Curating as (Expanded) Art History in Southeast Asia: Recent Independent Projects in Ho Chi Minh City, Luang Prabang, and Phnom Penh
A small yet influential strain of independent contemporary curatorial practice has emerged in Southeast Asia, which is performing (expanded) art historical functions. This mode of independent curating now constitutes an important base for exciting new research—making use of diverse archives as well as other methodologies—to study the often little-known histories of the region’s modern arts, including its architecture, cinema, and photography. That such research is taking place in the context of independent contemporary curatorial practice is significant because it locates modern art history largely outside of large and state-funded institutions, including museums and universities, thus enabling the development and proliferation of art historical research in areas of Southeast Asia, including its mainland sub-regions, which have comparatively little funding and official infrastructure for the arts. This article explores the emerging practice of independent curating as (expanded) art history in Southeast Asia, through comparative discussion of three case studies: the Roung Kon Project in Phnom Penh, which researches histories of cinema in Cambodia; the Buddhist Archive of Photography in Luang Prabang, which researches histories of photography in Laos; and Spirit of Friendship in Ho Chi Minh City, which researches histories of artist groups in Vietnam.
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