Third Realm showcases a crucial period of artistic production in Asia from 2004–2019. The exhibition features artists who use photography, film, installation, and performance to investigate liminal spaces. Spanning a range of cultural contexts, the works disrupt binaries of global and local, past and present, sacred and secular. Including artists predominantly from China, as well as Thailand, the Philippines, Japan, Korea, and Indonesia, and projects developed in Asia by international artists, Third Realm brings together artworks from across East and Southeast Asia. The exhibition features many seminal figures in the Asian art scene, among them Birdhead, Cao Fei, Heman Chong, Comfortable Collective, FX Harsono, Jompet Kuswidananto, Lu Yang, Sutee Kunavichayanont, Surasi Kusolwong, Gary Ross Pastrana, Paola Pivi, Sun Xun, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Xijing Men, Yang Zhenzhong, Zhou Xiaohu, and others.
Most of the works incorporate elements of performance and duration, and are concerned with ritual. The time-based actions are related to Buddhism, in which it is the process of an action that inscribes it with sacredness. Similarly, in process-driven art, the practice of the action in itself carries meaning. The artists employ ritual acts in the broadest sense to uncover the third realms that lie within liminal conditions. The tension between secular and sacred ritual is made apparent in the photographs of Paola Pivi and Lu Yang. Paola Pivi (Italy, b. 1971) compiles a photographic archive of Tibetan Buddhist tulkus, the recognized reincarnation of previous Buddhist masters. Lu Yang (China, b. 1984), on the other hand, is more interested in conﬂating the secular world of science with religion; her pop culture-inﬂuenced videos present animated Tibetan Buddhist deities using the latest technology in brain mapping.
The exhibition offers insights into the sociopolitical shift during the 2000s when Asia’s economic prosperity began to command global attention. While often calling into question the limits of camera documentation and historical record, the artists exploit the directness of documentary images to reveal the complexities of hybrid identities and social change.
Third Realm is drawn from the FarEastFarWest collection, a Shanghai-based organization that commissions and acquires contemporary Asian artworks and is housed at the Museum of Contemporary Photography at Columbia College in Chicago.
FarEastFarWest was founded in 2007 by Eric Guichard and Davide Quadrio and serves as a production platform for artistic projects. The shared goal of its co-founders is to identify artists, select projects, and produce historic pieces, which address contemporary issues relevant to life in Asia.
Third Realm is organized by the Museum of Contemporary Photography at Columbia College in Chicago.
This presentation is part of The Polygon Gallery’s exhibition series New Perspectives: revealing diverse perspectives, untold stories, and new voices in visual art.