Archival Turn: East Asian Contemporary Art and Taiwan (1960-1989)


Toward the Future of the Archive: Revisiting the History and Movements of East Asian Contemporary Art




In recent years a trend has arisen of re-exploring the history of contemporary art in various countries of East Asia since World War II. Modernism, once viewed as the standard paradigm of art, met with a challenge from the New Art of the 1960s. The process of transforming this paradigm – by pursuing experiments in contemporary art within the milieu of modernism – took place in each country of East Asia amidst distinct historical contexts. “Archives” may be seen as a core subject within this paradigm shift.


The model of Western modernism, which viewed local styles of art as exotic specimens, is gradually being abandoned by academia as it has moved beyond the limited perspective of Western centrism. Instead, the framework of multiple modernities or alternative modernities now serves to examine the singularities of art in the various countries of East Asia. When attention centers on these highly distinctive forms of expression, contemporary art may be unbound from localized imitation of Western concepts or schools of art. Instead, certain key first-hand archives may facilitate reflection on contemporary issues either arising from the history of a certain locality or commonly shared among East Asian countries, such as: artistic sovereignty in the post-colonial context, cultural rebellion within the framework of the Cold War, the evolution of the historical avant-garde and left-wing movements before and after World War II, or experiments in the new avant-garde or post-war curatorial spaces.


In the context of globalization, governments, art museums and private organizations throughout East Asia have established art archives in recent years, to promote the establishment, translation and curation of basic textual and audio-visual data about their own countries and Asia as a whole. Art archives have elevated the previous static concept of historical materials and launched it in a new, kinetic direction. The concept of an archive blurs the line between document and artwork, encompassing illustrations, official documents, invitations, letters, manuscripts, journals, notes, sketches, drawings, drafts, models, photos, sounds, and images. This is not only a “visual turn” within academia criticizing visual-centrism and expanding research materials, but also a new revolution in archival installations, applications and concepts. Digital technology, the internet, and the open application of databases have truly enabled contemporary artists and curators to access audio-visual archives. Yet does the archiving of historical materials equal digitalization? Does database storage and use only take place on the internet or in the cloud? How should we respond to the host of media and vehicles breathing new life into art? While reordering archives and curating exhibitions, how do we deal with the expansion and relocation of media and vehicles? Within the genealogy of global art history and archive administration, and beyond it, how do we lay bare the tracks etched by bio-politics within the struggle of transnational counter-memory?


Archives are the habitation of memory. The re-archiving of history in contemporary art suggests that modernity in East Asian art history is not simply a singular narrative of progress toward enlightenment, but the specters of history reverberating along the island chain, driven by the force of archives. Here, archives no longer serve as mere empirical data used to construct linear history; they are redrawing the mental map of our collective memory. The establishment and recalibration of archives herald an overturning of the genealogy of East Asian art in its historical imagination and its writing. This is the active meaning of an “archival turn.”


2017 International Symposium

Archival Turn: East Asian Contemporary Art and Taiwan (1960-1989)

Organized by|Taipei Fine Arts Museum, Spring Foundation

Venue|Auditorium, Taipei Fine Arts Museum

Date|April 8 (Sat.) - April 9 (Sun.), 2017

* Free entry for this event. No ticket or reservations required.




Professor, Department of History of Art, Ohio State University


Assistant Professor, Department of Art History and Institute of Art History and Art Criticism, Tainan National University of the Arts


Professor Emeritus, Department of Art History, University of Sydney


Chair of the Board of Directors, Asia Art Archive, Hong Kong and New York

FEI Dawei 

Rotating Director of Academic Committee, Power Station of Art, Shanghai

Patrick D. FLORES 

Professor, Department of Art Studies, University of the Philippines

Yuk HUI 

Research Associate, Leuphana University, Germany

INABA (Fujimura) Mai 

Assistant Professor, Kwangwoon University, Korea

Hee-Young KIM 

Professor, Department of Fine Art, College of Arts, Kookmin University, Korea

Sunjung KIM 

Director, Art Sonje Center. 

Artistic Director, ACC Archive & Research in Asian Culture Center, Gwangju (2014-15)


Chief Curator, Fukuoka Asian Art Museum

Yi-ting LEI 

Assistant Researcher, Curator, Taipei Fine Arts Museum

Lesley MA 

Curator, Ink Art, M+, Hong Kong

Yu Jin SENG 

Senior Curator, National Gallery Singapore

Kuiyi SHEN 

Professor, Department of Visual Arts, University of California, San Diego

Song-Yong SING 

Professor, the Graduate Institute of Animation and Film Art, Tainan National University of the Arts

Simon SOON 

Art Historian and Senior Lecturer, University of Malaya

SUZUKI Katsuo 

Curator, National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo

Clare VEAL 

Lecturer, LASALLE College of the Arts, Singapore

WU Mali 

Associate Professor of Graduate Institute of Interdisciplinary Art, National Kaohsiung Normal University

Anthony YUNG 

Senior researcher, Asia Art Archive



Catherine Tsai-yun CHAN 

Senior Researcher, Chief of Research Department, Taipei Fine Arts Museum

Hsiangling LAI 

Board Director, Spring Foundation

Dean-E MEI 

Professor, Graduate School of Printmaking, National Taiwan University of Arts


* In alphabetical order by surnames