flagship project of QAGOMA (Queensland Art Gallery & Gallery of Modern Art) in Brisbane, Australia. Since its founding in 1993, the triennial has drawn more than three million visitors. And the current installment is bound to be another resounding success. With free admission, museum visitors can experience more than 400 works by eighty artists and collectives from more than thirty countries. The eight curators consciously refrained from putting the artworks selected under a title or heading. But the trend toward palpable objects is unmistakable: sculptures, paintings, photographic works, textiles, installations, and curiosity cabinet-like collections of objects are omnipresent. And more First Nations artists are participating in the triennial than ever before.  

With Cao Fei and Shilpa Gupta two artists were invited to whom entire floors of the Deutsche Bank Towers are devoted. Cao Fei is represented with her video Asia One (2018), a melancholy meditation on loneliness and alienation. The film was shot in one of China’s most advanced logistics centers. The workforce here has shrunk to just two employees, who control the fully automated processes under the watchful camera eyes of a smiling robot. While Cao Fei focuses on working conditions in the near future, in her contribution Shilpa Gupta experiments, as she does in many of her works, with text. On an information display like those known from railway stations and airports, new words and sentence fragments continually appear. Gradually a story unfolds that is about personal relationships as well as belonging and fear of nationalism.

The spectrum of artists on featured at the triennial ranges from Jaki-ed Project, a group of thirteen female weavers from the Marshall Islands, to Rasheed Araeen, one of the most important minimalist sculptors. Araeen is represented with his typical modular objects conceived in the late 1960s. A similar work by the London-based Pakistani artist is on view in Objects of Wonder. The show, which opens at the PalaisPopulaire in February 2019, encompasses 75 masterworks from the collection of Tate in London that attest to how British artists have revolutionized sculpture since World War II.
Minimalist structures are unexpectedly encountered in one of the most spectacular contributions to APT9: Ann Noble’s homage to bees, a work commissioned for the triennial. The New Zealand artist installed a beehive in QAGOMA, and visitors can see how the insect collective builds its hexagonal honeycombs. The transparent tubes through which the bees can fly outside also have a stylish minimalist design. Yet Noble also sets a counterpoint – with an installation of spooky black-and-white photographs of dead bees. Each of these extreme enlargements looks like a warning, recalling how threatened this species is, a species that is so important for the ecological cycles of our planet.

Jonathan Jones’ wall installation consisting of almost 2,000 winged objects is also a commissioned work. For his sculptures, the artist used materials such as kangaroo bones and feathers that people all over Australia collected for him. The untitled work looks like a swarm of birds settled in the gallery room. The installation is accompanied by a sound work, that mixes wind sounds with bird calls and words whispered in Wiradjuri, the language of the aboriginal tribe the artist belongs to. Jones references age-old beliefs that the wind is a bearer of wisdom. With its amalgamation of tradition, spirituality, a collective approach, and a very reduced, contemporary form, this is the work that perhaps best embodies the spirit of the current Asia Pacific Triennial.

9th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art

Until April 29, 2019
QUAGOMA, Brisbane