On April 1st, the Goethe Institut hosted an artists discussion with Michael EB Detto and Sayon Sypraseouth regarding their exhibition GHOSTS: Revisited which is up for two weeks in Los Angeles. It was a nice-sized crowd for a Tuesday night. There weren't as many pieces on display in this space as there was in the earlier GHOSTS exhibition but there are still enough to make it worthwhile to see the pieces in person.
Of particular concern is what the curators noted regarding the complicated nature of memory and how we share those with others. In their artists description they state: "Today’s notions of history and memory may be flawed and disputed, but they are especially problematic for the individual that has experienced tragedy. The notion of “victims’ silence” following tragic events has often been the subject of discussion, and is frequently linked to suffering. Should victims decide to speak about their experiences, they are likely to relive past suffering, often making it unbearable."
There's much within this question that should be of interest to anyone with a background in Southeast Asia.
The exhibition itself was inspired by the works of German writer W. G. Sebald. Sebald examined esthetics and its link to memory. In this particular exhibition, we see the Aragna Ker, Denise A. Scott., Ken Gonzales-Day, Prumsodun Ok, Sayon Syprasoueth and Michael Detto,.
When the exhibit was presented at Arena 1 earlier this year, they were asking “How should we treat the Ghosts each of these leaves behind – in real life, as metaphor, as a tool? The very own substantiality each one thing in itself exhibits, its innate properties, its relation to subject, time space, and language are altogether qualities which suddenly start to dissipate when we have to deal with ghosts. It is hard even to agree on one word for them: there are specters, phantoms and wreath, genie and spirit, the apparition and many other denominations to describe a phenomenon that tends to blur the demarcation line between subject and object, past and presence, here and there.”
I think there remain some very important questions to explore here, and while GHOSTS is not the definitive statement on the subject, there are are ideas that I think will resonate throughout much of the remaining year and perhaps many years ahead regarding the question of horror, memory, art and Southeast Asian voice.
I hope it won't be too long before we can see what happens if this exhibition is brought to other galleries and spaces across the country.
In Minnesota, the Banfille-Locke Center for the Arts has issued a call for paranormal art for "The Art of Darkness" exhibit they are preparing for August-September later this year. So there's something that's capturing the imagination of today's curators. Some will take a more literal tack, while others appear interested in a more intellectual, theory-centered processing of the subject. But I hope we can appreciate that there are in fact exhibitions planned for everyone's taste in the matter.