“Much as I have no wish to hurt anyone’s feelings, my first obligation has not been to be nice but to be true to my perhaps peculiar memories, experiences and feelings.”
― Edward W. Said, Out of Place
Living in a globalized and connected world, many of us find ourselves drifting further away from our cultures and histories. These feelings are typically experienced by immigrants in a new country, but also by those finding their contemporary lives at conflict with the traditions of the past. We are perpetually negotiating between the elements of our culture to carry on and those to be left behind. The homeland becomes somewhat idealized, a fantasy characterized by projected desires, nostalgia -disappointment, and shame. The artists in the exhibition interrogate the histories and traditions that make us who we are, drawing from external elements present around us and looking inward.
The motherland is an improbable place; each individual’s perception of the homeland is personal and specific. It is not a static, concrete notion, but rather, it possesses an ever-evolving fluidity. Migration, the movement of people and their cultures, has persisted throughout history. Globalization, however, has interconnected geographic regions despite disparities in time and space. Ideas flow more freely between people around the globe, and boundaries are constantly shifting.
The continuation and embodiment of our heritage in an increasingly homogenized world is a theme considered by each artist. Through roots in South and Southeast Asia, the one unifying current is understanding and coming to terms with the postcolonial present. In the Global South, much of our self-understanding is derived from colonial sentiment. By exploring history through personal identity, these artists gain agency over the telling of these histories.
Each artist has taken a different approach to critique and interrogate the histories and traditions that make us who we are. For these artists, there are not overtly political statements to be made, but an emotional exploration that the self-representational tension is parsed out. Through grappling with clashing notions of sexuality, gender expression, religious practice, or a reconciliation of our contemporary lifestyles with those of previous generations, these artists carve out a home for themselves through their art.