Archiving Southeast Asia

The panel foregrounds the various methods and contexts for which ‘archives’ and ‘archiving’ have played a major role in the development of the art practices and scenes of Hanoi, Manila and Singapore. Moderated by curator Annie Jael Kwan, three guest curators, Merv Espina, Vera Mey and Đỗ Tường Linh, will share their research and reflections on the significance of archives in the construction of the nascent art histories of Southeast Asia.

Just because you feel it, it doesn’t mean it’s there : On art and archives, ecologies and endings, and how not to disappear completely

Merv Espina 

This presentation gives an overview of some ongoing archival projects, and how they relate to each other: the Green Papaya archives and the Kalampag Tracking Agency.

After outliving a generation of artist-run spaces and independent initiatives in Metro Manila from the late 90s and early 00s, Green Papaya has finally given itself a deadline, an ultimate point of fruition: 5 May 2021. Green Papaya has been working with several generations of its community to collect, catalogue, and critique its history and relevancies towards a self-determined ending and future resource. The Green Papaya archives is plural: an assemblage of artefacts from intersecting communities, a collection of parts and parcels from several generations of artistic practices that continue to tango between centres and peripheries of institutional recognition and market familiarity.

Among Green Papaya’s community are generations of artists experimenting with the moving image. The Kalampag Tracking Agency started out as a simple screening program that accidentally found itself as an archive and ongoing investigation. Addressing personal and institutional lapses, Kalampag tackles the lack of research, access and attention to Philippine moving image works that have fallen through the cracks of art, cinema and easy categorisation.

2015 Jangwook Lee workshop at Los Otros 1
Image: Kalampag Tracking Agency: 2015 Jangwook Lee workshop at Los Otros. Image courtesy of Merv Espina.

Under Beds, in garages and smelling bat shit: on some unlikely places to find archival material

Vera Mey

Vera Mey will show and tell some archives she worked with during fieldwork in Southeast Asia, focusing specifically on archives related to her research on a comparative study of Cambodia, Indonesia and Singapore between 1948 – 1988. Through focusing on the challenges of conservation, categorisation and ownership of artistic archives, this presentation will also open up the creative methodological opportunities that emerge because of what is often perceived as limitations.

Ephemeral archives, supple memories

Đỗ Tường Linh

Since most alternative and contemporary art practices in Vietnam after Đổi Mới (Renovation) was regarded as underground and guerrilla, there has not been an established institution working on archiving and documenting all those activities. For most cultural and art practitioners in Vietnam, their ways of learning about history and the past were mostly based on oral transmission. However, this also offers the condition to rethink the very notions of archives and memories. How do collective memories play a role in archiving the ephemeral?  To what extent do collective memories define and re-define our epistemological perception of reality? Rather than simply releasing direct personal experiences, how do individual narratives mediate cultural processes in the process of historicisation? While shared memories based on oral transmission didn’t centralize a dominant authority, it has the potential to proliferate different narratives. Drawing on those entanglements, I would like to discuss further the case of archiving in the Vietnamese context as a process of learning and unlearning.


Image credit: Bread performance at Nha San Studio by Trương Tân. Image courtesy of Veronika Radulovic