2024 | Tushar Joag Memorial Lecture | David Teh

Third Tushar Joag Memorial Lecture

Lecture by David Teh | Chaired by Chaitanya Sambrani

The Third Tushar Joag Memorial Lecture, instituted in memory of our dear friend and radical artist-pedagogue Tushar Joag (1966–2018).



The Myth of Incipient Democracy: subtexts of Southeast Asian contemporary art



by David Teh


chaired by Chaitanya Sambrani


Sunday, 14 January 2024, 5 pm

Seminar Halls 1, 2 & 3, Kamaladevi Complex

India International Centre, Lodhi Road, New Delhi 



What does contemporary art tell us about the regions within which it is arranged for exhibition and collection? Unlike its nations, Asia’s regional agencies produce neither art nor art history, so region has been a promising frame for describing art’s worldly dimension without the problems that attend monolithic national and sweeping global outlooks. But who authors the regional accounts, and are they really less instrumental or reductive? In this lecture, David Teh traced the key metanarratives of “Southeast Asian” art since the Cold War, and their recent modulation in large, transnational exhibitions. If the modern nation’s democratic becoming was for a long time the main plot of that art history, the currencies of national heritage and identity have been superseded in today’s global art circuits. How and when did the dialectic of ‘tradition and modernity’ finally morph into something else? If contemporary art now tells a regional story, what new hierarchies or discriminations might it conceal, and where does this leave the artist networks that were the main incubators of contemporaneity?

Courtesy of Alex Davies

David Teh is a writer, curator and Associate Professor at the National University of Singapore. His research spans art history, critical and cultural theory, with an emphasis on Southeast Asian modern and contemporary art. His curatorial projects have included Unreal Asia (55. Internationale Kurzfilmtage Oberhausen, 2009), Video Vortex #7 (Yogyakarta, 2011), TRANSMISSION (Jim Thompson Art Center, Bangkok, 2014), Misfits: Pages from a Loose-leaf Modernity (Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin, 2017) and Returns, a project for the 12th Gwangju Biennale in 2018. Most recently, he co-curated the 17th Istanbul Biennial (2022) with Ute Meta Bauer and Amar Kanwar. David’s writings have appeared in Third Text, Afterall, ARTMargins, Theory Culture & Society and Artforum. His book Thai Art: Currencies of the Contemporary was published in 2017 by MIT Press, and he was co-editor (with David Morris) of Artist-to-Artist: Independent Art Festivals in Chiang Mai 1992-98 (2018) for Afterall’s Exhibition Histories series.

Chaitanya Sambrani is an art historian and curator specializing in modern and contemporary Asian art. He is Associate Professor and Convenor of Higher Degrees by Research at the School of Art and Design, 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). Chaitanya is Curatorial Advisor (Asian art) to the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, and is working on a critical account of Tushar Joag’s 2010 project Riding Rocinante in the context of the politics of belonging and the futures of freshwater in Asia, to be published by SSAF–Tulika Books in 2024.