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Judha Su: To Whom It May Concern
Judha Su選譯:敬啟者(或可能有關者)
December 20th, 2018Type: Art Production
Author: Judha Su, 鄭文琦 (譯) Editor: Rikey Tenn
Quote From: BANGKOK CITYCITY GALLERY
Note: Judha Su is an art critic, curator, and translator. She is the founder of soi, a platform for critical dialogue and research since 2016. As the medium between art production and writing, she wrote this article as part of her project for a gallery in Bangkok. The article, with the open structure of epistolary style, reveals the concern on criticality and the gap between art production and knowledge production — How to mobilise art production outside festivity, public spectacle, snobbery, and banal narratives, and how to create a platform for thinking about art seriously as much as inventively? She wants to emphasize the dialogues coming up with every encounters of different events on the site. Through the slow rumination like cows, we can make every efforts to make (inter)disciplinary mechanisms visible and intelligible.
To Whom It May Concern curated by Judha Su (2017); photo courtesy of BANGKOK CITYCITY GALLERY

Imagine the awkward moment of writing to someone unknown: we do not know whom we are talking to. We undertake the overture with speculation and nervous anticipation, hoping that the communication will work. Paradoxically, or not, we carry out such uninitiated communications in a highly formal and distant manner, often beginning our correspondence with: “To Whom It May Concern(註1), implying the contradiction that we have something to say to someone we do not yet know. This phrase resonates with many aspects concerning the deprivation of criticality and the absence of dialogues about art in the context in which I dwell. A desperate writer desires to communicate to potential readers who she vaguely knows. She can only assume they exist, while they remain unidentified. It is when faced with this desolate or dismal feeling that thinking becomes truly powerful.

Last summer, soon after I finished my research fellowship about art criticism practices, I was asked to contribute something to BANGKOK CITYCITY GALLERY, run by a couple who proposed to present non-commercial and educational work once a year. “It is euphemism for money-wasting project,” I joked. But all jokes contain some morbid truth. The truth is that a chasm between the production of art, e.g. art exhibitions, events, spectacles, and the production of knowledge (about art) is extremely drastic. Since my university years, my thinking has been preoccupied by a critical enquiry of how to mobilise art production outside festivity, public spectacle, snobbery, and banal narratives, and how to create a platform for thinking about art seriously as much as inventively. My hypothetical works have been significantly challenged and shaped during a recent research fellowship, which was a pivotal point when my ideas and practices have consolidated as much as they have collided.

To Whom It May Concern curated by Judha Su (2017); photo courtesy of BANGKOK CITYCITY GALLERY

Along research destinations and detours, I have experienced various shades and manners about the lack of art criticism, from a sheer complaint to public outcry. Particularly in my native Thailand, I have found that opinions and criticisms about art are often trapped within a normative criticality which does not embrace a vulnerable relationship to knowledge, and does not accommodate maladjustment. Once it comes to the concept of public, it has been used as a preconceived and unexamined notion. For art, the public is rather discursive, likewise, the (social / political) engagement is rhetorical. In such circumstances, discussions about art are caught up within pomposity and cliques, and a real dialectical thinking cannot be possible, many factors that impoverish critical pedagogy and the dissemination of knowledge. Even if there are existing discourses, they are rarely critiqued, and have been reused over time. As some specialists and scholars are too protective of their own prerogatives and territories, they do not let their disciplines traverse diagonally or they are not capable of doing so. Therefore, there is only the few (re)inventive methods for thinking and talking art beyond expression, representation, interpretation, and description. My research aims to question the limits of these preconceived, ossified ways of knowing uncritical habits of mind, and starts re-working from that.

Let’s imagine again: that the art gallery can be a site of thinking, encountering, reflecting, and even creating, engaged by anyone who enters and is willing to join. Only then can the exhibition space be transformed into a liminal (註2) space that eschews an exhibitionary complex, spectacle, and absolutism. A diagonal axis between ‘visibility’ and the ‘unknown’ then becomes accessible, and one may fill (or fall) in a patina of imperfection or deficiency. I would suggest this as the condition in which a dialogical practice may arrive. To Whom It May Concern is therefore a project that (re)examines the complex interrelationships between thinking and making art by unfolding concatenations of ideas and experiences through various methods and practices introduced within the art space, with the hope of mobilising critical dialogues and actualising pedagogical methods.

To Whom It May Concern curated by Judha Su (2017); photo courtesy of BANGKOK CITYCITY GALLERY

I am neither an artist nor a curator. In the universe of art, I write — but a writer does not seem to have space within the gallery structure in Thailand or perhaps galleries in anywhere else (?) This project urges a recomposition of the interrelationship between the thinking of art and the space of art as a site of situation and experience, and to (re)investigate its capacity for (re)invention. I wonder, then, what is the real capacity of an art space? Whom we are expecting to concern?

Pondering a way to work, a manifestation of an individual abstracted from others is less meaningful than one nurtures a relation with whom one has worked, conversed, and exchanged ideas and practices: friends, colleagues, and interlocutors — these categories, in fact, are interchangeable. Likewise, the process of learning is nuanced by what we have learned from living, practising, and failing — this process is definitely never individual. From this point, this project also eschews the banality of purely aesthetic individual expressions. It believes in art that does not inertly represent or reflect, but that transforms material and speaks of something deeper and more voluntarily. Through this project, we will embrace as well as unfold our failures, struggles, conflicts, and pretence through engaged and committed dialogues. This process encompasses the project: To Whom It May Concern tries to make (in)disciplinary mechanisms visible and intelligible. However, this process requires a certain amount of patience in the same way that reading, according to Nietzsche, requires that we act more like cows than humans in order to learn the art of slow rumination.

Hoping to meet whom this project may concern.

In appreciation,

Judha Su

Footnote
[1] In Chinese, "To whom it may concern" can be translated as "敬啟者" in the letter. Since it also refers to the art project that the author curated for BANGKOK CITYCITY GALLERY from 9th August 2017 to 3rd September 2017, here the translator will translate the title literary instead of translating in the usual way, as "敬啟者". See link of the project (accessed on 2018/12/4): bangkokcitycity.com/activity/to-whom-it-may-concern/
[2] Liminality (from Latin, means "threshold") is a Psychological term as well as a concept in Anthropology or Cultural Anthropology, in which it refers the quality of ambiguity or disorientation that occurs in the middle stage of rites, when participants no longer hold their preritual status but have not yet begun the transition to the status they will hold when the rite is complete.
See Also
To Whom It May Concern ,BANGKOK CITYCITY GALLERY