Megacities Asia – E-Flux

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Ai Weiwei, Choi Jeong Hwa, Subodh Gupta, Han Seok Hyun, Hu Xiangcheng, Jeon Yongseok/flyingCity, Aaditi Joshi, Song Dong, Hema Upadhyay, Asim Waqif, and Yin Xiuzhen with Tita Salina and Irwan Ahmett

Asia is home to more megacities than any other continent—soon half of its citizens will call these cities home. Over the last 50 years, Beijing, Shanghai, Delhi, Mumbai, and Seoul have grown to equal or exceed the size and urban density of metropolises like Tokyo, Paris, and New York, and they have done so with astounding rapidity. With populations over ten million, these quickly changing cities pose entirely new questions about what a city is and may become. The artists in Megacities Asia hail from these icons of 21st century urban life. Each artist examines the impact of their city’s metamorphosis on human experience by accumulating found objects encountered in their daily lives—dishes, discarded architectural components, and plastic bags among them—in volumes befitting cities of this scale. Their sculptures and installations respond to political, environ­mental, and social conditions while conveying the textures, proportions, and striking material and visual juxtapositions of these ever evolving metropolises. The immersive artworks that comprise Megacities Asia—nearly half of which were created for this exhibition—invite physical interaction. This exhibition is the first in the MFA’s history to be presented not only in the Museum’s largest special exhibitions space, the Ann and Graham Gund Gallery, but also throughout the Museum’s galleries, on its outdoor campus, and in downtown Boston.

While Asia may be home to the highest concentration of megacities, more and more cities face similar triumphs and challenges. In Boston, issues such as the shortage of affordable housing, overburdened infrastructure, and pollution are also complicating everyday life. A dynamic series of public programs and a commissioned performance will provoke critical dialogue about the complexity of Boston’s changing urban fabric. A series of free public forums, “The City Talks,” brings together leading thinkers, activists, city officials, artists, and Museum visitors to engage in focused discussions inspired by artworks in Megacities Asia on select evenings April through July.

A residency by Indonesian performance artists Tita Salina (b. 1973) and Irwan Ahmett (b. 1975) will result in site-specific engagements in communities that neighbor the Museum throughout the month of June. The artists’ playful and provocative social practice emerged from their experiences in Jakarta during and after the 1997 Asian financial crisis. In 2011 they launched Urban Play, a series of site-specific participatory events that use found objects and are staged in underappreciated public spaces. Community engagement is central to their practice, with the goal of inspiring local audiences to see their own city in a new light. While they have since staged this work in seven cities across Asia and Europe to date, Salina and Ahmett’s project in Boston, Urban Play—Playing Data, will be the first iteration of Urban Play in the US.

Megacities Asia is organized by MFA curators Al Miner, assistant curator, Contemporary Art, and Laura Weinstein, Ananda Coomaraswamy Curator of South Asian and Islamic Art. The exhibition is accompanied by a fully-illustrated catalogue published by the MFA. The publication was made possible with generous support from the Korea Foundation and is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Megacities Asia is presented with generous support from The Nancy Foss Heath and Richard B. Heath Educational, Cultural and Environmental Foundation; Peter and Catherine Creighton; Dr. John and Bette Cohen; Ashley and Jamie Harmon; Susan G. Kohn; Karen and Warren McFarlan; Davis and Carol Noble; Nalini and Raj Sharma; Xiaohua Zhang and Quan Zhou; and Asian Art Gallery. This project is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts. With support from the Korea Foundation and the Dame Jillian & Dr. Arthur M. Sackler Foundation for the Arts, Sciences & Humanities. Additional support provided by The Ruth and Carl J. Shapiro Fund for Education, Public Programs and Special Projects; The Amy and Jonathan Poorvu Fund for the Exhibition of Contemporary Art and Sculpture; the Robert and Jane Burke Fund for Exhibitions; the Barbara Jane Anderson Fund; and an anonymous funder. Urban Play Boston and Urban Play—Playing Data is supported by the Museum Council Artist in Residency Program Fund and Lorraine Bressler. Performance Art at the MFA is supported by Lorraine Bressler.

Performance art at the MFA
The MFA is one of the first encyclopedic museums in the US to fully integrate performance art into its collection, exhibitions, and programs. Since the opening of the Linde Family Wing for Contemporary Art in 2011, the MFA has commissioned and presented dozens of performance artworks by international, national, and local artists, including live works that unfold in the Museum’s galleries and engage with its collection, performances that form part of cross-media contemporary art exhibitions, and interventions that appear in unexpected spaces inside the Museum or outdoors. These foundational, artist-driven projects question the role of performance art in a museum environment and reframe visitors’ experiences of the MFA collection. More information and video documentation of select works can be accessed through the MFA’s Performance Art Archive

Megacities Asia at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Megacities Asia – E-Flux}