"Not Getting Lost in Action" Forum Brings Together Outstanding Southeast Asian Artists,
Offering Insights into How Artists Engage with Social Issues
The highlight of the Taiwan-Asia Exchange Foundation’s (TAEF) Asia Artists Exchange Program series, "Not Getting Lost in Action" International Forum, took place in Taipei on June 17th. This forum invited outstanding artists from the Mekong River region, including Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, and Taiwan, to share their experiences in arts engagement with social practice, through various fields such as visual arts, performing arts, community-based art. The aim is to provoke the audience's contemplation on the close connection between arts and social issues.
In this rapidly changing world, the relationship between art and social issues has become increasingly intertwined. Artists explore important topics such as healing social wounds, facilitating social harmony, promoting sustainable development, local revitalization and development, vocalizing for disabled communities, concerning for physical and mental well-being, social justice, etc.
TAEF’s Chairman, Hsin-Huang Michael Hsiao expressed that through the New Southbound Policy, Taiwan and Southeast Asian countries have had long-term connections, and this forum provides an opportunity for direct dialogue in the art world, enriching the exchange between Taiwan and Southeast Asian art scenes. He also felt impressed that these selected artists have found possibilities for mutual practice and connection between art and society, which two factors not often associated with each other.
During his remark, Chi-yang Lin, Chairman of the National Cultural and Art Foundation(NCAF), mentioned that this visiting program is not only a cultural and artistic exchange but also the beginning of mutual understanding and interaction. It is believed that the visit of these Southeast Asian artists can bring new inspiration and perspectives to Taiwan's art scene. NCAF will continue to promote long-term, diverse exchanges between Taiwan and the Southeast Asian art community.
Speaker and artist Mali Wu shared that she has been doing the work of integrating art into communities for a long time. However, based on her own past experience, artists entering communities often have limited time or engage in short-term residencies, which limits the impact they can make. Nevertheless, these five Southeast Asian artists’ work are remarkable because they have developed robust ecosystems through long-term collaboration with communities. These art initiatives are highly valued, as they can bring more stimulation to communities and civil society, giving rise to further growth.
In this forum, Luck, an artist from Laos, will be one of the focus figures. As an outstanding visual arts cross-media creator, she has long been operating a gallery and participating in curatorial work. She focuses on issues related to disabled communities and has collaborated with a hearing-impaired group, introducing art design into ceramic enterprises. Her practical actions demonstrate the positive role of art in society, bringing hope and change to marginalized communities.
Another notable artist is Zun Ei Phyu from Myanmar. She is an exceptional art therapist and physician. Through promoting art therapy and healing, she focuses on sustainable development and actions related to democracy and human rights. Through her actions, she showcases how art can be a force for positive change and impact in society.
Wayla Amatathammachad, a cross-disciplinary performing arts producer and art curator from Thailand, brought his practical experience in promoting art-based local revitalization and sustainable development models in resource-limited areas. His actions embody the important influence art can have in local communities.
Nguyễn Thị Thanh Mai, an artist from Vietnam, studying the issues faced by economically disadvantaged residents who have been forcibly evicted due to government land development projects. She explores how artists can intervene and respond to urban development issues, giving a voice to marginalized groups in society. Her practical actions highlight the importance of art in the imbalance in land distribution and raise awareness of social justice and human rights.
Soung Sopheak, an artist from Cambodia, is the founder and theater director of Khmer Art Action. Through performing arts, his team explores how the war-ravaged Cambodian society rediscovers its own value through art. His practice advocates for society's emphasis on culture and art, using art as a force for social change.
The moderator of the forum, Shefong Chung is an associate professor, producer, and curator at the School of Communication at National Chengchi University. She is also a guest lecturer at Chulalongkorn University and the founder of grassroots music label " Trees Music & Art ." She has played an active role in connecting musicians, artists, directors, and scholars from Southeast Asia, and her moderation will bring more vitality and depth to the forum.
"Not Getting Lost in Action" International Forum offered participants a diverse and exciting opportunity, allowing the public to gain a deeper understanding of how artists from Southeast Asia and Taiwan engage with social issues through art. Their concerns cover a wide range of profound topics, and listening to these artists' sharing on-site sparked inspiration and contemplation among the general public.