Asian Alternative Space - World Alternative City

By: Andrew Lam, Director, Museum of Site

The paper presupposes that the rise of “World Alternative Cities” in Asia as an impetus to cultural change is coming of age. The mobility and operation of alternative spaces, a novel city phenomenon in Asia, displace infrastructure and order of the established system. The entity and difference of Asian cities meets with an unprecedented challenge, which largely a consequence of globalization and modernization. This paper outlines the role-play and limitation of Asian alternative spaces in the process of globalization. The paper is not set out with an aim to clarifying definition as well as program content of alternative space, in relation to city space, city museum...

Despite acculturation and unification of world economy gear to the rise of Asian world power, Asian cities are neither analogous nor identical in terms of cultural development. The unresolved local issues in Asia further intensify cultural and social difference in local arena. However, Asian cities and its satellites are fast growing with sustainable development in remarkable areas. The Internet surfers are able to tour cultural facilities round the world, leading to the endgame of museum and library. Elastic art villages, alternative galleries, temporal warehouses, abandoned industrial spaces, multi-purpose work stations, teahouses, art cafes, 24-hour bookshops, leisure places, TV art channels, cyber wars, artists’ homepages and websites are now on the move, conglomerating into greater powers and networks. They demonstrate the power to re-define the generic concepts of a city: the segregation of “ the central” and “the marginal”, the division of “the software” and “the hardware”, the dichotomy of “the permanency” and “ the ephemeral”, the regularity of working and learning hours… The upcoming “World Alternative Cities” in Asia are 24-hour “non-stop” cities.

The alternativeness of Asian alternative space is largely reflective of its post-modern pluralism and aesthetic of an eccentric density: the accommodation of he alternative in he established system , the incorporation of he underground in he legal , etc. Tito Arecchi’s notion of chaos and complexity is reinforced by the power and role-play demonstrated by those Asian alternative spaces, which are more or less a sign of visionary experimentalism, a humanistic platform and strategy on institutional critique.

Asian cities are cutting edge in a diverse of fields at the expense of heritage and cultural development. Ackbar Abbas’s discourse on “disappearance” is undoubtedly a common experience among alternative spaces in Asian. How alternative is the alternative space remains the core question. Can it be a critical supplement to establishment and becomes the soul and heart of a city? Can it be instrumental to the art environment? An assessment of Asian alternative spaces on its vision and mission statement may configure a new Asian landscape and platform, mapping a new Asian utopia.

The working atmosphere rarely found in commercial gallery and museum is conducive to a social space where artists can get together for sharing. It counter balances the mal-administration, adverse condition of exhibition venue and insufficient resources and facility Asian alternative spaces usually face. The inadequacy and limitation of Asian alternative spaces not only reveal the restricted process of modernism and globalization, their existence is an indicator to validate the value and spiritual condition a pluralistic and open city should demonstrate.

Nowadays, the alternative spaces in Asia are no longer a minority and underground power. They are working with a new set of codes, ethics, which pioneer changes and verify rotten conceptions in a city. They expose problems and issues of the establishment and set out examples how a public institution can run. They identify issues pertaining to locality and offer grounds for contemplation. I put up the phenomenon of sian alternative spaces for a discourse on orld alternative cities is thereby working on a basis on the conception of city identity and cultural difference. Networking is a worldly phenomenon and there is no exception among alternative spaces. The Asian alternative spaces are no longer working on the border of culture, there is a trend that they build up linkage and communication, in a way to attain mutual protection. The bureaucratization and institutionalization of Asian alternative spaces conceptually defeat their original mission to deconstruct hardware and system. Alternative spaces should be very basic, localized, community-based. (A monograph to be released on Taipei 2001 on art village/alternative spaces and Beijing magazine , and a submission for 1aspace’s International Conference On Independent Art Space) (11/10/01)