2022 | Tushar Joag Memorial Lecture | Zoe Butt

Second Tushar Joag Memorial Lecture

Lecture by Zoe Butt | Chaired by Chaitanya Sambrani

Finding mentors and confidantes

within the slippage of

what is visible or presumed absent


by Zoe Butt

Chair: Chaitanya Sambrani

Saturday, 19 March at 3 pm (IST)


Building community is about building multiple worlds of access and opportunity. It’s about connecting our consciousness with what has impacted the now, the learning to listen and write with our bodies as sensorial in its recall of what is tangible and intangible, giving time to the understanding of possible cause and effect. Making art a history, with artists, continues to be my joy and it is an ongoing dialogical journey of collaboratively re-defining what art can be, of re-defining artistic and curatorial labour, dancing the fragile tightrope of difference between local and international landscapes of art, anchored in an educational lack of great political poverty. Highlighting particular experience and project, this lecture shares the doubts and introspections in living and working from an ideologically governed society in Vietnam, giving thanks to my mentors and confidantes whose passions have guided and transformed the way I value what is ‘contemporary’, whose inflections and passions have inspired my own commitment to south-south memory maps, acknowledging the critical agency we all have as cultural workers today in a globalizing art world whose systemic privileging of the visible is anchored in a neo-liberal world of structural violence and greed.

Courtesy of Lê Thành Tiến

Zoe Butt is a curator and writer. Her practice centres on building critically thinking and historically conscious artistic communities, fostering dialogue among cultures of the globalizing souths. Zoe was Artistic Director of the Factory Contemporary Arts Centre, Ho Chi Minh City (2017-2021), Executive Director and Curator, Sàn Art, Ho Chi Minh City (2009–2016); Director, International Programs, Long March Project, Beijing (2007–2009); and Assistant Curator, Contemporary Asian Art, Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane (2001–2007) – this latter post particularly focused on the development of its Asia-Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art. She has been published by Hatje Cantz; JRP-Ringier; Routledge; Sternberg Press, among others. Notable endeavours include Pollination (2018–); Sharjah Biennial 14: Leaving the Echo Chamber – Journey Beyond the Arrow,(2019); Conscious Realities (2013-2016); Embedded South(s) (2016) and San Art Laboratory (2012-2015). Zoe is a MoMA International Curatorial Fellow; a member of the Asia Society’s ‘Asia 21’ initiative; and member of the Asian Art Council, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. Zoe is currently a PhD candidate with CREAM, University of Westminster, London, UK. She is also Visiting Curator, Department of Fine and Applied Arts & Guest Lecturer, MA in Curatorial Practice, Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok; Lecturer, The Alternative Art School, USA; Advisor (Asia), Kadist Art Foundation, Paris/San Francisco; Academic Advisor, TIMES Museum, Guangzhou. She lives and works in Chiang Mai (Thailand) and Ho Chi Minh City (Vietnam).

Chaitanya Sambrani is an art historian and curator specialising in modern and contemporary Asian art. He is Associate Professor and Convenor of Higher Degrees by Research at the School of Art and Design of the Australian National University, Canberra.. His curatorial projects include Edge of Desire: Recent Art in India (travelling exhibition: Australia, USA, Mexico, India, 2004–07), Place.Time.Play:Contemporary Art from the West Heavens to the Middle Kingdom (the first contemporary art exchange and exhibition involving Indian and Chinese artists, 2010) and Savanhdary Vongpoothorn: All that Arises (25-year survey of the Lao-Australian artist’s work, 2019). He is the principal author and editor of At Home in the World: The Art and Life of Gulammohammed Sheikh (2019). He is currently working on a study of international affiliations and cosmopolitan aspirations in the modern art of India and Indonesia. Chaitanya is also working on a critical account of Tushar Joag’s 2010 project Riding Rocinante in the context of artistic interventions commenting on the politics of belonging, territorial sovereignty and the precarious futures of freshwater in Asia, to be published by SSAF-Tulika Books in 2022.