Positioning May 13, 1969 in the Southeast Asian Modern


Positioning May 13, 1969 in the Southeast Asian Modern

Natalie Christian Tan, Yale-NUS College

(Initially published in YNUJ Volume 2, 2018)


This paper demonstrates how a politically significant Southeast Asian art-piece, Redza Piyadasa’s May 13, 1969, has been diminished in importance through its curation at the National Gallery Singapore. I engage in a thorough comparison between the same work’s presentations in two different contexts—its inaugural exhibition at the Manifestasi Dua Seni in Malaysia and its exhibition in the National Gallery Singapore alongside other modern Southeast Asian works. The presentation in the latter context detracts from the work’s political message because the curation prioritises the work’s representation of modern form. The problematic curation of May 13, 1969 is a microcosm of the larger initiative to construct an autonomous Southeast Asian canon of art—museum agents struggle to distinguish Southeast Asian artworks on Western terms.

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