About The Exhibition
Can we ever be perceived as stateless? Or is being stateless defined by the eye of the beholder? While the term typically refers to a person not considered as a national by any state, it can also connote the rejection of any certainty of where we belong. It can indicate an intentional decision to exist beyond physical boundaries inscribed by others; a desire to be defined not by our skin colours or features, but by our actions and who we are as humans. This feels especially familiar and pertinent for us minorities of Southeast and East Asian heritages living in the UK, where we are often perceived as Chinese – an English word that usually refers to a person from China, erasing the myriad diasporas and descendants from across the Southeast and East Asia region.
State-less explores a selection of works by international artists of Southeast and East Asian heritage. Their works respond, contemplate, observe and react to the environment they are in. This exhibition invites audiences to consider Southeast and East Asia from different perspectives – a selection of environments whose very state might be ambiguous. The neo-Gothic architecture of Two Temple Place contrasts sharply with the built environment of Southeast and East Asia, but also reminds us of our colonial histories. The exhibited works comprise a variety of contemporary media – moving image, photography and interactive installations – framed and supported by scaffolding that intentionally highlights the clash of two opposing worlds: a postcolonial nation and a region that is still in development.
While focusing specifically on this region, the exhibition raises questions about how we all, more generally, respond to our surrounding environments; contemplate the tangible borders and invisible boundaries that outwardly define us; react to our politics; and observe our relationships with people, with nature, and more broadly, with the world.
Kakilang means ‘one of us’ in Hokkien dialect and is widely used amongst Southeast and East Asian diasporic groups to evoke kinship and affinity.
Kakilang (formerly Chinese Arts Now) commissions, produces and presents art that reflects diasporic voices in modern times. Kakilang and Two Temple Place first collaborated in 2021 on an award-winning digital exhibition that placed artworks by British-based Southeast and East Asian artists in a virtual Two Temple Place to animate William Waldorf Astor’s historic building. A virtual performance imagined Astor’s own migration alongside the starkly different contexts of the post-colonial Southeast and East Asian diaspora.
While this building is a three-dimensional cipher for vast and established wealth, Astor too was adrift. Two Temple Place was part of an effort to materialise a history that never existed, the comfort of nostalgia in place of reality. Seen in this light, State-less 無國界 at Two Temple Place frames questions about the physicality of memory and the impact of place on identity. Here are narratives of complex and contested territories and boundaries – personal, political, cultural. These artists re-interpret, re-map, transform and translate their relationships to regions and cultures that defy categorisation, and so provoke us to reassess our own assumptions.
State-less 無國界 was part of Kakilang Festival 2023, which ran from 21st February to 22nd April 2023.
View the full programme and documentation here.